So you can read my books

Saturday, August 3, 2013


Walter Knight emailed me:

I loved your blog article on audio books, but I don't know the technical aspects of self publishing an audio book.  Was there much expense for you in doing it?

 When I approached my publisher about audio books, they thought it would be too expensive to hire a professional actor, and to rent a sound-proof recording studio that could produce a quality product.  I responded I could use my own voice, and that technology has probably improved to the point it could be done at home.  How did you self publish?  Is that something you could assist me with?

I thought if Walter had questions, many of you might have as well.  So here goes:

It can be expensive --

Some actors will take a royalty share but most want a fee as there is significant work involved producing an audiobook. Typically they charge a fee that includes the editing –

so you get a price per finished hour of audio – which can vary from $200-$400.

So for a 90,000 word book, this would come out at around 10 hours of finished audio – costing between $2000 and $4000.

This may sound steep –

{Only $1.99 if buy the Kindle book}
but a 10 hour finished book will have at least 75 hours of solid work behind it – recording, editing and final quality check (it takes 10 hours just to listen to it!).

If you divide it out, this is paying the actor about $27 per hour on the lower rate – which is not not excessive for a professional running a business.  

You shake your head, "How hard could this editing be?"

Editing an audiobook is a painstaking job –

removing the errors from the recording and maybe adding in pauses for effect or cutting long gaps to smooth out dialogue.

In addition you have to be listening out for and then remove, all the strange wheezes and pops, coughs and clunks and stomach gurgles that somehow get onto the track.

Add to this the removal of odd external street noises (police sirens, dogs barking etc) which are inevitable if you do not record in a sound-proofed room or have a directional mic.

There is some art involved in this –

deciding to leave a noisy breath in the middle of a sentence or removing one from the beginning of a phrase will depend on the flow and context of the passage.

Many authors have not planned in advance for a paragraph to be read aloud and this makes the job of the recording artist quite a challenge. Frequently there are gaspings as the poor actor struggles to get in enough air after a long sentence with many sub-clauses or commas!



(Walter ask your publisher if you have the audio rights to your books.  If not, ask them if they could grant them to you since they are not going to use them.  To use ACX you must own the audio rights to your book.)

For those of you who haven’t visited ACX – you should –

it is a brilliant uploading service for independent producers and authors.

They allow authors to advertise for the type of narrator they would like (accent, age, style etc) and provide an audition text for any interested party to use to record a sound test. The auditions come in, the author selects the one they like best and then the narrator goes off to do the work.

  It is a really simple utility to use and it marries authors and producers up and handles contracts, payments, sign offs etc and then gets the finished job up onto Amazon, Audible and iTunes.

They offer all sorts of payment options for producers –

including royalty splits and they then handle the payments to you when the book sales start flooding in….

With this option your outlay is minimal – you are just sacrificing half your future royalties.

But since the narrator is looking at continuing to be paid, she/he is motivated to do her or his very best work to spread "word of mouth." -- so to speak.

So for authors thinking about audiobooks - using an ACX narrator on the split-royalty deal will give you an audiobook for no up-front outlay, that brings in at least the same yield as your Kindle version and the added bonus of an additional medium in which to expose your work.


2. Create an account (click on the big Get Started button after admiring Neil Gaiman for a minute)

3. This account works with your Amazon account - so you'll have the same sign in and password

4. Creating an account here is very similar to creating an account on any e-book platform - just follow the directions and fill in the info

5. Confirm you own the rights to your titles. This is similar to adding your books to your Author Central account, sort of an is this book yours? within ACX and then you confirm if it is or isn't.

6. Next comes the bit I found the most tedious - creating your title profile

a. Post a cover photo (don't worry, it's not the FINAL cover art)

b. Post a description

c. Post an excerpt for narrators to audition with

d. Post a write up of anything else potential narrators and producers need to know -

for example, I stated that I needed a female narrator that could handle doing a proper British accent.

e. Post word count, territories (most will be Worldwide like with e-books)

f. Choose your royalty sitch.

 This is where you decide if you are going to pay an upfront hourly rate or royalty share.

Obviously, if you pay's going to cost something.

If you do the royalty share, you don't pay anything upfront, but you do split all of your royalties with the narrator/producer 50/50.

 I chose to share my royalties, and in fact am happy to share my royalties. I honestly feel like my narrators put just as much work into creating the audiobooks as I did writing the books!

 7. Now your title profiles are listed on ACX for narrators and producers to peruse. (A lot of the narrators are also the producers.)

You can wait for them to come to you, but I have no patience, so I started listening to narrator auditions right away. (Go up to Search and click on Narrators for hire.)

If you have any more questions, friends, just email me.  :-)


  1. There's a lot that goes into an audio book, for sure! Having different pay options surely opens doors for people. Making sure you pick the right actor is key! And funny the sounds that get picked up :))

    I love Simon's Cat :)

  2. Words Crafter:
    You introduced me to Simon's Cat. What a hoot. :-)

    Yes, I have great admiration for those who produce my audiobooks!

    Tummy growls would really mess up a narration, right? LOL.

  3. Most of this was news to me. You certainly have diversified, Roland. I didn't know how expensive the narration was, so thanks for the info.

  4. D.G.:
    The old ways to get readers are wilting, no longer working for those just entering the self-publishing world. We must break out of the authors buying authors ghetto if we are to become financially successful as writers.

    A few can spend much of their days on the social networks to boost their sales, but it is not self-sustaining.

    I'm glad you got something useful out of my post. :-)

  5. Great post. I had looked into one site a bit, but didn't have any idea of the costs. There's a lot of great info here. It's something I think I'll consider.

    And thanks for your comments on my blog tour over at Medeia's. :) Writer’s Mark

  6. Hi, Nancy:
    I really liked your guest post on Medeia's blog. The Royalty Share option really makes ACX the way to go for those of us with meager incomes! :-)

  7. Thank you for sharing this, Roland.

    Hugs and chocolate,

  8. Thanks.

    I signed a contract with ACX this weekend, but still haven't completed all the requirements, being that I'm a bit tech challenged. I own my audio rights, so I still a bit miffed as to why my publisher is shy about audio books.

  9. Awesome post, Roland! How are your audiobook sales numbers? ACX definitely sounds like the way to go.

  10. This is something I have been thinking about since I started reading your audio book. You were very lucky with your narrator! Thanks for the "How to" information.

  11. Shelly:
    Thank you for reading and liking!

    Glad to hear it! I wish you high sales. ACX is for individual authors not publishers. Your Publisher would have had to pay $4000 to do your book! Ouch!

    A suggestion: have your narrator, if he will agree, to submit a chapter at a time to you so that you can early catch mistakes in words, names, and accents that run through the entire book. :-)

    Sales in audiobooks are like pushing a stalled car -- you have to build momentum before it starts going good! I'm still at the huff and puff stage! Hence my contests!

    You have to listen very carefully to the narrator's sample and audition. And yes, I have been very fortunate!!

  12. This is such great info, thanks Roland.

  13. Lydia: I hope it helped in some smalll way. :-)

  14. ...I've been asked on more than one occasion if my novel, South of Charm, will eventually be an audio book. My publisher doesn't seem interested, fearing the overhead vs. profit, therefore the idea is currently paddling in knee deep water and going nowhere fast. I'll run ACX by him, sounds interesting.

    On a side note, a few weeks ago I walked in on my boss listening to Fifty Shades on audio book in his office...quite uncomfortable for the both of us. Strange fella, that man ;)


  15. Great information, Roland. I don't know if everyone realizes the boom in audiobooks, but you're on the cutting edge, my friend. Just this week I read two mainstream articles touting the growing popularity of audiobooks:

    The Atlantic Wire "Audiobooks Have Become Cool"

    The Wall Street Journal "The New Explosion in Audio Books
    How They Re-emerged as a Rare Bright Spot in the Publishing Business"

    VR Barkowski

  16. Elliot:
    If you retained the audio rights, you could do your own audiobook through ACX without your publisher.

    Ah, that moment with your boss had to have been ... memorable! :-)

    Thanks so much for the links to the two articles. I am very interested in reading them!!

    I need to find some way to get my audiobooks into readers' views. I am too weary right now to think of a way. :-)

  17. Great information, thank you!

    I award you the Sunshine award because of the way you share your knowledge. Just awesome!

  18. Yolanda:
    I'm sorry I didn't see your comment until now.

    Alas, with ACX's gobbling up 60% of the audiobook price, plus instituting the $1.99 price for our audiobooks to lure people to audiobooks at the expense of the authors and narrators -- meaning 40 cents to each of us --

    ACX is no longer something I can recommend.

    Time will tell if ACX reequilibrates its rates in the future.