Like many of you, I love audiobooks and want to make it my major niche in voiceover. A couple of colleagues recently sent me emails asking advice about obtaining more work in audiobooks. As you might imagine, I wrote a rather lengthy reply from which I will add a condensed version later in this post.
At the moment, though, I want to share some hot news with you. The audiobook publishing industry has changed overnight with Audible’s launch today of a new marketplace to connect audiobook rights holders with producers and narrators — the Audiobook Creation Exchange, or ACX.
ACX launched with over 1000 titles, many of which have real budgets associated with them. You can find titles that interest you and submit an audition.
However, ACX does not require a subscription fee from narrators. The thought is that the cream will rise to the top. Narration contracts wouldn’t be awarded to talent who have issues in vocal delivery or sound quality.
You can read the official announcement from Audible. For more details, you may want to read today’s blog article from my friend and fellow voice talent Dave Courvoisier.
As promised, here are 9 more ideas culled from my earlier emails to other voice talent that may help you meet and follow up with audio publishers so you can land work in audiobooks:
1) Obtain publisher contact info and submit your audiobook demo to them. Marketing your audiobook demo is the tried and true, #1 way of getting audiobook work. You can get publisher and producer info from the Audiofile Audiobook Reference Guide (where you can also be listed for a fee) and the Audio Publishers Association, if you’re a member of it. Note that you should not submit a commercial demo to an audiobook publisher.
2) If you already have worked for 1 audiobook publisher, how did you get the gig? Can you replicate those steps to bigger success?
3) LinkedIn searches can lead to work. Have you contacted publishers directly or asked for introductions to them from among your LinkedIn contacts?
4) Volunteer to improve your skills, for instance at a local organization that reads to the blind. Why not create something because you WANT to, rather than for the money and fame? (The money and fame will come.)
5) I went to Pat Fraley’s audiobook class in 2006. One idea he presented to the class was to suggest a title (ideally with a movie tie-in) and send a custom demo to a publisher.
6) Connect with publishers on social media sites. Commenting on the publishers’ posts on Facebook congratulating them on Twitter, etc. seems like a non-pushy way to follow up and consistently get your name in front of people who may hire you. Also, are you may want to become an active member on the Audiobook Community Facebook page.
7) Think about a value added service you can offer to publishers. How much and what kind of promotion do you do for the other projects you have voiced? How are your video skills? I think if I can show added value to a publisher in marketing, such as by creating a video book trailer, publishers may be more inclined to want to hire me to narrate a book.
8) Start your own audiobook company and sell your offerings as digital downloads through Amazon. With tons of books in the public domain, you just have to look around for suitable books.
9) This last one may sound far-fetched, but give yourself an attitude adjustment every day in the mirror. Tell yourself “this is could be the day that an audiobook publisher offers me a narration contract for an audiobook that will get great reviews.” Things I’ve been speaking into the mirror have been coming to pass!
I know that audiobook work, like everything else in a thriving voiceover career, requires persistence, patience, and an attitude of gratitude. I also know that the more I relax and go with the flow, the more things like lucrative voiceover gigs come to me. I can look back over the last 11 years in voiceover and see where I have tried too hard to make things happen. When you try too hard, you actually push away the good that was on its way.
You and I cannot be denied the good that is on its way to us. If I don’t have something in my reality now, I know it’s on its way to me….like my Grammy for Best Spoken Word after working the ideas in this list!
Can you add some more ideas about gaining work as an audiobook narrator? I’d love to get your comments on the blog!
Trevor Jones says
Great tips Karen!
I’ve heard great things about Pat’s workshop – I’ll be taking it next time it’s in LA.
I just finished reading my first audio book. And I should be slapped for still not knowing how she found me! I’ve find out in my next communication with her, but I think it was Facebook. Just getting involved in all the social networking seems to be very helpful in getting work these days!
Another idea: submit your articles – like this one – to other sites, both inside and outside the industry.
Greetings, Trevor! How exciting to be finishing an audiobook project, especially your first! I hope it leads to many, many more titles for you.
Thanks for the idea about submitting articles. Every time we can promote our expertise, it’s a good thing!
I also liked that you included your URL on your comment. I always do that, too, as the inbound link helps my SEO.
Wishing you continued health, success, and prosperity!
Xavier Paul says
Excellent article. I’m interested in starting an audio book company focused on Afro American books. Where can I find info on public domain Afro AMerican titles from 1800 to 1900?
Jennifer Dixon says
Thank you Karen,
I learned about this exciting new development in the Audiobook world just yesterday and, immediately signed up.Were you involved in helping to test this?
I was able to launch into the audiobook world as a result of participating in Scott Bricks Audiobook contest in which I was awarded second place. I have since done two books and one with Brilliance Audio and another which is still in production. Prior to this I had taken classes and coaching with a local voice coach -Tom Force and a couple of dynamic workshops with Pamela Lewis and Teri Clark Linden. I then went to Voice 2010 -everyone should go to these conventions -such a fund of information,encouragement and source of energy- and while there I found Pat Fraleys book which he uses in his Audio book workshops’ I was unable to attend one of his workshops (budget and distance intervened) so went through the book and followed every detail. I made my own demo(not bad for a late bloomer)and as a result landed my first book with Brilliance.
I also have had loads of fun with audio drama and was referred by one of the Directors(Julie Hoverson of 19 Nocturne Blvd.com)to another company for my next book—-so it goes. Just wanted to share this because there are so many ways to find what you really love to do and sometimes get paid to do it.!! Ishould add that I am fortunate to have another career(music therapist) which I continue to love and which helps pay the bills right now but am working towards making audiobook narration my career for the next phase of my life. Thank you again for your wonderful work and encouragement .Cheers! Jenny
Heather Henderson says
Another great blog post, Karen! I love the wisdom in the last several paragraphs especially. Because we are always being “chosen” or “not chosen,” being a voiceover actor can be an emotional roller-coaster — or not. Patience and persistence are the keys, and I have to remind myself of this every day.
wayne cummings says
Love your blog. This is my first time reading it, and the information is valuable. I’m trying to get into this arena because I enjoy reading to others, especially using other voices, and I believe it’s time to step out of my comfort zone. Thanks for the info and I wish you all much success. Gods Blessings always
Stephen Bowlby says
Wonderfully positive thoughts, Karen. Having recently completed my fourth audiobook, I can tell you that each one is a new experience and gets better each time.
All, thanks so much for your warm replies!
@Jennifer and @Stephen — I’m thrilled to read of your successes in audiobook narration! Everyone who reads your comments will be lifted by your positive energy and enthusiasm. I’m sure those traits will also attract more work to you.
@Heather — If I think of my life as a treasure map, I see the legend boldly indicates patience and persistence are needed with each step! In fact, I read an article recently that states that everything we want will come to us through the exercise of patience.
@Wayne — By stepping out of our comfort zone and trying new things, we find the person we were meant to be. Congrats on having the courage to follow a dream!
@Xavier — You could use Google to find authors that interest you. Two big sources of public domain texts are Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org) and the Internet Archive (http://www.archive.org). Also, Voices.com just ran an article about finding public domain works that you might find helpful:
Best wishes to all for your continued success, prosperity, and happiness!
HI karen ,
this is rajkumari from Mumbai , India . read your article and ur experiences.I have been with radio and Tv from years. Always thought there are so many great books and stories in India but the audio book culture is still not that common here .WHY ??? or may be it is and i am not aware of it . But yes have taken inputs from u will be preparing a demo in my voice for audio book ( also children stories ) and send it across to publishers .thanks a lot .
keep posting ur valuable thoughts .
Greetings, Rajkumari! Thanks for your nice note and interesting observations from India. One reason that audiobooks have taken off in America is because we spend so much time commuting to and from work. Audiobooks are a good way to spend the time.
Also, according to a consumer survey from the Audio Publishers Association, people would choose the audiobook format (cassette, CD, MP3) based on the player they have in their car.
If the audiobook culture doesn’t exist there, perhaps it’s up to you to create it! (hmmm…now I’m thinking of another blog post!)
Best wishes for your success!
Alan Andrews says
Hello, Karen. I’m one of “those people” who have wanted to get into voice over work forever, but there always seemed to be something in the way. I’ve done a lot of stage work over the years, but want to branch out. I was just pointed to your blog yesterday by a friend, and checked it out this morning. I absolutely love it! So much so that I’ve already set up my own profile on ACX (it’s not complete yet, I have to add some audio to it).
Thanks for being so willing to share your expertise and insight.
Basso for Hire
Greetings, Alan! Thanks so much for the warm note. Congratulations on taking the first baby steps in building your voiceover business! I hope you’ll find plenty of advice and encouragement in this blog.
Best wishes for your success!
Helene Jaubert says
Thank so much karen for such insightful information.
I have done one short story and now Im addicted. I immediately signed up for the ACX and submitted the one demo short story I did. Would you recommend submitting narration demos if anything else ? How do I get noticed for work in audiobooks aside from the obvious ACX?
Would appreciate any advice or thoughts you may have!
Greetings, HÃ©lÃ¨ne! I wouldn’t submit narration demos. Instead, look for material you enjoy in different genres to show your range in interpreting different literary styles.
As for getting noticed outside of ACX, look through the list of other ideas in the article. Hopefully, they will inspire you with other ideas to move along your path. Allow yourself to be creative. For instance, maybe you could attend a local writing group and work with an author to narrate serial installments of their book on http://www.podiobooks.com. It would give you an opportunity to have a published credit and gain testimonials that you could use in talking with larger publishers.
Also, if you are passionate about a topic, see if you can find a forum of people devoted to that topic. LinkedIn is a great place to find these kinds of specialized groups. Chances are good that you’ll find someone who has written an e-book who may want to create an audiobook.
It takes persistence and patience to market ourselves to a niche market. With focused and consistent effort, though, the rewards will be worth it!
I hope these thoughts are helpful. Best wishes for your success!
David Van Sise says
Great info Karen!! It’s really cool that out of all the facets of the entertainment field I have had the honor to work with, I find VO folk to be the most supportive and helpful. There are always wise info like you have posted and I love the VO community, because everyone is willing to help. This Audio book Narration end of VOs is something I am approaching (Being a Newbie) very seriously and want to put together a Killer Audio Book Narration Demo. Thanks to all for you support to and from everyone. This such an awesome Biz!!
Greetings, David! Thanks for the nice note. VO *is* an awesome biz. Like any business, it takes time to find your place in the market and build a steady client base. I’m glad if I’ve written something that helps you take your business in a new direction.
Best wishes for your continued success!
Tricia DiSandro says
Hey Karen. Very helpful site. I have a question: been working for ACX for 6 months and recently been contacted by an audiobook publisher who is looking for narrators. What questions should I ask? And what is normal for publishers regarding rates? Because this one only does 25% royalty paid quarterly. Is that odd or normal? I don’t know what to ask. lol
Thank you in advance if you are able to help!
Karen Commins says
Hi, Tricia! Thanks for the note. You’re wise to do your research! In fact, before I ever respond to any prospective client who contacts me out of the blue, I do some research on them to determine their credibility and how I might best serve them if they are indeed a reputable entity.
I first carefully review their web site to see how they represent themselves. Grammatical errors and typos indicate sloppiness to me. I also investigate claims they make on their web site. I do a Google search on their name. In the case of a publisher unknown to me, I search the Facebook narrator groups to see if other narrators have mentioned them.
Apparently, the publisher that contacted you is trying to develop a talent pool and sent the same prospecting email to a number of narrators. I’ll use them as an example of my research which will illustrate the types of questions that need answers.
1) The prospecting email itself is an immediate red flag to me.
Established audio publishers don’t work that way. They already have a talent pool, and narrators wishing to join it make the contact. The publishers are way too busy to seek out new narrators. They are hard-pressed to even make time to listen to demos that narrators send to them.
2) I can’t verify their claims.
Looking at this company’s site, they say they have distributed “over thousands” of audiobooks. Aside from the obvious grammatical issue with that phrase, the assertion is another red flag. I checked Audible under both their name and that of their parent company and found fewer than 60 books released in the past 5 years.
They say they work with the best industry narrators. Who are those people? Why are no narrators’ names listed on the company’s site? With no disrespect meant to the narrators of their books on Audible, those narrators’ names are not known to me. I also see the same narrator names on multiple titles for this company.
3) Their rates are not in line with the rest of the industry.
Longstanding audio publishers pay per finished hour (PFH) rates to narrators. You can use the union minimum of $225 per finished hour as what I call the “city of the ballpark”. Of course, all publishers don’t have this minimum rate, and some talent can negotiate much higher rates.
I was appalled to see the abysmally low rates this company charges authors for audiobook production. While rates using word counts instead the normal PFH rates may be more helpful to authors, it doesn’t jive with the language used by the rest of the audiobook publishing industry. In addition, no established publisher would ever offer “special rates” for longer books.
If I still was considering working with them at the end of my research, I would ask these additional questions:
— May I have the contact info for some of your narrators as references?
— Can you provide me with links to your audiobooks on sites other than Audible?
— How are your royalty payments calculated?
Those questions aren’t needed this time.
4) The fact that this company is offering only royalty payments paid quarterly is not only another red flag, but a deal breaker!
Their web site states that narration is FREE if they are the distributor. I’m speculating that in those cases, this company is getting narrators to give them the finished files in exchange for a 25% royalty paid quarterly. The company could earn the full 40% in royalty payments from Audible by uploading the files on ACX as a DIY project.
If that’s the case, and using easy math, let’s say the net royalties Audible pays each month equals 20 dollars. If this company contracted with a narrator on a 50-50 royalty share (RS) agreement on ACX, they and the narrator would each be paid 10 dollars in royalties per month. Over 3 months, Audible would pay out $60 split between the rights holder and narrator, so the company and the narrator would each receive 30 dollars over that time.
However, under this plan of paying quarterly royalties to the narrator, the company really comes out ahead. Audible still pays out the same $60, but this time, the company receives the full $60 for 3 months of royalty payments. The company then sends the narrator’s 25% of that CUMULATIVE amount, which is only $15.00, or HALF of the amount the narrator could have earned in a RS contract on ACX! Plus, the company could have earned interest on the money being held for the narrator.
My recommendation in this case is to thank them for their interest and state that you would be pleased to work with them only if they can pay your PFH rate.
By the way, I’m not opposed to doing a 50-50 royalty share on ACX. In this article, I discussed reasons you may want to consider RS projects. In addition, you can make money on carefully picked RS titles on ACX. This article will give you some pointers on finding RS projects that are likely to earn back your narration fee.
Thanks again for the great question, and best wishes for your continued success!
Tricia DiSandro says
Great stuff, Karen. You are always so generous with your knowledge and experience. I truly appreciate it.
I kind of had a feeling this wasn’t a great deal for me, which is why I sought you out. I do mostly royalty on ACX but was hoping I could start picking up some publisher work. Guessing the publishers won’t exactly be knocking down MY door, having only done this for 6 months with only 2k sold in retail.
Onward and upward, I guess! Thank you again for your very thoughtful and thorough response.