In my Feb. 2016 article 6 Low-Cost Avenues for Greater Audiobook Sales in InD’tale Magazine, I suggested to authors that they look for podcasts and seek interviews on shows that are a good fit for their book. I was delighted to read a case study today on the ACX.com blog about Glen Tate’s success with appearing on podcasts and selling more audiobooks as a result.
However, his persistent promotion of his audiobook editions is only one part of his success. Even more important is the fact that he avoided 3 costly mistakes that many authors make when using ACX.
First, instead of looking for a Royalty Share (RS) agreement with a narrator, Glen listed his first book in the $200-400 per finished hour (PFH) range on ACX.
Paying this rate for the production did 2 things for Glen:
1) It attracted the most experienced talent to audition for the book. Since all of the risk of low or no sales under an RS contract rests with the narrator, most experienced narrators are reluctant — or even refuse — to accept an RS contract.
Many authors view an RS contract as “free” narration rather than properly thinking of it as a deferred payment for the costs of production. As a result, those same authors too often will moan the old phrase “you get what you pay for” after the audiobook has been completed.
One author told me recently that she thought the narrator she cast on her first book had completely ruined it. I listened to the sample and could understand her feelings. The narrator had a sing-song delivery that indicated she was only reading the text and understanding each word only as she read it aloud.
The author said she doesn’t want to promote that audiobook, so its sales languish, which hurts the bottom line for both the author and the narrator. She feels stuck because she can’t create a new recording of the book without paying a PFH kill fee to get out of the existing contract and then paying a second PFH fee to a new narrator.
For a more in-depth discussion about how to make the all-important budget decision, please read my article Authors, Can You Afford to Produce in Audiobook?
2) Paying up-front for production means that Glen now keeps ALL of his audiobook royalties instead of splitting them with the narrator.
Thanks to his subject and his constant promotion of his audiobooks, I imagine that Glen has not only recouped his production costs, but his income from this series of audiobooks is more like a mighty river than a trickling stream.
He had his choice among exceptional performers who have established work flows that ensure they produce pristine recordings on-time and in budget. Glen cast a stellar narrator in Kevin Pierce, which brings me to my next point.
Second, Glen hired the same narrator for all of the books in the series, presumably at the same PFH rate.
Listeners prefer to hear the same narrator in a series if characters repeat from book to book. However, I’ve seen authors who concurrently post all of the titles in a series and then cast them with different narrators. This approach is fine only if each book is based around a theme with different characters. Otherwise, the author may hurt his sales by rushing to create audio editions and casting different narrators in the series.
Finally, Glen has the option to change from Exclusive distribution to Non-Exclusive distribution.
An author’s distribution choice dictates the venues where her audiobooks can be sold. When an author chooses an RS contract on ACX, she has no choice but to accept Exclusive distribution, which limits sales of her audiobooks to only Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.
Libraries are a terrific outlet for discovery, especially for new authors. In order to have the opportunity to place your audiobooks in libraries, you need to have Non-Exclusive distribution. This option is only available to authors who pay per finished hour for the narration.
Glen chose Exclusive distribution, which could be a smart move in the first year of release to maximize the royalties paid. ACX currently pays 40% royalties under Exclusive distribution.
Since he paid his narrator up-front, Glen can elect to switch to Non-Exclusive distribution after 90 days. Section 13(a) of the ACX Book Posting Agreement states that you can write to Audible to request a change to Non-Exclusive distribution for titles produced under the pay-for-production model. Glen would receive 25% royalties under Non-Exclusive distribution, but he would be free to add other distributors including other audiobook retailers and libraries. He also would be able to sell the audiobooks on his web site and/or on CD or thumb drives at speaking engagements.
If Glen had contracted with Kevin on a RS/RS+ agreement, he would be forced to maintain exclusive distribution. He would not be able to terminate distribution without Kevin’s consent. He would then lose all Audible ratings and reviews because Audible pulls the audiobook from its virtual shelves.
With the finished audiobook in hand, it’s time to promote it. As Glen Tate explained, podcasts can be an excellent promotional method. You’ll find a lot more ideas on my Audiobook Marketing Cheat Sheet.
Do you have questions about using ACX or the audiobook production process? If so, please leave a comment on the blog.
Photo: Drew Commins during our 2005 trip to Paris
Petrea Burchard says
Thanks, Karen! A great post, which I plan to share with my author friends!
Karen Commins says
Hi, Petrea! I’m glad you found the info to be useful. Thanks for stopping by the blog.
Rhonda Stoppe says
Hi Karen. Thank you for this post. I am BRAND NEW at publishing an audio book. My traditional publisher recently signed over to me the audio rights for my books. My first book has been recorded in a professional studio (with me as the narrator) and now I’m ready to submit it for publication.
My first thought was to submit Exclusive Distribution with the 40% royalty. However after reading your post I’m rethinking that option. I am a public speaker and sell books at my speaking engagements––like LOTS of books at my engagements. So I’m wondering if it’s in my best interest to publish the audio book Non-Exclusive and take the 25%?
I am SO new to this and don’t want to commit to something that I’m not able to change at a later date. I was under the impression from ACX application that whichever option I choose I cannot change it down the road. Although your post seems to suggest I can make the change in a year?
Any insights you can share with me would be most appreciated!
Thank you in advance
Karen Commins says
Hi, Rhonda! I’m glad you found the article to be helpful.
As I stated in the article, if you choose to publish your audiobook through ACX on an exclusive contract, you can change to non-exclusive after 1 year.
If you are exclusive, you are prohibited from selling copies of your audiobook on your web site or on CD at events.
However, ACX is not your only choice for a distributor. You should compare offerings from FindawayVoices.com, SpokenRealms.com, and AudiobooksUnleashed.com. In addition to royalty rates, some of the things you’ll want to consider are:
— frequency of payment
— frequency of sales updates
— promotional support
— whether your publisher name is used
— your goals for distribution — since you’re a speaker who sells your books at your engagements, would you sell CDs at your events? If so, how would you get them made?
The pros and cons for each distributor are too detailed to cover in this response.
If you’d like to discuss options, I am available for 30- or 60-minute paid consultations, which can be booked through the “Rent My Brain” link on my Shop page.
Best wishes for your continued health, prosperity, and success!
Lori Michaud says
Are you aware of the Mikkelson twins? I was wondering if their format for publishing audio books so quickly was even possible, nevermind probable. They charge for their course and their testimonials sound great but I don’t think it’s the full story.
Karen Commins says
Hi, Lori! I generally know the players in Audiobook World, so it’s meaningful that I had never heard of the Mikkelson twins before I read your message.
A quick Google search convinces me that you are wise to be skeptical. Just the first post in this informative Reddit thread tells me all I need to know about their “process” to advise you to RUN!
Sure, you can hire ghost writers, narrators, and cover artists on the cheap to produce low quality audiobooks. The question is: why would you want to? Audiobooks are not published just to be a passive income stream! Real people buy and listen to them and therefore have certain expectations about how they should be.
Any audiobook needs visibility to generate sales, and gaining that visibility requires marketing and promotion. My Audiobook Marketing Cheat Sheet offers a wide range of tactics and ideas that require time and sometimes money to implement.
Consumers return audiobooks that don’t measure up. Audible will actually claw back the royalties paid out for a sale if the return is made in the first week after release. Any initial income made on a crappy audiobook produced using the Mikkelson approach is likely to evaporate quickly.
Aside from all of that or anything anyone else has written, if they’re so good and knowledgeable about producing and selling audiobooks, why are their own books not in audio?
If you want to find some quick money, do the 50 Ways Exercise explained in this article.
I hope this info helps. Best wishes for your success!