Is There a Narrator in the House?

100_0065-smallI love audio books. So do my coworkers. We have our own little audio book club where we advocate and cajole each other to listen to the audio books we have loved. Right now two-thirds of the audio book club is pushing me to read Robert Galbraith’s novels. They are also lobbying me to put a project on to raise money for my novella’s audio book to be narrated by a real voice actor.

ACX, whom I will be doing this through, offers several options for turning your book into an audio book. Step one is to publish your book as a kindle book through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program. I’m working on that right now. Rest assured.

Once your ebook exists and is for sale on Amazon, you can hop over to ACX. Cecilia Lewis has a great post walking you through the steps towards finding the right narrator. I recommend it if you’re interested in publishing an audio version of your book. Since she took care of that side quite nicely, I’m going to talk about the flip side, which is what I’m thinking of doing.

First off, let’s talk money. ACX offers two payment options: pay for production costs up front in a one time fee or do a revenue share. A revenue share translates to this: you and your producer each get 50% of the 40% that you earn off every audio book that sells. So basically, you each get 20% of every audio book sold.

Why is the pie being split only 40%? ACX gets a non-negotiable cut of the proceeds for distribution. They take 60% as their cut. You don’t get a choice in this. You also don’t get a choice in the final price of your audio book. ACX has a pricing plan that it applies across the board and it goes a little something like this:

  • under 1 hour: under $7
  • 1 – 3 hours: $7 – $10
  • 3 – 5 hours: $10 – $20
  • 5 – 10 hours: $15 – $25
  • 10 – 20 hours: $20 – $30
  • over 20 hours: $25 – 35

***(9,300 words is approximately 1 hour of an audio book)

Before you go off and pen a 400K word monster to sell for $25-35 on Audible and sites like it, stop and consider two things.

1) Most audio books are bought by members like me. We use credits or, if the book costs less than a credit would, we buy the book outright for a 30% discount. What is the cost of a credit? $11.47. Yes, most of the books sold on Audible are sold for $11.47 or below. Audible has daily deals and frequent sales where audio book prices plummet to anywhere between $1.95 to $5.95 for a book. They also offer 3 for 2 sales where members can purchase 3 audio books for 2 credits. That’s 3 audio books for $22.94 or $7.65 per audio book. And you receive 40% of that or if you went in for a revenue share with your producer, 20% of that.

Why would you consider  revenue share and take home only 20% of the sale price? Audio books can cost anywhere from $200 to $1000 per finished hour of audio according to the inquiry I sent to ACX. Shocking, I know but when you consider that for one hour of finished audio it could take up to 6 hours of retakes, rerecording/mixing/mastering, you get an idea of why producers charge so much. They need to make a living too.

If 6 hours sounds like a lot of time spent to make one hour of audio perfect then consider this. I once spent 40 hours editing the audio for a 90 minute webinar. The speakers were scientists but they weren’t professional speakers. They also hadn’t practiced their presentations at all so I had to take out all their ums and ahs, their stutters, their frequent retakes, repetitions and other audible errors. A professional voice actor won’t make those kinds of mistakes but there will be times when he/she accidentally slips out of character, mispronounces a word, gets an accent wrong or a uses a voice inconsistent with other appearances of that character. All of those issues require rerecording the offending sections to fix and that takes time.

Why publish for audio when it’s such an expensive undertaking? Because you’re not one book amid millions. No, Audio books form a much smaller subset of all the books ever written. So as an audio book, your work would only be competing against thousands of like books and depending on the genre, maybe not even that much. Also, Audible members buy on average 17 audio books for year and quite a few of us (me and my coworkers included) buy a lot more than that. My audio book library is nearing 1100 titles and I have only been a member for 5.5 years. If you divide that out, I have bought about 200 books per year. There are Audible addicts–I mean members–whose buying habits and libraries far exceed my own.

Since you’re head is probably spinning from the cost analysis we just ran, I’m going to stop for now. We’ll pick up tomorrow with more cost effective options.