Okay, so first off, ACX is awesome. Words don’t really do it justice, but I’m going to try anyway, because this would be a really short blog post otherwise.
I can’t imagine how difficult it used to be to produce and distribute an indie audio book before ACX came along. I imagine it was somewhat akin to dubbing a mixtape for your high school girlfriend/boyfriend.
Any millennials or younger reading this, go ask your parents how that process worked.
No, seriously. I’ll wait.
Oh, you already know what a mixtape is because you’ve seen Guardians of the Galaxy and you think it’s basically an old-school playlist?
True, and also, so very false. Intellectually understanding what a mixtape isn’t the same as experiencing making one, and I’m talking a pre-double cassette deck mixtape, OG style. (If OGs made a tape of mushy love songs.)
Can you imagine how infatuated you’d have to be with someone to listen to the radio for hours with your hand poised over the buttons of a tape recorder until the song you wanted came on? Then you had recognize the song from the first bars and immediately press Record and Play at the same time (yeah, I know that doesn’t make any sense, just trust me that’s how it used to work) and then Stop when the song finished, only to wait for more hours until another song you wanted came on, over and over again until the tape was filled up. And don’t get me started on running out of room halfway through the last song.
I’m rambling, what was my point again?
Oh yeah, dubbing mixtapes sucked and ACX is awesome.
One of the reason ACX is awesome is because the ACX Help center is also awesome. Their help glossary is amazingly complete. Every question I had was answered by typing it in the help search bar.
Is there anything about ACX that isn’t awesome, you might ask?
Sure, there are things that aren’t awesome.
For instance, ACX recommends posting a 2-3 page script for interested narrators/producers to record their audition for your novel. 2-3 pages is like half a scene. It’s basically enough to know if you don’t like someone as a narrator. It’s not nearly enough to know if you want that person to produce your entire book.
Also, ACX doesn’t really tell you what to include in the notes for prospective narrators. As this was my first book and I didn’t know what the hell I was doing, I included some basic information about each of my main characters. Which was good, but what I should have included was how I imagined my main characters’ voices would sound. The narrators auditioning for my book didn’t know how I thought my characters should sound so they tried to glean whatever they could from the information I provided.
This leads to some interesting auditions.
As an example, one of the guys who auditioned for Certified Headless gave Paddy an Irish accent, presumably because Paddy is traditionally an Irish name . . . and damn if he didn’t nail it. I laughed my ass off. I didn’t end up going with him because Tucker did such a phenomenal job in his audition, but I’ll definitely keep him in mind for other projects.
So how do you choose a narrator? There’s two ways to choose a narrator/producer for your audio book, searching and auditioning. They’re both exactly what they sound like. You can either search for narrators using filters like Gender, Accent and Voice Age (yes, that’s a thing) and then listen to their samples until you find one you like. Or, you can put your sample script up for audition and see who bites. I did the second option. About eight people auditioned within the next four or five days. Tucker, and the other narrator I ultimately decided not to go with were the 1st and 2nd responses I got respectively, and both posted their auditions within 24 hours of me putting up the script. My experience was that the narrators who do these auditions are complete professionals and treat it just like a regular acting audition.
Then there’s the money.
There’s two ways narrators get paid on ACX, up front and royalty share. Or as I call them, cash on delivery VS you rolls your dice, you takes your chances. Either you pay your narrator a fixed amount per finished hour (so a seven-and-a-half-hour book at a $100 an hour would be $750 no matter how long it took them to do the actual work.) or you agree to a royalty share, and for every audio book sold, you get 20% and they get 20%.
Obviously, a narrator would love to get a royalty share deal with a well-known author and would be taking a huge chance on putting in that much work for a royalty share with a no-name author.
I set my audition up as cash on delivery to make sure I could get a date for the prom.
Another great thing about ACX is you don’t have to worry about the contract. It’s super simple and spells out exactly what each party’s responsibilities are and what happens if one party doesn’t live up to their responsibility. It’s like they had a lawyer write it, and then had a better lawyer come around and translate into regular people speech. Which makes sense, since ACX has a vested interest in both sides not screwing each other over so the book gets produced. Don’t forget, ACX reaps 60% of the profits without taking any of the risk.
I say 60% because I figure most people go with the exclusive contract and give ACX exclusive distribution rights. There’s also the non-exclusive contract which lets you distribute your audio book wherever you want, but in that case, you only get a 25% royalty of the price of your audio book.
I know, the words “exclusive distribution” make it sound like you’re just asking ACX to bend you over and take advantage of you, but they distribute through Amazon, Audible, and iTunes, which probably covers like 90% of the audio book buying population.
Now if only they distributed through Cracker Barrel, they’d have the market cornered.