A few months ago, I decided to do an audiobook for Solomon’s Throne. Well, actually, I’d spoken to a friend with a great voice when I first published it, and he agreed, only to be stricken with a long-term case of sinusitis. Then we found out that, to publish an audiobook on ACX/Audible, you have to fully produce it or else hire someone who narrates and produces. Since we have zero ability to produce it, and since it would take approximately five hundred years of studio time to record it (okay, maybe not quite that long), I decided to go the audition route.
So here’s the deal with ACX. You load your book info in, with an excerpt for the talent to audition with. You can listen to examples of the actors’ work by filtering through a ton of categories. You can choose male/female, region of the country, age, accent, and then a lot of crazy narrative types like: story teller, authoritative, brooding, cowboy, comedic, quirky, perky, seductive, sheepish, nasal, and on and on. It gets pretty overwhelming. Once you find some voices you like, you can request an audition. In my experience, not all will respond. It probably depends on how you’re willing to pay (more about that below), and if they think the project fits their style. Additionally, actors can find your book on their own and send an audition.
ACX notifies you when you have a new audition. I have one pending right now, but ACX and Amazon (which owns it) is down. (Weird, huh??) You can listen to your auditions an unlimited number of times — I find it helpful to let my kids listen, as well. We’ve listened to hundreds of audiobooks as a family, and they’re pretty good at knowing good voices. You can communicate with the actors in this process, too. For instance, an actor may have done the audition in narrative style, no using other “voices” for the characters. You can request that they do it with a story-telling style using distinct voices. (This is my personal preference.)
Now obviously, this isn’t free. There are two ways you can approach the payment. The first is that you pay the actor their hourly fee for the finished hours of the piece. Actors list their hourly rates in their profiles, so you can easily see if someone is out of your budget. For instance, I didn’t contact people over $200 an hour, but was contacted by an agency who wanted to send me voice samples. Their prices ranged from $250-1000 an hour! That was way out of my league. As I said, the price is for finished hour. At 93,000 words, Solomon’s Throne is estimated to come out somewhere around 10.1 hours. The estimated studio time for that length book is 4-6 hours per finished hour. So you can see that it’s a lot of work for the talent to get to the finished product.
The second way to approach payment is through revenue sharing. ACX has a set revenue share schedule, so percentages aren’t negotiable. This is a good way to go if you don’t have the money to invest, but be aware that the revenue sharing is for the life of the audiobook. So if it does really well, you could end up paying significantly more than the $2,000 or whatever it might have cost for you to pay the actor a set fee. Again, the actors will indicate in their profiles if they are interested in revenue sharing. If this is the only way you can produce the book, make sure to put that in your book’s profile, and don’t solicit auditions from actors who only accept flat fees.
Now, I haven’t done this next step, so this is my understanding of how it works. When I actually do it (probably not until October now, since I’ll be in Uganda Sept 12-Oct 2), I’ll update you on how it goes. Once you enter into an agreement, which is all done through ACX to provide protection and accountability to both sides, the work starts. When the actor gets 30 min of the book done, you review it and make any tweaks, suggestions, changes, etc. that you want. If the actor isn’t capturing the voices right, this is the time to make those changes. Don’t be shy – this is your chance to make sure the book is done to your satisfaction.
After this, the actor finishes the narration and production. I believe (but, since ACX is still down, I can’t verify) that you can make a small amount of editorial changes to the final product. Less than 10%? I’m not sure… Not much, at any rate. Once you are in agreement that it’s done, it’s posted. I’m not sure where you pay in this process, as I haven’t gotten there yet. And then you’re off and running!
I’m excited to do it, I’ve just gotten sidetracked with writing, my daughter’s wedding, summer, and my recent trip to Andros. I’m hoping it could be out by Christmas… But if I don’t start til October, that might be a stretch. Once ACX is back up, I’ll listen to this latest audition and go from there. I have my favorite up to this point, and if this new one isn’t as good, I’ll probably contact him and explain my timing and see what his is. I’m excited and nervous and excited… I love audiobooks. It’s all I listen to when I’m driving. I really want to do the IXEOS books. So this is a springboard, and I want it to go well!