I made an ACX audiobook—now what do I do?

Topics in this article (click to jump to topic):

Where to find the audiobook audience?
The Amazon connection
What does Audible.com do to promote unknown titles?
There’s a place for us… isn’t there?
Audiobooks and Goodreads
No way to do giveaways or contests?
Get on Audible’s marketing radar
Are the narrators getting restless?
What ACX replied to my feedback 
Even Seth Godin says it’s hard to market audiobooks
 

If you look at the Twitter hashtag #ACX_com these days you’ll see a steady stream of people tweeting “I’m creating an audiobook on ACX #ACX_com.” ACX, a platform owned by Audible, a subsidiary of Amazon, has the stated mission of recording all the books out there that haven’t been recorded yet (they’ve done 6,000 in the past two years). Their website helps you (the rights holder) match up with narrators capable of producing a professional audiobook. It’s fun and intriguing to think of your book coming to life in the voice of a talented narrator, isn’t it?

My husband had written a historical thriller in 2010 that, with its fast pace and first-person voice, seemed like a perfect candidate for an audiobook. As his unpaid publisher/publicist for the book, when I heard about ACX last fall, I leaped in. If you’ve been through the process of publishing your own book (with all the technical and design work that entails) and then setting up a website and social media profiles to promote it, the streamlined ACX online process of auditioning suitable audiobook narrators, managing the contract, okaying the final product, and then making it available on Audible.com, iTunes, and Amazon is a piece of cake. (If you’re wondering, our timeline was: found a narrator in November and had an approved product by March.)

I won’t go into all the nitty gritty of how the process works—plenty of people are blogging about the steps, like here and here. I also won’t go into the terms of the deal you make with ACX or the royalty-shares and sales info they help manage. For some, the terms will be unsatisfactory (including, in the usual Amazon fashion, the fact that the price of your audiobook can be lowered at any point without your say so, plus the new low-priced Whispersync wrinkle) and those people may decide to make and sell an audiobook on their own. For others reaping just a portion of the sale is well worth the price of getting help recording your book and having access to a prominent new platform on which to sell your story. We were happy to go the royalty-share route with our narrator.

What I do want to talk about is a subset of the evergreen topic “How do I find readers for my book?”—in this case, how do I find customers for my audiobook? Turns out to be a good question if you’re not a best-selling author. Silly me, I had assumed that ACX and their retail partner Audible.com, as experts in the audiobook world, would offer specific sales tips for all the books they’re turning into audiobooks. But, as they say, don’t assume.

The main message on the ACX site is: “The more you sell, the more you earn. So get the word out.” ACX’s pointers on how to get the word out include telling you to start up a blog, do a Facebook Page, tweet, do public appearances, guest post about your book topic—all the well known ways of promoting any generic book these days. What author savvy enough to find their way to ACX doesn’t already know about book publicity 101? But maybe there’s still a few that need to be told to “ask colleagues to tweet about your book.”

The larger issue, in our case, was that by the time ACX came on our radar last fall, our book was no longer brand new and we’d already told everyone following us ad nauseam about The Purples. They all knew about it and had read it or passed along the word to other potential readers. So when we started posting about the [$24] audiobook format for a book they’d already read, the yawn was deafening. Whether we have 20 followers or 2000 followers isn’t the point—the point is that we needed to find a new audience. The audiobook audience.

Where to find the audiobook audience?

Once our audiobook production was approved by ACX, they very nicely listed it on iTunes and Audible.com, one of the best-known audiobook-specific sellers around. So my first stop to find an audience was Audible. This must be where the audiobook buyers are, I thought.

Well, the buyers may indeed be there, but they aren’t going to ever know about my audiobook.

First, not that anyone would be searching for our unknown book by name, but if they did, they might be surprised to see that typing in its exact name brings up 12 other books ahead of it—none of which has that exact name, but rather shares one of the words. I guess those books got there first, but I don’t know why an exact name search doesn’t bring up the matching book on top.

But more importantly, once you locate the book, the biggest surprise is the underwhelming sales page for the book on Audible. ACX advises author activities such as social media and networking to promote a book, yet there is no way for an author to have a presence on Audible—no social media links, no bio, no link to author website or featured blog posts or tweets, no place for our book trailers, no place to highlight professional reviews, no obvious way to find or link to special-interest readers on Audible.

Audible page for book

And since narrators are a big draw with audiobooks, why not have a bio/photo and link to the narrator’s site, too? Finally, does Audible host a customer forum, where authors and narrators can interact with listeners? It’s not apparent.

The Amazon connection

We thought since Audible was a subsidiary of Amazon, there would be more of a connection to the robust, established Amazon page for the book on the Audible page (note that the audiobook is nicely listed for sale on the Amazon page). The only connection we see to Amazon is much further down the Audible page below the fold—a listing of the two-dozen hard-won good reader reviews from Amazon, too far down the page to be useful for a customer who’s not aware or looking for them.

Audible chooses to very prominently show their own customer rating area—which since the ACX audiobook is new has only one 3 star review (from some unnamed customer, with no written review that we could see explaining why only 3 stars).

Frankly, we don’t get what customer would come back to this page to leave ratings here or how/why they are incentivized to do since there’s no apparent social activity.

What does Audible.com do to promote unknown titles?

A little browsing reveals that Audible has its own recording studios, where they commission high-profile recordings by stars like Colin Firth and Kate Winslet, as well as creating their own well-produced recordings of classic, sci fi, and contemporary lit. Not surprisingly, these Audible Studios productions get their own showcase pages on Audible.com.

Audible also has a New Releases section which I assume includes the ACX books, but since each books is represented only by a small cover image and in order of recency, it’s impossible to tell really. In order to see a book’s description, genre, and ratings (which are usually zero stars for these new books) you have to hover your cursor over each cover. (I should note that in dropdown menus at the top, you can sort by genre, program type, and abridged.)

A nice way of looking at it is that the ACX books aren’t inadvertently ghettoized on Audible—as self-published books often are. But since the “New” section includes more than 600 books that have come out just in the past four weeks displayed over 34 pages, obviously it has little utility for ACX authors trying to highlight and promote their books somehow there. (Our audiobook, out two months now, is nowhere to be seen.)

While clicking around the Audible site, I came across a great-sounding free promotional book that Audible created 2 years ago that would make an excellent companion to our novel—but there’s no way to make that connection for the customers (no “If you liked this book, you may like…”), nor any way for us indie audiobook producers to approach Audible about creating a cross-promotion package.

There’s a place for us… isn’t there?

I kept clicking around the Audible.com site, certain there must be a place where they featured ACX books… and eventually, through some guesswork, I did find it under Shop Audiobooks—>More to Explore—>Popular Features—>Editors’ Picks from ACX. I wonder if a member of the general public would click on that icon, not knowing what “ACX” stands for.

Editors' Picks ACX

On “Editors’ Picks from ACX” I found 6 featured books—a newly recorded classic from 1919, a memoir from Dr. Phil, a 1968 sci-fi classic narrated by humorist John Hodgman; more encouragingly, the remaining three seemed to be new books by unknown (to me) author/narrators. Another click reveals 6 more audiobook covers by unknowns, which is nice exposure for them, but there’s no description given as to why these are Editors’ Picks, no real prompt to buy them.

I also noticed in Popular Features that best-selling author and audio fan Neil Gaiman has his own section where he handpicks from the ACX roster. I think this is a great promotion for the selected books, but it’s very limited. In the past 8 months, Gaiman had only picked two books, and they are both books that are also mentioned on the Editors’ Picks page.

I’m not trying to fault Audible here—they have a lot going on on their site, lots to promote besides unknown ACX books—but rather am pointing out how daunting it would be for a regular, non-celebrity, non-series ACX book to gain any traction on this site.

Audiobooks and Goodreads

I’m a member of Goodreads, so I decided to explore there how authors and audiobook readers interact outside of Audible.com. A search revealed a handful of audiobook groups, including the biggest one, at 2,000 members, called “Audiobooks.” It looks like these audiobook groups and discussions happen mainly around high-profile library rentals, which makes sense since audiobooks are expensive, and these people seem to be voracious listeners. There is no indication that ACX will distribute our self-produced audiobooks into libraries. That would be up to the individual publishers to accomplish, I would think, and that’s typically a nonstarter for self-published books, which have little luck with already overwhelmed bookstores and libraries.

No way to do giveaways or contests?

It’s no secret that readers are driven more and more by price these days, with a seeming race to the bottom. Hardcovers—>paperbacks—>ebooks. Where do audiobooks fall? They are priced in the $20s—a far cry from the impulse-buy universe of >$2.99 ebooks. [Of course, if you look at an Audible sales page you will see the audiobooks offered at an Audible discount price of $7.49 for 1 book/month (for a 3-month trial membership). The price then jumps to a still-good $14.95. The old book club model survives with Audible!]

But as any self-publisher knows, a big way to promote self-published ebooks and paperbacks is through discounts or giveaways, especially when promoting to book groups or on reader-centric sites like Goodreads. However, there is little way for an ACX author to do this kind of promotion. ACX books don’t exist in CD format so there’s no hard copy to give away, and there seems to be no way to arrange for a free audiobook giveaway via ACX or Audible.com (as there is with Amazon’s Kindle Prime program). No coupon ability (à la Smashwords), no way to give out a secure download link. So, with the ACX website telling us to “send influential colleagues and reviewers a free copy of your audiobook,” we’re left wondering how to do so.* (*Note: after I wrote up this post, in a May 20 letter from ACX/Audible accompanying our second little royalty check, the last line does say “If you would like a few promotional copies to give away to fans or reviewers, please contact our customer services team at (888) 396-6347 or support@acx.com.” So it does seem that they are now aware of this lack in their automated service—yet still no easy-to-use system for free copies on the website itself. )

Get on Audible’s marketing radar

Back on the ACX blog, I saw a recent two-part blog post on ACX titled “How to Promote Your Titles and Get on Audible’s Marketing Radar.” A promising headline, but the article skips over how to find and grow an audiobook audience, going right to When a particular book or series starts gaining a following we celebrate with baked goods and high fives. Then, we look to keep the momentum going by showcasing that book or series to Audible listeners through promotions like store features, customer e-mails, social media call-outs, sales or discounts, or other editorial events.” It’s the old “we’ll promote you once you are already hot” Catch-22 of publishing. Understandable, from Audible’s point of view, but not helpful for our purposes.

The most specific the blog post gets re: audiobook marketing is Look into online publications, websites, blogs or podcasts that might be interested in your book’s topic or genre, or audiobooks in general, and reach out to them and offer something of value: a review copy, an excerpt from the audio to post on their site, or, depending on the reach of the outlet, a copy of the audio to give away to readers.” (See my note about “giveaway” copies above.)

Assuming ACX/Audible wants to sell books, and since we, the authors, are their sales force, why not give us a list of online publications, websites, blogs or podcasts that are open to publicizing audiobooks? The most specific mention of this kind I could find was buried in the last tip on ACX’s basic “Get On Facebook” page: “Become a Facebook fan of Audible, AudioFile magazine, the Audiobook Community page, and other “hubs” of audiobook-related activity.” Easy enough to become a fan of those three FB pages—where I can’t really connect with buyers but can perhaps get promotional ideas from other publishers’ promotional activities—but why not list the other advised “hubs”?

Are the narrators getting restless?

I have a feeling the inability of many rightsholders to market their new audiobooks may be becoming an issue at ACX, particularly as more books are getting produced and more royalty-share narrator/producers now spend many hours of time creating the professional recordings—with little backend revenue shares to show for it.

In a recent ACX blog post, these narrators are now advised, “As for royalty share projects, do your homework to see if the rights holder is an active marketer of his or her titles, and be prepared to supplement their promotional efforts with your own. … Check out the rights holder’s social media accounts (like Twitter and Facebook), and note both the number of fans they have, as well as how often they engage them. Does the author have an up-to-date website? Does he or she have a blog they update regularly? The time your rights holder invests in their title will play a key role in how much you can expect to earn in royalties.”

This is all good advice—our narrator didn’t ask us about our marketing plan or if we had hundreds of 4-star reviews (sorry, no), and we didn’t ask him if he was prepared to do his own promotional efforts for The Purples—but it still doesn’t answer how “updating regularly” about the new audiobook format to a group of people that already know about the book would make for meaningful new sales.

What ACX replied to my feedback

Over time, I will probably spend many more hours exploring the world of audiobooks and hopefully find more places to talk about audio version of The Purples, because frankly it made a helluva audiobook and I hate to see the hard work of our ACX narrator (Chris Andrew Ciulla, a versatile L.A. actor) go to waste.

I guess I feel let down here because I understood that we were on our own when we self-published our book and ebook, and embraced all the fun and work that entailed. But when I realized that we had created a format for a whole other audience via a huge company like Audible/Amazon, but they offered no ready guidance in how to reach that audience, I was surprised and disappointed.

So I wrote a long feedback note to ACX similar to this article. In it I said: “The larger issue of how a new audiobook author is supposed to find listeners is a mystery without an answer. THIS is the kind of info we need you to provide on the ACX site, not telling well versed authors and publishers to sign up for Twitter or create a blog for their book. A listing of industry blogs or influentials who tout or review audiobooks would be at the very least what we need. I was looking hopefully at your Twitter feed, but the promotional tips and links you give there are quite generic, like ‘3 blogging tips for authors,’ rather than specifically about finding audiobook customers.”

I quickly received several nice replies from ACX thanking me for my feedback. But it was made clear that no help would be coming anytime soon from ACX or Audible. As they wrote: “The primary reason for ACX is to give authors a chance to create audiobooks as quickly as possible. The reason we can offer up to 90% royalty rates is because we expect the rights holders and producer to market the books themselves. If we were to be more involved in marketing, we would not be able to offer as high royalty rate.” They closed by saying, “Your email was forwarded to management and the developers, as you did have some great ideas. However, we cannot offer a definite answer as to when the changes will occur, but please know that your voice was heard.”

Even Seth Godin says it’s hard to market audiobooks

As I researched this article I came across this cautionary quote from Seth Godin: “Audio books traditionally generate very little revenue to the author. She gets a royalty on a royalty on a small sales base. Not worth the time to promote.” The good news is that ACX offers better royalties than traditional audiobook publishers, but the bad news is that it may indeed be true that audiobooks are not worth the time to promote, unless you have a great advantage for reaching these special buyers.

If you’ve read this far, you know that I am raising issues in this piece, not giving solutions; I wish had a killer list of to do’s but must apologize because we are still groping through the dark. We suspect the early days of Createspace might have been much like these early days of ACX, and that there may soon be a robust ecosystem around how to market the ACX productions.

My hope is that this post won’t merely elicit derisive comments about our marketing skills, laziness, or business naïveté, but rather some tips and anecdotes from other ACX rights holders and producers more creative or enterprising than we. (By Googling, I’ve seen a few prolific authors with big followings mention all the sales they’re making via ACX/Audible, but haven’t seen any specifics as to how they reached this new market.)

Believe me, I more than know there’s no easy way to market a standalone novel by an unknown author. Whether self-published or traditionally published, it takes time, effort, money, and luck. And I greatly appreciate all that ACX did to make it possible to create our audiobook—including deeming our book stipend-eligible, which attracted narrator/producers to the title. We are not expecting them to also market the book, but assuming they want sales as much as the rightsholders do, isn’t there a little more help they could give us ACX’ers to help us find our listeners? Maybe allow a simple link to our book’s robust websites on each book’s Audible.com page?

If you have some thoughts or pointers, please share….

{This article was written June 2013}

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37 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Laura says:

    FYI, Jane Friedman, a publishing guru well worth following, has published a long post titled “An Alternative to ACX for Audiobook Production and Distribution,” where she interviews the owner of ListenUp Audiobooks. It’s worth a read! https://janefriedman.com/listenup-acx-alternative/

    Some takeaways re: audiobook promotion:
    “Running an advertisement for a discount on an ebook through a service like BookBub has been shown to increase audio as well as ebook sales.”

    “ListenUp is actively working on partnering with various book promotion sites as well as building out our own marketing services.”

    Things they’re exploring:
    “What does the explosion of podcasting mean for audiobooks and how can we use it to enhance discovery? Sites like TuneIn or Bandcamp, which have traditionally been music focused, are now offering audiobooks. Are there some titles that will work better in those environments than others?”

    “How can we use the “local” factor to promote authors through library and independent bookstore sites?”

    “Mobile has changed everything. Demand continues to grow and new distribution outlets appear monthly. Amazon, Google and Apple all have (or are developing) audio driven ecosystems. You can already listen to audiobooks on the Amazon Echo.”

      

  2. Andrew says:

    Hi Laura,

    Thank you for this post – it’s good to know I’m not alone in this problem! You’re article really hits home…hard.

    I produced my 1st audio book (poetry) the other month but the author barely even communicated (mainly last minute) but when they did it was blunt and short so…not very helpful.

    I initially didn’t know to research the author’s presence and following beforehand. I learned my lesson when they said they didn’t really have a marketing plan, which seemed very unprofessional for a person who has already released several works.

    I’ve looked up about how to promote the audio book myself (also on ACX/Audible) but there’s a lot of generic info as you’ve found. I admit I haven’t tried everything yet but, in general, it can sometimes seem like a lost cause with the lack of specific advice to implement – all theory, no practice.

    This is such an important topic for me because I also have to market for my music so the theories and practices for marketing audio books could easily be transposed since both fields are audio-based industries. I could theoretically cross-promote them, and hope to do so very much but, as for now, I feel as you do:
    “I guess I feel let down here because I understood that we were on our own when we self-published our book and ebook, and embraced all the fun and work that entailed. But when I realized that we had created a format for a whole other audience via a huge company like Audible/Amazon, but they offered no ready guidance in how to reach that audience, I was surprised and disappointed.”

    Thanks so much for writing out all the detail you had with this problem! It helps psychologically, if for no other reason, in knowing someone else is thinking, struggling, and fighting the same way and speaks to the truth of matters at hand.

    By the way, I believe in the power of a strong network of quality — and you seem like a great creative/artistic acquaintance. Let me know if you ever want to help one another with mutual cross-promotion (and anyone else who would want to join)!

      

    • Laura says:

      Hi Andrew,

      I’m sorry you feel let down by the audio process, as we did. I honestly hoped there would be an improvement in the process (especially the marketing and promo) but I see there isn’t. I’ll try to find you on LinkedIn to become part of your publishing network.

        

      • Andrew says:

        That sounds good. I’ll look for you on there also.

        Just FYI: Now more than ever, I’m more motivated and driven by self-promotion than, specifically, HAVING to rely on others, particularly 3rd parties (i.e. middle men). After being let down so much, I see how clear it is (at least, initially) to promote oneself to your target audience instead of marketers; being your own marketer should never be a bad thing. Ultimately, it’s your fans that truly support you, not marketers, so appeal to them is what matters. But, there’s always power in numbers – look for similarly struggling people for mutual benefaction, no matter how seemingly different things may seem; seek and find common ground to build a strong foundation for anyone and everyone involved!

          

  3. Sobering article….thank you…..After hours of creating my audiobook – Id love a way to get it showcased….Initially I put it on i tunes for free and it got into New and Noteworthy and thats where it got noticed ……when I got 100,000 downloads of individual chapters I took most down to take it to market….. The 100,000 downloads didnt result in any sales of anything else – but continues to go out at 5,000 + per week….
    Im just about to put it up again for sale through ACX but due to the time taken and hurdles Ive gone through Im wondering if there is a better way to do it….. The problem is that it falls between two categories…. its an audiobook but its designed to be relaxing and take people into sleep…..so its sort of a guided relaxation..https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/snuggle-up-for-your-bedtime/id948780889?mt=2
    I wonder if anyone has any thoughts on this ?

      

    • Laura says:

      Caroline, I don’t have any great ideas about how to showcase your audiobook for sales, but maybe someone else reading this thread will have some tips. The fact that you got so many downloads shows there’s high interest in your subject matter, which means you’ve cleared the first hurdle–good luck with the marketing!

        

      • For what it’s worth, I made a book trailer (1 min) for youtube and a podcast for iTunes (the first four hours of the audiobook) to help get the word out about my book. Currently, 50k people have listened to the podcast in iTunes, but that only results in about 4 audiobook sales per day. The youtube trailer only had about 350 views in a month. https://youtu.be/sERjfDceTns but that might because it is SUPER HARD to make a trailer with no actors, no money, and no footage, since it’s not a real film, just a book.

          

        • Laura says:

          Thanks for that info, Lorelei. I never thought about the efficacy of an iTunes podcast, but 50K listeners—that’s amazing! You’ve generated a lot of awareness which is the first step towards sales. As for making a YouTube trailer, we did that for THE PURPLES (2010), too, and I just checked: after 5 years it’s had 3,700 views. https://youtu.be/OaIldtN9J7Q Pretty paltry, but that’s what I would expect for YouTube where there are hundreds of millions of videos, and few people are there looking for book trailers.

          Please keep us posted as to how the iTunes podcast performs, and good luck with your niche book Owning Regina.

            

          • Just watched The Purples trailer. It is well made and I would say it’s worth the production if even 10 of the 3700 views bought the book and posted a killer review.

            Like everything in society, there is saturation at every level.

            But I have been having solid success with my Kindle version, I just wish ACX had the same promotional tools. It’s sad that there are so many great audiobooks out there that will never see the light of day.

            Hey, is there a “GoodReads” for audiobooks that people pay attention too?

              

          • Laura says:

            «Is there a “GoodReads” for audiobooks that people pay attention to» I never found such a site, on the level of a Goodreads.com (ie, one that everyone knows about and is owned/promoted by Amazon!) The closest thing would be Audible.com, but as discussed in my above article, it isn’t very useful as a social sharing/review platform. Let’s see if anyone else knows of one….

              

  4. Ismail says:

    I have authored many books and eBooks on different platforms. So far acx gets 100%. In just three days I have sold 86 copies of my new book “Love And Dating 101” by Ismail Kakembo. This has been possible because of acx. May be it is because of the topic http://www.audible.co.uk/pd/Health-Personal-Development/Love-and-Dating-101-Audiobook/B00W68D8P8/ref=a_search_c4_1_2_srImg?qid=1429550764&sr=1-2

      

    • Laura says:

      That is a good title and topic, Ismail–very searchable. Let us know if you are doing anything interesting to market your audiobook besides listing it on Audible.

        

  5. Clay Teunis says:

    LK –

    In this world of free or mostly-free things offered up (including narrating audiobooks!) I charge folks to attend the workshop, so I have no blogs unless it helps get folks into my shop. If and when I meet folks who make a living recording audio books I want to shake their hand and then ask for a loan — nay, a grant!

    I have a pirate-themed bitch and moan page below with more of my cranky reviews (including ACX) guaranteed to piss at least somebody off. However, I have done business with all or at least researched all that I have keel hauled.

    http://www.clayteunis.com/Clay-Teunis-Straight-Up-Reviews.html

    2014 and early 2015 has been a period of “fighting the man” for me and my wife: Bank of America, Intuit (specifically TurboTax), Network Solutions, even Norm Thompson. Errors in billing, greedy marketing tricks (I ended up settling with TurboTax by getting a free version of their most-expensive version, which no doubt I will have to buy next tax year at the new price!), chasing down receipts and spending literally hours on the phone trying to undo their errors. Never an admission of wrong doing, even after the Better Business Bureau and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau got involved.

    Bottom line: I think ACX, Bank of A, TurboTax and Network Solutions all push whatever the market will bear. And yes, I have a problem with Ebay, too!: They charge not only a percentage of the purchase price when you sell an item at auction (which is an acceptable consignment concept), but they charge a percentage of the shipping and handling fee you charge to the buyer, which is none of Ebay’s business. And don’t end an auction early, because Ebay will charge a percentage as if your item had actually sold!

    We let Ebay, ACX, et al get away with it I guess partly because there’s no other game in town!

      

  6. This is such a great thread. It seems so crazy that there isn’t even the simplest Amazon style suggestion promotion such as: “You might also like….” or “People who bought this also bought X”

    Does anybody know if iTunes does that type of suggestion marketing?

    The thing that really kills me is that we can’t choose our own pricing. I was hoping to blow my audiobook out at $2.99. But ACX/Audible forces us to use their high pricing.

    I have a successful iTunes podcast preview of my audiobook, so I’m interested to see if that actually translates into real sales.

    Regardless, ACX has to get the marketing thing in motion already!
    Lorelei Elstrom recently posted..Owning Regina – Audiobook

      

    • Laura says:

      I wrote my post about two years ago, Lorelei, and I gather from your note that things haven’t changed much for ACX audiobook producers in that time, particularly in getting any marketing guidance or pricing flexibility from Audible. That’s really too bad, and makes me wonder when/if it will ever change.

      Let us know if iTunes promotions yield any sales for you.

        

  7. Clay Teunis says:

    Keep up the good work, Laura. Would love to read any updates you may want to post re: above.

    I’m teaching a take-off-the-gloves workshop regarding book narration and the greedy ACX/Audible/iTunes/Amazon monster, and love referring back to this blog.

    -Clay

      

    • Laura says:

      Do you have your own blog post about “the greedy ACX/Audible/iTunes/Amazon monster,” Clay? I’m sure people on this thread would love to read it!

        

  8. Franz Ross says:

    I noticed that when you first claim a title as yours in ACX they ask you if you want to do their exclusive sales agreement or if you wish to choose to get punished with a lower royalty by giving ACX non-exclusive rights.

    Did you investigate what sales channels would be available to you should you choose to be nonexclusive with ACX? Are there any distribution competitors? Another thought: I assume you could do a POD arrangement with CreateSpace for a CD?

    It seems to me that Amazon has audio distribution so deeply monopolized that I am surprised that there is no legal action.

      

    • Laura says:

      Thanks for your note, Franz. Unfortunately I don’t have the contract info you’re looking for (regarding distribution or POD CDs). As you point out, Amazon/ACX has both a near monopoly on audiobook-making for “regular” people as well as distribution via Audible. I’ll let you know if anyone replies here with more info for you.

        

  9. R.L. Adams says:

    Laura,

    Unfortunately, most people are lost when it comes to audiobook production. They wonder whether or not they’ll make their money back, or whether it’s a worthwhile investment in the first place.

    Well, I presently have 23 audiobooks on the market with 13 more in production, and I couldn’t be happier. About 90% of my audiobooks are pay-per-production deals. I rarely do royalty share, but have made a few exceptions in the past. And, I make a 5-to-1 ratio of sales of audiobooks versus the digital or POD versions.

    Personally, I will always produce an audiobook version for my work for the following reasons:

    #1 – You have access to a wider audience – ACX audiobooks instantly go to iTunes, giving you instant access to over 500 million customers. There might be some crossover here, but some people prefer one platform to the other. Why not have access to the Apple crowd as well?

    #2 – It makes your work look much more credible. You might not like making the upfront investment, but your work will be perceived as more credible. When your work is more credible, you’ll get more sales.

    #3 – Audiobook sales are on the rise. From 2008 through 2013, IBISWorld estimates that audiobook sales have risen 12% year-over-year. Presently, the figure is pinned at $1.6 billion.

    Now, this doesn’t apply to everyone. If you don’t have high-quality content (whether non-fiction or fiction), then you’re wasting your time publishing a book in the first place. However, if you pay attention to detail, ensure you have an excellent cover, blurb, and well-written book, adding an audiobook to the mix is an absolute MUST.

    Currently, I average about a 5 to 1 ratio in sales from audiobooks to digital. However, I am primarily a non-fiction author. But, you should absolutely not be dissuaded to publish an audiobook. Ensure that you have something that people want to read first (i.e. put your ego aside and get your book checked out be a few credible sources), then go full steam ahead.

    Good article! Hope you don’t mind me over-contributing here 🙂
    R.L. Adams recently posted..Setting S.M.A.R.T.E.R. Goals: 7 Steps to Achieving Any Goal

      

    • Laura says:

      Thanks for your informative comment, R.L. You have the one big advantage that one-off publishers (like us) don’t have: a whole line of books. That allows you to establish credibility, create different sales packages, and cross-sell. Also, it helps that you produce nonfiction, which has the advantages of niche interest and searchability.

      I’ve taken to telling friends who want to self-publish novels that they should come up with a trilogy to start with (for the above reasons) or else their solo effort might get lost in the huge publishing sea. Then when I start talking about “platform” they usually start covering their ears (-:

        

  10. I’ve had, what I consider, pretty good success with audiobooks as an indie author. One book has sold over 600 copies, another over 300 copies. I do regularly promote my audiobooks, and I think I’ve found some unique ways to do it which has helped a lot.

    I do think, however, that the genre is a make or break deal. The sales I’ve had so far have been mostly for my vampire romances. I have a romantic suspense (which sells well in ebook) coming out from ACX soon. I plan to use the same marketing plan so, hopefully, I’ll see some sales.

      

    • Laura says:

      Great about selling close to 1000 audiobooks, Rachel. That’s outstanding. Good luck with venturing into a different genre now. After your launch, c’mon back and share your marketing plan wins and fails.

        

  11. Rahma Krambo says:

    Laura,
    Thank you for this insightful and honest accounting of your audiobook experience. ALL the points you made were ones I’d been getting ‘red flags’ about in my mind and you’ve confirmed my reasons for not moving forward with this project.

    I created an author profile on ACX.com (coudn’t they have come up with a better name?) just last week. I was so excited about this project because it was always something I wanted to do with my book.

    The best thing ACX does is creating an easy to use platform for authors and narrators to meet. Also I thought the ACX distribution aspect was impressive until reality hit about the fierce competition in addition to all your salient points mentioned above.

    Getting lost in the ‘slush’ pile isn’t part of the dream.

    Authors, like me, who dream about hearing their book read aloud by a professional, pay a good chunk of money for a good narrator.

    In an email dialogue with the narrator of my favorite audition clip he told me he didn’t want to do a straight Royalty Share because he said audio books don’t make any money. He would consider a Royalty Share, however but with a stipend in addition, because understandably he wants to get paid for his time creating the audio. I’m not willing to take that risk (Royalty Share + stipend) at this point.

    I don’t know how long ACX’s platform will last with authors realize they most likely won’t make make their investment, let alone a profit. Sad, but I’m afraid authors are getting the short end of the stick.

    I’m going to put my dream on hold until things change.

    Rahma Krambo
    Author, Guardian Cats and the Lost Books of Alexandria

      

    • Laura says:

      Hi Rahma. Yes, those are all the reasons to proceed with caution. We ended up giving our narrator a stipend (our idea) since we soon realized he was going to be underwater after all the time spent recording and editing the audiobook, with little chance of making money.

        

  12. Thanks for this useful wake-up call! I’m about to publish my first audiobook, the Regency romance novella Lady Annabelle’s Abduction, & you’ve gotten me back into pedal-to-metal promo mode . . . mindful of the irony that the best way to sell books is to be famous already!

    Since Amazon now has a hammerlock on Brilliance as well as ACX-Audible, & is about to drop its royalties dramatically (as of 3/12/14), it sounds like the time is ripe for a competitor. Hey there, Kobo . . .
    Charisse Howard recently posted..A Dazzling Week of San Francisco Book Adventures

      

  13. Dana Risley says:

    Oh yes! I have recently had two audiobooks (I’m a narrator) go “live’. I just received my first check from Audible today. ($23). I am so disappointed. You are right on with all of your observations! There is no way to see a review of an audiobook unless you are an Audible member. Amazon only reviews the paper and Kindle versions of books.
    ACX has a responsibility – imho – to better promote the audiobooks it helps to publish!

      

    • Laura says:

      Thanks for your comment, Dana. I was hoping that things had improved in the year since we recorded our audiobook, but it sounds like the same barriers are still in place. I hope ACX will do a little more with the promotion than tell folks to tweet and FB about their audiobook, but the real problem remains how impossible it is to sell books these days!

        

    • Sandra Farris says:

      I just received my first check from ACX and it was $68. and some odd change. I was pleased, but it took a while and a lot of work to get that. Now I have another book in for a narrator, making it my second audio book. I’m an indie and not well known. . .yet.

        

  14. Mike Holmes says:

    I put my book out thru ACX a year and a half ago. I’ve been interviewed in our local paper (big article w/pics), interviewed on our local NPR station, had several friends promote it (w/ cover art) on FB, sent 20 friends 10 cards (they’re fabulous-looking) each which they said they’d give to friends. I’m a writer/producer for radio and TV and so have a music library but it didn’t have what I needed for this (yes, I know, people say they want reading only but they haven’t heard someone who has very good knowledge and style for just using minimal music and effects) so I put out $500 for a lease for the music I needed. In that year-and-a-half I’ve had 91, count ’em, sales. I talked to Library Journal about reviewing it (libraries buy more audiobooks than anyone else); they said they won’t review something unless one has a publisher. So I’ve talked to publishers and they say they won’t take you on unless you’ve been reviewed and there’s a demand for your work. I was just about to swear but have restrained myself. I’m such a fool, I though if I had great material (I do), did a good job of professionally reading and recording it (I did), had fabulous artwork done for it (that also) and got interviewed and put it on FB I’d see something. A friend of mine wrote a terrific book and was interviewed on the radio 6 times; he has realized no sales from it.

    Several people have told me — unsolicited — that this book should be in Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, if you know who they are, and I agree. So CB listened to it and their buyer replied, “I can’t think of any reason why we’d want this product.” That was six months ago. I just emailed the buyer and asked why they wouldn’t want it, and the reply this time was “We buy everything from one vendor and your book is in such-and-such and category and I’ve done all my buys for the Spring already.” That’s a completely different and unrelated response, so I don’t believe the buyer. I had grandiose plans to do four more, even have the titles, but forget that. I wish I’d never done it. Want to hear the teaser for it? http://www.MikeHolmesRadio.com

      

    • Laura says:

      Mike,
      You’ve run into a big problem with selling a book these days—distribution. There is too much product and no time for retailers to properly review it all, so they rely on distribution gatekeepers such as publishers and other proven suppliers (usually a very small list). On top of that people aren’t buying as many books these days, especially expensive audiobooks. So authors and narrators are wasting a lot of time (and sometimes money) putting together these ACX audios and I’m still waiting to hear of the success story of an “unknown.” By the way, I agree that it’s disappointing that libraries don’t shelve self-published audiobooks, or at least offer them for download via their websites, but libraries aren’t being that enterprising.

        

    • Nadia Hedges says:

      Hi there. I’m from New Zealand and I have been looking at a job with acx as I love to talk. U say its a difficult market. Tell me what I need to know about the industry in order to get started. I’d appreciate any help you can give me. Nadia Hedges

        

  15. I’ve just finished working with my narrator on a children’s audiobook – (middle reader range) With luck it should be out for Christmas but the dreary outlook of getting it discovered weighs heavily on the pleasure of hearing my characters tell the story. How sad is that! And my narrator did such a wonderful job.

      

    • Laura says:

      It’s so great hearing a book come to life via a good narrator—I wish you luck finding your audience. Make sure to put a sample of the audio on your book’s website. I would love to write up a piece about the secrets to cracking the audio market, so if you have any success, please report back.

        

  16. Gary says:

    Thanks for an excellent post. I have been struggling with the same issues. One saving grace is that the audiobook option is on the amazon page with the ebook and print versions of my novel.

    More and more, I realize this is a long term deal and requires building an author platform over time.

      

    • Laura says:

      Time (and persistence) definitely makes a difference. I believe publishing several works, that can cross-reference each other, also is a good move. Good luck with your platform, Gary.

        

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