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All about Audio by Stacey Wallace Benefiel

Let’s talk Audiobooks! Since the audiobook of Glimpsecame out in August, 2012, I’ve been on a mission to share how easy and cheap it is for indies to create their own using ACX.

Before we get to the step-by-step, let me explain why you should be doing this. First off, you’ve already written the book and you’ve gone to the trouble to format it for e-book and print – just think of this as another distribution channel. Secondly, it’s easy money. After the initial set-up, all you basically have to do is get a cover and listen to someone read your book. Lastly, it’s fun and collaborative. Take a break from the solitary writing cave and get out in the (virtual) world, People!
Here’s how you do it:
2. Create an account (click on the big Get Started button after admiring Neil Gaiman for a minute)
3. This account works with your Amazon account – so you'll have the same sign in and password
4. Creating an account here is like creating an account on any e-book platform – just follow the directions and fill in the info
5. Confirm you own the rights to your titles. This is similar to adding your books to your Author Central account, sort of an is this book yours? within ACX and then you confirm if it is or isn't.
6. Next comes the bit I found the most tedious – creating your title profile
 a. Post a cover photo (don't worry, it's not the FINAL cover art)
 b. Post a description
 c. Post an excerpt for narrators to audition with
 d. Post a write up of anything else potential narrators and producers need to know – for example, I stated that I needed a female narrator that could handle alternating POV's/chapters between a female and male character.
 e. Post word count, territories (most will be Worldwide like with e-books)
 f. Choose your royalty sitch.
This is where you decide if you are going to pay an upfront hourly rate or royalty share. Obviously, if you pay upfront…it's going to cost something. If you do the royalty share, you don't pay anything upfront, but you do split all of your royalties with the narrator/producer 50/50.
I chose to share my royalties, and in fact am happy to share my royalties. I honestly feel like my narrator, Martha Lee, put just as much work into creating the audiobooks as I did writing the books!
7. Now your title profiles are listed on ACX for narrators and producers to peruse. (A lot of the narrators are also the producers.)
You can wait for them to come to you, but I have no patience, so I started listening to narrator auditions right away. (Go up to Search and click on Narrators for hire.)
8. To narrow down the number of auditions, you can put in parameters for your project. ex. Genre, Gender, Accent, Payment (some narrators don't do royalty sharing), Style, etc. I did this and came back with about 20 audition samples to listen to.
Now here's where I feel I had a bit of luck. I found Martha the first go around and when I heard her audition…I got that feeling like when you're going along writing and the dialogue is flowing and you don't even have to work for it. She just sounded right.
I could have made her an offer straight away, by clicking on the Make an Offer button, but I was new, so I asked her to audition for Glimpse. I did this by messaging her within ACX. You know how in your head all your characters sound like you when you're reading your books? Well, when I heard Martha's samples, I thought she sounded more like Zellie than I did.
9. I made her an offer, by clicking the Make an Offer button – this is basically stating that I would like to hear the first 15 minutes by this date and have the project completed by this date. Don't worry if you are clueless to how long the whole thing should take – ACX has a formula to help you figure it out based on word count. Also, I think it's a good idea to always go with the 72 hour offer. Martha is in New York and I'm in Oregon, so we have had some time zone issues.
So, hopefully they accept your offer. This is all done through the messaging on ACX. I will say that we had trouble with some of our messages not reaching each other. No matter, when it came time to send her the manuscript, I emailed her the word doc. and we've mostly been communicating through e-mail since.
Now, you might not want to e-mail a stranger a word doc. Go with your gut. I wanted her to be able to enlarge or change the font to however she liked it and for her to be to make notes on it. In addition, Glimpse has been out since 2010, so I wasn't really worried about it being pirated (because it already has been all over the land) or people calling into question if it was mine. ( For better or for worse, it is. Ha!)
10. Then you wait. In the meantime, you can add your cover art to the project. However, BE CAREFUL. If you're good with Photoshop, you can probably adjust the covers yourself. If not, have your cover designer or someone that is good with Photoshop format your covers. Don't just slap your e-book cover in the shape of a square up there. 1. it won't look right 2. it's a pain in the butt to change it.
I put a placeholder cover up for Glimpse – a stretched out version of the e-book cover – and then I couldn't get it to go away. I had to e-mail ACX the good cover my husband made and ask them to change it on their end.
11. Listen to the 15 minute sample and either approve it, or ask them to make changes/try reading things a different way
12. After the 15 minutes are approved, you wait for the whole thing. Each chapter is a separate file to download. In addition, the narrator should send you an opening and closing credits and a 5 minute sample.

Listen to these intently – it's totally fun! – and make notes of any changes. Glimpse had two pronunciation changes and Glimmer had one. The narrators are locked out of making any changes until you click on the Request Changes button.
13. When you're totally satisfied with your audiobook, all you have to do is approve it and it goes to ACX for a final vetting. After that, it can take a couple weeks to a month to distribute out to Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. For me, it showed up on Audible within a few days, Amazon not much longer after that. iTunes was the hold out (as per usual).
I did have to do some e-mailing to both ACX and Amazon to try to get all versions of my books linked – that box that says Kindle, Print, Hardcover (sometimes), Audible Audiobook. Only two of my books are correctly linked (still) and have the Whispersync – where you can read the e-book and listen to the audiobook on your Kindle. These two books also happen to have been the ones in the stipend program – more on that later – and I can only assume they got more attention, that’s why everything is correct on them. Just keep e-mailing and calling until ACX gets your audiobook right – it’s the same kind of pain in the butt busywork that we have to do to get our categories changed, or our paper switched back to cream after Createspace prints our book with white. J
The one sort of weird thing about the whole audiobook experience that differs from e-book and print is that we don't control the price. Right now Glimpse is $19.95 on Audible, $17.46 on Amazon, and $9.99 on iTunes. In addition, Audible had a big promotion and Glimpse was offered at $5.46 or something for over a week, with the option to get it FREE if you joined Audible. So, FYI, if you're a control freak like me that takes some getting used to.
14. Start promoting that puppy!
**You may receive an e-mail from ACX informing you that your book has been put in the Production Stipend program. This means that the narrator/producers get a certain amount of extra money for each hour of audiobook finished within a certain number of days. (60 seems to be the norm.) Glimmer and the Day of Sacrifice Omnibus were both in this program.
**If you choose to hire a narrator/producer outside of ACX, that's cool. There is also the option to distribute it to other audiobook retailers, but the royalty system is way different. I figured I was hitting the big three with my deal, so that's why I went with that.
**If you'd like to see this information with pretty pictures, go here.

 Stacey Wallace Benefiel is the author of the Zellie Wells trilogy, the Day of Sacrifice series, The Toilet Business – a collection of humorous essays, and multiple short stories. She sometimes goes by S.W. Benefiel or Reina Stowe, but knows she’s not foolin’ anybody. Stacey lives in an orange house in Beaverton, OR with her poet husband and their two young children. Her newest novel in the Zellie Wells world, FOUND (Penny Black #1), will be out March 1, 2013.
For more information about Stacey and her books, please visit her website: http://staceywallacebenefiel.com

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This Post Has 41 Comments
  1. Stacey, thank you for this wonderful break down. If you are going to start this at the end of the series, how would you time it? Like I’ve got a 5 book series, 2 are released, I plan to do 2 more this year, plus a short, and then a short and the end of the series next year. Do you think it’s too soon to get started on this?

  2. Thanks Stacey. I’ve been thinking about this for awhile and did check out the ACX site. I guess once you put out the call for voice actors, you’re committed. I’d have to think about budgeting as my finances are stretched. I have also sent the novel to be considered as a play. Thinking high.

  3. My audiobook sales are nowhere near what my ebook sales are, but I consider them decent — about 20 a month? They cost quite a bit more, after all!
    I would recommend having all or most of the books out in a series before starting, but if you’ve got a standalone, I don’t see what would be wrong with going for it! Get that book out in more formats at more retailers! BE SEEN.

  4. I’m just curious what kind of sales you’re seeing for your audiobooks. I realize that you’re an established author, so that definitely helps, but I’m curious what ratio of audio to e-books you sell. And is this something you would recommend to new authors, or is it wiser to wait until we have more out?

  5. It’s never crossed my mind before to produce audiobooks of my titles, and now just in the past few days I’ve seen a number of indie authors mention using ACX to produce audiobooks. I need to look into this!

    1. Hi Pauline- I imagine that you’ve already tried ACX already, but I can tell you that British narrators definitely exist on ACX… and I know because I am one! I imagine we’re a limited bunch because you have to be resident and legally allowed to work in the United States, but we’re there! Hope you found success with it 🙂

  6. Hey, Stacey! Love your post and you were such a huge help to me getting on ACX – I’m almost done downselecting my narrator! So exciting.

    Q: I notice that John Scalzi (trad pub author) put out a serial (40-60 page episodes) and he has 99cent audio books to go with it! Do you know if this is something that can be done through ACX?

  7. I’ve done this! And it was so awesome and wonderful and easy and amazing and YAY! Thank you for your wonderful instructions which I used to get my own started!

  8. Stacey, Glad you found ACX as easy to use as I have. One thing I think I’d like to mention is that the price of an audiobook is determined by the length (in audio) of the book. So 13 on Halloween (Shadow series #1) & Shadow Slayer (Shadow series #2) were both a little over 5 hours long, so they were priced around $19 and discounted on Apple to sell around $17. I’ve had my titles featured by audible for a Halloween promotion where the price was lowered a lot and I sold a ton of ebooks. Happy to know that you have had such a great experience. Narrators are EVERYTHING. Jeanne O. Whitehouse is the voice of the Shadow Series and she’s been amazing. The narrators have a great deal of cost (mics, software, etc) to get their voices sounding so good on those books. I was happy to split my royalty with Jeanne 50/50 on the first book. I hired her for a fee for the second book, so I retain the royalties for that book myself. Moon Killers (Shadow series #3) will be available on audio this summer. Great post Stacey:)

  9. Oh, man, was this an AWESOME POST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    I’ve been considering audio books for CICADA and FIREFLY. 🙂

    Thanks so much for the valuable info! <3

  10. I am SO grateful for this post! I had looked into ACX but somehow felt it too complex (no idea why I was making it harder than it is.) This step-by-step layout is fantastic and the push I needed. I am fascinated with the 50/50 option and how to select a narrator. Thank you for creating this piece. I look forward to sharing my audiobook success on your FB page and twitter feed!

  11. Great post Stacey, thank you. I’m assuming that you need to be somewhat established as an indie author in order to be able to persuade a narrator to do it for royalties?

    1. Not at all! There are narrators on ACX that are just beginning as well and are eager to take on projects. It does help if your book has consistently sold something every month since you published. I think you just need to be able to show that there is potential.

  12. I love audiobooks, and one of my goals is to make my book available in audio format. I’m so excited to have the breakdown of information here–thank you, Stacey!!

    I thought I read somewhere that the author has the option of narrating the audiobook himself/herself. Is that true? If so, I assume the royalties would be different, since you wouldn’t be splitting with a narrator?

  13. Great post but unfortunately ACX is only open to US citizens/residents right now and when I emailed to ask them about making it global, they replied with ‘no immediate plans’. Unfortunately this limits the rest of us to getting onto Audible through other services. I’d appreciate if anyone could share non-US examples here.

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