Here you’ll find all about audiobook production for authors. If you’re after information on How to Use NarratorList.com, go to FAQs – Using NarratorList.
All About Audiobook Production for Authors
(Amy’s attempt at a comprehensive explanation of audiobook production, as it relates to rights’ holders)
TABLE OF CONTENTS
As a rights’ holder wanting to get your work in audio, there is a lot terminology to understand and a myriad of options to choose from. This FAQs section is meant to demystify the jargon and show how the different pieces fit together. There is a LOT of information on this page. I’ve tried to place it in a logical order, but much of it may only start to make sense on the second or third reading.
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The information on this website is true to the best of my knowledge. It is what I’ve experienced myself or have read or been told by others. A proportion of it is opinion and hearsay, and you should do your own research before taking any of it as the total truth. It is meant as a tool to help you on your way. You should gather information from multiple sources. If anything on this website is incorrect or incomplete, I welcome your input. Contact me via the Contact page, so I can update information as necessary. This information is provided in good faith and is not meant to hurt or damage anyone or any business. Please let me know if you feel something should be altered or removed.
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How does an author get their work into audio?
If you’re an author published with a trade/traditional publisher, or your ebook is selling well enough that it catches the eye of an established audiobook production company (eg, Tantor, Podium, Brilliance, etc) they will likely make you an offer, and the process of producing an audiobook will be taken care of for you.
For most of us though, that isn’t the case. For those who have to arrange it themselves, where does one start?
In order to sell an audiobook, three things are required:
- the finished audio files (clean, crisp sound produced to technical specifications and a quality standard that is acceptable to audiobook retailers).
- the cover artwork. This is tasked to the author or publisher (although some production companies can arrange it for you).
- the uploading of your finished files (audio and cover art) to an aggregator.
The aggregator is the entity who will distribute your audiobook to multiple retailers; receive sales royalties and sales data from those retailers on your behalf; amalgamate those payments and reports for you; and (after deducting their commission, then pass both payments and reports on to you (or to you and the relevant narrator/s if the work is done under a royalty share basis).
The decisions you will need to make in order to produce an audiobook include
(1) who you will partner with to produce your audiobook,
(2) on what basis you will pay your narrator or producer,
(3) will you sell wide or exclusive, and
(4) which aggregator you will choose to take your product to retail outlets. An aggregator is the entity who sends your products to the various retailers; collates your royalties and sales records; and sends your royalties and sales records on to you (after deducting their commission).
These are four separate questions, but a choice you make in one of them, may affect the options you have available in one or more of the other three. (For example, if the deal you have with your narrator involves a royalty share component, that may reduce the number of aggregators you can choose from, as not every aggregator can accommodate royalty share.)
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How Much Work is Involved for the Author in Making an Audiobook?
Preliminary work as the author or rights’ holder includes making an audition document for narrators, deciding how you’ll pay your narrator and whether you want to find your narrator yourself or work through a production house. If you want to work direct with your narrator, then you’ll need to either approach narrators yourself or advertise an audition (head to the NarratorList Add an Audition page to make a free audition notice.)
- Provide an audition script and any instructions for the audition.
- Listen to the auditions and choose a narrator, including negotiating fees and conditions with them.
After you’ve selected your narrator and negotiated conditions, you’ll need to:
- provide a manuscript for the narrator to read from (pdf, docx, doc, google doc). Many narrators prefer a text-based manuscript (rather than PDF), so they can mark it up with their preferred format, altering font size and spacing, adding different colours to signify each character’s dialogue, adding phonetic spelling for foreign words, underlining for emphasis, etc.
- Ideally, provide a character sheet so the narrator has pertinent info about each character. (background, age, attitude, accents, any other vocal qualities, whether they’ll become a recurring character in later books, etc)
Once production is underway, you’ll need to:
- Approve the 15-minute check-point (or provide feedback if it needs adjustment).
- Approve the final audio files.
- Arrange for cover art (unless someone else is taking care of this).
How much will it cost?
The author or rights’ holder usually pays for audiobook production in one of four ways:
- Rate per finished audio hour (PFH).
Per Finished audio Hour (PFH) is a set rate for each hour of finished audio of the audiobook, usually paid with a deposit up front, and the balance upon completion. Typical PFH rates for fully-finished, retail-ready audiobook files from experienced full-time narrators usually range between $250 and $400 USD per finished audio hour. The number of words per audio hour is usually estimated at 9300 words, so a 50K word novel would likely cost between USD$1300 and USD$2200, depending on the PFH rate and the final duration of the audiobook.
- Royalty Share (RS).
Royalty Share involves no upfront cost to the author, and the narrator receives nothing up front for their labour or the cost of outsourcing any tasks (such as edit/proof/master, which costs around $100 PFH). The narrator instead gets a cut of the sales royalties. Usually this means the narrator and author share the profits from sale royalties on a 50/50 basis for at least the first seven years of sales.
- Royalty Share Plus (RS+), also known as a Hybrid Deal.
Under Royalty Share Plus, a (modest) amount per finished audio hour is paid to the narrator, ostensibly to assist with edit/proof/mastering costs, and then the narrator and author share the profits from sales royalties 50/50. Typical PFH rates for the ‘Plus’ part of Royalty Share Plus range from USD$50 to $175. The amount is usually related to how well the narrator feels the audiobook will sell. So if the audiobook is likely to sell well, then the project is less of a gamble on the narrator’s part, as they are more likely to make money back in royalties, so they can afford to only charge a modest fee for the ‘Plus’. However if they book doesn’t have a great track record of sales, then the narrator may need to charge more, to mitigate the risk and seek some compensation for the hours of work involved in production.
Although the usual split is 50/50, there is also a version of this provided by Findaway Voices (an audiobook production house and aggregator) where the price paid is half of Findaway Voices’ PFH cost, and the narrator is paid 20% of the author’s royalty profits instead of 50%.
- Royalty Deferred
Royalty Deferred is where there is no upfront cost to the author, but the narrator is paid all the profits from sale proceeds until the full amount the narrator would have received PFH is paid out; after which time the author receives 100% of the sales proceeds. As at September 2021, this method is only offered by one aggregator – Audiobooks Unleashed Distribution.
Although there are four different pricing structures, the ones that are open to you may depend on the aggregator you choose and on the likelihood of your audiobook selling well. Audiobook production is very labour-intensive (with each hour of audio taking around 8 hours to produce), so most experienced narrators are reluctant to enter into royalty share deals unless there is a very good likelihood of making back the time and money they’ve invested within a year. So they look for projects where the author’s ebooks are selling well; the author has a loyal fan base; and the author pays for advertising to help sell their work. If a project doesn’t look like it will make back the PFH cost within a year or so, then the author may need to sweeten the deal by either paying up front, or mitigating the narrator’s risk by putting at least some money into production by making the deal into Royalty Share Plus (rather than just Royalty Share).
Expect to pay
- PFH – $250 to $400 USD per finished audio hour for audiobook production. (each audiobook hour is typically around 9300 words)
- Hybrid – $50 to $175 PFH plus 50/50 royalties for audiobook production, provided your audiobook has a reasonable chance of selling well.
- Royalty Share – nothing, but it may be difficult to find a large pool of narrators to choose from unless you can demonstrate a good likelihood of your audiobook selling at least 1000 copies within 2 years. Newer narrators may be happy to narrate your audiobook without a sales history; but it’s up to each narrator whether they have the time available to invest on a project unlikely to make them back the time invested.
Dual narration, duet narration, multi-cast or music/sound effects inclusion will all add to the cost. The most cost-effective formula if paid up front, is usually a single narrator, employed directly by the author (rather than through a production house or aggregator).
Why is the PFH cost so expensive? Not only does audiobook production require special equipment, software and a talented narrator, but it is also extremely labour-intensive, with each finished hour of audio taking 6 to 8 hours to produce.
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How Much Work is Involved for the Narrator or Production House in Making an Audiobook?
The reason PFH rates are high is because audiobook production is very labour-intensive, with each hour of finished audio requiring 6 to 9 hours to produce.
An audiobook is like a play where one person plays all the parts, so to do the story justice, the narrator must understand the story and the characters before they begin narration. In addition, the audio has to be crisp and clean (unlike a podcast or radio broadcast, where there’s some allowance made for background noise like chair squeaks, traffic or tummy rumbles, and there’s often music under some of the talking). With an audiobook, the expectation is for crisp, clear speech recorded in an environment that is free of any background noise or echo. That quality takes care, good technique, the right equipment and software to achieve. In fact, it’s not the narration that takes the most time – it’s the editing and clean up to make the audio accurate and free of extraneous noises.
Below is a break-down of the different stages of producing audiobook audio files, together with how long it takes for each finished hour of audio production.
- 1 hour minimum – Reading and research.
Read the entire book while taking notes on characters, accents, story arcs, unfamiliar words and place names, names with ambiguous pronunciations etc. Even non-fiction books benefit from a pre-read to not only note words for pronunciation research, but also so the narrator emulates the confidence of knowing the subject. Research pronunciations, practice accents or foreign words.
- 0.5 to 1 hour – Mark up the script (which reduces the number of retakes in the soundbooth).
Most narrators have their preferred methods of marking up a script. Some mark in breaths. Some add underlining for emphasis or marks for pauses. Some mark each different character’s dialogue in a different colour; add phonetic spelling for words they’re likely to mispronounce; and underline vocal descriptors (whispered, yelled, gruffly, gasped, breathily, etc). These details help prevent retakes in the booth, keeping narration on track and fatigue at a minimum.
- 2 hours – Record the script using “Punch and Roll” technique.
Punch and Roll (PnR) is a method of preliminary ‘editing as you go’, where each time a mistake is noticed or the narrator needs to re-do a line to give it more meaning, they go back to the end of the last good sentence, and re-record from there on, recording over the mistake then keeping going. This reduces the time required for editing, as most mistakes are already removed. Experienced narrators generally spend 2 hours in the sound booth to get one hour of PnR audio.
- 1.25 to 1.5 hours – Proof the recording.
Proofing involves listening to the recorded audio while reading along with the script to ensure no mistakes were made. Proofers also listen for extraneous noises. (Accepted best practice is for narrators to not proof their own work, and most will outsource proofing, even if they perform every other task themselves.) Proofers note the location of mistakes in both the manuscript and the audio files, so narrators have records to work with when recording corrections (aka ‘pickups’).
- 5 to 15 minutes – Re-record misreads and mistakes identified during Proofing
Recording pickups generally takes 5 to 15 minutes per finished hour of audio, not counting the time to re-edit.
- 2 to 3 hours – Edit the audio.
Depending on the workflow, editing can be done in one procedure after proofing and pickups, or have part of it done before proofing and part done after. Editing consists of cleaning the audio to get rid of any extraneous sounds (mouth clicks, tummy noises, chair squeaks, traffic, dogs barking, etc), adding top and tail room tone, tweaking the lengths of pauses, reducing the volume of loud breaths, fixing inconsistencies within the audio, and seamlessly editing in the re-recorded ‘pickups’ identified during Proofing.
- 5 to 15 minutes – Mastering.
The frequencies and volumes within different parts of each audio file are manipulated to improve the clarity, crispness and ‘sweetness’ of the sound. Additional processing evens out the volume (making the loudest parts a little quieter and the softest parts a little louder), then brings up the overall volume, so that the audio is a more consistent volume to allow even the softest parts to be heard in a noisy environment without adjusting the volume. Mastering ensures audio files meet strict audiobook file format specifications, so that the volume across audiobooks is roughly equal. Despite mastering being time-consuming to set up initially and its requirement for in-depth software and audio engineering knowledge (and an expert ear), once it is set for one file in the audiobook, it is more streamlined for every other file – hence the low amount of time it takes to perform over a whole audiobook.
- 5 to 15 minutes – Export and Upload
Export each file to Wav, Flac and/or mp3 format as required, then archive raw and final material in wav or flac formats. Upload required files to the client or aggregator, as required.
Note that for non-trade-published audiobooks, (so when you’re dealing directly with a narrator or producing your audiobook through ACX.com in conjunction with a narrator) the author is usually provided with a 15-minute checkpoint towards the start of production. This is usually either the first 15 minutes (if nothing else has been specified) or a set 15-minute section (including scenes the author has specified, usually so they can hear different character voices or the emotional level of key scenes) which has been narrated, edited, proofed and mastered and sent to the author for their approval. This is the last point in the process where the author can provide advice or artistic direction, (so speak now or forever hold your peace!). After this approval is obtained, the project is then completed ‘full steam ahead’.
Once the project has been narrated, proofed, corrected, edited and mastered, final files are sent to the author (or the production house’s Quality Control if the audiobook is being produced for a trade publisher) for final checking and approval. Once approved, the final audio files are uploaded to the aggregator, who will then perform their own checks and repackaging of the audio before sending it to retail outlets.
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What is an aggregator and why do I need one?
An Aggregator is the entity who sends your audiobook to all the retail outlets where it will be for sale (or for rent, in the case of libraries or subscription services). The aggregator slots between the rights’ holder and the retail outlets, managing the uploading of your audiobook to multiple retail or lending channels, CDs and any other avenues that present themselves. Aggregators receive royalty payments and sales data from each retailer on your behalf. They collate these payments and data; deduct their commission, then pass the remaining royalties on to you (or to you and your narrator, if your audiobook was produced under a royalty share arrangement).
This is the same as indie ebook publishing, where getting your audiobook to market involves uploading a retail-ready product to an aggregator, who then distributes it to retailers.
To put it in author terms, KDP is an aggregator for all Amazon’s international storefronts, and Draft2Digital and Smashwords are aggregators for a heap of different retailers. The beauty of using an aggregator (particularly if you’re selling ‘wide’), is that you upload your work once, and the aggregator sends it to multiple retail outlets, including making any formatting or file-name modifications necessary for each platform. They take care of receiving payments and reports from multiple distributors, and combining them into one regular reporting and payment process for you. They also take care of filtering through to all retailers any updated files or changes to your audiobook. Some will also filter through temporary discounts or sales promotions for your audiobook.
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Types of entities to partner with for production
A list of aggregators and what they each offer is further down this page. But first, let’s talk about who produces the finished audio files which are uploaded to the aggregator. There are three types of entities who can produce your audiobook audio files:
- a narrator you deal directly with (who you find either by advertising an audition or making contact directly yourself). This narrator will either perform all the production tasks themselves or outsource some aspects (proofing is usually outsourced, but also often editing and mastering).
- a specialist audiobook production house who will coordinate a team including (at least) a narrator, an audio engineer/editor and a proofer.
- the production house attached to your chosen Aggregator. Most aggregators have an arm of their business dedicated to producing audiobooks, and just like audiobook production houses, they will coordinate a team including (at least) a narrator, engineer/editor and proofer.
The differences between these three partner types and which best fits your project, depend on: your budget; whether you’ll be selling ‘wide’ or ‘exclusive’; who your distributor/aggregator is going to be; and whether you will be buying the audio outright by paying your narrator up front, or whether you are paying your narrator by giving them a share of the royalties.
Working directly with an experienced narrator is relatively straightforward, and generally no more time-consuming than dealing with a production house or aggregator. But if you’re nervous because you’ve never produced an audiobook before and find the process daunting, or you fear the narrator you’ve chosen isn’t as experienced as you’d like, then partnering with a production house for your first audiobook is a great choice, since you’ll have someone holding your hand through the entire process. It’s an easy and reassuring way to dip your toe into audiobook production, and by your second audiobook you’ll understand things well enough to choose whether you wish to stay with a production house or go direct with a narrator (which often gives you a cost savings and the benefit of communicating directly with the person narrating your book rather than through a third-party). For PFH projects, working with a production house will likely cost you more than working directly with a narrator, as there may be a fee for using the production house’s services. For royalty share projects, you will likely lose a percentage of the net royalties to the production house, (in addition to percentages going to the narrator and aggregator).
Commissioning an aggregator to produce your audiobook has similar advantages to using a production house, but it often will cost even more and possibly be more impersonal, but there can be advantages that being branded with an aggregator can bring.
Note that production houses and aggregators usually outsource narration to the same narrator contractors who can be employed by many other production houses or can be employed directly by you to narrate your book. Narrators tend to work on a project-by-project basis, and the same narrators who work for one production house often work for many of them, as well as working directly for authors who contact them via their narrator website or other means (for example, through contacting them via NarratorList.com). So if budget is your primary concern, it can be worth approaching a narrator directly, rather than contacting them through a production house or aggregator.
So, what’s the difference between using these three entities? Who should you get to produce your audiobook: a narrator, a production house or an aggregator?
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(1) Commissioning a Narrator to produce your audiobook
Most experienced narrators can arrange the entire process of audiobook production for you (everything except cover art, which you usually need to arrange yourself). They are the project coordinator who is in charge of producing the finished, retail-ready audiobook files, and they seamlessly manage the entire process for you.
Using an experienced narrator as coordinator means you’re only dealing with one point of contact. It means that information you’re giving is immediately getting right where it’s required.
But using a narrator as audiobook producer requires a level of trust. If your narrator doesn’t deliver what’s expected, there’s no one else to complain to! So research your narrators well; look at what other books they’ve done; speak to authors who’ve worked with them; listen to audiobooks they’ve narrated – at least to the free audio samples for their books at Audible. Make sure your narrator is going to do your work justice and that they are experienced enough to be able to arrange all aspects of the production themselves.
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(2) Commissioning a Production House to produce your audiobook
Using a production house means someone (who isn’t the narrator) is overseeing the process. The production house will cast the narrator (or manage casting, in consultation with you), and have their own audio engineers and proofers to take care of editing, proofing, correcting, mastering, conversion and file uploads, (leaving the narrator to prep the manuscript, narrate and re-record any corrections).
Using a production house can remove some of the uncertainty, but if you’re paying up front, it will often cost more than employing a narrator directly to manage all aspects of production. If you’re not paying up front, most production houses will only offer a royalty share arrangement if your work demonstrates consistently high sales (whereas you may be able to get a narrator directly to enter into a royalty share arrangement with you for your book if they see its potential, or they have a gap in their schedule, or they’re new to the business and they want another book on their portfolio).
Using a production house means there’s a team of professionals ensuring the quality of your audiobook, but production houses can also sometimes feel a little like mass-production, since your book is one of a number in production at any point.
Dealing with a coordinator who isn’t the narrator has advantages and disadvantages. You always have someone who can go in to bat for you, but you may not be able to clearly communicate directorial information directly to the person who’ll be bringing your words to life. Working through a production house may also bring other advantages, such as access to narrators that you couldn’t choose from otherwise, or dedicated marketing tools as part of their brand (like your book on their website, for instance). They may also be able to arrange dual and duet narrations easier than you trying to arrange it yourself.
Using a production house for PFH work will likely cost more than working directly with the narrator, though some are very reasonably priced. If you are working with a production house on a royalty share title, the production house will likely also take a percentage of your royalties, just as the retailer and aggregator do.
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(3) Commissioning an Aggregator to produce your audiobook
Some audiobook aggregators have an arm of their business which produces audiobooks (their in-house ‘production house’). The brand recognition that goes with being an aggregator means authors trust aggregators to produce quality audio. Aggregators can also offer additional value with marketing, since they have a vested interest in the success of the audiobook.
Aggregators as audiobook producers usually outsource the narration of their audiobooks to a pool of experienced narrator contractors, many of whom work for more than one aggregator or production house, and who also work direct (usually cheaper), so bear that in mind when considering this avenue. This method has the same pros and cons as outsourcing production to a production house.
Generally, this method tends to be the most expensive and has the least personal contact, but some aggregator production houses provide added value, such as a dedicated sales page for your audiobook, promotional codes that you can give away to potential reviewers, and other help with marketing, such as being featured on the aggregator’s website. One advantage of working with an aggregator’s in-house production team, (over working with another production house) is that for royalty share projects, the aggregator is already getting a cut of the profits, so you may not have to give them an added percentage for producing your audiobook (which you would likely have to do when working with any other production house). But you should check this for yourself before entering into any arrangement.
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Wide versus exclusive
No matter who you choose as your aggregator, you will have the choice of either a higher royalty percentage at Amazon, Audible and iTunes if you agree to go ‘exclusive’ with those retailers (so your audiobook available at Amazon, Audible and iTunes only) or a lower royalty rate for sales at Amazon, Audible and iTunes, but your audiobook available in many more venues (including libraries) if you go non-exclusive (or ‘wide’).
Note that if you go exclusive, you can’t sell your audiobook electronically unless the sale goes through Amazon, Audible or iTunes. So even though you have the final audio files, you can’t sell those files as a download on your website, or as a download at book fairs or conferences (unless the sale is through Amazon, Audible or iTunes).
Which is better – wide or exclusive? That’s a choice you have to make. Five years ago, almost everyone went exclusive. Now, with better aggregator deals which include library borrows, CD sales and 50 or more retail outlets and borrowing/subscription markets, many authors and narrators are choosing to go wide. In addition, a number of aggregators provide a service where they will put your ‘wide’ audiobook as ‘exclusive’ for the first few months, and then automatically change it to wide after a set amount of time, which gives you the best of both worlds.
Note that if you want your audiobook produced with a royalty share component, this may impact whether or not you can sell wide, depending on which aggregator you choose. This is because some aggregators are just aggregators and not audiobook producers, and you must come to them with your audiobook already produced. Others can help you produce your audiobook (for a price!), or can provide an online dashboard where you and your narrator-producer can self-manage production yourselves, ticking each task off as it is completed, until final approval is provided, and the work is sent to the retail markets. As you can see, many of these entities wear multiple hats and offer different services. I’m hoping by the end of this, you’ll understand who can provide what, and which service is likely to suit your situation and budget best, but it’s an increasingly complex marketplace.
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How much money will audiobook sales bring? (Estimating your royalties)
Although audiobooks generally are priced much dearer than ebooks, you’ll lose a significant amount of your audiobook’s sales price to other parties. In general, unless you can sell direct to your listeners, expect to receive 20% to 40% of the sales price of your audiobook (or half that amount if you are in a 50/50 royalty share deal with your narrator).
If your sale is through Amazon, Audible or iTunes, the retailer will generally take between 60 and 75% of the price your audiobook sold for. If you’re selling wide, then other retailers typically take around 50%. The remainder will then be split according to the contract percentages between any other parties. These other parties include any aggregator other than ACX that you might use to help distribute your audiobooks (aggregator/distributors usually take 20% commission of the amount that the retailer sends then, which is itself only 25% to 50% of the price the audiobook sold for); plus if you’ve done a royalty share deal then you’ll be sharing profits with your narrator; and if you’ve produced your audiobook through a production house, they also may take a cut.
Be aware that many audiobooks that sell through Amazon and Audible don’t sell for the full list price. For instance, if an audiobook is ‘bought’ with an Audible subscriber’s monthly credit, the royalty you’ll receive will be as though the audiobook sold for around $15, regardless of the nominal list price of the audiobook. Similarly, if the audiobook is purchased by an Audible subscriber, they receive a member discount of 30%, so the book’s sale price will be 70% of its list price. And savvy audiobook listeners know they can buy audiobooks at a significant discount if they also buy (or already own) the corresponding ebook. So listeners can buy audiobooks at Amazon in conjunction with the ebook, giving the audiobook a massive discount. For example, the audiobook for this book at Amazon is $17.99, but on the book’s Kindle page, you can buy the ebook and audiobook together for $11.50 – that’s over a third off full price and the listener gets both ebook and audiobook. (Authors don’t lose out too much, as they get the benefit of an ebook sale at the same time; whereas a narrator in a royalty share deal for that audiobook loses out heavily on that transaction!). So take these discounted prices into consideration when estimating your profits from audiobooks or any calculations of how many sales it will take to pay back a PFH outlay.
How many sales can you expect? Five to ten years ago, various author forums stated the usual estimate of audiobooks sold was one audiobook sale for every 10 ebook sales. I’ve no idea whether that estimate still holds. But when estimating how much you’ll gain in revenue for each audiobook sale, find a book similar to yours on Audible (similar length and genre – don’t forget you can estimate the length of your audiobook by dividing your manuscript by 9300 words to get the approx number of hours in your finished audiobook).
My personal experience – Royalties are generally 20% to 40% of the book’s sales price – half that if you have to split royalties with a narrator. Royalties of audiobooks I’ve narrated can be anywhere from 90 cents to $4.50 (depending on length of book, retailer and whether the book was bought at Amazon in conjunction with the ebook – which is a huge lose-out for narrators!), so I generally estimate a royalty return of $2.50 to 3.50 per audiobook sale. With the ease to market of audiobooks making the market increasingly crowded, I’m seeing the most consistent sales of audiobooks which I’ve narrated coming from those authors who engage in paid advertising – for example, Amazon ads. The audiobook seems to sell well only when the ebook sells well, so advertising the ebook can often be the best way to sell the audiobook. Unfortunately, due to the overcrowded market, the necessity of paid advertising may be becoming a reality. I am seeing some sales ‘wide’ though, which is encouraging (and I suspect it’s because those markets aren’t quite so crowded, though each royalty amount is generally lower through those ‘wide’ markets than through the exclusive ones).
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Selling Direct to Listeners for Increased Profits
Provided you own the manuscript and audiobook production rights in full (i.e. provided you own the text copyright and have NOT entered into a Royalty Share deal with your narrator over the audiobook production), you are free to sell the audiobook however you wish – unless you enter into an ‘exclusive’ contract to sell only through specific retail channels. Increasingly, I’m hearing of authors who own their audiobook rights outright selling direct to the public (for instance from their website or via Facebook advertising) to keep around 95% or more of the book’s sales price themselves. This is a far cry from the 20% to 50% provided if sold through other retail channels, like Amazon, Audible, Kobo, etc.
Rights holders can sell direct to the public by providing a sales link on their own website, newsletter, facebook ads etc. The sales link takes the listener to an online shopfront where they can purchase the audiobook and have it delivered to them, usually by a third-party audiobook listening app. Many authors use BookFunnel to do this. Other services include Glassboxx.com and MySoundwise.com. (Glassboxx is UK-based and very professional. AppSumo has a good lifetime special to join MySoundWise if you decide on that avenue instead). A number of these services also allow you to make your own discount codes; give away copies of the audiobook; and have great reporting services and dashboards to track your sales. Some even allow you to also sell your ebook direct, again for all the profits!
Some of these services are subscription based (like BookFunnel), some are a one-off fee (MySoundWise through their AppSumo deal) and some take a percentage from each sale – but it’s around 5%, compared to losing 50% to 75% as you do when selling through online retailers.
Usually this is only done for non-exclusive titles where the author owns the audiobooks rights outright (so they have paid their narrator up front Per Finished Audio Hour for audiobook production). Theoretically, though, you could sell titles direct to the public even under royalty share – provided there are no exclusive contracts signed with retailers or distributors, but it would require you and your narrator to make a private arrangement to divide up the royalties each month/quarter between you, since none of the direct selling channels can currently accommodate splitting payments between two parties. So it would mean one of you would receive the money each month, and would have to divide it up and provide written report to the other, which would mean your narrator placing a very large amount of trust in you. But it is an option for author/narrator partnerships built on trust and ongoing work. I’d suggest you’d also want a written contract to protect both yourself and the narrator if you enter into this sort of payment structure.
Aggregators and Royalties
As mentioned earlier, the aggregator is the entity that sends your audiobook to retailers and collects and collates payments and sales reports on your behalf. They are the link between you and the retailer. (They are the KDP, Draft2Digital or Smashwords of the audiobook world.) You will need to choose an aggregator to get your audiobook to market, so let’s look at the main ones and their pros and cons.
For many rights’ holders, their first (and simplest) foray into audiobook production is ACX.com, which is Amazon’s audiobook production arm for indie authors. But ACX is not open to residents outside the USA, UK, Ireland and Canada, so authors and narrators outside those countries cannot use ACX. (If you’re in that situation, the FAQs for Authors page at AussieNarrator.com might provide useful info. There are now some great alternatives to ACX.com, for royalty share and PFH; exclusive and wide distribution, and info on those is further down the page.)
Note that not all aggregators can provide all services, (for instance, ACX cannot do royalty share and wide simultaneously), so make sure you do your research, read through all the notes and investigate each aggregator’s website carefully before making any decisions.
Note also that ACX.com is sort of a ‘special case’ as an aggregator. Because they are owned by Amazon, their aggregator commission is built into the retailer’s cut that is taken. So if your audiobook is distributed directly to Audible, Amazon and iTunes through ACX, (without any other aggregator being involved) then there won’t be any ‘aggregator’ cut to come out of your royalties.
If you’re not sure who to use as an aggregator, and if you’re producing your audio through an experienced narrator, use them as a knowledge resource; many of them have experience with multiple platforms and aggregators, and can advise on which might best suit your situation, and where the industry is currently heading.
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The biggest aggregator is ACX.com (the Audiobook Creation Exchange). ACX is Amazon’s self-publishing arm for audiobooks. (Think of ACX as ‘KDP for audiobooks’.) ACX helps narrators and authors find each other; it manages author/narrator contracts; it gives the parties a platform and dashboard to upload and approve the files of an audiobook; it distributes the approved audiobook to Amazon, Audible and iTunes; it collects payment from royalties; and distributes those payments each month to the author, (or to the author and narrator, if the audiobook has a royalty share component).
But ACX is not open to authors or narrators unless they reside in USA, Canada, UK or Ireland. And ACX can only sell to Amazon, Audible and iTunes, so if you have a non-exclusive contract with ACX and wish to sell to other retailers, you will need to upload your audio to another aggregator to get it to the additional ‘wide’ retailers.
Even if ACX is not open to you in your country, it’s worth understanding the ACX royalty model, because the other aggregators generally provide ACX-equivalent royalty options for all sales through Amazon, Audible and iTunes (albeit they’ll also take a cut as aggregator for these retailers).
If you lodge your audiobook directly with ACX, then ACX becomes your aggregator for Amazon, Audible and iTunes. This means you don’t have to pay a royalty to any other aggregator for those sales. So lodging your audiobook with ACX (whether you’re selling wide or exclusive, PFH or royalty share) can help maximise your royalties from sales at Amazon, Audible and iTunes. It does mean, though, that if you want to sell at other retailers as well (or earn through library borrows) then you will have to be non-exclusive though ACX and then upload your files additionally to another aggregator to get them into additional retail markets. Note also that if you want to do royalty share with your narrator, then you can only upload directly to ACX if you go exclusive with them (meaning you cannot sell your audiobook wide if you intend to do a royalty share agreement with your narrator through ACX).
For an ‘exclusive’ deal to sell via ACX to Amazon, Audible and iTunes, the retailer/aggregator (Amazon/ACX) will deduct 60% of the price of each audiobook sold, leaving 40% (termed the ‘net royalties’) to be disbursed between the other parties (i.e. between the author; or the author and narrator if it’s a royalty share deal). So if you’re direct with ACX, you will receive the full royalty (or 40% of price the audiobook sold for), or you will receive half that amount (20% of the price the audiobook sold for) if you are in a royalty share agreement with a narrator.
For a ‘non-exclusive’ deal (where you want to sell your audiobook ‘wide’) where you’ve paid PFH for audiobook production and you’ve uploaded your files direct to ACX, , the retailer/aggregator (Amazon/ACX) will deduct 75% of the price of each audiobook sold at Amazon, Audible or iTunes, leaving 25% (the ‘net royalties’) to be paid to the author (as there is no royalty share allowed with non-exclusive audiobooks through ACX).
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– Findaway Voices
Findaway Voices are an aggregator/distributor. They used to have a hybrid royalty share system called Findaway Voices Share, but I can’t find any information on it today (Aug 2023). Instead, they now have Findaway Voices MarketPlace which is their version of ACX.com, where you can list your own audition, select your narrator and manage your production yourself, then distribute through Findaway Voices.
Findaway only distributes ‘wide’. There is no ‘exclusive’ option to select for a higher royalty return.
Findaway are a solid and popular choice, and run a streamlined, helpful operation, but I do have a couple of concerns with them. Firstly, they are now owned by Spotify. This raises some alarm-bells, after what Spotify has done to the earnings of smaller musicians’ on their site, (but I guess there’s no fighting progress!) I do see that they now waive their 20% commission for audiobook sales through Spotify, which is good. My concern is if/when they change audiobooks on Spotify to a ‘subscription’ model, where authors and narrators may end up with less revenue and less control, unless they are mid-list or high sellers.
Findaway used to act as a production house and manage all aspects production for you. They appear to have moved away from that model and now have a production model similar to ACX.com. There are two ways you can now use them:
1. Findaway as your aggregator
You upload finished, retail-ready audio files (typically produced by you working directly with a narrator and paying your narrator PFH) and then use Findaway as your aggregator. This means you’ll need to find your own narrator and work with them to produce finished, retail-ready audio files. You will need to pay your narrator PFH, because Findaway will not be able to split payments between more than one royalty recipient (the alternative is if you go through a third party who will do the split for you from Findaway. You can do this via Voices of Today or Audiobooks Unleashed, but it will cost you a further 10 to 20% of income. Or you may be able to make an arrangement with your narrator to pay them half each month/quarter if you have a trusting enough working relationship);
Findaway are good aggregaters. They take 20% of the net royalty payments (the net royalty is the price the audiobook sold at, less the amount the retailer deducts as their cut). And they waive that 20% fee for sales on their Spotify platform, meaning you will receive 50% of the price the audiobook sells for at Spotify (at present). With Findaway Voices distribution, you used to be able to sell your audiobooks direct on Authors Direct, but Authors Direct has been closed in favour of Spotify. You will receive Spotify promotional codes to promote your audiobook.
Findaway distributes to at least 34 retail outlets, including Audible, Amazon, iTunes, OverDrive, Findaway, Chirp, Scribd, Kobo, Downpour, Hoopla, GooglePlay and AudiobooksNZ.
I believe payments are still monthly, but you have to be owed at least $100 before you get paid; otherwise payments are held over until you trigger that $100 payment threshold. For those outside the USA, the cheapest form of payment from FV will be Paypal, but it is by no means cheap! Just like Spoken Realms and Authors Republic, Findaway Voice pays via Paypal, so you’ll lose an additional 6 to 8% of your royalties to Paypal between it leaving Findaway and ending up in your local currency in your local country. (Paypal takes 3.6% for international commercial payments plus currency conversions use exchange rates set 4% above the mid-market currency exchange rate. Paypal is a very expensive way to receive international funds.)
2. Findaway MarketPlace (similar ACX.com)
I’ve not yet produced an audiobook through Findaway Marketplace, although I have a profile listed on the site. I believe it allows rights’ holders to list an audition, approach narrators, etc, similar to ACX.com. It is a place where you can make contact with narrators, and have a dashboard to manage your project, but it will mean you are locked into distribution through Findaway Voices, so bear that in mind. (Using AussieNarrator.com and/or NarratorList.com is an alternative way to list auditions and contact narrators without being locked into any one distributor/aggregator.)
Once you’ve used Findaway MarketPlace to source your narrator and produce your audiobook, then you’ll be using Findaway as an Aggregator, so all the information in Point 1 above then applies.
– Spoken Realms
Spoken Realms is a long-established aggregator run by highly-respected US narrator, Steven Jay Cohen. As well as a full-service production arm, Spoken Realms has a curated list of narrators to choose from, ensuring your production is in safe and experienced hands. Projects can be exclusive (Targeted Distribution) or wide (Global Distribution), as well as royalty share, royalty share plus or paid up front.
Just like Audiobooks Unleashed, Spoken Realms can split royalties in any ratio you wish and between any number of parties you wish.
Only narrators listed with Spoken Realms can narrate a project for Spoken Realms. So if you wish to use Spoken Realms, a first port of call might be to contact some of the narrators who are listed as ‘Featured Voices’ on the Spoken Realms website, to find a narrator to partner with. Spoken Realms is also able to partner you with a narrator themselves if they take on your project as an in-house production.
A narrator-author-team will set up a project through Spoken Realms. Spoken Realms will provide online contracts and a production dashboard / framework where author and narrator can self-manage audiobook production and track progress. Once production is complete, Spoken Realms works as the aggregator/distributor for the finished audiobook, and teams can track royalty payments through their project dashboard. There is no charge for using Spoken Realms for self-managed production. Instead Spoken Realms receives a modest cut of the royalties forwarded from retailers. The deal Spoken Realms has with its retail partners prevents its royalty rates being listed publicly, however its rates are comparable to most others on our list (around 20% commission for ‘exclusive’ distribution).
Spoken Realms’ website states it can also arrange all aspects of production (acting as a full-service production house). Prices for this service are not currently listed on its website.
Spoken Realms’ Global Distribution (i.e. wide distribution) automatically includes an initial period of 12 weeks of Audible exclusivity (giving you higher royalties during this time, as the retailer’s cut is reduced during Audible exclusivity). After this time, your audiobook will start to appear in other retail outlets. There are at least 46 retailers, including Audible, Amazon, iTunes, OverDrive, Findaway, Chirp, Scribd, Kobo, Downpour, Hoopla and GooglePlay.
If you select Global Distribution, you can also receive free 50 Downpour promotional codes to give away rental copies of your audiobook. Spoken Realms can also arrange for CDs to be available at a reduced cost. Their website also lists a distribution model that includes ‘wide’ distribution plus streaming (so your audiobook could be monetised via youtube, podcasts and Audible).
Numerous narrators that I know distribute ‘exclusive’ through Spoken Realms. When I examined their ‘wide’ distribution, I didn’t find the numbers stacked up all that well. I believe their ‘wide’ distribution partner takes a hefty percentage, though the partner in question does include good marketing strategies. I have heard, anecdotally, that Spoken Realms doesn’t really push it’s ‘wide’ distribution and appears to favour ‘exclusive’.
Projects are largely managed by the narrators themselves, and the dashboard doesn’t provide a lot of project information or insight. You receive a quarterly report with your royalty payment, but it doesn’t give information on what price each sale was worth, only what the ‘net receipts’ were, so it’s hard to calculate exactly what percentage Spoken Realms is taking, and answers to my emails to the proprietor asking for clarification did not provide any insight.
Royalties from multiple distributors are forwarded quarterly. Spoken Realms pay via Paypal, so budget to lose an additional 6 to 8% of royalties unless you reside in the USA. (Paypal takes 3.6% for international commercial payments plus currency conversions use exchange rates set 4% above the mid-market currency exchange rate. Paypal is a very expensive way to receive international funds.) I believe Spoken Realms do not have a payment threshold, so you will be paid each quarter, regardless of the amount you are owed.
My opinion/experience – Spoken Realms is a solid and dependable choice, having a long track-record within the industry. They offer some of the best royalty rates available (email them for details). If you’re happy to go with one of the narrators on their list, they’re a great choice, and have a curated pool of hand-picked narrators to choose from, (rather than taking a chance on someone whose pedigree is unknown). But you are generally limited to using one of the narrators on their books, and it may not be possible to bring your own narrator to them (though you could ask, I guess). As they pay through Paypal, if you’re outside the USA, budget to lose around 7.6% of your royalty to Paypal’s international currency conversion ‘fees’. I’ve worked through Spoken Realms and would do so again.
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– Dreamscape Select
Respected audiobook publisher, Dreamscape Publishing, has a Distribution Only offering called Dreamscape Select, which has very favourable royalty rates. Their commission is only 15% (5% less than most other distributor/aggregators). If you are considering using them, check with them if they are able to do physical sales (CD sales) and library sales/borrows, as this can account for a proportion of revenue. Depending on what you wish to publish, you may also need to check if they distribute public domain titles and if they can accommodate splitting of payment for royalty share contracts.
I have not yet used them, but I like what I’ve seen so far. They can be found at Dreamscape Select.
I believe Scribd used to have a similar distribution deal, but it seems now they have partnered up with Findaway Voices for their audiobook distribution.
– Other (Boutique) Distributor Options
Additional distribution options are emerging from the growing number of narrators expanding their businesses into boutique audiobook production houses and distributor/aggregators. These are services that can not only manage all aspects of production for you, but can also provide distribution alone services for those authors wanting to bring finished files to them. This is of most use to authors and narrators who live in countries which can’t access ACX.com (so anyone outside USA, UK, Ireland and Canada). Most of them can handle ‘exclusive’ and ‘wide’, and Royalty Share, Paid up front and/or Royalty Share Plus.
Some worth considering include:
- Voices of Today, run by narrators Denis Daly and Sarah Bacaller
- Pink Flamingo Productions, run by narrator Sarah Puckett
- Spectrum Audiobooks, run by narrator Anneliese Rennie (used to do distribution only, but not listed on her website at present)
– Audiobooks Unleashed Distribution
The brain-child of US narrator Sarah Sampino, Audiobooks Unleashed Distribution was a breath of fresh air when it appeared on the scene a number of years ago. We all had high hopes for it, as it provided the most flexible options and originally took the lowest commission of any of the aggregators available to non-ACX-ratified countries. Over time, though, they have lost a bit of their shine, and I’ve heard from numerous sources (as well as experienced myself) that communication can be slow, with emails left weeks before answering, etc. It’s such a pity because this was my favourite choice for anyone in a country where they couldn’t use ACX. Hopefully things will be back on track and better than ever in the future.
Audiobooks Unleashed can work with royalty share, royalty share plus, paid up front (paid Per Finished audio Hour) and Deferred Payments. Deferred Payments are new option pioneered by Audiobooks Unleashed where an authors pays nothing for audiobook production, but then forfeits royalties until the narrator has been paid out in full for production from the royalty payments that come from sales. Audiobooks Unleashed is also one of the few aggregators which can split royalty share payments across more than 2 parties (eg, for dual or duet narrations) and also in any ratio the parties wish. This is something that ACX can’t do! In addition, Audiobooks Unleashed can work with exclusive or wide projects.
Audiobooks Unleashed also state they provide full-service production (casting, engineering etc), but my anecdotal and personal experience with them is for projects where author and narrator have found each other first, then gone to Audiobooks Unleashed to use their dashboard for production, and then distribute through them.
So an author and narrator will come to Audiobooks Unleashed together ready to make an audiobook as partners. They create a project at Audiobooks Unleashed, are given a online contract that clearly states both their responsibilities and the royalties they’ll receive, and then both parties have a dashboard where they can tick off each task as it’s completed. Once all is done, the book goes through a quick quality check and is then sent off to retail markets. Audiobooks Unleashed collates payments and pays out royalties quarterly, though there is a payment threshold (of $50 I believe) before you will receive payment. The sales reports they send out with the payments are comprehensive and provide more detail than those sent by Spoken Realms (they let you know what price the audiobooks sold for at each retailer).
Like most others, Audiobooks Unleashed do not charge any up-front fees, and instead take a commission of 20% of ‘net receipts’ (the amount that the retailer sends them after the retail takes their cut).
Their ‘wide’ distribution includes more than 50 retailers and libraries, such as Audible, Amazon, iTunes, Nook, Scribd, Kobo, Downpour, Hoopla, GooglePlay – even AudiobooksNZ! They also offer a service where you audiobook can be exclusive for six months, and then made non-exclusive after a minimum of six months.
Sarah also runs the website AudiobooksUnleashed.com which helps authors and narrators find listeners for their promo codes and gain reviews for their work.
Payment through Audiobooks Unleashed Distribution is paid in US dollars via Wise.com (formerly TransferWise.com), which is easily withdrawn to your local bank account. This is particularly beneficial for authors and narrators outside the USA as Wise.com is one of the most cost-effective ways to receive international payments (the cheapest I’ve found), with currency conversion ratios held at mid-market rates and a small transparent withdrawal fee incorporated (unlike Paypal which charges ‘hidden’ fees of 7.6% to receive funds internationally.) They have a $50 payment threshold and pay quarterly.
Summary – For a number of years, Audiobooks Unleashed was my favourite non-ACX choice for distribution, especially for ‘wide’. They had flexible options for royalty share ratios and could do royalty share and ‘wide’ simultaneously. They have a $50 payment threshold (as opposed to Findaway’s $100 threshold). When Audiobooks Unleashed started, the place was a dynamo of energy and was full of refreshing, bright ideas, intent on making audiobook production attainable to more people through flexible payment arrangements. However a few years on, things appear to have slipped a bit, with multiple reports of emails not being replied to in a timely fashion, etc, which is a pity. Hopefully, things will get back on track soon. They are still worth a look, though, particularly if you want flexible royalty share or deferred payment options.
Sarah Sampino also runs the website AudiobooksUnleashed.com which helps authors and narrators find listeners for their promo codes and gain reviews for their work.
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– Authors Republic
Authors Republic’s cut of the remainder left over after each retailer takes their cut, is 30%, which is 10% more than most of the other aggregators listed. At the time I’m writing this, Authors Republic’s website states “You’ll receive 70% of what your audiobook earns” but rights’ holders should keep in mind that is NOT 70% of the book’s selling price; but rather 70% of the amount the aggregator receives after the retailer takes their 50% to 75% cut of the selling price (so the percentage is applied to the remainder or ‘net royalty’). I feel Authors Republic should make this clear on their website, as anyone new to audiobooks may erroneously imagine they will receive 70% of each audiobook sale.
As with any aggregator, Authors Republic may have access to additional retail or subscription channels that others do not, or have other added value that listing with them provides. So it’s not always as simple as comparing commission rates only. In addition, the details (including exact percentages) of the royalty rate agreements each aggregator has with its retailers (so the percentage the retailer takes before sending the remainder or ‘net royalty’ to the aggregator) are individually negotiated and generally not made public. So without knowing the exact amount each retailer with take, you can’t accurately determine the exact royalty you’ll receive from the sale of your audiobook at any retailer, which makes it impossible to accurately compare returns from each aggregator. The only information we have is usually the commission percentage the aggregator takes (not the ‘net royalty’ percentage they receive from the retailer), and Authors Republic take a 30% commission after the retailer has taken their 50-plus percent of the price at which your audiobook sold. A commission (on the ‘net royalties’) of 30% is higher than most other aggregators. What you need to do is weigh up whether the advantages of aggregating with Authors Republic justifies losing that extra 10%. They may be a great fit for you, depending on your project and your individual needs.
With Authors Republic, your audiobook can reach over 50 online retailers, libraries, subscription services and streaming platforms.
Currently Authors Republic is an aggregator only and cannot help you make an audiobook or provide a portal where author and narrator can self-manage production. They do have relationships with several production houses, and can steer you towards professionals who can help produce your audiobook. Otherwise, you must go to Authors Republic after your audio files have been produced, and upload fully-finished retail-ready audio (which also means you can’t do royalty share with Authors Republic; it has to be PFH only). Located in Canada, they have a smaller team than many of the other aggregators, which may provide a more personalised and ’boutique’ service with hands-on help and faster response times, as well as more individualised communication. This may mean they can help those new to audiobook production through the process, providing additional guidance, compared to some of the larger aggregators.
Authors Republic pay monthly, but they pay via Paypal, so if you’re outside the USA, expect losses of a further 6 to 8%, due to Paypal’s international ‘fees’. (3.6% for Paypal international commercial payments plus another 4% due to currency conversions with an exchange rate 4% above the mid-market rate. As stated previously, Paypal is an expensive way to receive international funds.)
My opinion / experience – I have not worked with Authors Republic, and when I wrote the initial version of this page, I had no information apart from what I could find online. In response to the initial version of this page, a member of the Authors Republic team contacted me. She explained it’s a friendly workplace of like-minded people who are passionate about what they do, efficient and responsive, and particularly committed to providing individualised and exceptional customer service. They regularly help those unfamiliar with audiobook production through the process, including providing advice and guidance on getting audio files up to retailer specification. I got the impression they are focussed on continual improvement, with changes in the wind which will further assist authors in audiobook production. Their commission is 10% higher than most of the others on the list, but they may provide additional advantages, and it may be worth reaching out to them to find out what they can offer that other can’t. As with choosing any aggregator, weigh up the pros and cons, run your numbers, consider how hands-on you want to be, and if possible, talk to others who’ve worked with them, before making your decision.
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Aggregator – Summary Advice
- Aside from ACX, generally most aggregator/distributors will take 20% commission after they receive ‘net receipts’ from each retailer. Then they forward the remaining 80% of ‘net receipts’ to you (or to you and the narrator for royalty share). Net receipts means the amount that is left from each sale after the retailer takes their cut, which is usually 50 to 75% of the price the audiobook sells for. So expect to receive royalty of 20% to 40% of the price that each audiobook sold for, assuming you only have one aggregator/distributor in the chain between you and the retailer.
- Although ACX has its advantages, it also has some disadvantages. There are a number of aggregator/distributors who allow wide or exclusive distribution; have no geographical limitations and allow you to distribute wide or exclusive with or without royalty share splitting. Some of these also have an online portal/dashboard where you and your chosen narrator can manage audiobook production. Others you (or you and your narrator) take the finished audio files to them.
- A number of narrator-run production houses are moving into distribution, and may provide more personalised or tailored service, depending on your needs. Some worth exploring are Voices of Today, Spectrum Audiobooks, Pink Flamingo Productions, Lyric Audiobooks, Northern Lake Audio, Fireside Horror, and Blunder Woman Productions.
- It’s worth considering if there are any ‘middle people’ you can remove from the chain between yourself and the retailer. Every extra link in that chain will take their own commission, so minimising the number of aggregators/distributors between yourself and the retailer, as well as choosing parties to minimise the commission taken at each link, can be financially beneficial.
- ACX and Audiobooks Unleashed are the only aggregators on our list (to our knowledge) who pay into a bank account, rather than via Paypal. If you’re outside the USA, this can save you additional fees in getting your money from USD into your local currency/bank account.
- ACX exclusive gives you access to promotional giveaway codes to help publicise your audiobook.
- Findaway Voices have Spotify promotional giveaway codes and Chirp advantages, but they are now owned by Spotify, and I have fears this means you give away some of your control when you distribute with them. Their 20% commission is waived for sales through Spotify though, so that should bump your royalties up, for sales on Spotify at least. I’m unaware at present of what market share Spotify has for audiobooks, but it will likely increase as time goes by (It wouldn’t surprise me if it becomes increasingly cost effective for listeners – particularly if Spotify adopt a subscription-based listening model – which might not be so good for authors/narrators in the long-term, but there’s not much we can do about that, as the listener ultimately decides where to listen!).
- Author’s Republic appear to take the largest commission, but each retailer’s deal with each aggregator is individually negotiated and not generally made public, so it’s impossible to accurately compare aggregators to work out your likely returns when you don’t know exactly how much cut each retailer will take through each aggregator. Despite the higher commission, as a ’boutique’ aggregator, Authors Republic may offer other advantages, and they should form part of your research when considering who to partner with for aggregation.
Which Aggregator is Right for Me?
So what does all this mean in terms of profits? How much do you get paid per audiobook sale?
NOTE – The information in the Royalty Comparison was up-to-date in 2019. There have been a number of changes since that time and the table should be used as a guide only, and authors/narrators should check to see if commissions have changed since that time.
Visit the Royalty Comparison page for a filterable comparison of how the different options stack up.
Choosing a Production House as Production Partner
If you’re producing your audiobook through an aggregator’s production house, they’ll manage the process for you. But if you want to partner with either a specialist production house or work directly with a narrator, you’ll need to choose who to use.
Production Houses generally provide a reasonably cost-effective method of having an experienced team project-manage all aspects of production, from casting to final upload, including outsourcing narration to a curated list of established narrators. Production houses can be a great choice for first-time audiobook authors or for those who don’t want the worry of casting or attending to other details (such as cover art) themselves. Many production houses can be described as the boutique end of audiobook production, with authors likely to receive more personalised service and greater attention than through an aggregator’s production arm. Prices vary greatly, with some being exceptional value and others not so much (though they can still be cheaper than using an aggregator’s production arm). Production Houses often provide added value through access to extra marketing or other assistance, as well as the brand recognition of having your audiobook under their company banner. Some might provide access to narrators you might not otherwise gain access to, or arrange production scenarios that you might find difficult to do on your own (for example, duet, dual or multi-cast productions).
There is usually a fee for using a production house to produce your audiobook for PFH projects. For royalty share projects, you will likely lose a percentage of the net royalties to the production house, in addition to any percentages that need to go to the narrator and aggregator. But what they bring to the table may well be worth the loss in royalties, if it increases the number of audiobooks sold. As with any production option, do your homework. Listen to the free samples of audiobooks online produced by a production house; talk to authors who’ve used them; ask narrators’ opinions; and run your numbers before making any final decisions.
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List of Production Houses
Below is a list of audiobook production houses.
- Spectrum Audiobooks, run by narrator Anneliese Rennie
- Pink Flamingo Productions, specialising in romance, (run by narrator Sarah Puckett)
- Voices of Today, run by Aussie narrators, Denis Daly and Sarah Bacaller
- Northern Lake Audio, specialising in mystery/thrillers, run by narrator Craig Hart
- Fireside Horror, specialising in horror, run by narrator Joe Hempel
- Lyric Audiobooks, specialising in romance, run by narrator Andi Arndt.
- Blunder Woman Productions, run by narrator Tanya Eby
(As already mentioned, Spoken Realms and Audiobooks Unleashed have sections of their businesses that function as in-house production houses also, so if you’re wanting to partner with someone other than directly with a narrator, these might also be worth an inquiry.)
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Working Directly with Narrators – the Auditioning Process
The advantages of working directly with a narrator include having direct communication with the person bringing your words to life, as well as a potential cost saving, compared to using the same narrator through a production house or aggregator (though this is not always the case). But where do you find your narrator, and how do you choose the right one?
Think about the sort of narrator that will work well with your project – vocal age, gender, accents, etc. Then you can approach suitable narrators with your project and either offer them the job outright (if you have faith in their abilities) or invite them to audition. Or you can advertise your project, inviting narrators to audition. Places to advertise include ACX (if you intend to distribute through ACX), AhabTalent, narrator facebook groups, or make a FREE audition notice here at NarratorList.com. You can also browse the narrators at NarratorList.com and filter your list to find those you like, then send them a message by filling in the form at the bottom of their profile page.
Probably the largest database of narrators at present (containing all levels, from newbies to masters) is at ACX.com, so if you can’t find what you need at NarratorList.com, try ACX. You can use sites like ACX to find the narrator you want, even if you don’t contact them via ACX. Instead see if you can message them on Facebook or via their Website, etc.
Work up an audition script of about 800 to 1000 words. It doesn’t have to be a continuous part of the script, so it could be broken into 2 or more scenes or sections of the script. This allows you to hear how narrators handle different characters/dialogue/accents or the different emotions required for different scenarios. You might include a love scene, an action scene, a highly emotional scene, etc. As well as the script itself, you might want to provide some background to the characters and the situation, so the narrator knows who the characters are and what to bring to the scene.
When you write your audition notice (or your message to narrators, if you’re approaching them directly), remember that making an audiobook is a huge undertaking. Even a modest novel of 50K will take 45 to 50 hours to produce, so you want to make your audition sound as appealing as possible to encourage narrators to apply. Be honest about the payment methods and amounts you are considering, without misrepresenting the top price you would be willing to pay the right narrator.
You and the narrator will quite possibly negotiate the final contract details (eg, PFH amount, delivery dates, etc), but narrators need to know at least the range you’re open to paying for the right narrator, so they know whether it’s worth applying for or not, depending on what other commitments they have on their plate. If a narrator is very busy, they might not have time to do a book if it’s not likely to pay well; but if a narrator has a gap in their schedule, they may well consider a project at a lower rate than their normal fee.
For PFH and Royalty Share Plus projects, you are allowed to have a range that you are considering; afterall, you may be willing to pay one price for one narrator, but a higher price for a different narrator who has a higher brand recognition which could drive more sales to your book; or you might pay a higher rate if a narrator delivers your book within four weeks, or a lower rate if you allow them more flexibility with a delivery date (for example, delivery date within four months). There are no hard and fast rules with rates, until you’ve both agreed on details. At that point, you’re pretty much locked in.
Narrators will want to know what sort of remuneration you are open to before auditioning. Putting a higher rate will likely get your more auditions and better narrators auditioning, but don’t misrepresent the top price that you’re willing to pay (for the right narrator) either.
When setting a price PFH or RS+, you may be willing to pay different rates for different narrators. You have to weigh up what a narrator’s work is worth to you, considering their quality, availability, what you hear in their audition, their track record and their ability to perhaps use their reputation as a drawcard to get people to listen to your audiobook. Narrators will be doing the same thing when considering your project; whether they want to audition or not may not just depend on the rate, but also upon their availability, the likely popularity of your audiobook; their interest in the subject matter; the prospects of future work with you, etc. You are auditioning to find the right narrator at the right price for your audiobook; but to a certain extent they are also auditioning you – to find if you’re the right fit for them to work with.
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Can I have More than One Narrator?
You can have more than one narrator, and even include sound effects and music, but the more complicated the production process, the more likely the cost is likely to increase.
– A Single Narrator
Having a single narrator narrate your entire audiobook is the most common (and generally the most cost-effective) type of audiobook. Your narrator will read titles, copyright, chapter numbers, chapter headings, and the narration and character dialogue, (but not usually table of contents or end matter).
– Dual Narration
Dual narration involves two narrators, generally one male and one female. Each narrator reads the sections or chapters of the book which are written from their gender’s point of view (so the male reads the male hero’s chapters, and the female reads the heroine’s chapters). This is fairly easy to accomplish and shouldn’t add anything extra (or very little) to PFH titles, since if you’re paying per finished hour, then you can split the work by word count, and pay each narrator accordingly. It does require you to find two narrators and for them to communicate so that the voices of the common characters sound roughly similar no matter which narrator is narrating. And it helps if the editor can master the audio so both recording environments sound similar.
If you are doing royalty share, you can also easily do dual narration, provided your aggregator allows for payment splits of to more than two people and in ratios other than 50/50. Audiobooks Unleashed and Spoken Realms both can do this. I’m not sure about FV, but it might be worth inquiring (though their royalty share service works out comparatively costly, compared to some of the other options).
– Duet Narration
Duet narration is also often used in romances. This is where the male speaks all the lines of dialogue that any male in the book speaks, plus all the lines of the narrator which are written from the male point of view, and the female speaks all the lines of dialogue spoken by any female characters anywhere in the book, as well as any narrator lines written from the female’s point of view. Producing this sort of audiobook is much more time-consuming and costly (since separate lines of dialogue recorded in different locations on different days by different narrators have to be spliced together seamlessly). Each conversation between any male and any female characters must be put together like a jigsaw with the background room sound perfectly matched, as though the narrators are both speaking in the same room.
More rarely, more ambitious projects engage a cast of multiple narrators, so that each character and the narrator are all played by different narrators, much like a radio play. These productions also often incorporate sound effects or music to add extra atmosphere. Multi-cast projects are usually produced by experienced production houses (rather than a single narrator), and are generally quite costly to produce. Multi-cast production are becoming more common – particularly for trad-publisher audiobooks. If you are interested in seeing how this works, check out soundbooththeater.com.
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If your manuscript includes erotic or controversial content, your narrator may wish to narrate under a pseudonym. Many narrators have established pseudos that have their own social media pages and websites, so this can be a good fit and even benefit your work if the pseudo is as popular as the real narrator’s name. Similarly, if your work is a ‘clean read’ you may wish your narrator to narrate under an alternative name, to distance the work from the narrator’s steamy titles. This is very easy to accomplish and doesn’t usually present any problems. Let your narrator know before recording if you’d like them to narrate under a different name; and similarly, make sure you check with your narrator what name they will use before you order your cover artwork!
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Why Aren’t People Auditioning for My Royalty Share Title?
Whether a narrator wants to take on a royalty share deal or not depends on a lot of things – how many other jobs they have to narrate, what the likelihood is of the audiobook selling well, how well the ebook appears to be selling on Amazon, whether you have plans for marketing campaigns for the audiobook, the length of the manuscript (a 50K Royalty Share project is a lot less of a gamble or time commitment than a 100K manuscript), whether the material interests the narrator , whether the project is likely to lead to more (paying) work, etc.
Narrators who usually get paid PFH often only take on Royalty Share deals if there’s a good likelihood that the proceeds from the sale of audiobooks will provide more income for the narrator than the up-front PFH fee would, so a book needs to be selling very well or have a significant advertising campaign in place in order for experienced narrators to take on Royalty Share deals. Newer narrators, though, can be happy to do Royalty Share or Royalty Share Plus deals in order to have another book to add to their portfolio. Remember, making an audiobook is a massive undertaking for a narrator, with each hour taking around 8 hours to produce, so most don’t take on RS deals lightly!
If your book isn’t selling well enough to attract many auditions as a royalty share deal, but you can’t afford to pay at least US$250 PFH to pay up front, consider offering your book at Royalty Share Plus of around $150. This way you and the narrator both share the costs of production and share the risk that the book may not sell well. You’re mitigating the risk for the narrator, and showing your willingness to come to the party to pay something towards production, and that will likely gain you some auditions.
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Can NarratorList Vouch For or Recommend Listed Narrators/Production Personnel?
As an audiobook narrator, I’m familiar with a lot of my colleagues’ work, but I don’t know everyone. But I cannot vouch for everyone listed at NarratorList. This is not a curated list; that’s not the purpose of this website. It’s not my place to decide who is and isn’t ‘good enough’ to be listed. What I think is great may not suit your material, and vice versa.
The purpose of NarratorList.com is to provide a place where narrators and authors can find each other. It’s then up to you guys (as authors and narrators) to do your research to find people you work well with. NarratorList is just the introduction agency; it’s up to you to find a match made in heaven.
For authors, the purpose of auditioning narrators is to find one who produces work in a narration style which will suit your writing and a quality level that you are happy with. Some narrators will have better production values than other (clarity and cleanness in their audio files) and some narrators will fit your budget more than others. You need to audition narrators and then negotiate payment or royalty options with them until you find one that is the right fit for your situation.
Similarly, narrators need to research the books authors have on offer see whether they will be a good fit for the narrator’s current availability and pricing structure and (for any work with a royalty share component), research each book’s sales history to gauge how well an audiobook of the ebook is likely to sell.
If you’re considering a narrator who has done plenty of Voiceover or podcast work, but fewer audiobooks, make sure you have confidence they can either do the job or outsource those parts that they can’t. Voiceovers, podcasts and audiobooks are three different animals, and audiobooks are produced and edited differently than other forms of audio. (For instance, audiobooks tend to have breaths left in, whereas breaths in shorter forms of voice-overs like commercials are usually removed. Podcasts often have the sound ‘gated’ to produce silence between sentences, whereas this is never done in audiobooks. Audiobooks need to have no extraneous sounds, whereas podcasts and voiceovers are more forgiving of extraneous sounds.
If you want to learn more about audiobook production (so you can ask the correct questions of your narrator), join some narrator Facebook groups and also read through the FAQs for Narrators page on this website.
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Due Diligence Prior to Engaging a Narrator
Before offering a project to a narrator, perform your due diligence. This may be a large investment of money for you and time (and possibly money) for your narrator, so you both need to make sure you’re on the same page, and that the other party can deliver what’s needed. Research each narrator you are considering. Look at their experience. Listen to the retail samples of books they’ve already produced that are listed at Audible. Listen critically to each audition. Make your short-list and then listen again. When listening to auditions, don’t mistake volume for superiority. If one audition sounds louder than another, try to ignore that fact, and instead listen for the quality of the narration and clarity of sound.
When you’ve narrowed down your shortlist, listen again. Do you feel this narrator can produce a quality product with great sound and suitable character voices? Do they have the range to do what you want (if this is a concern, make sure you include scenes demonstrating that range in your audition script). If you have any concerns, maybe don’t go ahead with production – or at least delay it until you’ve had more time to think about things. It is far too time-consuming a process for a narrator to do the work, and then have you not be happy with the outcome (or worse still, not be willing to pay for it!) You need to communicate clearly, and sort things out early on with your narrator so you are both on the same page.
Do not be afraid to reject a narrator who isn’t right for the job. Seasoned narrators know that auditioning is a numbers game, and they can’t be right for every job. They’d also much prefer a job where you love what they’re doing; rather than a job where you’re not quite sure you’re happy! A reasonable audition strike rate is landing about one job in 10 auditions, so narrators are used to ‘not getting the job’.
If you’re tossing up between two auditions, you can contact the narrators to find out whether there are any other aspects that might tip the balance towards one or the other. This could include negotiating a different rate or a different time-frame. Or you could explain that you are considering another narrator and would they mind recording a second audition with a different audition script to help you choose. There’s no harm in asking, and you’ll receive extra information to help you make sure decision, plus the narrator that wants to go that extra mile is one who you know is eager to work with you!
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Providing Information and Artistic Direction
One of the reasons you engage a particular narrator is because they are a professional who knows what they are doing. Part of their job is making artistic decisions for the audiobook on behalf of you. They are the performer, and you are the writer. The audiobook is a joint project and you must trust each other to perform your own jobs (and not try to do the other person’s job!). Don’t be tempted to micro-manage. If you don’t trust a particular narrator to do a good job, don’t employ them.
(If you really want to direct the lines your narrator speaks, you can hire a studio and audio engineer, and bring in your narrator so that you then become the director (instead of the narrator self-directing), but this is then a very different (and much more expensive) process than normal audiobook production.)
As the author, you certainly should give your narrator/s as much information as you feel will be helpful to them (the ages, backgrounds, personalities, accents, attitudes and any vocal characteristics of characters, and possibly information on the tone, feel, pace or emotions you want to come out in the audio). But then you should step aside and let the narrator get on with their job. You have to trust their creativity, and if your audiobook doesn’t turn out with exactly the same voices as those you’ve pictured in your head, that’s okay. It’s a piece of art in its own sake, different from, but related to your ebook and print work. It’s not quite ‘your’ baby anymore; it’s a hybrid of yours and the narrator’s. Let it breath in its own right.
Providing direction early on (prior to approval of the ‘first 15’ check-point), is acceptable, but it is too late at the end, after a book has been recorded, to go back and make large artistic changes. You are not the director. The narrator is the director, and the narrator uses the information you have provided as a guide to produce the work, but ultimately it is their vision of your characters, (in conjunction with the information you’ve given them to work from, of course) that ends up in the audio.
Making changes after a work is recorded is INCREDIBLY time-consuming particularly for disjointed snippets of dialogue – so much so that if whole characters which occur in multiple scenes need re-recording, it’s often easier to re-record the whole sections, rather than slot in odd lines (even taking into account that the entire section will then need to be re-proofed, re-edited and re-mastered). With this in mind, you’ll see it’s impractical and therefore unfair and acceptable for you to turn around at the end of recording and give your narrator a list of artistic changes along the lines of, “can you make Kate’s voice deeper”; “can you speed up the pace”; “can you put a larger pause between sentences”, “I thought Peter sounded too posh”, etc. It’s not practical for large-scale artistic changes to be made. A word here or there – possibly – if your narrator agrees. And any blatantly wrong text (misreads, mispronunciations, etc) must be fixed, but it is incredibly time-consuming for a narrator or editor to slot in numerous changes after recording is done, so this MUST be kept to a minimum.
Although the ebook is your baby, you may need to accept that the audiobook is only half your baby; it becomes someone else’s baby once you commission a narrator. Trust in your narrator’s work – you’ve employed them for their knowledge and expertise. They probably know what they’re talking about. You have no more right to tell them how to narrate your book than they have to tell you how to write it.
Tread very gently when giving narrators constructive criticism. Imagine how you’d feel if your narrator started telling you how to rewrite your book to make it better. Resist the urge to make inconsequential or minor artistic changes after the book has been recorded.
By all means, if there’s something you feel very strongly about that is a quick fix (only necessitating a couple of re-recorded lines), then ask nicely if your narrator would mind changing those parts. But understand that the only changes a narrator is obliged to make after the end of recording, are any text errors, misread words or mis-pronounced words (according to accepted local pronunciation).
So you need to make sure you’ve given your narrator the information they need to produce a quality product you’re proud of. Give them the info they need as early in the process as you can. If a character’s name could be pronounced more than one way, let your narrator know what pronunciation you want. Providing them with a document giving some background or other info about each character (particularly anything that impacts on the voice of the character, such as where they are from, what age, what socio-economic background, what sort of personality they have, accents, vocal qualities, etc) can be invaluable in ensuring they deliver a performance in keeping with your expectations.
And never forget that narrators thrive on praise! Like most people with artistic temperaments, they’re often a complex combination of creativity, insecurity and bravado, and a bit of praise can go a long way to buoying their spirits and getting an excellent performance from them. They need positive strokes and reassurance just as much as you do.
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Since it so difficult for narrators to go back and make multiple changes after the narration is done, there is often a 15-minute check-point included towards the start of recording, so that the author can check they are happy with how everything is sounding. This is the time that the author should give constructive feedback and directorial ‘notes’. If notes are given, the first 15 is re-recorded and again submitted to the author for approval. If approval isn’t given and you’re not happy with how things are sounding, this is the point at which you and the narrator should consider whether to dissolve the contract and part ways.
The 15-minute checkpoint is the last point at which the author is meant to give direction or artistic notes. After that, the only changes that the narrator is obliged to make is the fixing of text errors (such as misreads by the narrator).
So as an author, you need to make sure you like what you hear in the 15-minute checkpoint. That is your sample of what the entire book will be like, so make sure you’re happy. Your approval of the ‘first 15’ is your go-ahead for the narrator to continue on to finish the entire book. Because of this, you may wish to hear something very specific in the ‘first 15’. If you don’t specify, most narrators will send the first 15 minutes or the first chapter as a checkpoint. If, instead, you would like to hear how they’re going to handle different character voices or different situations in the manuscript, then you need to provide them with clear directions on what you want them to record for the ‘first 15’ for you to check and approve. Send them a 15-minute script as soon as you can, which includes the excerpts you want to hear (for instance, particular character voices you might be concerned about, or scenes that could be problematic, like love scenes or action scenes.) Communicate with your narrator early, so they know you definitely want a 15-minute checkpoint file, and let them know whether to send the first 15 minutes of the book or whether you’ll send over a script containing specific excerpts that you’d like to hear.
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If the entity who is producing your audiobook files is either your aggregator or a production house, it’s likely that they’ll send an online contract for the author and narrator to sign, so that all pertinent details are in a written agreement. If you’re working direct with a narrator through a self-managing production dashboard through your aggregator (ACX, Findaway Voices, Spoken Realms, Audiobooks Unleashed Distribution, etc), these entities will also organise the necessary online contracts for both parties to sign.
If, however, you’re working direct with a narrator but outside one of the aggregator dashboards (so if your plans are to pay your narrator PFH for their finished files, and then upload your purchased retail-ready audiofiles to an aggregator yourself as a finished audiobook), then you won’t be provided with a written narrator contract by your aggregator. So you may want to put the details of your agreement with your narrator in writing. To do this, some people modify a contract from another audiobook they’ve done, using this as a basis for making a written contract. If you’ve worked with the same narrator on multiple books and trust each other’s work, you may be happy to work without a written agreement. Whatever you do is up to you, but just ensure all parties are clear on who is responsible for what tasks and the timelines before you start. And for PFH work by a narrator who hasn’t worked for you before, it’s common to provide a deposit up front (anywhere from 25% to 50% of the full fee). Again, it’s up to both parties to negotiate, but you may be asked to supply a deposit and/or sign a written contract.
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Timeframes and completion dates
Narrators have several projects on their queue at once. Many find it’s less confusing if they only narrate one book at a time, but they may also be prepping another book, while also waiting for corrections to come back from the proofer on a third. They’ll also usually have one or two books lined up in the queue to do next. Busy narrators can be booked six months in advance!
Most narrators will build in a bit of contingency time when they give you an estimated completion date. This is because things can crop up which prevent as much work getting done as might be done otherwise. If the narrator gets a cold or flu, they can lose days of recording time as their voice won’t be good enough to narrate. Also from time to time other projects crop up that may need to take precedence. Trade publishing books are often requested with incredibly short lead-times (three weeks is common). If a narrator is to take on this project, they may need to put other work to one side to do a trade publishing book. This is a matter of negotiation with you, but having your narrator’s name on a trade publishing book can often help your audiobook’s sales, so try to be flexible if your narrator requests a little extra time because a trade publisher offer has come in.
Generally though, experienced narrators should know what timeframes they can work to. So if your narrator is leaving you hanging for months, don’t be afraid to give them a nudge. Narrators may be willing to negotiate a lower fee for a more flexible recording schedule or if you’ve kept them waiting much longer than they initially agreed. This is a business transaction, and both parties need to deliver goods in a business-like manner.
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Unless you’re working through a production house that provides a cover service, usually you, as rights’ holder, will be responsible for providing the cover artwork for your audiobook. Check the specifications for covers at ACX (so your cover will be acceptable for Amazon, Audible and iTunes). Most covers are design modifications from the book’s retailer ebook versions. Many times, for a small fee, the original ebook designer will modify your original artwork to make it into a square of the right resolution for your audiobook (since they already have the artwork and elements, and merely need to tweak them).
As with ebooks, never underestimate the power of a good cover – one which is easily readable in a small thumbnail size, and one which uses the accepted current ‘genre shorthand’ design elements to convey a book’s genre to a book-savvy audience. There is currently no official requirement to include the narrator’s name on your audiobook cover, though most narrator’s appreciate you doing so. Also remember that if the narrator is well-known, (or becomes well-known) it may help the sales of your audiobook to have the narrator’s name included. Some audiobooks have ‘Narrated by’ and some use ‘Read by’ or ‘Performed by’.
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Consider what you can do to help market your audiobook and get some buzz happening about it during the narration process. Your narrator may be happy to record live on Discord or Clubhouse (see below) and you can publicise their times of broadcast on your Facebook page so fans can tune in to hear the book read live. Or if you’d like a video snippet to use on your Facebook page, maybe ask your narrator if they could send you 30 seconds of them narrating, which you could manipulate with Headliner (or a similar program) to make an eye-catching Facebook post as a pre-release teaser or a behind-the-scenes look at audiobook production.
Fans love hearing narrators on Discord, as they can interact via messaging with the narrator (as can you also, if you drop in to hear some of the live recording sessions – just don’t start micro-managing your narrator. Like most performers, underneath our outer bravado is often a timid and fragile ego, so tread carefully!) Remember you’re hearing the raw files on Discord with all the bloopers and re-reads included. I both love it and hate it when authors listen in on Discord to me reading their work. It’s amazing having the author right there with you, able to answer any questions, etc, but it’s also rather nerve-wracking! Fans, though, are great!
Publicise your upcoming audiobook in your newsletter and on your website.
There are companies and facebook groups who will help launch your audiobook. There are often promo codes that you can give away to gain reviews (post a giveaway on Facebook or you can use promo code giveaway websites like AudioFreebies (run by me!), Audiobooks Unleashed (run by Sarah Sampino, the same narrator who runs the Audiobooks Unleashed Distribution aggregator company) or Audiobook Boom and FreeAudiobooksCodes.com (both run by narrator Jeffrey Kafer).
If you’re wanting to push sales, sometimes the best thing you can do is advertise your ebook via Amazon or Facebook ads. If your ebook is selling well, your audiobook will tend to sell well also, and I’ve seen authors who advertise their ebooks gain audiobook sales also.
Chirp special deals will usually net a lot of sales (anyone who has data on how many, let me know and I’ll add it in here!). Chirp is owned by Findaway Voices (but you don’t have to be in Findaway to apply for a Chirp ad). Think of Chirp as ‘Bookbub for audiobooks’. It’s a daily list of heavily discounted (typically 80 to 90% off) audiobooks temporarily on special, which is emailed to thousands of subscribers and displayed on the Chirp website. Chirp can sell a lot of audiobooks, but don’t forget that those sales are heavily discounted, so your royalty will be also!
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There is a plethora of useful information on the internet about audiobook production. Below are some links to additional resources which you may find helpful.
Karen Commins (highly respected narrator and trainer who runs the Narrator’s Roadmap) has a wonderful compendium of author resources and links at Karen Commins’s Audiobook Resources For Authors.
Just like author Facebook groups, there are narrator groups where authors and narrators share ideas and information. Probably the best known narrator Facebook group is https://www.facebook.com/groups/ACXNarratorsProducers/, frequented by many of the top narrators and newbies alike. Reading past posts, using the search function and looking at the FAQs pages for this group (which are listed in the text if you click on the top banner picture), provides a wealth of information for both narrators and authors.
Another facebook group for narrators and authors is Audiobook Edge: https://www.facebook.com/groups/aeauthorsandnarrators
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Advice about Online Research
Audiobook production is a relatively new industry, particularly for indie authors. Luckily, we’re living in an era where we have access to more information than has ever been available before. Podcasts, blogs, online tutorials, youtube channels, books, workshops, one-on-one coaching – it’s all there for you to digest to find out how others go about producing audiobooks – either as an author or a narrator.
But when you’re looking online, don’t forget that a lot of what you read or watch may not be completely helpful. Some of it could be out of date or misleading – made by a well-meaning people who didn’t know much more than you do.
The secret to learning from online information is to digest way more of it than you think you need to. It’s only then that you’ll start to sort out the fact from the fiction. Find information from multiple sources. The more voices you hear from, the more you’ll get a feel for who is giving great advice and who isn’t.
And make sure you look at the date at which the information is provided. It’s amazing how fast things change in the literary world. What might have been de-rigeur for audiobook production even two years ago, may not be so at present.
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Listen Live at Discord.com and on Clubhouse
If you want to know more about audiobook production, you can listen (and often watch) narrators working live on Discord.com, even interacting with them via text chat. Below are links to two narrator portals which might be useful, as well as a blog entry giving instructions on using Discord.
You may even be able to listen to your narrator narrating your book if you arrange this with them. This can be really interesting, and really helpful. (It’s wonderful to have the author there to ask questions on pronunciation, etc). Just remember though, it can be nerve-wracking having an author listen to you narrate their work, so resist the temptation to add too much direction. But it’s a great way to create buzz about an upcoming release, so you might want to send your fans to Discord to publicise an upcoming release.
Many narrators are also now narrating live on Clubhouse. Check out “Audiobooks” and “The Audiobook Studio” at the Clubhouse.com app.
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That concludes the info I’ve collated for this FAQs page.
Audiobook Basics For Authors – Videos by Catherine Bilson
Below are videos by audiobook narrator Catherine Bilson. Originally from the UK, Catherine now lives in Australia. She is both a narrator and an author, so she knows the business from both sides. Because these videos were recorded in 2020, there are a few minor things which have changed, but generally these videos are a great source of information for authors wanting to get their books into audio.