I’m currently having two of my books turned into audiobooks and from the moment I flirted with the idea of hearing my books narrated until today when I hit “Approve” on ACX.com, I have to say that it’s not as easy as it seems. In the beginning, when I sought for information through author groups, I found so many conflicting answers that it drove me crazy. Some authors would also charge you money to learn how to get your book into audiobook form. So I figured I’d look to narrators instead for the information I needed.
One of the first questions out of the gate was whether to pay up-front which usually ranges from $100 – $500 and up per performance hour (PFH) or do a royalty share (RS) with the narrator for seven years. That’s where you split the royalties – but this only happens if the audiobook sells. If it doesn’t sell, while you’ve already written the book, that narrator is out the time and cost of producing the audiobook.
But from a narrator’s standpoint, how do they decide whether to take on your book? Jeffrey Kafer boils it down to seven points which I’ve summarized below. Make sure to visit his blog post for the full post.
In my case, I paid up-front for one book and am doing a royalty-share with the second book. I can’t wait to announce them very soon!
I interact with authors all the time on message boards and often find them lamenting “Why isn’t anyone auditioning for my royalty-share audiobook??”
Here are some possible reasons.
- Your cover sucks. Indie authors are a curious bunch. They have a deep need to do everything themselves. As much as I appreciate the DIY mentality, if you’re using paint or GIMP to throw together a cover using stock MS Office fonts and free images you found online, you may not be representing your book in the best light possible. I’ve heard of people designing covers in Powerpoint. WTF?
How to fix it: Get a decent cover. There are people who will make you an amazing cover for around $50. Seriously. Pony up a bit of change for a decent cover and eat ramen for a week, please.
- Your book is too long. If your book is a 300,000 word masterpiece, I’m not going to bother. The work to reward ratio is way too high. A 30 hour audiobook is going to take a month or more to record and master. The longer the book, the more units that need to be sold to recoup the investment. And with royalty-share, that’s too big of a risk, especially for an indie author.
How to fix it: If you have more than one book, put a shorter one up. You’re much more likely to get someone to tackle a 6-8 hour book.
- Your book doesn’t sound interesting. A lot of narrators will do a Royalty-share book if the title sounds interesting. Put up your best synopsis and explain why the narrator should take this on: Hilarious comedy, intriguing mystery, lots of locales (be careful, this can hurt you), unbridled romance (again, this can be a con).How to fix it: Sell it. Make me want to narrate it even if I don’t make a dime.
- You don’t have enough Amazon sales and/or a low ranking and/or bad reviews. This one should not be a shock to any seasoned author. The first thing I do when I am considering a book, is to click on the link that says “View this title on Amazon”. If the book has 3 reviews over the past 2 years, I’m going to pass. If the reviews are mediocre, I’m going to pass. If your rankings are low, I’m going to pass. I need assurance that the audiobook is going to sell and Amazon ratings and ranking are a very telling insight into that.
How to fix it: Write better. I know, I know, I sound like a total dick right now. But that’s the honest truth. There is no way to get more ratings or better reviews than to simply write better books and lots of them. And if your writing is good, but the sales aren’t there, wait until they are. Write more.
- You haven’t explained why we should take on the risk (you don’t do jack for promotion). As much as any narrator should volunteer to read your book for the sheer honor of it, that doesn’t happen if you don’t do anything to promote it. No book tours, no blogging, no external reviews, no nothing. The author is the primary vehicle for promotion. The narrator can add exactly 0.12% value in promoting the book. Unless you hired Scott Brick, people are not going to buy your book for the narrator.
How to fix it: Explain in the notes how well the book has been received, how many sales you have, your ranking, blog articles, reviews etc. ANYTHING to help sell the book to the narrator.
- You are only doing the cattle-call. Simply posting your book on the audition list isn’t going to cut it. Look how many other hundreds of books there are to be narrated! Someone choosing to narrate your book is like winning the lottery, albeit with somewhat better odds. And if your book suffers from the bullet points above, then the likelihood decreases.
How to fix it: Go to the list of narrators and find a handful that you like. Make sure they have Royalty-share as one the options on their profile and then send them a message. You play to the narrator’s ego when they know that you want them. I am MUCH more inclined to work with someone who has sought me out. This, of course, is also the time to SELL the book. See the tip above for more on that.
- You sound like you’re going to be a pain in the ass. This happens more often than you realize. If you have 3 different sections that MUST be auditioned, if you demand that each character has a certain flavor of accent (“Southern, but not Georgia, more Carolina”), if you say “I’ll direct you/provide feedback/listen in/co-narrate/help in any way”, or otherwise indicate that you are so in love with your words, that you can’t possible let go so I can do my job, then I’m going to run far far away. Direct author involvement is not a plus, unless I specifically need you to answer a question.
How to fix it: Chill. If you’ve hired a good narrator, let him/her do the job. Let go of your baby and trust us to do the right thing. While the end result might be a bit different than you imagined, this is the way of art. You are NOT going to be able to direct an actor to successfully embody the book exactly as you want them to do. That’s the nature of acting and the choices actors make based on the source material. Embrace it.
So there you go. Several reason why you may not be having much success with royalty-share on ACX. Fixing these will go a long way to improving your odds of finding a narrator on your budget who will do an exemplary job with your book.