Seeking professional help
If you are considering creating an audiobook but need support, there are plenty of companies willing and able to help.
Based in Ohio, Findaway Voices helps authors with each part of the audiobook journey. Once you create your free account, you will provide information about your book and the type of narrator you want. The Findaway casting team sorts through its files to provide you with five to 10 choices. Once you choose your ideal narrator, you sign a contract, and the book is produced by Findaway in about six to eight weeks.
Findaway then distributes your audiobook file to Audible, Apple Books, Kobo, and more. They also have over 30 international and library markets, which offer alternative outlets for authors. English-language content is in high demand around the world – great news for U.S. authors aiming to sell in international markets. As for libraries, they have also recognized the popularity of audiobooks and have created a new “cost per checkout” model. (In the past, a librarian would purchase an audiobook for two to three times the retail price and then could circulate it forever. With the new model, authors get paid every time the audiobook is downloaded, regardless if the consumer ever opens it and listens to it.)
Dages says he sees more libraries moving toward this model. “We have seen authors really run hard with those campaigns, and they are making 30-35 percent of their royalties from the library market,” he says. The company is always on the lookout for new distribution channels, including library markets, and has about 15 others in the pipeline they hope to roll out soon.
In 2017, Findaway partnered with Draft2Digital to provide D2D customers a discount on Findaway audiobook services. Findaway authors get to set their own price and receive 80 percent of the royalties. There is no exclusivity contract, and they retain all rights to the content.
For authors who are excited about the possibility of venturing into the audiobook market but may not have all the funds necessary for the full investment, Findaway plans to launch a new royalty share program called Voices Share that competes with ACX. “Authors who choose Voices Share will pay half price for their audiobook,” he says. “The narrator of the audiobook will receive half their normal rate as payment on completion of the book, and the author will share 20 percent of their royalties with the narrator for 10 years – that’s royalties from 30+ retailers, not just Audible. There’s also going to be a buyout option for authors who may want out of the 10-year commitment for any reason.”
Dages believes this is a well-balanced approach because everyone’s incentives are aligned. Unlike a full royalty split where narrators don’t receive any money until the audiobooks sell, this approach is less of a gamble for the narrators, who receive an upfront payment instead of only being paid by royalties. “We believe that will attract more great narrators and result in really high-quality Voices Share productions,” said Dages.
“There’s a lower barrier of entry to the authors, while providing a buyout option that doesn’t lock them in if their book finds really great success.”
For more than 15 years, ListenUp has worked with major publishers to create high-quality audiobooks for their authors. Now it aims to offer the same services and level of quality to independent authors at a reasonable cost. “We’ve always set the bar high in terms of our standards,” says Lasek. “We have a large voice-actor talent pool and our studios and sound equipment are top-notch. Our staff of degreed audio engineers strive for perfection.”
ListenUp’s goal is to make it as easy as possible for authors to choose a narrator, produce the book, and make it available on the various audiobook platforms. “Distribution is always expanding into new territories as the whole world has caught on to how popular audiobooks have become in the last few years,” Lasek says. She gets excited speaking with indie authors and publishers from around the world who are interested in having ListenUp produce and distribute their audiobooks. “It’s a wide-open terrain now and in one day, our staff may speak with someone from Cameroon, New Zealand, Canada, and Qatar.”
Authors retain the rights and receive 80 percent of the royalties for each sale. In 2016, ListenUp partnered with Kobo to offer special discounts to Kobo Writing Life authors interested in turning ebook content into audiobooks.
Audiobook Creation Exchange is an Amazon platform that offers an indie audiobook service similar to that of self-publishing an ebook through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP). You can choose to narrate the project yourself or hire your own voice artist. If you do it yourself, you must follow the ACX audio guidelines and upload a quality file that meets its requirements. If you work with a narrator, they are responsible for recording and editing the file. Once created, your audiobook is distributed through Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.
ACX requires a seven-year commitment with them for all audiobook files. If you opt to publish exclusively on ACX and no other platforms, you receive royalties of 40 percent of retail sales. With a non-exclusive option, the royalty is lower (25 percent of retail sales), but authors can publish through other distributors. Either way, your book stays in the Audible store for those seven years.
Like Findaway Voices, ACX also offers a royalty share option with the narrator, popular among those with smaller budgets. But there are some definite differences. First, you have to be exclusive with ACX; secondly, the narrator/producer and the author split the royalties 50/50 (giving each party 20 percent), but there are no upfront costs.
Going the indie route
For authors who want more control over the production of their audiobooks, there is the DIY option. This is the route Amphlett eventually found to be the most successful for her. In 2011, she began publishing her Dan Taylor spy novel series. Back in 2016, she read about audiobooks and how they were predicted to be the next big boom in publishing.
“I didn’t want to feel like I was on the back foot with audiobooks like I felt I had with ebooks,” she says. “I wanted to position my business so I could take advantage of this burgeoning demand for audiobooks.”
Although popular, the Dan Taylor books weren’t bringing in the income to justify the cost of Amphlett creating an audiobook on her own. The only option that felt feasible to her was the royalty split with ACX. She found a great narrator and, over the course of three to four months, he recorded the books. They released them together through ACX in 2016. Around this same time, she released the first book in her new Kay Hunter series. This series became a game-changer for Amphlett.
“By the time the third book came out in June 2017 – I had three books released in a very short space of time – they were bringing in enough money I could take another look at audiobooks. But this time, I would have complete control and complete ownership of copyright and have the freedom to publish them wherever I wanted to,” she remembers.
She approached a local production company, Audio Factory, and found she liked their attitude and professionalism. After finding her ideal narrator, she negotiated with Audio Factory to produce the first three audiobooks in her series in succession. She then reached out to Findaway Voices about distribution and clicked with the team right away. “I love working with them,” Amphlett says. “They are always looking for more opportunities for indies to reach more listeners around the world.”
Within a few months, she earned back her initial investment on the first three books and reports her sales through Findaway are much higher than ACX. “The majority of my sales through FindAway are not coming through Audible,” she says. “They are coming through other platforms, like Playster and Hibooks. My library sales are doing well, too.”
Amphlett is excited about the continued growth with audiobooks. By having her books available to listeners, she feels she’s keeping up with technology and gaining more readers as a result – a mindset that all authors should embrace.
—Kerrie Flanagan is a freelance writer from Colorado who moonlights in the world of romance as C.K. Wiles, author of the Curtain Call series (ckwiles.com). She is a writing consultant, speaker, and author of eight books under her label, Hot Chocolate Press, along with Guide to Magazine Article Writing, and she is the creator of Magazine Writing Blueprint. KerrieFlanagan.com