5 ACX Terms You Need to Know

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Let’s face it. When you started out with self-publishing, you needed to do some research on terms like KDP Select and ePub. Now that you’ve mastered that terminology, it’s time to learn some of the ACX basics. When you understand the basics of Amazon’s Audiobook Creation Exchange, you’ll be able to make better and more informed decisions about the direction of your first audiobook project.

Here are five terms you should know before posting your first project:

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1. Royalty Share

Unless you collaborate with other authors, it’s likely that you’ve never split your royalties with anybody other than Amazon and the other e-retailers. The Exchange part of ACX refers to the bazaar-like atmosphere where you post book projects and narrators can snatch them up. There are two options for compensating these narrators: Paid for Production (which we’ll get to in a moment) and Royalty Share. Royalty share means no money up front, but you’ll have to do a 50/50 split of royalties for every sale the audiobook makes in perpetuity.

Royalty Share deals place all the risk on the narrators. If the book does poorly sales-wise, it’s no big deal for the author, but the narrator put in a lot of effort for nothing. While it limits author risk, it also reduces the chance for a reward. When a book is a bestseller in audio format, a narrator can end up with far more than his typical hourly rate. Most authors who know their books will sell a lot of copies in audio should consider paying up front with a Paid for Production deal.

It’s important to note that neither you nor your narrator will get 50 percent of a full audiobook sale. Audible takes 60 percent off the top, and you and your narrator split the remaining 40 percent. The only exception to this is if you decide to go non-exclusive, which we’ll discuss in another section.

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2. Stipend

There is a way to reward narrators for taking on the risk of your Royalty Share project, and the answer is ACX’s stipend program. Audible wants to encourage the creation of projects that will be profitable for the company. To achieve this end, ACX will reward certain Royalty Share projects with a bonus of $100 per finished hour to the narrator. While ACX picks most of these projects on its own, you can actually ask ACX to attach the stipend to your project as well. You’ll need to send ACX a structured pitch that shows how well your book is doing on other formats. A simple request with no reasoning behind it is unlikely to succeed.

This Royalty Share-only bonus makes projects more appealing for narrators. With the stipend in place, they know that even if a book fails, they’ll still get several hundred to a thousand dollars for their efforts. If ACX declines your project for the stipend, you can work out a deal with the narrator to pay him or her a certain dollar amount per fixed hour on the side of your existing Royalty Share deal.

3. Paid For Production

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Paid for Production is the opposite of Royalty Share. You don’t have to pay a dime of your sales to your narrator if you choose this payment method, but you will have to pay up front. Since many narrators won’t do Royalty Share projects, choosing Paid for Production opens you up to more choices. On the other hand, many of these high-quality narrators with a built-in fanbase are pretty expensive. You could pay over $500 per finished hour, which can really add up for a 10 to 15 hour audiobook.

It’s a good idea to do a cost-benefit analysis to weigh the pros and cons of Paid for Production versus Royalty Share. Paying a lot of money likely ensures you’ll have a quality product, but it in no way guarantees book sales. Whichever you choose, you’ll still need to market the heck out of your audiobook.

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4. Exclusive

Authors have the option to choose an exclusive or non-exclusive seven-year contract when they create an audiobook project. While the seven-year part of the deal is non-negotiable, the exclusive vs. non-exclusive decision is an interesting one. Audible is the top dog in the audiobook industry by a wide margin. Your chances of selling a significant number of books on another platform are slim to none, so the exclusive deal with a 40 percent royalty may seem like a no brainer. There are two main caveats to consider.

The first is that when you choose non-exclusive, you can sell the book on your own site and give it away as a promotional tool whenever you feel like it. Using a full audiobook as a lead magnet for your mailing list may be worth the 15 percent you sacrifice with a non-exclusive deal. The other thing to consider is that seven years is a long time. Will Audible still be at the top of the heap in 7 years? Maybe, but maybe not.

If a competitor comes around between now and then, your books could be stuck in a contract that could cause you to miss out on big opportunities from 2015 to 2022.

Many authors choose the exclusive option without giving it a second thought. Just make sure you consider all the options when you sign your contract.

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5. Whispersync

Most audiobooks over six hours in length retail for around $20 or more. Audible members can get them for even less with their membership, working out to around $15 per sale. Books that have Whispersync can cost as little as $1.99 to purchase.

Whispersync is a program that allows readers who enjoy both ebooks and audiobooks to sync up their reading experience when they purchase both versions. These readers get a significant discount on the audiobook when they buy the Kindle edition first or they already own it. The discount can be over 80 percent when they want to buy both.

The jury is out over whether Whispersync is a positive or negative feature for authors. On the positive side, you’ll likely sell more copies of your audiobooks and fans can get immersed deeper into your world. On the negative side, 40 percent (or 20 percent on a Royalty Share deal) of $1.99, isn’t all that exciting to see on your monthly royalty statement.

Whispersync is automatically set up on Amazon if the words in your ebook match up closely with the words spoken in your audiobook. You can’t opt out, but you can switch up a chapter or add a section to keep Whispersync from being enabled.

The More You Know

You’ll make better decisions when you have more information about the ACX process. In addition to new terminology, it’s smart to talk with someone who’s been there and has gone through the process. Do your research and learn all your options before you sign on the ACX dotted line.

Getting Your Book ACX Ready

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If you have a few thousand dollars of disposable income lying around, then you have the option of getting your audiobook made right away with a good portion of the narrators on ACX. Since most people don’t have the luxury of bonus cash lying around, many authors will get involved in ACX’s Royalty Share program. Royalty share allows you create an audiobook without any upfront costs as long as you agree to split the royalties 50/50 with your narrator. While this is the perfect solution for many authors, you can’t just post your book and hope for the best.

Narrators who get involved with the royalty share program take a risk on every book they agree to narrate. The kind of narrators you want to work with earn between $150 and $400 per hour for their work. These hard-working individuals, who take their craft as seriously as you take your books, aren’t going to join your project unless they trust they can get a positive return on investment. Because narrators are going to be picky, you need to take extra care to make sure your work looks like it’s worth the effort on their part.

Here are four things you can do to make sure your books look like they’re up to snuff on ACX:

1. Get 50-100 Reviews

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We’ve talked a lot about reviews on the Author Marketing Institute from a customer perspective. If a reader is choosing between two books of equal quality, he’s more likely to pick the one with better reviews. When the two books have the same review rating, he’ll probably pick the one with a higher number of opinions. The same decision process occurs among narrators too.

A narrator is more likely to pick up your book if you have more reviews. If you don’t have a large mailing list and can’t get many reviews from your current followers, you can use services like StoryCartel or tools like Author Marketing Club’s Reviewer Grabber to give your numbers a shot in the arm.

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2. Beef Up Your Blurb

Narrators want to know that they’ll have a good time working on your book. If you’ve thrown up a short and boring synopsis of your fiction or non-fiction work, then you’re going to turn a lot of narrators off. You need to channel your inner Don Draper and describe your book in a compelling way.

For fiction, start with your protagonist and explain the stakes of your character’s journey. Tapping into the emotions of that character’s circumstances will work much better than a paint-by-numbers synopsis. With non-fiction, begin with the theme of the book and discuss the problems your work will solve. Use colorful adjectives and compare your book to similar works in your genre. When all else fails, find the top-selling book in your genre and use a similar style to ensure your description will be a winner.

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3. A Cover That Fits the Genre

Narrators who specialize in sci-fi, romance, or another specific genre are unlikely to work on a project that has a crappy cover. Even if you have a strong cover, a narrator may pass on your book if it has a cover that’s not appropriate for your genre. An alien sci-fi book will likely have outer space, a black and green color scheme, and a creepy font. Romance will have a hunky shirtless dude and an attractive lady. While you want your cover to stand out and be a work of art, you need it to fit within your genre.

Check out the covers of the top-selling books in your genre. Take notes as to what traits they have in common. Share those notes with your cover designer. When you’re commissioning your cover, make sure to request a square Audible cover, as well as the traditional ebook and paperback covers.

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4. High Sales Rank

Sales rank probably doesn’t sell you more books unless you’re highly ranked in a category or if you find yourself in the Amazon Top 100. When you’re looking to get a narrator to audition for your project, however, a better sales rank could make all the difference. Narrators on the royalty share deal want to know that your book has high earnings potential. If your book is languishing in the hundred thousands, then narrators might not think it’s worth their effort.

It’s smart to wait to post your ACX listing until after a promo or during a high sales period. That way, narrators can see that your book has the ability to rank well and stay at that ranking.

Giving Narrators What They Want

Like authors, narrators are trying to earn a living from what they love doing. They won’t just grab up audiobook projects all willy-nilly. They pick books with promise, and better reviews, blurbs, covers, and sales ranks will factor in mightily to their decision. As you improve these aspects of your book, you’ll find that not only will you get more auditions, but you’ll get a higher number of sales as well.

How to Market Your Audiobooks

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A $15 to $20 audiobook was always going to be harder to sell than a $2.99 ebook. Aside from the difference in price, there are simply more ebook readers out there than there are audiobook listeners. Getting your audiobook into the eardrums of new customers can be a challenge, but as the format becomes more popular, there are an increasing number of tactics you can use to get more sales.

Much like ebooks, audiobooks on Audible and Amazon benefit from a lot of momentum during a concentrated timeframe. In the same way that five straight days of consistent sales can boost an ebook, a similar push will help your audiobook to stick higher in the rankings as well. As you take a look at the five strategies below, make sure to consider the best way possible to line them up over a single week to let your audiobook flag fly high in the rankings.

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1. Giving Out Review Copies

It’s a very simple process to give out review copies of ebooks. You simply contact a reviewer and send over a file. The process becomes a little more complex when you’ve gone through the ACX system.

First and foremost, ACX provides you with a collection of 25 review codes to provide to people who are interested in listening. Since the review codes are good for any book on Audible, it’s best to redeem the codes one at a time yourself and then gift your audiobook to potential reviewers.

The first set of reviewers you can target are your existing fans. Tell them that you’ll provide a free copy for an honest review. If you run out of your 25 codes, simply call ACX support on the phone and ask for another set. They’re not stingy and they’re happy to help you spread the word far and wide.

2. Reach Out to Audiobook Bloggers

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The second major use of your ACX review copy codes is to reach out to audiobook bloggers. While the world has been overwhelmed with book reviewers, there are still only a few dozen sites that tackle audiobooks specifically. Check out this Twitter list to see a collection of the most prominent audiobook bloggers on the web.

As the audiobook format becomes more popular, more blogs are bound to pop up here and there. Do a Google search of audiobook reviews with your specific genre. Contact the reviewers and kindly request that they listen to your book. Offer the review copy and give them a few days to respond.

You should set a goal for yourself to get into the double digits of reviews within the first month of your release.

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3. Promote to Audio Listeners

Just like you wouldn’t want to spend much time and money pitching ebooks to a paperback-only crowd, you shouldn’t focus on non-audio listeners for your audiobook promotion. You want to go where the listeners are, and the best place to find them is through podcast audiences.

People who listen to podcasts usually don’t limit their audio habit to one show or one medium. They typically like audio as a whole, which means that if they read, they’re probably consuming audiobooks. Find five to 10 podcasts that would be a good fit with your target audience. Listen to at least one episode of each to know more about the people you’ll be pitching. Collect their contact info and tell them what you’d be able to bring to the show as a one-time guest. Remember that you promoting your book isn’t really a benefit to them. You want to bring something event-worthy to the table. A special giveaway or an inside view of your process may be a better sell than your simple appearance alone.

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4. Post Samples on Your Website

While Audible may put up several hoops to jump through to give away review copies, they are willing to let you post a few small samples of the book wherever you’d like. Using a service like Soundcloud, you can put the samples on a page on your website dedicated to pushing the audiobook. On this page, you can include more info about the book as well as the book’s narrator. You’ll also need the all-important trackable link over to Audible or Amazon where listeners can buy the book.

ACX will let you use around 15 minutes to post on your site. Approach your narrator to get the proper file you want to use and double check with ACX to ensure that you meet the length requirement.

5. Promote the Book to Newbies

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One of the reasons that audio has gained so much in popularity is that Audible does a great job promoting itself. As an audiobook author, you have the option of creating a link that will get you a “bounty” for new subscribers you bring to the platform. Audible pays $50 per bounty (or $25 each split between narrator and author for a royalty split) for new listeners who join Audible and use your book as their complementary free download.

Few authors have released much info on how they’ve gained their own bounties, but with a $25-$50 payout, a pay per click system like Facebook ads may be worth exploring.

There’s More Marketing to Come

Because of the way Audible prices its book, there is no sure thing BookBub-type email list that will automatically boost your audiobook to the top of the charts. At this point, hard work and a strong fanbase are the best things you can do for your promotion. Get reviews, appear on podcasts, and find any way possible to get new listeners to download your book. There’s a lot less competition on Audible than on Amazon itself, so your efforts on audiobook marketing will likely be well worth it.