Several months ago some friends and business associates started to suggest that I turn my first novel, "Bloodlines: Cove Point Manor", into an audiobook. At first I dismissed this idea since I had not purchased an audiobook myself since the late 1980's (it was on cassette!). However, my friends soon pointed out that audiobooks were quite popular today, and also would allow me to bring my story to an audience that my e-book and paperback could not reach: the visibly impaired as well as those too busy to read a full length novel.
I started to research audiobooks, first to see if they were popular (they are!), and secondly to see how expensive it would be to produce an audiobook. I started my research and found that producing and marketing an audiobook could be VERY expensive. In my case, turning "Bloodlines: Cove Point Manor" into a traditional audiobook, using a professional narrator and editing, would be in excess of $10,000.00 - too rich for my little indie book.
The idea of turning my first novel into an audiobook didn't leave me however, and I kept searching for a way to produce a quality product at an affordable price. Then I discovered Audiobook Creation Exchange, or ACX. As luck would have it, ACX is an Amazon company and, like Amazon, they have been set up to help indie authors turn their work into professional quality audiobooks at an affordable price.
ACX offers several services, matching rights holders (the author, in my case) with voice actors as well as distributing the finished product. An author, or rights holder, can choose to hire a voice actor at a set hourly rate or they can enter a partnership arrangement with a voice actor whereby royalties from the sales of the audiobooks are shared 50/50 between the two. Deciding which type of contract works best for you is purely a personal decision, but choosing to pay for the production of the audiobook is faster as you can choose the voice actor of your choice, and if he or she is available, you can start immediately. The per hour rate depends upon the actor, but it can be expensive.
With the 50/50 royalty split option, the process can take longer. You don't get to choose from a list of voice actors in the same manner as you do when you hire and pay the actor an hourly rate. Instead, you post your project, give basic information of the type of actor you would like (male, female, accent type, voice styles, etc.) and then wait for interested voice actors to audition. If an actor finds your project to be of interested, they will submit a 15 minute audition, using the 'script' you upload (based on a section taken from your book), and then you listen and approve, reject or suggest modifications.
It may take weeks or months before an author auditions, and even when they do, you may not care for the way they narrate. If the narrator is not to your liking, then you will have to wait for the next audition and so on, until you find a narrator that best fits your vision of how to bring your book to life.
Once you have found a narrator, and you and he or she come to an agreement, the production process begins. You set the time period for completing the project and work with the narrator to ensure their performance is acceptable for you.
When the final product has been completed, ACX can then look after distribution of your audiobook through their distribution channels. ACX will set the price of your book, which is based on the finished length, and then pay you a 40% royalty (if you choose exclusive distribution) or a 25% royalty for non-exclusive distribution. The 40% royalty, if you enter a 50/50 royalty share agreement with a narrator, is paid out at a 20% rate to the rights holder (author) and 20% rate to the narrator by ACX, eliminating the need for you to issue a separate payment to the narrator.
With the exclusive distribution agreement, ACX will make your audiobook available for puchase through i-Tunes, Amazon and Audible, all industry leaders for audiobook sales. The price of your finished audiobook is determined by ACX and is based on the finished length of the audiobook in hours. The longer the audiobook, the more expensive the final selling price will be. In the case of my novel, "Cove Point Manor" is estimated to be just under 7 hours in length so the price will be somewhere between $15.00 and $25.00 which translates to a royalty of $6.00 - $10.00 per audiobook sold. With the 50/50 agreement, the rights holder (author) and narrator will each receve $3.00-$5.00 per sale. Royalties are paid monthly by ACX so there is no minimum royalty threshold to reach before you receive your payment.
Royalty potential aside, the process of having my first novel converted to an audiobook has been an exciting one. From the initial audition to subsequent chapters that have been submitted for my review, hearing a story that I wrote being brought to life has been quite interesting. Listening to a story, rather than writing or reading it, has modified how I had pictured the characters, their interaction with one another, and the scenes in which the story takes place. In short, the audio version is adding a new dimension to the story I created.
Only time will tell if the audiobook version of "Bloodlines: Cove Point Manor" will be a financial success or not. However, knowing that this new version of my story will introduce my characters and settings to a whole new audience, one which otherwise would never have been introduced to my story, is very satisfying.
Maybe a movie or a television series will be the next step in bringing the Bloodlines story to life!