ACX 101 For Authors and Rights Holders- Part 1: Preparation (Be Prepared!)
Hi there! I’m publishing an article series called ACX 101, intended to be a primer on ACX for authors and rights holders, but written from the perspective of a narrator. It is intended to provide information and resources to those considering having their books produced in audio format and offers a ton of advice for rights holders who are stepping into the world of audiobooks for the first time.
Full Disclosure! I am a narrator and these articles will be written from my perspective. That is not to say that I’m going to offer you bad or unfair advice, but it would be unethical of me to present myself as a fully unbiased voice. I encourage you to seek multiple sources of information and advice on these topics!
This article is Part 1- Preparation. In this article we’re going to discuss what you should do before you even get ready to list your book on ACX.
If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to read ACX 101: The Audiobook Production Process, which provides some very useful background information on the process of making an audiobook, and which I will refer to during many of these articles. You can also see a list of all the articles in the series.
If you’re an author or rights holder visiting these pages, it’s quite likely that you have recently finished authoring your book or acquired the rights to an existing book. If that is the case: Let me be the first to say congratulations on an amazing achievement. Writing a book is an incredibly demanding undertaking and you should be proud that you have completed your book.
Getting Ready for ACX
ACX is the Audiobook Creation Exchange, and is a platform and service built by Audible, Inc. (which is in turn owned by Amazon). Its purpose is to enable rights holders (that’s you!) and narrators or producers (that’s me!) to get together and produce more audiobooks, which means Audible gets more sales, which means they make money! And if all goes well, you and I get to make some along the way too.
You can visit ACX at (where else?) ACX.com. Before you can do anything with ACX, you’ll need to register a profile with them, which is easy enough to do- simply visit their website and click the link in the upper left corner of the page that says SIGN UP NOW.
Follow the prompts to create your ACX account (if you don’t already have one).
Before You Post a Listing
OK, this is where we need to talk about what you need to have done before you create a listing for your book. Specifically, we’re going to discuss what you need to do to your script! It’s very important to make sure you have all your ducks in a row here, as it reduces the time and energy needed for both you and your chosen narrator, and helps eliminate uncertainty.
If you don’t do this right, I can guarantee you that your production WILL have things you don’t like. And then when you ask your producer to correct them, he or she will be (quite justifiably) ticked off that you created this problem for them. Be professional and respect your producer- make sure you’re ready to go!
Edit and Proofread
Did I say edit and proofread? Because if I didn’t, let me say it now: EDIT AND PROOFREAD YOUR MANUSCRIPT. Poorly-edited books are the absolute bane of the self-publishing industry. Grammatical errors, typos, misspellings and formatting problems are the hallmarks of an author who did not do their homework, and the instant a producer reviews your script they’re going to nope on out.
Seriously, edit your book- carefully. Better yet, hire someone who’s a professional to do it. Totally aside from all the problems trying to produce a badly edited book (and trust me, they’re not trivial), it is going to get absolutely savaged in print reviews, which affects interest in the audiobook, and sales of it. Smart narrators will just avoid it.
Another thing a poorly edited book tells a producer is that you don’t care about the quality of your book. Why should a professional want to put their good name on such a product?
Do your due diligence and get that manuscript edited and proofed.
Create a “Recordable” Version of your Manuscript
It’s not uncommon for print books to contain things that don’t translate well to audio, or require some changes to the manuscript. Let’s review a few of these things.
- Pictures- No pictures. Get rid of them. If the content or caption of a picture is absolutely necessary for the manuscript to make sense, it’s probable that you should edit the original, but in any case, audiobooks don’t have photos. Either remove the content or find a way to describe it in audio format. One thing that novice authors frequently assume is that they can put a bunch of content on a website and point people to it- nothing doing (with one exception- see #2 below). Web addresses are hard to remember and no one listening to an audiobook is going to write one down. Also, what are blind listeners supposed to do?
- Tables, Charts, Graphs– Same thing, but unlike pictures or photos, it’s sometimes necessary for the text to find a way to describe the content in words. This is common with non-fiction books that cover technical topics like software or things like taxes. What you as the author or rights holder must do is make sure that any information presented visually that’s absolutely necessary for the narrative is described in text. if it’s not absolutely necessary, get rid of it. If it is absolutely necessary, and there is no other way to present the information, then and only then consider the option of hosting your visual materials on a website, where listeners can access it. This should only be done when strictly necessary and no other good options exist.
- Footnotes– Footnotes are not read as part of an audiobook. If the content of a footnote is necessary, it should be edited into the text. It may be necessary to frame it with something like “author’s note” or other text. In general, footnotes should just be left out, however.
- “Below” and “Above”– with nonfiction, it’s not uncommon for phrases like “…as you can see by the paragraph above…” or “…as you will see by the text below…” – These should be changed to appropriate words like before or previously and following or to come. Obviously, when listening, directional indicators of where other information might be don’t make any sense.
- Consider removing excess attributives– Attributives are phrases like he said and she said. In written text it’s not as obvious, but a dialogue-heavy scene with the word said appearing multiple times per paragraph can be very awkward to listen to, and even lead to semantic satiation (where a word or phrase loses its meaning to the listener). For the audio version of your book, consider reducing the use of attributives for reported speech (this is something that written text can benefit from too!).
Have a Final Script Completed
Seriously- if you think you might want to make changes to the manuscript (not simply adjustments for the purpose of an audio version, as above), then you are not ready. Your manuscript must be the final version. No changes, no adjustments, no nothing. Finish your book FIRST. Do not ever put a producer in the position of having to hear that you’ve made some changes to the script- especially if those changes are due to how the book sounded after you had it produced.
Seriously, don’t do that.
So, let’s recap what you should have ready before you even get started with listing your book project on ACX:
- You must have an edited and proofread manuscript- preferably professionally done.
- Adjust your print manuscript as necessary to make it audiobook-ready.
- Have the final version of your manuscript ready to go, and don’t expect to be able to make changes after you’ve started an audio production.
If you do all these to your completed script, you’re going to be doing your producer a huge favor- and they will thank you for it.
That’s it for ACX 101: Part 1, Preparation. Keep an eye on this space for the next article, ACX 101: Part 2, Your Marketing Plan for more advice from a narrator to rights holders.
If you have any comments, questions or feedback please don’t hesitate to leave a note in the comments or reach out to me via email or Twitter (@vox_man).
Thanks for reading!