ACX 101, Part 4: Budgeting Your Project

January 5th, 2016 by VoxMan

ACX 101Welcome to ACX 101, an article series by a narrator for authors and rights holders new to ACX (the Audiobook Creation Exchange).

This is Part 3: Compensation Models. Use the links at the top of this post to see the previous articles, or get a list of all the articles in the series.

OK, So How Much DO I Budget?

Question Mark in a CircleAs an author or rights holder you must make some decisions at this point. Are you going to use a royalty share agreement or per-finished-hour? If the latter, how much do you need to allocate to be able to pay your producer?

Producers Don’t Like Royalty Share

Here’s the truth- royalty share, from a producer’s perspective, is almost always a losing proposition. Royalty share agreements will in almost every case never produce enough compensation to come close to the actual value of the time and labor involved. Many books will sell only a few copies per month, if even that much, and their return is abysmal. In rare cases, a book can take off, providing thousands in royalties to both the rights holder and producer, but this is not a typical scenario.

This means that the full-time, professional producers are often simply going to avoid royalty share books on ACX. Royalty share projects are often seen as the realm of the novice producer. As a rights holder with a royalty share project, the quality of the auditions you receive will reflect that.

Speaking as a producer, I avoid royalty share projects for some basic reasons.

  • Both myself and my family need to eat and simply put, royalty share doesn’t pay the bills. In the rare cases where a book does do well, it only does so briefly, and then the royalties go back to a trickle.
  • I don’t like sharing the risk with the rights holder. If a rights holder really does believe their book will sell very well and has market research to back that up, there’s absolutely zero reason to share that revenue with me. If they’re not certain about its viability, there’s no reason for me to take on the risk. I’m not able to take on the risk for long-shot projects, and the vast majority of royalty share projects are exactly that.

OK, Some Producers Like Royalty Share

I shouldn’t do a disservice to those producers who do take on royalty share projects, and are not novices recording from their kitchen table on a $15 Radio Shack microphone. There are some very good producers out there who make royalty share their specialty. Frequently these are folks with either a full-time job who moonlight as a narrator, or more rarely the producer with the long-term vision of building up a massive catalog of royalty share projects and reaping the benefits of small returns on a really big net.

You may be able to find a great producer with a royalty share project. But as I said above, if you truly believe that your book has great sales potential, you shouldn’t be planning to share that revenue with someone else!

Producers Like Per-Finished-Hour

moneyMost full-time producers who rely on narration as their primary source of income prefer per-finished-hour projects. You know what you’re going to be paid, and there’s no risk that poor sales will hurt your bottom line.

Here’s the tiers that ACX offers for Per-Finished-Hour projects:

  • $0-$50
  • $50-$100
  • $100-$200
  • $200-$400
  • $400-$1000

If you’re serious about your book, you should budget at a minimum $200 per finished hour for its production. $300 per finished hour is a more reasonable target, and will get you access to top-notch production talent.

Breaking Down the Costs

Let’s break down how much time is spent on your audiobook. If you haven’t yet done so, now is a great time to go read the first post in this blog series, ACX 101, Background- the Audiobook Production Process.

The tl;dr (too long; didn’t read) on this is that for each hour of finished audio you receive, a lot more went into it than one hour of work. Your producer has to read the book, prepare the script, record the script, proof the audio (or pay someone to do it), edit the errors (or pay someone to do it) and retakes into the audio, master it, and finally listen to it once more for quality control.

Many producers, including me, will pay a third party to prooflisten their work, and also to edit it. Sometimes this is one person, sometimes it’s two but in the end these other professionals are paid out of what the producer gets paid. The going rate for this kind of work is at a minimum around $50 per finished hour , usually moreRates vary, of course, and much depends on many factors, but that’s a good ballpark estimate for what it costs your producer to compensate their contractors.

“But wait!” I hear you say. “Why is that my problem? Wouldn’t the producer be better off just doing that work themselves and keeping that money?” The answer is that the producer’s time has value, and if they spend it doing the proofing, editing and mastering, they’re not recording something else, and that means there’s still an opportunity cost for them. Either way, the math is pretty simple.

  • $50 per finished hour- I’ve lost money. I had to pay my contractor more than the offered fee, so I’m out of pocket. Alternatively if I do all the work myself, I would spend 3-4 hours per finished hour of audio, and after taxes, fees and other overhead would be making around minimum wage, or even less. I’d do better and more consistently flipping burgers.
  • $100 per finished hour- The absolute best I could get here, after taxes, is about $25 per work hour, but realistically is closer to $15 per work hour.

Keep in mind that these figures are absolute best-case scenarios. These numbers are assuming all of the following:

  • Almost no errors or need to fix anything in a production.
  • The producer is booked full-time, 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year (this never happens).
  • No insurance or healthcare costs, which for non-freelancers are frequently provided through their workplace.

This is obviously nonsensical, and in the real world where you’re not booked full-time, where you have business overhead to deal with, taxes to pay, marketing to do, and all the other things that go along with running a business, not to mention paying for healthcare costs… producing audiobooks for the $0-$50 or the $50-$100 range means either working for less than minimum wage or actually losing money.

The bottom line is that a minimum of $200 per finished hour is necessary to attract the top-quality talent who do this work full time. And when I say minimum, I really do mean that. I’ll be honest with you, unless I’m not booked, I don’t even look at the $100-$200 range of auditions available on ACX. I’m sure I’m not the only narrator who doesn’t bother with lower-paying jobs unless they’ve got some room on the calendar.

It may seem like I’m snubbing perfectly good books, but to me this is a business. I’ve seen some really, REALLY good books that I simply didn’t audition for because they weren’t going to be paying enough. I have to feed my family, pay my mortgage and do all the other things that are necessary, and sentiment or interest in a “cool” project cannot enter my calculus most of the time.

So, What’s Your Budget?

dollarsignIf you’re going royalty share, then have a super solid marketing plan and be prepared to do the extra legwork to really market your book. If you can impress the narrators who are available with your drive to make it happen, then you’ll have a better shot at getting someone who can deliver a quality product. Look into ACX stipends- they can make a royalty share project interesting to narrators who otherwise wouldn’t take them on.

If you’re going per-finished-hour, set a minimum of $200, preferably higher ($250-$300). Put your project in the $200-$400 bucket, and be clear about what you’re offering up front– don’t make the narrator wonder if you’re offering $200, $300, or $400. Just say it up front in the description. Alternatively, be prepared to negotiate a rate within the range you’ve specified.

If you do this you’ll find that you will get many, many auditions, and while you’ll get a massive volume of poor-quality ones, you will also attract the attention of the professionals who know how to deliver the best possible production, and who wouldn’t even glance at your project listing if it were offered at a lower rate.

Please note that at lower tiers you may find good talent also. Most of the time these are people with full-time jobs who do narration as a moonlighting gig, or to build up a catalog before going full-time. They will generally have to take far longer to produce a book because recording in the evenings and weekends limits your work time. But if you’re on a budget and can’t see any other way, you may be able to find a great producer to help you out.

In Conclusion

I know that many authors and rights holders new to the audiobook production process are going to experience a bit of sticker shock, having thought it would be inexpensive to produce their audiobook. The answer is that, like in most things, you get what you pay for. If your book is really going to sell well in audio form, you shouldn’t share that revenue, which makes royalty share a bad option. From the producer’s perspective, royalty share is very rarely a viable option because it simply doesn’t pay well enough. And in order for a professional audiobook producer to give you the best possible quality production, you’ll have to budget to pay them a rate commensurate with both their skills and their time.

Stay tuned for the next segment of ACX 101- Putting Together the ACX Project Listing!



ACX 101, Part 3: Compensation Models

January 5th, 2016 by VoxMan

ACX 101Welcome to ACX 101, an article series by a narrator for authors and rights holders new to ACX (the Audiobook Creation Exchange).

This is Part 3: Compensation Models. Use the links at the top of this post to see the previous articles, or get a list of all the articles in the series.

Brass Tacks Time

dollarsign Let’s start with the obvious: When producing an audiobook, you are going to have to pay your producer somehow. Narrators have to eat, after all! Some narrators only do voice work part time, moonlighting in the world of narration. Others (like myself) do it as their full-time career, and still others do audiobook work as part of a wider set of voice acting services, like commercials.

No matter how your chosen narrator works, though- they have to be paid. How you and your narrator work out remuneration is an important step in the process, and one you would do well to pay attention to!

The Main Compensation Models

There’s two main ways narrators are paid for their work in the world of audiobooks. These are royalty share, often called “RS”, and per-finished hour, often called “PFH”. There is a third mechanism called a stipend offered by ACX for some titles.

Let’s talk about the specifics of each, and then we’ll discuss what you need to consider when budgeting your narrator’s compensation.

Note: I’m confining this discussion only to ACX-produced projects, not direct agreements or other arrangements with publishers other than ACX, which may have their own compensation models that are similar, but not identical to, the ones discussed here.

Royalty Share

fiddy_fiddyUnder a royalty share agreement, the rights holder (frequently the author, but not always) and the narrator will split the royalties from the sales of the book. When you create a project on ACX, if you elect to use the royalty share compensation model, you are required to grant exclusive distribution rights to ACX and Audible. This means that the audiobook will only be available through Audible, Amazon, iTunes and any other retailers Audible chooses to distribute the book through. Under a Royalty Share Agreement with ACX, you cannot distribute the audiobook yourself in any market or format. This arrangement lasts for seven years. In essence, you are consigning all rights to distribute the audiobook and collect payments for it to Audible. In exchange for this, they pay a higher royalty rate; read on for more details on that.

Royalty Share Split

Here’s how it works: When selling a title produced under a royalty share agreement, Audible sets the price for the book in its various channels. This is usually based on the length of the book, with ACX and Audible setting standard rates for various lengths, but reserving the right to change those rates if they want to.

When a book produced under a royalty share arrangement is sold, Audible will take 60% of the sale, and the remaining 40% is split evenly between the rights holder and the producer. For example, if a book sells for $10, Audible gets $6, and the author and producer each get $2. Again, under a royalty share agreement, this arrangement lasts for seven years.

Per-Finished Hour, aka “Flat Fee”

moneyA per-finished hour (PFH) agreement is the other most common way producers are paid for their work. With a PFH arrangement, the rights holder and producer agree on a fee for each completed hour of audio. When the book is completed the rights holder pays the producer based on the number of hours in the book, prorated to the nearest minute. For example, if a rights holder and producer agree to $300 per finished hour, and a book is five hours and fifteen minutes long, the fee would be $1575.

Calculating Runtime, or Figuring Finished Hours

The basic math you’ll need to do to figure out how long your audiobook will be is to divide the number of words in your manuscript by 9,200 (the average number of words per hour in a spoken recording). The actual final runtime may vary somewhat depending on your book, the narrator, and so forth, but it’s a pretty good guess and in most cases will be within 10% of the actual runtime.

For example, a 50 thousand word book would be about 5.4 hours, give or take 10-15%.

Royalties Under PFH Agreements

When a producer is paid under a PFH agreement, the moment they are paid, they will receive no further compensation, regardless of how well the book sells (or does not sell). Depending on how the rights holder sets up their contract with Audible, they will receive one of two possible royalty tiers. However, there are cases where rights holders and producers may have additional agreements. Read on for more info on that.

If the rights holder chooses exclusive distribution with Audible, meaning the rights holder will not have any right to distribute the book or receive compensation for it on their own, Audible pays 40% of sales of the book to the rights holder. So if a book sells for $10, Audible gets $6 and the rights holder gets $4.

If the rights holder chooses non-exclusive distribution, meaning they allow Audible to distribute the book, but the rights holder may also sell it themselves in either digital or physical format, Audible pays 25% of sales of the book to the rights holder. So if a book sells for $10, Audible gets $7.50 and the rights holder gets $2.50.

A Note on Royalty Splits

Regardless of whether an audiobook is produced under a royalty share or a PFH agreement, royalties must be calculated. Audible pays royalties as a percentage of sales.

However, the royalty split is based on the actual sale price, not the retail price- if someone buys a book on sale, or gets a discount for some reason, the split is based on the price paid, not the list price. When Audible subscribers use their credits, it gets even more murky- Audible uses an internal algorithm to determine royalties in these cases, and has not shared the details of how it is calculated. For credits, it appears that it may be based on how much money was brought in by subscribers, weighted by length of book and the number of times it was purchased using credits. But this may not be completely correct, as Audible has not shared the details of how that is calculated.


ACX and Audible may offer a “stipend” payment for some projects. This is essentially a fee paid by ACX on a per-finished-hour basis to a producer who agrees to take on a specific title on a royalty share agreement. Audible and ACX make the determination of which titles will receive this status, but they do get additional attention from narrators and producers, so you may wish to reach out to ACX to determine if your title is eligible for such an arrangement.

The nice part about stipends is that it gives the narrator an opportunity to get some upfront compensation, and it doesn’t come out of the rights holder’s pocket.

Additional Compensation Agreements (outside ACX)

Rights holders and producers working via ACX are totally free to enter into any compensation agreements outside of ACX’s channels that they wish. For example, an author and producer may agree to a royalty share compensation plan, but the author could provide an additional fee to sweeten the pot. It is also not unheard of for a producer to agree to a low per-finished-hour rate in exchange for a cut of the royalties.

In any of these cases, however, it is NOT ACX or Audible handling the money! ACX will only pay out via the agreements it has in place, so if a rights holder and producer wish to enter into a parallel agreement, it is strongly recommended that it be in writing, for the security of both parties. In the specific case of a royalty cut on top of a per-finished-hour fee, the rights holder will have to manage that compensation to the producer for the lifetime of the arrangement.

In Conclusion

I hope this post has helped clear up how authors/rights holders and producers arrange for compensation for their audiobook projects through ACX. Keep in mind that there are many options open to you, including contracting directly with a producer and avoiding ACX entirely.

ACX 101, Part 2: Your Marketing Plan

March 24th, 2015 by VoxMan

ACX 101Welcome to ACX 101, an article series by a narrator for authors and rights holders new to ACX (the Audiobook Creation Exchange).

This is Part 2: Your Marketing Plan. Use the links at the top of this post to see the previous articles, or get a list of all the articles in the series.

You DO Have a Marketing Plan, Right?

Question Mark in a CircleThis is another one of those areas that a lot of authors and rights holders new to audiobooks in general and ACX specifically seem to be unaware of, or minimize the importance of. Your marketing plan is arguably the most important part of this entire process, and in terms of making money, is equally as crucial as your book!

Just like with anything else you make to sell to people, you will not make money on it if people don’t buy it. Your book might be great- but if no one knows about it, you’re not going to sell many copies. If you’ve spent any time at all in the brick and mortar publishing world, you know how rare it is for authors to actually make a living at writing.

Audiobooks Are Expensive To Produce

dollarsignThere’s a lot of costs that go into producing an audiobook. Take a look at my article on the general process of audiobook production, then do some calculations to figure out how much time it takes for a truly professional audiobook to be produced, and how many people (or roles) are involved. It’s more than you might think if you aren’t already familiar with the process.

If you have any intention of even making your money back or in the case of royalty share projects (more on this in a future article), allowing your producer to have a chance of recouping their investment- let alone actually produce actual income- you must have a marketing plan. This is not optional, it’s not a suggestion, it’s a requirement for success.

What’s Your Strategy?

ScheduleI’m a producer, not an author or publisher. I can’t – and probably shouldn’t- give you specific advice on how to market your book. I can and will tell you that you’ve got to have a strategy in place, and one that allows you to reach your potential audience, get their interest, make them buy your book and encourage them to tell their friends.

Remember- No one will promote your book for you for freeJust being listed on Amazon or Audible means nothing- they don’t really promote most titles directly. For some they may be tapped as a sale item or promoted as part of a themed event- the “hidden gems” sale they do is one- but you cannot rely on this. You must have a plan to promote your book directly or it will simply not sell.

There’s a few things you can do, which you should consider incorporating into a larger, cohesive plan:

  • Mailing lists- if you have an existing fanbase, you should be able to reach them via opt-in mailing lists. If you don’t have an existing fanbase or are just starting out with your first book, this is an opportunity to create one. Use your other outlets to obtain contacts with your readers, get them to opt-in and start building that core cadre of your passionate fans- the ones who will help you promote your book.
  • Social Media- Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and so forth. Have a presence on these platforms, and organically promote your work. Don’t just be spewing links to your products- that just gets people to tune out, but have a real presence in which you can also include your passion- which is your work, right?
  • Goodreads- if you’re an author, you should definitely be on Goodreads. You can not only promote your work, but you can give away free copies of your books as a promotion, solicit reviews and gain interest from people who are already heavily engaged in reading. Goodreads also (sort of) supports audiobooks.
  • Network with other authors and publishers. There are many, many platforms out there for authors to discuss how to promote their work. You should be on some of them already if you’re serious about being successful as a writer.
  • Blogging. Have a blog on your website, but don’t make it the core of your marketing plan- everyone’s got one, but a good one can be very helpful. It’s also a place to post snippets of your books, giveaways and promotions, and solicit feedback from your already-engaged readers on your work.

Write Down Your Plan

KeyboardYou wrote a book, so now sit down and write a plan. Include your research strategies, what you plan to do to promote your book, what your budget for promotion (if any) is, how you plan to reach readers and listeners- then tear it apart and edit it like it’s a first draft. Iterate; lather, rinse and repeat. Share the plan (privately) with others you may trust and get their feedback.

Give a lot of thought to return on investment. Is it worth it to spend a week pushing things through one channel that costs nothing, or to spend some money to push things through another channel that you can do almost instantly? What’s your time worth? What’s the expected return on the investment of time or money? What opportunities for promotion may you not be using or even be aware of? This is where a community of like-minded individuals who have also done what you’re doing can help- with advice, experience and anecdotes.

Review Your Plan

Keep it in mind. Know it. Make sure you’re sticking to it.

Revise Your Plan


As you proceed, you may find things that you need to adjust. That’s great- go back and edit the document to include your new strategy or information. Keep it up to date. Then go back to Review.

Know Your Plan

This is probably the most important part. It’s easy to write a marketing plan- at least relative to actually executing one. Keep your strategy in mind and stay with it, be persistent and dogged as you pursue it. It’s critical to build momentum in your marketing, which will take a lot of tiny steps to build, but if you lapse, that momentum vanishes very quickly.

Share Your Plan With Your Producer

And finally we come to the meat of it- when you do a project on ACX, your producer may want to know how you plan to market the audiobook. This is especially critical for Royalty Share projects, because the producer doesn’t get a a dime if your book doesn’t sell. It’s less important for per-finished-hour projects because the producer will not be paid more or less if your book sells one or ten million copies.

But it’s still important for you to know. Producers seeking work on ACX will often look to your marketing strategy, or will ask about it, as part of the negotiation process. If you don’t have one or it’s incoherent, they may very well take a pass if it’s a royalty share. If it’s a per-finished-hour (PFH) deal, they may not ask or care, but they might. Producers, like authors, are sensitive to reputation, and having a very badly-selling or poorly-reviewed book on your credits isn’t very good for obtaining future work.


Hopefully this article has impressed on you some of the reasons behind having a marketing strategy before you try to get your book produced on ACX. Having a plan in place before you begin the production process lets you focus on getting the production right and then letting you make money by ensuring that it gets the maximum exposure possible. Remember that you’re the one responsible for promoting your book if you produce it via ACX, so it behooves you to know how you’re going to do it!


ACX 101 For Authors and Rights Holders- Part 1: Preparation (Be Prepared!)

March 18th, 2015 by VoxMan

ACX 101

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 Processwhich 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?) 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.

  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. “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.
  5. 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.

In Summary

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!

ACX 101 for Authors and Rights Holders: Background- The Audiobook Production Process

March 18th, 2015 by VoxMan

ACX 101

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.

This article is background information for that blog series and serves as a sort of primer on the audiobook publishing process. If you’re an author or narrator interested in working with ACX, read on!

First- Welcome to the World of Audiobooks!

Congratulations and welcome! Audiobooks are a $2-billion dollar industry that is growing by leaps and bounds, with huge growth year-over-year in sales and number of titles published.

If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’re an author or rights holder and considering having your book produced in audio format. Whether you’re a self-published author with your first manuscript in hand or a successful writer with multiple top-tier titles on Amazon, if you’ve never done an audiobook before, there’s probably a lot you don’t know, or things you should know, before embarking on the process.

Full Disclosure! I am a narrator (that’s me over there on the right), 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!

How an Audiobook Gets Made

Before we even talk about working with narrators, ACX, auditions, negotiations, revisions and all those other topics, let’s do a quick discussion of just how audiobooks are produced. If you’re a rights holder or author, this is your opportunity to see how the sausage gets made. We’ll go over a lot of other details about how you as a rights holder might want to approach your audiobook project and what you should consider when working with your chosen narrator, but for now, let’s just stick to nuts and bolts of the production process.

The information in this document applies to most audiobook productions, whether done via ACX or not- I’m intentionally not mentioning any ACX-specific elements of the production-process here, as I’ll be covering those details in other articles.

The Team

Producing and audiobook involves multiple roles- sometimes one person takes on several or even all of these roles, but other times each role is handled by a separate person. Either way, each of these roles is critical to the success of an audiobook project.

  • Narrator– the narrator is the voice of the book, and records all the text in the book. Some books feature multiple narrators, but that’s far less common, and involves a lot more work.
  • Proofer– the proofer, or “prooflistener”, is someone who listens to all the audio recorded by the narrator, noting any errors he or she makes, as well as any background noises, awkward phrasing, mouth sounds, distracting breaths and other stuff like clothing rustling.
  • Editor– this person takes the list of corrections necessary from the proofer, works with the narrator to get corrections recorded (referred to as “pickups”), then edits the corrections into the original audio, along with removing problematic noises and correcting pacing problems.
  • Mastering Engineer– once the audio is fully recorded, proofed and edited, it must be mastered, meaning applying specific audio treatment to adjust levels, ensure uniform volume and apply equalization to make the audio sound as good as it can. This is necessary to make sure the audio meets specific standards of volume and quality that are required to be sold in stores like Amazon, Audible, iTunes and Barnes & Noble.
  • QC Listener– the final quality pass, this person is the final gate to the production, listening to the production in full once more to ensure nothing made it past the rest of the process.

Each of these roles is critical to a successful audiobook production. With many producers, they will take on most or all of these roles. Some will contract with other professionals for specific tasks, such as proofing and editing.

Now that we know the team, let’s talk about…

Step 1: Script Preparation and Research

Thankfully, most audiobook scripts today are digital.

The very first step from the production team’s side of the process is for the narrator to read the script. Yes, the whole thing. This is crucial to identify things to research, such as pronunciations and possibly accents, and to furnish an opportunity to ask the author or rights holder questions about specific elements of the script, or character notes. The narrator will likely spend some time reviewing word pronunciations on various websites, and may need to make some phone calls or engage other resources to make sure he or she has the right pronunciation for certain words- place names are a major point here.

At the completion of this process the narrator will have a set of notes, including character notes, pronunciation notes and other references to help guide him or her during the recording process.

Step 2: Recording

This is a close approximation of the view most narrators have for the bulk of their workday.

Where the magic happens! In this step, the narrator records the text of the book. This is done using one of two methods: rolling record or punch and roll. Both methods are used to address the inevitable situation of: what do you do when an error occurs?

With rolling record, the narrator simply pauses a moment and resumes at a point before the error- usually the previous sentence or paragraph. Both the error and the retake are now on the recording. During the editing process, the extra take(s) must be removed.

When doing punch and roll, when an error occurs, the narrator stops the recording, rewinds (or “rolls”) the recording back to a point prior to the error, starts playback so he or she can hear the recorded audio, and at the right moment “punches in”, switching from playback to recording smoothly. The phrase is a holdover from when recording was done on reels, so rewinding was “rollling” and hitting a button on the console was called “punching”. These days it’s just mouse clicks and keyboard shortcuts, but the principle is the same.

With rolling record the narration takes less time but requires more time in editing. With punch and roll, narration takes longer but the result is a single clean take, much easier to work with for the proofer and editor. The vast majority of audiobooks today are recorded using punch and roll. An experienced narrator can usually get between two and three hours of audio recorded using this method per day. However, that rate varies due to a number of factors, such as schedule, other work, vocal strain, and even the weather (which can affect the voice).  A good general rule is about 1.5 to 2 hours of recording for every hour of raw audio.

Step 3: Proofing

When the narration is completed, or when a significant portion is done, the prooflistener steps in. This individual is the gatekeeper for the audiobook and more than anyone else bears the ultimate responsibility for the quality of the audio. The proofer listens to the audio while following along with the manuscript. He or she notes any errors where the narrator deviated from the script, transposed words or omitted something. He or she also notes when there are noises in the audio, such as a click, mouth noise, clothing rustle or other unwanted sounds.

The proofer notes all the errors in a spreadsheet and indicates whether they require re-recording of a specific passage or portion of the text, or if it’s just a problem the editor can remove- if a noise occurs between passages, there’s no need for the narrator to re-record anything, but if there’s a sound during the middle of a word, that may require a correction or “pickup” to be recorded. The proofer’s art is to be able to identify these issues.

Proofers may also be tasked with more performance-related quality assurance, noting if the voice for a character changes, or pronunciation of a name is wrong, or there’s an awkwardly paced or spoken passage.

Step 4: Pickups and Editing

In this step, the narrator receives the proofing notes from the prooflistener, and re-records any noted passages from the manuscript. These are often called “pickups” or just “corrections”. The pickups are usually sent as a single file (a “pickup reel” or “corrections reel”) to the editor.

The editor takes the pickup reel, and with the proofer’s notes edits in the changed audio and also removes or corrects other issues the proofer noted. Audio editing is a subtle art and a deeply technical craft, and the best editors are in strong demand for their skills.

Step 5: Mastering

In this step the final, edited audio is mastered, which means to apply audio processing such as equalization (“EQ”), compression and other filtering to “sweeten” the sound, make the general levels work well for the entire production and ensure that the audio will sound good whether you’re listening on $5 earbuds, on your car speakers in traffic or $300 Sennheiser headphones in an acoustically-perfect environment.

Mastering is a subtle art and one that requires a deft touch. Over-compression, bad filtering and other errors are the bane of audio that would have otherwise sounded good. A truly professional mastering engineer knows that less is usually more.

Step 6: QC and Review

This is the final step before releasing to production. A final pass over the mastered audio is done by someone who listens carefully for any issues potentially missed during the earlier phases or that cropped up during the mastering process. Once the final QC pass is complete and signed off, the book is ready for production!


As you can probably glean from this very simplified overview of the audiobook production process, it’s a deeply technical and highly complex task involving a whole team’s worth of roles. All the players in a production team, whether it’s a solo producer doing it all or a publisher with multiple people available for any role, must be at the top of their game to produce a top-notch audiobook.

The narrator is obviously the most visible part of the process, but his or her role is only one part of a much larger whole that most people who haven’t been part of the process understand. Producing an audiobook is far more involved than someone simply sitting down and recording themselves reading out loud, and the amount of time it takes to create a truly professional, top-notch audiobook reflects the dedication and commitment to excellence of a good producer.

Now that you’ve read the background, you should head over and read ACX 101: Part 1, Preparation, in which I will discuss some of the things you should do well before you get ready to put your project out on ACX!

Why Writing Skills Matter for Voice Artists

July 9th, 2014 by VoxMan[1]I came across a very thought-provoking article on the website for PBS Newshour today. It’s a discussion of how writing skills, in particular grammar and spelling, really matter if you’re looking for a job.

Here’s a short excerpt from the article that sums up the essentials.

I don’t care what field you work in, how much you earn, or whether you’re a production worker or a vice president. The way you use language reveals who you are, how you think, and how you work. And that will affect your career profoundly. You can pretend otherwise, but you can also walk around buck-naked believing you’re invisible because you’ve got your eyes closed.

Go read the entire article, it’s worth it. Don’t worry, we’ll wait.

What does this have to do with voiceover?[1]You’d think that we as voice talent wouldn’t have to really be great writers, would you?  After all, we spend our days talking into a microphone- we don’t need to know how to write- right?

Well, you would be wrong. I’ve been doing this for a little while now, and looking back over my nascent career, I can count the number of  conversations that involved actually speaking with my clients that took place before I booked a job on one hand. I’ve spoken to many of my clients in person or on the phone, but the initial contact is always by email.

Don’t look like you’re illiterate.

If you want to book work with a client, don’t present yourself poorly in written correspondence. As much as you might think that email is an informal communication medium, it still reflects on you personally when people read it. If your correspondence is riddled with spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, poor punctuation or strange slang, you will not be seen in as favorable a light.

People do notice.

As freelancers, we’re not out there with our resumes in hand, so when we speak with our potential clients via email, that’s the closest we have to a resume. Everything they know about you personally will come from those pixels on the screen, so use them wisely!

Put your best foot forward in all interactions with your clients. Don’t rely on spell check too much, and proofread anything before you send it. It WILL make a difference.

More audiobook giveaways!

June 12th, 2014 by VoxMan

Like audiobooks? Want a free one? You came to the right place! I have several books to choose from- All you have to do to get one is ask and get me your email address so I can send you a gifted audiobook via

What’s this?

I’m giving away free audiobooks!

What’s the catch?

There isn’t one! These are all totally free. I would appreciate it if you would be so kind as to leave a rating or a review when you’ve listened to the book, but there is absolutely no requirement that you do so.

How do I get one?

Simply drop me a note at with your email address and I’ll send you a gifted copy of the book of your choice from the list below. All the gifted copies will be through I will not use your email address for any purpose other than to send your free audiobook.

You have other books?

Absolutely! If you’re interested in the rest of my audiobooks, you can find them all (including the ones I can’t give away today) here.

What’s available?

Without further ado, here’s the list of books to choose from. Only one per person, please.

First, the DeChance Chronicles–  An Urban Fantasy Series

Similar to  Dresden Files, the DeChance Chronicles are a fun urban fantasy series about the eponymous Donovan DeChance. There’s four books in the series:

Heart of a Dragon by David Niall Wilson-Urban Fantasy.

When Anya Cabrera, a Voodoo Houngan in San Valencez California’s Barrio, tampers with the ceremony that draws the Loa to possess the faithful, Donovan DeChance, book collector, mage, and private investigator is contacted immediately. Donovan helps to maintain the balance of supernatural forces in the city – and that balance is in serious danger. The Dragons, a local motorcycle gang, live under a shaky truce with a neighboring Hispanic gang, Los Escorpiones, who are now aligned with Anya. The two groups face off in a battle that becomes more than the Dragons expected.

Vintage Soul by David Niall Wilson –Urban Fantasy.

Donovan DeChance is a collector of ancient manuscripts and books, a practicing mage, and a private investigator. When, despite the finest in natural and supernatural security, a sexy and well-loved 300-year-old lady vampire is kidnapped right out from under her lover’s nose, Donovan is called in to investigate.

My Soul to Keep by David Niall Wilson –Urban Fantasy.

Donovan DeChance is a collector of ancient manuscripts and books, a practicing mage, and a private investigator. He is also a very private man, and he is in love. When he invites his partner and lover, Amethyst, for a quiet dinner, she has no idea of his true intention. Donovan has planned a sharing – a vision that will give her the keys to his early life – the origins of his power – and a lot more than she bargained for. The story leads to the town of Rookwood in 1842.

Kali’s Tale by David Niall Wilson –Urban Fantasy.

When asked to follow in secret as a hot-headed group of young vampires set out on a ‘blood quest’ to kill the ancient who created the young vampire Kali against her will, Donovan DeChance learns that – as usual – there is a lot more to the story than meets the eye.

 Single Books

Half Past Midnight by Jeff Brackett- Post-apocalyptic survival thriller.

The Doomsday Clock gauges the threat of nuclear war. Currently, the clock is set at six minutes before midnight. What happens after the hands reach midnight? Survivalist Leeland Dawcett finds out when he and his family are plunged into the nightmare of their country returned to a third-world state. No phones. No computers. No television. At first, Leeland thinks basic survival is the answer. Until he crosses the path of the wrong guy…Someone who wants to do more than just survive…

Poachers Were My Prey by R.T. Stewart and W.H. “Chip” Gross –Biography/Memoir.

Poachers Were My Prey chronicles R. T. Stewart’s many exciting undercover adventures, detailing the techniques he used in putting poachers behind bars. It also reveals, for the first time, the secrets employed by undercover wildlife officers in catching the bad guys.

Spinning Webs and Telling Lies by David Niall Wilson and Brian A. Hopkins –Short Western-themed horror stories.

This book collects Western-themed stories of horror and fantasy by Bram Stoker Award-winning authors David Niall Wilson and Brian A. Hopkins. This updated digital edition includes all previous errata and the last of the One-Eyed Jack stories, bringing all three into one book for the first time.

All done for now!

June 6th, 2014 by VoxMan

Check back later in the month for more giveaways!

A Peek Behind the Curtain!

February 13th, 2014 by VoxMan

I, like many other audiobook narrators, am frequently asked questions like:

  • How do you record an audiobook?
  • What goes into it?
  • How long does it take?

Every narrator gets questions like this and we usually don’t mind answering, because hey- who doesn’t like to talk about their job? But at some point I started to wonder if maybe there was a way to show people what making an audiobook was like?

Watch the Sausage Get Made

So, I pitched the idea of doing a live stream of me recording an audiobook to one of my clients. They loved the idea, and so I’m going to try an experiment to see if this works, and if people are interested. The idea is to give people a look at the ins and outs of making an audiobook- all the stops and starts, the retakes, the flubs (and the occasional cursing), the punching in and all that.

Live Stream Info

On February 14, 2014, starting at or around 10 AM Pacific time, I’ll be streaming a recording session live. Tune in to see me, my microphone, and the software I use to record as I do it. I might even have some commentary for you, in between takes and mistakes! You can watch here or at

Watch live video from VoxManVO on

What I’ll Be Recording

I’m going to be recording a textbook entitled A More Perfect Union: An Introduction to American Government and Politics, Part 1, published by Line-In Publishing.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Shoot me a comment here or send me an email (corey at voxman dot net) and let me know what you think!

2013: The Year That Was

February 11th, 2014 by VoxMan

Yes, it’s February, but I wanted to take a moment and look back at 2013. What a year! I thought I’d take a moment (or several) to look back on 2013, pause and reflect on my first year as a full-time voice talent.

Setting the Stage

Before January 1, 2013 I was a software developer in my “real life”. I was really good at it and even a year after leaving that behind I get daily emails and calls from recruiters, as the skills I built up in that field were not the most common. Voice acting was my passion, but it was something I did on the side, in the evenings and on the weekends. I’d been doing it for a couple of years, and had several audiobooks to my credit, as well as a few small gigs here and there for commercials, corporate narrations and the like. I really wanted to make the jump to full-time but never really had the right confluence of circumstances, until the end of 2012.

In December of 2012, I was incredibly fortunate to be approached by Tantor Audio to do a couple of audiobooks. It was a serendipitous moment, as I had been contemplating how I could pull off such a move for some time. My wife has complications from a stroke and requires some assistance in her day-to-day life, and although I’d left my job at Microsoft for one closer to home (the commute was murderous) to give her that assistance, it was becoming clear that the best solution for us would be for me to be able to work out of the house.

My career in software was coming to a close, and a new one was opening up.

Starting Anew

Of course, I was aware that changing careers in such a dramatic fashion at age 43 was going to be a challenge. I was leaving two decades of skills and experience behind to become an actor, for cryin’ out loud. Who does that? And on top of that I was going into audiobook narration, not just VO.

It was a crazy choice, but it was the right one ultimately. I ventured into a new world of running my own business and all that comes with it, but I was very lucky to have a lot of great people to rely on for their assistance and advice. I can tell you that it was simultaneously the most frustrating, stressful and exciting year of my life. I’m glad I did it, but I’m glad it’s over, and I’m looking forward to 2014 with great anticipation.

The Year in Review

In 2013, I recorded thirty audiobooks- you can find them on Audible. Several of them are in post-production, but I’m counting them because the recording was done in 2013. I feel like that was a pretty good number for a year’s work by a new narrator- I don’t have any statistics on how many books most narrators do when starting out, but I’m pretty sure that thirty is a solid outing.

For 2014, my goal is sixty. During the middle of 2013 there was a bit of a slump where I had few books to work on, and I’ve streamlined my production processes to the point where I can produce about twice as much audio per day as I did at the beginning of the year. New tools and software have helped out there too. Between all of these things I would be comfortable saying I could get to that goal (although when I consider it, I should perhaps frame it in terms of time instead of number of titles because books vary in length so wildly).

For now, sixty is a good target, taking the assumption that most will be of similar length to what I’ve done previously. We’ll see how I do by the end of 2014!

The Highlights

This year has had some truly amazing experiences associated with it for me.

First on the list is being featured on the Audiobook Creation Exchange Blog as a finalist for Guy Kawasaki’s book APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur (I did a couple of blog entries on it). While I didn’t get the job, my audition landed me in a small group of finalists, who were all featured on the ACX blog. What an incredible honor that was!

I was also fortunate to be able to attend the Audio Publisher’s Association conference in New York during 2013. That was an amazing experience and one I will not soon forget. It was incredible to be able to meet and talk with so many top-flight narrators and producers in one place. Not to mention being in New York and able to play tourist a little!

A few of the books I narrated this year stand out as projects I’m extremely proud of. Here’s a short list of some of my favorites from 2013.

  • Black Hearts: One Platoon’s Descent Into Madness in Iraq’s Triangle of Death, by Jim Frederick (Link). This was the first book I narrated in what would become one of my specialties- military history. It was quite a challenge for me in some ways, because in my time in the military, I served in a unit almost identical to the one chronicled in the book, and it brought up a lot of memories. I’m grateful to the wonderful people at Tantor Audio for choosing me to narrate this important book.
  • Thunder Below!: The USS Barb Revolutionizes Submarine Warfare in World War II, by Admiral Eugene B. Fluckey (Link). Another military history book, this is one of my best-reviewed and selling titles. I had a lot of fun recording this one. I mean, a grown man standing in a room making dive klaxon sounds and shouting “CLEAR THE BRIDGE! BATTLE STATIONS TORPEDOES!” and “DIVE! DIVE!”, and so forth- it was like being in a movie. I felt like a kid, but the story was true!
  • 1940: FDR, Willikie, Lindbergh, Hitler- The Election Amid the Storm, by Susan Dunn (Link). Another history title, this one was a remarkable foray into a part of US history I wasn’t very familiar with- the turmoil in the country in the late 1930s to 1940, culminating in the last election before the Pearl Harbor attack. Many people are familiar with what happened after Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, but not as many (myself included) knew what went on before that time, and 1940 was quite a watershed year. This was a really wonderful book to be able to narrate.

2014 Is Looking Good!

Although we’re into February already, 2014 is shaping up to be a great year for me, and I’m incredibly excited to see what happens this year. My goals include expanding the number of publishers I work with and doing at least sixty books this year, up from 2013’s thirty books.

Here’s to 2014!