Using ACX for Audiobooks

We have been working hard to produce another audiobook in a series to beef up our fiction imprint offering and give readers a different way of consuming our content. We’re on our third audiobook so I thought I’d report on progress so far.

Once you put all that work into your book then it makes sense to diversify and turn it into other products. After all, most of the hard graft is done. Adding audiobooks to your catalogue is well worth looking into as are print books.

The audiobook market is currently worth around $1.2 Billion and growing. More people are turning to audio as a way to consume books as life becomes seemingly busier.

For indie authors and publishers there are several ways forward in getting your book turned into an audio version. For this post I’m focusing on ACX with a few alternative suggestions at the end.

acx

The most popular platform is the ACX marketplace where narrators/producers and authors/publishers can link up to get the production done.  Using ACX also gives you easy syndication access to Audible, Amazon and iTunes.

As an author you can search by type of voice, gender, accent and other criteria to find narrators to work with.

We simply added our book details, entered some meta data as well as a pitch that focused on our marketing plan. Simply showing the narrator that we are willing to do promotions and marketing for the end product definitely helps if you want to do a royalty split. You also need to upload a sample to be used as an audition piece.

The next step was finding a narrator. Once live your book shows up on the market it can be viewed by narrators. However I took a more proactive approach and submitted to narrators directly, inviting them to audition.

acx-narrators

I was strictly looking for British male voices that were willing to do the royalty split deal.

Once you have found a narrator or producer who has agreed to do your audition and you have approved it the next step is to set a deadline and upload your manuscript. Our narrator uploaded chapters as he did them.

Give your audio a careful listen through. I read through my manuscript as I was listening in order to keep the book as close to the audio version as possible. This was because I wanted the audiobook to be whisper sync ready. Whisper sync is where the listener can jump between their Kindle version and the audiobook without losing their place. If you’re adapting the audio version (abridged) then you won’t be able to have a whisper sync version.

Once approved the audiobook will become available after around 5 days and after that ACX will send you codes that you can give to a select audience to garner reviews.

Financial options:

The royalty breakdown is as follows:

Royalty Share with Exclusive Distribution to Audible.
40% of retail sales split between the Rights Holder and Producer. Each party gets 20% of total retail sales.

Pay For Production (Flat Fee) with Exclusive Distribution to Audible.
40% of retail sales paid to Rights Holder.

Pay For Production (Flat Fee) with Non-Exclusive Distribution Rights to Audible.
25% of retail sales paid to Rights Holder.

Cons to the exclusive deal:
Tied to them for 7 years. You cannot sell your audiobook anywhere else once you’ve opted into their deal.

Fairly hefty cut. They keep 75%-60% depending on which option you take so if you do a split percentage exclusively you’ll end up with 20% (60% to ACX and the remaining 40% split between you and the narrator.)

Doesn’t sound great, does it? The reason we have taken this option for our early works is simply down to the cost of production. Paying a narrator just isn’t affordable at the moment with other costs eating the funds so to be able to team up with a talented narrator who will work for a percentage makes perfect sense to us right now.

However I’m really keen to look at alternatives for future books and did investigate the options.

Alternatives to ACX:

There are alternative ways to produce audiobooks from recording the audio yourself to using platforms such as CD baby, Author’s republic and Infinity Publishing. I haven’t personally used any of these methods but will be looking in alternatives for future audiobooks.

For a more indepth post on ACX alternatives check out Jane Friedman’s post here.

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Bookfunnel review

When you’re a self published indie author or small imprint you will need to deliver ebooks to readers, subscribers, supply advanced copies or review copies to your readers and that can involve a lot of support.

Then, thank the powers that be (and the creator: Damon Courtney) for bookfunnel!

Options for reader starting with ‘What device do you own?’ and then they can drill down through the options depending on their preferred choice.

bookfunnel

If at any point they struggle there is a ‘contact support’ option and bookfunnel will handle the support requests for you. This is what makes this service such a valuable arsenal to your publishing business.

I think it was Mark Dawson who said he was wading through multiple support requests every day for ebook download problems that ate into his writing time and any author will know this frustration. Letting bookfunnel handle the support and delivery allows you to focus on other aspects of your business (like writing the next damned book).

Adding your books:

After signing up under one of the plans you can begin adding books right away by uploading PDF, MOBI and ePUB versions, your cover and basic title and description. Bookfunnel then generates a unique link that you can pass onto your readers.

Each book gives you a nice dashboard of stats so you can check your download rates and other info including the type of device (Kindle Fire, iOS device etc) your readers used and which type of file (PDF, Mobi or Epub).

bookfunnel

You can generate any number of links for the same book if you wish to split out your stats. This gives you data on your reader behaviour and is a fantastic

Use different links (gives you basic download rates)
Authors are using bookfunnel as a delivery system for serials, exclusive books for their lists, bonus materials.

Pricing:

The payment plans start from $20 per year (for up to 500 downloads a month) to a premium plan for $250 per year which gives you unlimited books/downloads, 3 pen names and advanced features.

Bookfunnel have added a Bookfunnel certified mail feature for Midlist, Bestseller and Small Publisher plans.

Bookfunnel certified mail enable you to email unique ARC links and the books are watermarked. You can remind readers and follow up with anyone who hasn’t downloaded the book yet to give them a prod. All data is available as a downloadable CSV file.

Future plans include giveaway campaigns and integration with popular email platforms like aweber and mailchimp.

Any author or publisher serious about creating their own lead magnets and product funnels need to get on board with this now. You’ll love it.

Notes on writing and ePubbing progress

2016-03-12 10.21.16As I write more fiction I’m finding it increasingly difficult to focus on blogging (not that I ever did that much) and non-fiction projects. However I think, even as a diary style exercise I should blog more and mark the journey, so to speak.

Medium looks like it could be another way of reaching a bigger audience but if I’m going to increase the output I want to make sure there’s some kind of strategy in place rather than a half heartened reboot.

So onwards and upwards as the first half of 2016 approaches where have I ended up exactly?

Well, the fiction series is going well and we are hoping to finish the first in the new series this Spring. My main obstacle is finding the hours alongside a full-time job but I have a writing schedule that involves meeting up with a local group of writers on Sundays and some week evenings. We all work on our own projects and I also meet up with story collaborator and biz partner, JN, twice a week. This has been hugely helpful for keeping a consistent work count going and slowly pushing the book imprint forward.

I am really keen to get our publishing start up going but it seems like the chicken and egg scenario…without a considerable traction of the existing titles there doesn’t seem much point in putting a lot of time and money into marketing. But…a lesson learned from a previous business I was involved in – plan for success and it will more likely happen. Hence why I’m coming around to the idea of a Kickstarter (or Indiegogo) campaign to help pay for the editor and cover art. If everything goes to plan I will be hitting the road and won’t have the disposable income to put into these costs , as I have so far. Food for thought.

There’s a lot of things, like promotions that are not really working and this is causing a fair amount of frustration. We’re nowhere near having enough reviews to try and get an infamous Bookbub ad so getting reviews has been a slow process.

Facebook ads have brought in around 200 subscribers in the last year and a handful of sales but I’m a long way from actually getting it working on auto pilot!

2016 is all about content creation for me and although there will always be an ongoing marketing process going on until we have a good body of work it’s difficult to commit money to any big pushes. My ambitious target is to write and complete at least two full length fiction novels (the first one is 80% there) and at least one novella this year. It would be great to put out a non-fiction this year but we’ll have to see how it pans out. It may have to come in the form of a series of blog posts (now there’s an idea). In the spirit of re purposing content: build up a series of chapters from the blog posts then re-work them into a book and possibly an e-course. I believe Dean W Smith does this on his website.

Till next time.

Be the Smarter Artist: Iterate And Optimize Book Review

iterateThis was the inspirational nonfiction read on indie publishing I have been waiting for. I had a break planned in Cornwall and this was the perfect read for the train. I’ve been following Johnny, Sean and Dave since the early days of their SPP podcast and avidly devoured ‘Write, Rinse, Repeat’, the prelude to this fine tome.

I’m currently working for the journey of writing and building an imprint publishing business so this fly on the wall focus on their Sterling and Stone is a compelling insight into all the growing pains, mistakes and the successes that have marked their journey since conception.

All the potential pitfalls are here and if you’re a self-published author (let’s call it indie author) or thinking about going that route you should heed the trio’s ‘smarter artist’ approach; the authorpreneur way of doing things. We’re in a world where the disruption of book publishing hasn’t even started. Traditional pre-conceptions of the industry should be put aside as you peel back the first page in your sunken armchair.

Let’s be clear, the SPP guys elaborate in their antidotes, history and examples (which I love) and if you allow yourself to go with their journey you will be hugely rewarded.

Highly Recommended. Buy here *(unless you haven’t read Write, Rinse, Repeat yet. In which case buy that first).

* I may make millions if you buy through my affiliate link

2015 roundup and publishing in 2016

Another new year and another new blog post (Yes I must and will try harder)

It’s been a year of slow growth; a few more titles have been added to the bonafide media stable but not as many as I would have liked.

Around March we started production on our first fiction audiobook more recently a new Jay Tinsiano thriller was released. There were no non-fiction releases at all which is a bit disappointing to me but the fiction has been the main focus in 2015 and will continue to be this year.

2016.
So, what’s my masterplan for this year?

It’s becoming more and more apparent that a change is needed in how I make time to produce and write the amount of books that I want to write. Ideally I need to complete and publish 2-3 full length novels from for an upcoming series in 2016. The target for the first one is to have a skeleton draft by the end of February.

Myself and my business partner would also like to move towards setting up a publishing imprint using the Lightning Source distribution network later this year. Using this system will enable the books to be available to more bookstores and libraries and is the preferred method for high street booksellers. However this will involve buying ISBNs but it would be worth it to be able to push titles to bookstores. Createspace is great for getting books Amazon but bookshops don’t like ordering from them.

Audio transcripting. I also read that Dragon software have something out that transcribes your recorded voice into editable text. Using this should improve productivity for first draft writing. Whether it works out or I feel comfortable with this process remains to be seen but I want to try it out.

2015 update in Publishing

kindleAnother year flies by and I have suddenly realised I haven’t blogged since June! There has been a lot of changes in the indie publishing world (or self publishing world, if you prefer).

Amazon Kindle continue to add changes with the latest roll out of their CPC programme, where an author can run an ad campaign and have their books show up on other author’s Amazon pages. There is a minimal spend of $100. I personally won’t be trying it until I have some more inventory out there as pushing one book will probably end up as a loss maker. A first book of a series might be another matter. Here’s a good blog post on the ins and outs of the programme. Joanna Penn mentioned in her podcast recently that she hadn’t been able to spend much money – i.e. very few clicks. We’ll see how it pans out.

Last year, Kindle Unlimited added possible opportunities to get paid for free downloads. As usual there’s a mix of success reported by various authors and I can’t say I have great success with it.

I’m swaying in the camp of ‘getting your books out across as many platforms as possible – mainly because of the increase in the number of those platforms. There is Scribd, Oyster, which are looking like cool platforms but the main contender to Amazon is hot on its heels. Apple ibooks is reportedly growing in market share.

For the latest in Publishing follow my Flipboard:

View my Flipboard Magazine.

Tracking eBook Sales

update: Unfortunately Vook are no longer offering this service

Recently I daydreamed about a platform that could import and merge sales data from all the major self-publishing platforms: KDP, Kobo, iTunes, Smashwords etc and make sense of it. Industry pioneers; Amazon and Apple can only offer downloadable spreadsheets that are hard to navigate and a generic dashboard bar chart.

Investigating further I found App Annie that supplies an intelligent app analytics as well as ebook data for Amazon, iTunes and Google Play. Unfortunately there is no option for Kobo and Nook or any other ebook publishing service.

Moving on I found Vook. Now this looks like a great service and can import account sales data from the following:

Amazon Kindle
Createspace POD
Nook
Smashwords

You just add your account details and the system imports your data. You can then sort sales by book, platform, display and date range.

vook-screeny

My only gripe is there’s currently no real-time updates and it doesn’t include draft2digital as a platform. Still, it’s a step in the right direction and I highly recommend!

I would be interested to hear about any other similar services for self publishers.

Permafree eBook Publishing

10073486_sIt can be really hard promoting your book, especially if it’s a one off. I’ve heard more than once the saying: “The best way to market your book is the write a second book” and I have to agree.

Writing and publishing a second book (or even better: a series) is the sure fire way to expand visibility for your brand of books.

With tens or hundreds of thousands of self-pubbed titles published every day as writers we have to get creative and importantly keep writing and producing titles. The more entry points to your titles the better, which brings me to the freemium or permafree model as it’s better known in book publishing circles.

If you’ve been ebook publishing for any period of time you’ll know that the Amazon Kindle Select programme isn’t half as effective as it used to be. For those who don’t know this is where offer Amazon exclusivity and you can promote your book free on Amazon for 5 days out of every 90. Getting a lot of downloads would increase your visibility on Amazon and push your sales rank up. But those days are gone, unless you can get tens of thousands of free downloads but even then I’ve heard this be now completely ineffective.

The strategy I’m adapting is to be available on as many ebook/book platforms as possible. You can get great coverage with Smashwords but as mentioned in my last post Speedy Publishing can get huge coverage including the big ones (Amazon, Kobo, Nook and Apple).

Once distributed you can sit back and wait for the money to roll in right? Wrong! Unless you already have an eager audience or the rub of the green you still have to build your author brand on the web, build a relationship with your audience, get an email list going (and make sure you offer a nice carrot) as well as a myriad of other traditional book marketing strategies. Pretty daunting.

However you can offer bite sized preview of your book, a short story or the first book in your series for free (permanently) then you may find a steady stream of customers providing they dig what you’ve produced. It gives them a chance to sample your work and if you’ve done a good job, hook them into your world. This isn’t about taking anyone for a ride – you’ve providing value in your work and readers get the benefit.

I have done this with a pen name series and am just finishing up a short story to help get eyes on what will be a thriller series.

The next step is to make this permafree.

Upload to Kindle Direct and price as low as you can (0.99c) then publish either through Smashwords or your usual methods and make it free. Once it is available on other platforms at the $0.00 price you can then prompt Amazon to pricematch down to zero via a request link on your book product page, or just let their spiders find your book free naturally (although this might take a while).

Obviously you’ll want to list your other titles with links in the back of this permafree book. (So Amazon links to the titles on the Amazon store etc) You can only do this if you directly publish to the platforms of course. The rest will have to be a generic ‘Search where you purchased this’. Let me know if you have any better solutions, I’d be interested to know.

Catch you next time..

Writing and Publishing Fiction

19149215_sFor the last year or so I have been focusing on writing fiction, which is something I always loved doing, especially the story creation process.

Having read and been inspired by other writers and self publishers, especially J.A Konrath (well worth checking out his blog) I decided to go for it and completed my first novel under a pen-name last year (a conspiracy thriller).

From what I’ve learned, and I guess this is true of any product based business, you need a series in the genre you’re publishing to really capitalise and build an audience, so I’ll am busy writing a follow up book as well as planning spin off series involving characters from that Universe. Comics and Science fiction have done this for decades and now fiction writers are beginning bring this element into their strategy.

I am doing this in my own time so outsourcing is key, whether it’s the actual writing of content and ghostwriting, ebook formatting, book cover design, marketing or just administration. Most of my distribution has been done direct to the big platforms: Amazon Kindle, Createspace, Nook and Kobo. For me, submitting directly to Apple iBooks is more tricky as you need a mac so I’ve done this via Draft2Digital and Smashwords.

I’ve also joined Speedy Publishing (affiliate link) who offer a fantastic library of training for those serious about self publishing as well as distribution to over 38,000 ebook retailers including online libraries. If you sign up to their distribution service they will promote your books too via their wide range of book imprints. I’ve only just signed up but I will share my findings on this blog and let you know how it works out.

So back to fiction. Creating strong characters is key as well as a storyline that makes the reader want more. Key points in the stories, such as the hook, game changers and page turning techniques all contribute to the quality of your product. I highly recommend reading J.A Konrath’s book: The Newbie guide to publishing, Write, Publish and Repeat by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Turant and also follow Joanna Penn’s blog on writing fiction.

 

 

 

Draft2Digital takes on Smashwords

A new publishing aggregator to rival Smashwords is in town.

Within the last few years e-books have become more and more popular and the publishing industry has gone through some big changes. Digital distribution has made it easier than ever before to bring your book to an audience and Draft2digital is the newest tool for budding indie authors.

Created by self-published writers, Draft2digital is a new online publishing service that is free to sign up to. There’s no charge for uploading any of your books or for publishing them online.

Draft2Digital claim to give you a very high level of quality formatting in both e-book and paperback at no upfront cost to you.

You can upload a .doc,docx or a .rtf and add details onto the same page with ease. These are features like title, back cover, info and which BISAC categories you want the work to be listed under.

You can also upload your own cover art and chapter titles.

Draft2digital gives you the option to add dedication pages, a copyright page, a title page and a about the author page. They’re automatically generated so you actually just have to press a button and it’s done for you.

Once you’ve done all the uploading and tweaks you can save it and download it to make sure it looks the way you want it to.

What you now have is an e-version that can be used on all these platforms:


Then you publish and your book is ready to sell.

It’s not just the quick and easy publishing that is attractive about this site. There are many more positives to the site in general.

It’s a very author-friendly website, easy to navigate with a clutter free look. It has recognition that helps you create the chapter titles and headers. With these it then creates a table of contents with making it easy to work on different sections of your work. Meta pages (copyright etc) are very simple to create, these are usually forgotten about by writers because they’re focusing on the story and the mechanics of the book itself. Draft2digital makes it quick and easy to do these and takes the stress out of it.

An obvious but very well done feature to the site is you can preview your book for each type of e-reader. If you don’t have the specific software to do this it also gives you a link to the software that makes previews possible.

After you have uploaded and published your work it gives you the opportunity to group your books by series. Giving you and others to add to a collection in the future.

Unlike smashwords there isn’t any specific style you have to adhere to and the over all user experience seems to be easier for first time e-publishers.

It’s early days but this new platform looks very promising.

For more information click here

Author: Clare Lowe