For a long time, my ACX project lay dormant while I worked on other things. Then in late 2016, something I didn’t expect happened: producers started reaching out to me.
I didn’t do anything specifically to attract an audiobook producer, but 2016 was a pretty good year for my book. Orconomics won a national award, which prompted enough sales for it to get picked up by Amazon’s recommendation engine. Once that happened, I started selling well enough to sustain a respectable Amazon sales rank, and soon a couple of producers reached out to see if I wanted to create an Audiobook of Orconomics.
It took a short bit of legwork to cancel my previous contract with Stu (who was as gracious and professional as ever) and get the rights back for Orconomics, but once I had, things went remarkably smoothly. I signed a new agreement with Gregg Savage, who’s produced an impressive collection of audiobooks. He suggested that Doug Tisdale Jr. was the voice actor for the job. (Man, was he ever right.)
Share and Share Alike
Gregg was interested in a royalty share deal, and let’s be up front: if your book is successful, a royalty share deal is going to cost you more money in the long run. Specifically, it’ll cost you half of your cut of the sales, which can add up quickly. Yet after trying ACX in both a flat fee and royalty share structure, I can say with certainty that it’s absolutely the best way to approach an ACX deal. That’s for three reasons:
- Share the risk. A royalty share deal means you might pay more if your audiobook if it’s wildly successful, but it also means you’ll pay less if it doesn’t go anywhere. You and your production team share in the success.
- Attract the talent. Royalty share is an attractive option for producers and thus can attract better talent. Better talent brings more sales. You may pay more for a royalty share title, but there’s a good chance you’ll still make more overall.
- Keeping things moving. When I was on the hook for a lump-sum payment, things moved slowly. I didn’t intentionally drag my feet, but the only thing I was guaranteed to get when production ended was a big bill. I found that I was more incentivized to move quickly in a revenue share agreement. (Though admittedly, my velocity might have had a lot to do with learnings from my previous experience.)
A Top Notch Crew
The best thing about working with Gregg was that he brought an entire team to bear. The way they prepared an agenda, stuck to deliverables, and worked through the audiobook creation process was downright professional. And it made a huge difference in both the speed and quality of production.
One important step Gregg’s team took was to prepare a pronunciation guide before recording. The English language lacks a word for something that well within the bounds of common sense and yet utterly ingenious, and I’ve never felt the void left by that omission so much as I have now. The pronunciation guide prevented a host of later disputes about how Kaitha and other imaginary words are pronounced (it rhymes with “Day-tha,” thanks.) It saved loads of time and pain.
(On a side note, it’s remarkable how much of my vocabulary I’ve picked up from reading rather than speaking. As it turns out, one way to measure the exact percentage of my lexicon that was sourced from the written word is to create a pronunciation guide and monitor how many words I mangle. I was flabbergasted by the number of words that I can proficiently wield in print, yet cannot say correctly. This led to some rather awkward email exchanges, wherein Gregg had the unenviable task of letting me know that yes, his team had received my audio file with my desired pronunciations, but no, they could not use all of my suggestions because I speak with an illiterate accent. I still do not know how to pronounce ‘chitinous.’)
I was blown away by the quality of the audiobook that Gregg, Doug, and team produced. Even my wife, a voracious Audible addict and intensely choosy listener, was happy with it. We launched the title in late December, and sales have been brisk—the audio version of Orconomics has outsold the Kindle edition in 2017. Most importantly, fan response has been overwhelmingly positive. (If you haven’t had the pleasure of listening to Doug read it yet, I highly recommend you give it a try. You can get it free if you’re new to Audible.)
I’m absolutely going to release future books on ACX (and I plan to work Gregg and Doug on them, provided they can stomach my horrible pronunciation). If you’re an indie author, I recommend you give ACX a try. I’d love to hear how your experiences with the platform go.