Audiobooks

Indies & Audiobooks: An Alternative to ACX

23 November 2014

From Lee Stephen via Jane Friedman:

Like many an independent author out there, I blazed the indie trail out of a love for the artistic side of things and an understanding that total creative control could result in better projects. And like my fellow indies, I soon realized that Amazon could be an outstanding ally. Their platform for self-publishing was second-to-none, and it enabled us to pack the wagon and head out west (figuratively speaking) to the wild frontier of doing-it-oneself.

So naturally, with audiobooks starting to catch fire, Amazon was poised to once again be our faithful companion. Right?

Right?

Not so much.

. . . .

When I set out to create an audiobook for the first novel in my Epic series, Dawn of Destiny, I had done no research on the actual selling of an audiobook. I only knew that I wanted mine done differently. I wanted fans to hear it all and feel it all, like going out to see a summer blockbuster that happens to not have a screen. I hired 32 voice actors, packed the project with bombastic music and sound effects, and came out with an audiobook that sounded like Independence Day. It underwent nearly five years of development and cost more than most people would dream of spending on an audiobook. When it was finished, I was proud of it. This was different. This was new. This was what being an indie was all about. The only thing left for me to do was sell it.

Excited, I ventured into Audible territory.

Needless to say, what I found there devastated me. After five years’ worth of effort, ACX was offering me a mere spoonful of the feast I’d prepared. There had to be an alternative. There had to be a better way.

So I looked. I looked, and I looked, and I looked.

I found CD Baby.

. . . .

For those who know CD Baby, you know that they pride themselves on being a platform for indie musicians. For those who haven‘t heard of CD Baby, you might be surprised to find out that they’re exceedingly influential in the music industry for the aforementioned reason. Every indie band knows CD Baby.

. . . .

[W]hile audiobooks weren’t their typical product, they still had worked with some audiobook producers in the past. They informed me that, yes, I could set my own release date and price. Yes, I could have links to my CD Baby store anywhere. Yes, I would keep a majority of the profit. 91% of it! No, there were no binding contracts. I could cancel, change the price, pull the product, or change any of its information, anytime I wanted.

. . . .

CD Baby can distribute your audiobook to iTunes and Amazon, with the caveat that it will not show up in the audiobook category, but in the “spoken word” category of music.

I do not recommend doing this, especially if you’ve invested as much as I have in your audiobook production. Though both iTunes and Amazon will respect the release date and pay a higher percentage of the profit than they would an audiobook, they will still not respect the price you’ve set for your product through CD Baby. Your audiobook will get listed for $8.99. Thus, I am only allowing digital distribution through CD Baby itself.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman and thanks to Bridget for the tip.

Kindle Reading Apps Sync with Audible Books

10 June 2014

From the Amazon Media Room:

Amazon today announced that Kindle for Android and Kindle for iOS are getting even better, with a free software update that builds a seamless listening experience right into the app. With Whispersync for Voice, recently called “Amazon’s killer new app for books” by the Wall Street Journal, the Kindle app now lets you switch instantly between reading a Kindle book and listening to the companion audiobook from Audible—all with just one tap, without leaving the book.

“We’re working hard to help customers find more moments each day to enjoy a great book,” said Russ Grandinetti, Senior Vice President, Amazon Kindle. “Integrating professional narration into our Kindle apps means you never have to put down a favorite book—start reading at home, get in the car and simply tap a button to continue listening without losing your place.”

“We continue to hear from a growing number of Whispersync for Voice converts who tell us the innovation has profoundly changed the way they read—in fact, switching back and forth between reading and listening has become their preferred way of experiencing stories,” said Audible founder and CEO Donald Katz. “And the feature has gotten easier and easier to use, as this exciting integration into Kindle apps attests.”

Link to the rest at Amazon Media Room

Amazon Audiobook Royalties Dropping

28 February 2014

ACX is Amazon’s audiobook publisher.

From ACX.com:

The current ACX royalties and $25 Bounty program will be changing. Effective for projects started on or after March 12, 2014, titles distributed exclusively to Audible, Amazon, and iTunes will earn a non-escalating 40% royalty paid to the Rights Holder (or, on Royalty Share deals, split equally between the Rights Holder and the Producer). Non-exclusively distributed books will earn a non-escalating 25% royalty through Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

. . . .

We are lowering the royalties as we continue our mission to accommodate more audiobook productions. Our royalties still remain well above those offered by traditional audiobook publishers. Furthermore, we want to encourage authors, and Rights Holders to promote their audiobooks with the increased bonus payment from $25 to $50 (or from $12.50 to $25.00 on Royalty Share deals).

. . . .

On and after March 12, 2014, only the new royalty structure will be in effect for new projects. However until then, the current royalty structure will be honored for any audiobook offers made before that date that are accepted before the offer expires. In other words, any offers made prior to March 12, 2014 that are accepted before the offer expiration date will earn escalating royalties ranging from 50% to 90% (of unit sales of exclusively distributed titles), or 25% to 70% (of unit sales of non-exclusively distributed titles).

Link to the rest at ACX.com and thanks to J.A. and several others for the tip.

Will Audiobooks Change Writing Styles?

28 January 2014

From author Mark Capell:

Recently, Audible.com brokered a deal with the author David Hewson to publish his latest book, Flood, well ahead of its print run. As audiobooks rise in popularity, will the way they’re written change?>

As David pointed out, audio “is the original form of storytelling. It’s what Homer did. Homer was not a writer, he was a storyteller”.

. . . .

I listen to as many audiobooks as I read print or ebooks. Sometimes it’s just more practical; while out for a walk, on a crowded train, or in a car.

But over the years, I’ve noticed something. Some writing styles are more suited to audio than others.

When I wrote the first story of Fogland, a series being released as a set of podcasts, I was writing specifically for audio.

. . . .

All writing should pay attention to the sound of words as well as their meaning, that’s a given. In fact, one musical element — rhythm — can add meaning and atmosphere on its own. Short sentences, for instance, can imbue a sense of urgency. Thriller writers are well aware of this technique.

But in audio it’s even more important. Some of the rhythm is down to the narrator. I was listening to one audiobook recently, one by a famous author. But the actor reading it, also suitably famous, sounded like he had a train to catch. The delivery was hurried, the sentences not differentiated one from another. This famous actor could have done with a few lessons from my storyteller in the pub.

In many ways, the audio presentation starts with the manuscript, begins with the source material. The author might be having more of an effect on the audio production than he realises.

. . . .

Radio drama has often been called “the theatre of the mind”. And this is true of audiobooks, too. Imagery works particularly well, especially if it’s repeated with variations. Repetition is often frowned upon in print, but it’s a vital tool in audio. Take a cue from music. You hear it in songs all the time, in the form of a chorus. The kind of resonance repetition brings with it, bounces around in a listener’s head. I’m not recommending the equivalent of “she loves you yeah, yeah, yeah” repeated ad nauseum, but it does help in reinforcing tone and theme.

Link to the rest at Mark Capell

And here’s Episode One of The Fogland, Crow Square

 

The Rise of Audio Books

10 December 2013

From Amazing Stories:

In 2011, as I was signing my first big-five publishing contract, I had to turn over all major format rights: audio, ebook, and print. At the time I was concerned that the audio rights would never be exercised, as I was a new author and I figured that I would have to show some pretty substantial sales to warrant an expensive recording of my books. I really wanted to hold onto the audio rights, figuring I would do something like podiobooks.com to get “something out there.” Orbit wouldn’t peel off those rights, and I was both surprised and thrilled when they sold the audio rights to Recorded Books. The advance was small, just a few thousand dollars per book, and because it was a subsidiary right I had to split that advance 50/50 with Orbit. Considering how small the amount was, and that I didn’t expect to earn out past the advance I was pretty happy about how the whole thing played out.  I got a little pocket change, the audio books were being made, and my readers could listen to the books in addition to print and ebooks.

Because of how royalties are reported, the numbers for audio books come in long after the sales are made. For instance, my audio versions started selling in March 2012, but the first time I saw ANY numbers was in October 2013. It basically goes like this.  The sales from Mar 2012 – Jun 2012 were reported to Orbit in September 2012. But they did not exceed the advance amount, so they did not show up on the statements. The next period (for June – Dec) did exceed the advance and was paid to Orbit in March 2013 so it showed up on the royalty statement that covers Jan – June 2013, which I get in October 2013. This was the first time I realized just how well my audio books were selling as there was a nice piece of income associated with it on that October check.

But it wasn’t until later that I got an even better picture. My agent was meeting with a representative at Audible.com and in preparation for the meeting they pulled the sales numbers of her clients. The next day I heard back from my agent, “Did you know you’ve sold more than 74,000 audio books so far?” I didn’t. And doing some back of the napkin calculations I’ll probably break 100,000  audio sales by the end of the year. I had no idea that I was selling that much and now the 50/50 split with my publisher is looking to take a pretty big hit in my pocketbook.

. . . .

There is good news and bad news in this. The good news is I’m getting income from a source I never expected to pay off. The bad news, is that because I didn’t think audio would produce much income, I didn’t fight hard enough to retain these rights. Had I known back then, I would have fought harder for them. As it is, I only get 50% of the royalties earned. Orbit gets the other 50% because that is the share on this type of subsidiary right. When the sales were small, it wasn’t an issue. But as I said, I’m now selling well…really, really well and Orbit is getting their cut for doing next to no additional work—all they really had to do was sign a contract.

. . . .

I’m pretty much convinced that any big-five publisher will hold onto the audio rights just as tightly as they do ebook rights and any major contract will require signing over print/audio/ebook. I don’t want to lose the control (and money) of relinquishing audio rights, but there is another alternative…selling the audio rights first. If the audio rights are already sold, then the publishers will have no choice but to make the deal for print and ebook only.

Link to the rest at Amazing Stories and thanks to Mitch for the tip.

Booktrack Lets You Add Soundtrack to Self-Published eBooks.

18 October 2013

From Media Bistro:

“Want to add a sound track to your self-published book? Check out, Booktrack, a new app that will let you add music or sound effects to your eBook.

“The application is available for iOS devices and as a Chrome app. You can use it to record audio tracks and then insert them into your text. Once you do so, you can export the files to sell the title within the Booktrack community where you can also shop for books with sound effects.”

Read the rest here:  APPNEWSER

Julia Barrett

Fight for unabridged audio rights

7 October 2013

From The Bookseller:

Unabridged audio rights are said to have become a “battleground”, as dedicated audio companies such as Amazon-owned Audible increasingly look to sign rights directly from agents.

Agents meanwhile say they are looking to place audio rights where they can be fully exploited, even if that means bypassing traditional publishers.

Alice Lutyens, audio manager at Curtis Brown, said that selling to dedicated audio publishers produced the best results for authors. “The policy at Curtis Brown is to not grant audio rights to publishers in the head contract, and instead focus on selling the audio rights to independent audio publishers, such as Audible, W F Howes, Bolinda and AudioGo,” Lutyens said.

. . . .

Pandora White, audio publisher at Orion, said the area had become “a battleground” with “a fight all round for unabridged rights”. She said: “Audible is now approaching agents and offering a better royalty. It looks at what titles aren’t available in audio, then goes and looks to get hold of the rights itself . . . It is forcing us to change how we work. We have to emphasise the quality of our product, the fact we can link in to the publicity and marketing of the print book. It also means we’re exploiting the rights more to show agents we can, and our list is growing, which is a good thing.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

The Audio Book – Can You Do It Yourself?

19 August 2013

From regular visitor Catherine Czerkawska via Do Authors Dream of Electric Books?

For about twenty five years from the mid seventies to the turn of the new millennium, I wrote for radio. I have more than a hundred hours of produced radio drama to my name, including many original plays, series and serials as well as dramatizations of classics like Ben Hur, Kidnapped and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Because most producers want the playwright to be there for the duration of the production – studio time is always tight, so you’re expected to do rewrites on the hoof – I’ve spent weeks in radio studios.

. . . .

I’ve worked with some wonderful producer/directors and equally good audio technicians. I’ve seen huge changes in the way audio is produced. I’ve also read my own work on radio – short stories, talks and poems. And I’ve written audio tours for the National Trust. Which is why I consider myself reasonably well qualified to advise writers about reading their own work for submission as an audio book.

Mostly, my advice would be: think twice.

. . . .

The difference between a professional and an amateur reading is marked and obvious to the listener. Anyone who has worked in radio knows that even among actors, there are some who have a flair for the work. Audio is a subtle medium. Bringing a novel to life, not overdoing it, but not making it boring and all while being aware of the technical constraints, demands a certain level of professionalism and experience. If you don’t have that, don’t automatically assume that you are going to be able to do it from scratch and do it as well as somebody who has spent several years learning the craft.

. . . .

You’re going to have to read with clarity and subtlety, pulling your audience in, doing just enough but not too much of the ‘voice’ of each character. Remember that wherever you trip over your words – and you will trip over your words – even seasoned actors do it – you have to leave enough space for somebody (who?) to tweak the digital file so that when you resume, it sounds right. And what about turning pages? And those astonishingly loud tummy rumbles you weren’t even aware of but the microphone was picking up. Which brings me to how you are going to record it. Well – equipment is cheaper than it was, but you need the right acoustic. You need a dead room that excludes all extraneous sound. So you will still need to hire or borrow a studio and  some technical assistance. Or you could find yourself a company who will do it for you.

. . . .

If you’re contemplating doing a recording of your own book, download a few similar novels, read by actors – either unabridged or in short form – and ask yourself in all honesty if you could do it and keep it up for the several hours needed to read a whole book. Could you be consistent? And get the pacing and the overall tone right. And stop yourself from speeding up towards the end of a page or a chapter. Would you be able to continue a sentence when you turn over a page without hesitating between pages? What about rustling the pages of the manuscript? Will you remember to leave just enough space to prune the intrusive sound of the rustle if you do? What about sitting too close to the microphone. Or moving your head too far away from the microphone. Or moving your chair, which creaks. Or finding when you play it back that you’ve done a horrible combination of all of these and introduced some weird extras into the reading. In other words, can you produce a polished and professional enough version to do justice to the novel you’ve spent so long perfecting? Well, you can do all these things with a good producer and a little practice. But I’ve sat in a studio with a producer and watched inexperienced writers taking an hour or more to record a decent, usable five minutes worth of reading.

Link to the rest at Do Authors Dream of Electric Books? and thanks to Brendan for the tip.

On a similar theme, PG has noted that a number of publishers producing book trailers have lately featured the author speaking to the camera with poor results.

Talented authors are not often talented actors and vice versa. Even an author who may do a decent job in a television interview with a skilled professional interviewer can flop when staring directly at a camera.

Authors Taking More Active Role Picking Audio Book Narrators

6 August 2013

From The Wall Street Journal’s Speakeasy blog:

Novelists are accustomed to having total creative control over how their characters act, think and talk. So it can be jarring for writers to listen to an audio narration of their work and hear characters who sound nothing like they imagined.

“Even if the person is really good, it’s never the voice that you hear in your head,” said mystery writer Harlan Coben, who’s never quite warmed to audio portrayals of his character Myron Bolitar, a former sports agent turned sleuth. “I would listen and think, ‘This isn’t Myron.’”

Karin Slaughter, whose bestselling crime series takes place in Georgia and stars a pediatrician and coroner named Sara Linton, says several narrators have mangled her character’s subtle regional accent. She calls some of the performances “cringe-worthy.”

“My main character is a very educated woman, and some people who read her earlier had her sounding like trailer trash, like someone who was a meth addict,” Ms. Slaughter says. Other times, narrators have saddled Sarah with a ridiculously theatrical accent, Ms. Slaughter said. “Someone in a studio in Los Angeles tells them to sound like Scarlett O’Hara,” she said.

. . . .

Some writers don’t want to take any chances when it comes to interpretations of their work. A growing number of writers are doing their own audio book narrations, or making guest appearances on the audio books.

Other writers are getting involved in almost every aspect of the production, from auditioning and casting the narrators to directing readers in the booth. Max Brooks, author of the zombie novel “World War Z,” spent a year working on an elaborate, 12 hour long audio book edition of the book, with a full cast of 40 narrators. The audio book came out this May, ahead of a big budget Hollywood movie based on the book, starring Brad Pitt.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

The New Explosion in Audio Books

5 August 2013

From The Wall Street Journal:

Cory Wilbur, a 25-year-old software engineer in Boston, never used to read much. He barely cracked a book in college and would read one or two a year on vacation, at most.

But in the past year, he’s finished 10 books, including Dan Brown’s “Inferno,” Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs and George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series “A Song of Ice and Fire.” He listens to audio books in snippets throughout the day on his iPhone during his morning workout, on his 20-minute commute to work, and while he’s cooking dinner or cleaning up. Before he falls asleep, he switches to an e-book of the same story on his Kindle, and starts reading right where the narrator left off.

“I fly through a lot more books than I used to,” Mr. Wilbur said.

The digital revolution may have dealt a heavy blow to print, but it is boosting literacy in other unexpected ways by fueling the explosive growth of audio books.

Once a static niche for aficionados renting clunky cassettes or CDs for their commutes, audio books have gone mass-market. Sales have jumped by double digits in recent years. Shifts in digital technology have broadened the pool of potential listeners to include anyone with a smartphone.

At the same time, publishers are investing six-figure sums in splashy productions with dozens of narrators.

. . . .

Digital innovation isn’t just changing the way audio books are created, packaged and sold. It’s starting to reshape the way readers consume literature, creating a new breed of literary omnivores who see narrated books and text as interchangeable. Last year, the audio book producer and retailer Audible unveiled a long-awaited syncing feature that allows book lovers to switch seamlessly between an e-book and a digital audio book, picking up the story at precisely the same sentence.

So far, Audible, which is owned by Amazon, has paired some 26,000 ebooks with professional narrations. The company is adding more than 1,000 titles a month and aims to eventually bring the number to close to 100,000.

. . . .

“Everybody has an audio book player in their pocket at this point,” says Anthony Goff, vice president of Hachette Audio, where sales have jumped by 31% this spring over last. “It makes that much easier for the masses to try it.” Downloadable books made up some 60% of total audio unit sales in 2011, dwarfing CDs.

Audio book producers have been dramatically increasing their output. 13,255 titles came out in 2012, up from 4,602 in 2009, according to the Audio Publishers Association.

Audio books are no longer viewed as just an ancillary product to print. Some audio publishers are now attempting to rebrand narrated books as a distinct medium from print, labeling them as “audio entertainment.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

Next Page »