Some people have asked me about the process of creating an audiobook. While I have helped to shepherd more than fifteen books from manuscript into print, THERE CAME A CONTAGION is my first attempt to create an audiobook. What follows is a brief description of what this newbie has learned so far.

In the US, the elephant in audiobooks is Audible. Not surprisingly, Audible is owned by Amazon. You can create and sell audiobooks without Audible and apparently you can sell an audiobook created outside of Audible on Amazon but I have not explored how to do that.

ACX, which stands for Audiobook Creation Exchange, is a subsidiary of Audible that is described as an online marketplace where people who want to create audiobooks meet to make deals. One signs into ACX as either a Rights Holder or as a Producer. A Rights Holder is the author or the company who holds the rights to the manuscript—in this instance, me. The Producer is the person or company who will transform a manuscript into an audiobook. The Producer will not only narrate the manuscript but will ensure that the quality of the recording satisfies ACX, which is necessary for the audiobook to become available on Audible, Amazon and iTunes.

There seem to be four kinds of arrangements an author can make on ACX.

1. YOU DO IT YOURSELF. You narrate your book, or have someone do it for you, and you make sure the quality of the recording is satisfactory to ACX. In this case you would have nothing to do with a Producer.

2. YOU PAY AND WALK AWAY. Here an author pays a Producer an agreed upon amount to produce the audiobook. A Producer narrates the manuscript and makes sure the finished product is acceptable to ACX. Once the Producer has been paid, the Rights Holder has full rights to the audiobook and can choose either the exclusive or the nonexclusive option with Amazon, see below.

3. ROYALTY SHARING. A Producer narrates the manuscript and sees to its production as an audiobook. The Rights Holder pays the Producer nothing for this work, but the profits of all sales of the audiobook are shared equally between the Rights Holder and the Producer for the next seven years. With this choice you must choose the exclusive option; in other words, the audiobook can only be sold through the Amazon, Audible, iTunes pipeline.

4. ROYALTY SHARE PLUS This is the same as above except the Rights Holder pays the Producer a share of the Producer’s costs and they still share the royalties fifty-fifty. Again, you must choose the exclusive option. So, why did I choose ROYALTY SHARE PLUS when I could have gotten the book produced for nothing? The answer is that according to ACX, the Rights Holder has access to a “higher tier” of Producers if you select the Plus option. You probably have access to a still higher tier if you choose to pay the Producer in full.

EXCLUSIVE V. NONEXCLUSIVE If you make an exclusive deal with Amazon, you receive a royalty of 40% of retail sales through Amazon, Audible and iTunes, but you agree to not sell the audiobook elsewhere. The nonexclusive option allows you to sell your audiobook wherever you want (such as through Kobo or your own website), but you receive a royalty of only 25% on sales through Audible and Amazon.

So, those are the basics. I have chosen to go with ACX because I do not believe I could narrate the book well myself, and even if I could, I do not have the equipment to guarantee a good quality recording. I chose Royalty Share Plus because I wanted to find the best narrator I could to tell the story even though I will only be able to sell the audiobook through Audible, Amazon and iTunes.

In my next posting I will describe the steps I have taken make my book available on ACX and what I have learned in the process.

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