Rob Archangel is a co-founder of Archangel Ink, an independent publishing services company.
Rob has done the production, mixing and editing of audiobooks for clients and bestselling author Matt Stone. In this show, Rob shares how audiobooks can help you increase your income from your books by 10% or more, and how the future is only getting better for audiobook authors. You’ll also learn step-by-step how to find a production company to produce your audiobooks for you. For those of you who just want to do it yourself, you’ll find some great tips and strategies on how to make the whole process easier as well.
Grab your notebook and pen and get ready to take notes, because you’re about to learn how to make some serious Publishing Profits.
Rob started working with his partner Matt Stone in 2012. He was really interested in what Matt had to say about health and wellness. After Rob reached out to start a conversation with Matt, Matt invited Rob to join his team. Rob started researching self-publishing and convinced Matt he could go that route. (Prior to putting his books up on Amazon, Matt was simply selling copies of his books directly from his website.)
After successfully entering the ebook market with his material, Matt and Rob expanded formats. They began selling print-on-demand versions of Matt’s work in 2013, and broke into the audiobook market after that.
The audiobook market has been very good to them.
After their initial success with Matt’s work, Rob and Matt decided to start a publishing company to help authors navigate self-publishing. They offer services for producing ebooks, print on demand, and audiobooks.
Who Is Matt Stone?
Matt Stone went to school for creative writing and found that he preferred creative nonfiction. After he graduated college, Matt decided to write in the health and wellness field because it was a passion of his. Before publishing his books on Amazon, he built a following by being a renegade in the health and wellness space.
A Look at the Business after Expanding Distribution
Their Kindle books have been selling steadily enough that Rob and Matt decided to switch to KDP Select and sell exclusively on Amazon.
Amazon is the big player in the publishing world, so the economics and the ease of publishing exclusively through Amazon just make sense.
The sales of Matt’s books have dramatically increased since they made the switch from wide distribution to exclusive distribution through KDP Select. That accounts for all sales channels, including print on demand and audiobooks.
The Audiobook Explosion
If you are a self-published author, you can produce three versions of your book to sell to the public. Each version of your book is an income stream that you can earn royalties from.
Listed in order of difficulty from easiest to hardest, they are:
1. The ebook
This is the easiest form of your book to create. It also has the highest profit margin. All you have to do is create a properly formatted Word document and upload it to Amazon to create an ebook. You also need a properly formatted image for your cover.
2. The paperback
This version of your book is slightly more difficult to produce, and has a smaller profit margin. Formatting a file for print on demand is slightly more complicated, and hiring help is more expensive because of the higher degree of difficulty.
3. The audiobook
The audiobook is the most expensive form of your book you can produce. It has the highest profit margin, though, because audiobooks cost the most for the customer. However, producing an audiobook of your indie work isn’t the right choice for everyone.
Generally speaking, audiobooks sell at a rate of 10% to 15% of your ebook sales, so if you’re making $1,000 a month on ebook sales, it’s not unreasonable to expect that you would make another $100-$150 per month on your audiobook sales.
Of course, an audiobook can explode in popularity and create more interest, driving traffic to the book itself. But you shouldn’t count on this in a business planning sense.
Once an audiobook is produced, it will be a passive income stream for as long as people are interested in the content of the book itself. Once you produce the file, you don’t ever have to touch it again. It will keep making you money month after month.
Another benefit of producing audiobooks right now is that you’re getting in on the ground floor of a new marketplace. Right now, in 2013, there might be 200,000 books in the health and wellness category on Amazon. In contrast, there might be 2,000 books in Audible’s health and wellness category.
Getting in on the ground floor of a smaller market means that you have the possibility of gaining greater visibility because competition isn’t as fierce as it is on Amazon.
Plus, you’re getting a higher commission per sale of your audiobook, and once you produce the audiobook, it will give you passive income for years to come
All of this adds up to an opportunity you should seriously consider.
Making your books available on Audible opens you up to an entirely new market. There are people who consume books exclusively in audio format. There are also people who are more likely to consume your material if it’s available on audio.
“A lot of people get their reading done passively while doing other things throughout the day; they might be cooking or running errands. Getting to learn or hear stories simultaneously is a great opportunity.”
– Rob Archangel
What Books Fit Best in the Audiobook Market?
The books that convert best into the audiobook market are the books that have a narrative structure. They don’t have to necessarily be fiction books. But they need an intro, a body, and a conclusion. They need a narrative flow.
Material that relies heavily on visuals (such as cookbooks with a lot of pictures) don’t work well in audio format. Anything that requires a visual element is going to be harder to translate into an audio format.
If you have a book with a lot of charts and graphs, or pictures that you think are important, one solution is to have a special website, or a page on your website, that contains all of those charts and graphs.
You can create a link that’s good only for listeners of that audiobook and say, “Go to my website where you can look at all of the charts and graphs.”
This is also a great way to drive traffic to your website.
Interactive Books Are the Way of the Future
In the past, ebooks used to just be text. As technology has advanced, more pictures and more detailed pictures have become available for ebook distribution. Additionally, we’re seeing the beginning of “enhanced ebooks” that allow you to embed video into your ebook.
It’s especially important for nonfiction authors to teach their audience in as many ways as possible.
Adding more ways for your audience to consume your information is adding value to the marketplace because you’re meeting your audience where they learn best. And the more value you add to the marketplace, the more you will be rewarded by your audience.
Make Use of Audible’s Affiliate Program
Depending on your audience and your reach on the internet, you can sign up for Audible’s affiliate program, promote your book through the affiliate program, and make more money by selling Audible memberships than you might otherwise by selling copies of your book.
How Audible’s Affiliate Program Works in 2017
You can join Audible’s affiliate program by joining Amazon’s associate program. Amazon owns Audible.
There are currently three offers that can generate a commission for you through Audible’s affiliate program.
- When people sign up for an Audible free trial through your affiliate link on your website, you get $5.
- When people sign up for an Audible Gold Membership, which gives people one Audible credit a month good for book purchases and 30% off of every listed price on Audible, you get $10.
- When people buy an audiobook on Audible after navigating there through your affiliate link, you get $0.50
Advertise Audible on Your Podcast
Audible has a special program just for podcast producers. If you have a podcast, you can apply to advertise Audible on your podcast.
If you’re approved, you set up a podcast or advertising link with Audible. For every one of your users who gets a free trial of Audible through that link, you get $15.
This offer works best if you suggest an audiobook that your listeners might like.
How to Produce an Audiobook
There’s several ways an indie author can go about producing an audiobook. Let’s take a look.
1. Do It Yourself
The first thing you want to do if you plan on producing an audiobook yourself is download Audacity. Audacity is a free program that allows you to record audio onto your computer.
The next thing you want to do is buy a USB microphone, and you probably want to invest in a pop filter that goes over your microphone and helps you create a smooth recording that is up to Audible’s standards.
We have links to Audacity and suggested equipment in the Links and Resources Section of the show notes.
The other thing you want to do is practice narration—that is, practice reading things aloud.
One good way to practice is to turn on “closed caption” for news programs. Listen to the way broadcasters narrate their news copy to get an idea of the speed and cadence you should use when narrating nonfiction work.
When you narrate your own work, you want to keep the quality of sound as even as possible over the whole project. Obviously, unless you’re reading a really short book, you’re probably not going to be able to finish the project in one session. But the fewer sessions you have per project, the more even the sound will be over the entire thing.
You want to narrate in a quiet room, with a minimum of background noises to degrade the quality of your audio file.
If you’re on a budget, some people have found it works well to record in a walk-in closet because the clothes around them eliminate most of the background noise.
Another cost-saving measure you can implement is to use an athletic sock rather than a pop filter. Put the athletic sock over your microphone and it should produce an acoustically clear audio file.
Mastering Your Own Audio File
After you have a clean audio file, you begin the mastering process. The first thing you want to do when you master your audio file is to get an audio profile of the ambient noise in the room.
Using Audacity, you can record the ambient noise in the room and use that recording to remove the ambient noise from your audiobook.
Practically speaking, there are two ways to go about the mastering process.
- Record your audiobook and fix errors as you go.
You can record the audiobook and fix things as you go. This is the fastest way to narrate an audiobook. It minimizes duplicated effort.
- Record the entire audiobook, then go back and fix errors.
If you don’t want to fix audio errors as you go, you can record the entire project, listen to it when it’s done, and fix any errors that show up. This makes narrating the book a much longer process. However, this process makes mastering the file for Audible and the post-production time much shorter.
When you’re going through your completed audio file to upload to ACX, you want to pay attention to the little details. You want to imagine that you are the customer who just bought this book.
- Make sure the audio is clean and clear.
- Remove any pops, clicks, or hisses that you hear.
- Listen for narrative structure.
- Insert dramatic pauses where it makes sense to do so.
- Consider speeding up the way some things are narrated to flow better.
After you upload the file to Audible/ACX, it takes about three weeks for a book to be published on their website.
2. Hire Someone to Produce Your Audiobook
When you hire someone to produce your audiobook for you, they are typically paid per finished hour of your audiobook. In general, the price for someone to narrate and produce your audiobook is $300-$500 per finished hour.
That means if your finished audiobook is five hours long, you can expect to pay between $1,500 and $2,500 for the finished product. That includes narrating, editing, and producing your audiobook for Audible.
Basically, you give an ebook copy of your book to your narrator and they give you a professional-quality audio file that is put on Audible for sale.
Because Rob and Matt are excited about the opportunity to get authors into the audiobook marketplace, they offer to produce your audiobook for around $200 per finished hour.
That means that for the same five-hour book that you had published before, the cost is $1,000 instead of $1,500-$2,500.
What Is ACX (Audible Creation eXchange)?
Audible Creation eXchange, or ACX, is where you (or your audiobook producer) uploads your audiobook file and transmits it to Audible.
On ACX, you can also find narrators who will produce your audiobook. It’s also possible to find narrators on ACX who will produce your audiobook for a straight royalty split. That means that you don’t have to invest any money up front—but for the life of your audiobook, they get half of the royalties from that book.
If you’re producing a series of audiobooks, it’s important to have in your contract with your narrator that you have the ability to seek out a new narrator if the narrator you’re working with is unable to produce future books, or drops out of the industry. (It happens more often than you think.)
When you produce your audiobook through ACX, you will get distribution through Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. ACX has about 90% of the audiobook market.
Learn more about ACX and how it works here. There are several different paths you can follow depending upon where you fit in the audiobook production process and what you want to do.
After you have completed recording your audiobook, you send ACX the completed files along with copies of your digital cover. ACX has regulations regarding the type of audio files you can send and specifications regarding the dimensions and quality of your cover image.
From the time that you send them an appropriate set of files, it takes about three weeks for them to get your audiobook live on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.
If you hire Archangel Ink to produce your audiobook for you, they will send you the completed MP3s. If you need them to make any adjustments, they will work with you. When the files are to your liking, you can upload them to ACX yourself.
Exclusive vs. Nonexclusive Contracts with ACX
In 2017, you have two options when it comes to producing audiobooks with ACX.
- You can enter into an exclusive distribution deal with ACX.
If you enter into an exclusive distribution deal with ACX as the audio rightsholder, you’re entitled to 40% of the price of every book sold through Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. If you enter into an exclusive deal with ACX, these are the only places your audiobook will be available, but they are the three biggest players in the audiobook marketplace.
It’s important to remember that if you enter into a royalty sharing agreement with your audiobook’s producer, you will receive 20% of the price of every audiobook sold on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. Your producer will receive the other 20%.
- You can enter into a non-exclusive distribution agreement with ACX.
If you enter into a non-exclusive distribution agreement with ACX, you will receive 25% of the price of every book sold on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. You will also have the ability to offer your book on other websites, including your own.
It’s important to remember that if you enter into a royalty sharing agreement with the producer of your audiobook, you will only receive 12.5% of every copy sold on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. Your producer will receive the other 12.5%.
Links and Resources Mentioned in This Interview
https://archangelink.com/ – Rob and Matt’s publishing services company. They have a full suite of services available for authors who want to self-publish, including: custom cover design, ghostwriting, ebook formatting, manuscript editing, paperback production, and audiobook production.
http://180degreehealth.com/blog/ Matt Stone’s blog about health and wellness.
http://www.Audibletrial.com/information.aspx – apply here to advertise Audible on your podcast. For every user who gets a free trial through your podcast advertisement link, you get $15.
Learn more about ACX and how it works. — this link will take you directly to ACX and will help you figure out exactly what you need to do depending on who you are and how you fit into the audiobook production process. ACX is a fully integrated marketplace where you can find everything you need to produce and distribute your audiobook.
Software for Recording Audiobooks
Free Download of Audacity, A Free Digital Audio Editor
Audiobook Recording Equipment
Below are some useful links and resources mentioned in Rob’s eBook, How to Create an Audiobook for Audible: Advice for authors, recording and formatting info, and more for ACX, Audible, and iTunes
Audiobook Production Services
If you are interested in having Archangel Ink produce your audiobook, go to www.archangelink.com and fill out the Contact Us form.
Just mention that you are interested in their audiobook production services. If you are only interested in audiobook services, let them know (they also publish eBooks and print books as well).
Make sure to include the full word count of your manuscript, excluding any portions that will not be read (such as references) so that they can give you an accurate quote on your project.
Also, specifically mention “audiobook-ebook” on the Contact Us form to receive a 10% discount on any self-publishing services you get from Archangel Ink.
To learn more about the Publishing Profits Podcast show, join us at www.PublishingProfitsPodcast.com
To learn more about TCK Publishing, visit www.TCKPublishing.com
For more on audiobooks, read on!
- How to Write an Audiobook Script Like a Pro
- How to Create an Audiobook PDF Companion Document for ACX, iBooks, and More
- Audiobooks Are Booming: Why Digital Audio is Way Beyond Just “Books on Tape”