This is the final post I’ll have as far as building an audiobook with Amazon’s ACX system. In the first two installments, I talked about the process, first enrolling/selecting your book, then choosing a narrator and finally proofing the narrated sections. You can see those two sections here and here.
It was a time-consuming process. It was also fairly exhausting for someone who works full time, writes, is married, and has something of a social life. I would estimate that it was at least forty hours of work even after selecting a narrator. There were multiple edits that had to take place to meet ACX’s guidelines on things like the pauses between chapters (too long, who knew?) and the silence during a pause (apparently it has to be very quiet). All that aside, this post is going to look at the end results: the royalty process and profits.
Now, going into this, I had the option to split royalties or pay the narrator in a lump sum. I’m not a split royalties type of person. For one thing, I put tens of thousands of hours in writing. Why do I want to share that much effort with someone else if I don’t have to? For another, long term, I figured it would pay better to do a lump sum. This meant instead of 25% of the profits as royalties I’d receive 50%. Roughly twice as much.
Now the ACX program has a couple issues that I’ll comment on. For one, they’re not like Kindle Direct Publishing with hourly updates on sales and a running estimate of royalties earned. With ACX, you get a tracker updated around midnight PST with total sales by type. These types roughly tell you how much you’ll earn, but only roughly, because, remember, you don’t set the price, Audible, Amazon, and iTunes set the price of your audiobook. That price also varies by method of purchase. From initial reading through my royalty statement, it looks like subscribers using their Audible credits paid roughly $12 a copy, subscribers purchasing paid around $15, and everyone else paid around $25 for my book The Fallen Race. That daily update shows the breakdown between the three types of purchasers. It doesn’t show the royalty rate or the price paid or any of that, just the number of sales in each category. Where this becomes an issue, is, if you’re like me and you paid out of your own pocket to fund the narration. You’re biting your nails hoping that this thing will pay for itself. There’s a mortgage to pay and food to put on the table, and it’s very hard to estimate earnings when you don’t have all the information.
When you get the information is very similar to KDP. Thirty days after the last calendar day of the month, they send you a royalty statement. Unlike KDP, ACX mails it to you (at least for those in the US, for elsewhere, I understand it is every quarter rather than every month). That’s right, you have to check your mail. On the other hand, checking the mail is rather exciting when you’re expecting your royalty check in it. This is where ACX really shines, though. They break down royalty percentage, sales of each type and all the information you could really want in a readable format. Plus, they give you the matching check with whole package, which really gives you a nice feeling of completeness.
The other issue that I’m on the fence about is transparency with iTunes. Amazon and Audible are owned by the same company, so the sales are pretty similar. The iTunes sales of my book, however, I have no earthly idea how to monitor or even really how I’ll receive royalties. They could be rolled up in my other sales or it could be a separate royalty statement entirely. That leads me to my last complaint about the process. The FAQ’s and information provided by ACX without going directly to their customer support is either inaccurate or very thin, particularly on the things that really matter once the audiobook is completed. The royalties are listed as 40% there on their information, but I receive 50%, according to my statement (I’ll gladly accept more, but it was something of a surprise, is all). They say they’ll mail royalty statements every month. They don’t mention it will be 30 days after each month. That’s what I expected, but still, they need to get in there and clarify. Those are the ones that mattered to me, but there’s a lot of other inaccuracies in there or just places where you can’t find the information you want without sending an email.
On the positive side, I’m very pleased with how the system as a whole works. Publishing my books in audio format allows me to reach a much broader audience. That in turn means more money and reaching a larger reader/listener base. For that matter, from a moderately risky endeavor it has proven itself as a method which I’ll definitely use in the future. I’m already planning on doing two more audiobooks: Renegades: Origins and the upcoming epic fantasy Echo of the High Kings. I also plan to do an audiobook of The Shattered Empire when it’s finished. In the first month of sales I already earned back my initial investment and it looks to be a solid method of sales for independent authors… just a large up front investment of time and money.