How Not To Get Hired as an Audiobook Narrator or Producer On Amazon ACX

So I’ve been trying to find producers on Amazon ACX for some audiobooks. A producer reads the book and takes care of the technical side of uploading an audiobook.

I’ve seen plenty of articles written by experienced audiobook producers who are trying to explain their profession to authors. However, I don’t see anyone looking at this from the other point of view. As an author, prepare to have your time wasted. A lot. Even with a good, experienced producer, it is unlikely your production will go to schedule. My fastest one so far took 6 months.

With a bad producer, it can take over a year to get to the point where you can request to dissolve your ACX contract for non-delivery and then you have to begin all over again, posting the request for auditions, listening to new narrators, having time wasted by (more incompetent) narrators, dissolving the contract… it’s putting genuine, good authors off posting their work (along with the utterly crap royalty share offered by ACX, which is 20% to the author if it’s split with a narrator, or 40% to the author if the royalty is not split).

As an author, then, I am getting a little weary of the following things and I think newbie producers need to catch themselves on and ask if they have what it takes to be a producer before wasting an author’s time.

Every day you are wasting someone’s time on a project you can’t actually complete, that’s another day when the author has to wait before they can ask to dissolve the contract for non-delivery of services, and then the author has to start the auditions process all over again. I have BOOKS to write!

Here’s how NOT to get hired:

You didn’t read the brief.

Maybe it wanted a female voice with a Swedish accent and you’re a male American from the midwest but think you can do it great.

Why this is important: You are primarily being hired on your ability to read. If you can’t read what the author is asking for in a 10-word overview, you are not going to read a 100,000 word book very well.

This is the number one reason why I won’t hire someone. Always check the brief to see whether you are actually suitable for the role you’re putting yourself forward for. It saves you wasting your own time producing an audition file and mine going into ACX and listening to it.

You sent a generic “audition file” instead of recording the audition script I took the time to edit and format.

Why this is important: I selected an audition script based on areas of my book which might be difficult (or in the case of erotic romance, uncomfortable or embarrassing) for a narrator to read. I want to know that you saw those areas, that you were confident in your reading, and that you still want the role.

It’s secondly important because it’s a matter of respect. I asked for something specific and you didn’t deliver. If that’s how you are so early on in the transaction, it doesn’t fill me with confidence that you can handle my book.

Your audition file has poor sound quality.

There is an echo, or you’re not using a pop filter, or your microphone is muffling the clarity of your voice.

Why this is important: Your ability to read my book isn’t the only thing I’m hiring for. If your sound files don’t meet Amazon ACX’s technical requirements, they will never let you release that book. That means you’ve wasted my time later down the line. If you don’t have an ear for simple issues with your sound, you have no business being paid to do this job.

You have unrealistic expectations of payment.

This seems to have become a bigger issue since Amazon ACX brought out the (clear as mud) “royalty share plus” option. Now I get would-be producers on a regular basis contacting me asking for crazy monthly payments, or if I can send them money via Western Union (hello, ACX scam).

Why it’s important: I have no control over the royalties Amazon pays, it depends how many people buy the audiobook. As a narrator, do you have a platform? Do you pay in excess of $100 a month to Mailchimp or Mailerlite to organize your mailing list? Do you work flat out, day in day out, building your audience in addition to your creative work, engaging with the people who love your stories, and somehow still finding time to write, knowing every new book is a gamble and even with an emailing list of 10,000 readers, all of whom signed up voluntarily because they love your work, you can still have books that only sell 4 or 5 copies? Do you pay $20-$100 per DAY, 365 days a year, for the Facebook ads to sell these audiobooks? Do you pay the cover designer to make a kick-ass cover? Did you pay the developmental editor, line editor, copyeditor and proofreader to edit this book to polish the words that read so beautifully? If the answer to ALL of these things is yes, then we can definitely talk about your expectation of $200 per finished hour PLUS a 50-50 split.

You don’t understand what “per finished hour” means.

Why this is important: I don’t get paid to write books based on how much time I spent looking up how to spell “fugue” or researching popular piano music of the 1920s. I don’t get paid based on how expensive my equipment was or how much time and money I spent on my education. I get paid based on how much the market dictates my books are worth, and how well I have marketed those books, assuming they were their best selves in the first place. You get paid either based on how well I marketed the book, if you’re getting royalty share, or based on how many hours long your final audiobook is, if you’re paid per finished hour. That’s the length of time, from when a reader/listener hits “play” to them hearing “the end”. It’s roughly one hour per 10,000 words, or a little longer depending on your accent. Them’s the breaks, sweets. Publishing is a brutal industry.

You have no sense of timing. You either speak too fast, painfully slowly, or with no attention to the punctuation in your script.

Why this is important: If you don’t know to leave a brief pause after every period/full stop at the end of a sentence (fourth grade English?), you will not produce an audiobook that anyone will enjoy listening to. Likewise, questions should have an upwards inflection, anything ending with an exclamation point/exclamation mark should sound like it does, and things on separate lines should sound like they’re on separate lines, not on top of one another. It’s a more pervasive form of reading too quickly, and it won’t make Audible customers buy your audiobook when they hear a sample that’s bady-timed.

You don’t have the audio editing skills to make an audiobook.

Being an audiobook producer is SO much more than just reading off a page while your voice recorder is on. If it was that easy, professional audiobook producers wouldn’t be able to command the rate of pay which they deserve. You are a producer not a performer because you and you alone are responsible for the sound quality and whether you’ve made a saleable product or not.

Why this is important: ACX literally will not approve an audiobook if it doesn’t pass their quality checks. This includes a computer checking if the sound files meet ACX’s technical requirements, and a sound engineer manually checking, too. If you can’t do this, you have wasted a lot of your own and the author’s time.

I know there are some difficult home truths in here that are going to upset some wannabe audiobook narrators, and God knows there are more than enough professional audiobook narrators who have written scathing articles about unprofessional authors from the other side of this. But we don’t live in a world where every single member of every single group are the same.

There are good authors and bad authors out there, and good audiobook narrators (somewhere, there are even good audiobook narrators who can cope with erotic romance, but these are rare) and bad audiobook narrators. Both sides attract scammers looking to get rich quick or get something for nothing, and if you want to succeed as a narrator, you need to separate yourselves from those people with your professionalism.

I hope the “fad” for people with no idea what they are doing to waste authors’ time on Amazon ACX will be over soon, leaving only the more professional audiobook producers. I’m not commissioning any more audiobooks (and I have a back catalogue of over 50 fiction books) until it’s a bit easier to filter out the people who just can’t do this job from the people who can. At the moment, I’ve had a success rate of about 1 in 2 narrators (of the ones who successfully auditioned and were offered a contract) being able to actually complete a project, and that’s just not good enough.

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