Narration: How Do You Pick The Audiobooks You Read?

How Do You Pick The Audiobooks You Read?

I can’t say enough ‘Thank yous’ to the people who have read and responded to my PMx talk and blog post about how I started narrating Audiobooks with

The inspiration for my researching ACX in the first place was Wayne Henderson, from After egging him on a bit about not actually having narrated one yet, he asked this in reply to my post:

Hi Joel. Thanks for sharing the article, and your PMx presentation. I've heard from more than a few podcasters who found it motivating!

Would you mind sharing a bit about how you select the royalty share ACX audiobooks you audition for? There is such a huge collection of titles available. Although it is definitely a good idea to do some research on the prospective book's content, style, targeted audience, and how well the digital version is doing in Amazon, I think I am doing too much of this research. So much so, that I end up with the dreaded "Paralysis by Analysis" syndrome.

Thanks again for everything!


That’s a GREAT question, of course, and when you’re talking about potentially putting in 30 hours of work or more with the only financial gains to be made if and when it sales, then yes, what book you pick is very important.

Here’s the process that I’ve followed so far:

  1. Try to always have a book in production. - The fact is you’re not going to be a great “picker of books” if you were you should stop narrating audiobooks and find yourself a job in publishing. You’re gonna pick some gems, you’re gonna get some stinkers. The point is to in the aggregate build a portfolio of audiobooks that sell consistently over time. This isn’t day-trading, it’s more like mutual funds.
  2. Any book is better than no book. - Especially in the beginning, you’re going to be at the mercy of the publishers/authors, not picking and choosing. Find a book that you’re a good fit for, and can get excited about working on, but when the first offer comes, I’d think twice about passing just because it wasn’t YOUR first choice.
  3. More books are better than fewer books. - This is not necessarily the case when you get Per Finished Hour narration contracts, since the longer the book, the more money coming your way. But for revenue split contracts, narrating two shorter books over the course of a couple of months is likely to net you more sales than narrating one Game of Thrones length tome.
  4. One for them, one for me. - Advice given by Matt Damon to Ben Affleck back in the day works just as well for those of us entering the audiobook world. Just because YOU aren’t a non-fiction reader doesn’t mean your voice wouldn’t work well in that world. Just because you’ve never enjoyed fantasy, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t put on your wizard hat and hit the road to adventure in your next audiobook. Again, think Mutual Funds, diversification is the key to ensuring your long term sales growth (as well as improving your chances of getting the NEXT audition)!
  5. One for now, one for later. - Revenue split has more upside, but maybe it’s not what you NEED to be doing NOW. - Personally, I’ve done 6 books in my first year narrating. 4 of those were revenue split and 2 were paid Per Finished Hour. Frankly, I canoften use the extra immediate cash that PFH offers. For me, it’s good to “shop” for those contracts from time to time amongst my revenue split work so that I’m both earning and investing alongside one another. Your personal money situation, current workload and future plans obviously will dictate your own best practices here.

There will always be more overall revenue split opportunities for ACX authors than PFH, simply because there is no barrier to entry for the author! That doesn’t mean that a beginning narrator can’t begin to build a business IN PART on the dollars earned with per finished hour audiobook narration. When in doubt over which way you want to go, or which book to pursue, focus hardest on rules #1 and #2.