ACX.com 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 ACX.com

The inspiration for my researching ACX in the first place was Wayne Henderson, from MediaVoiceOvers.com 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.


My Favorite Charity

Today is the beginning of our annual (35th Annual, in fact) Radiothon for the kids of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. My station has been doing this since before there was a concerted effort across Country Music Radio, but we've gladly been a part of Country Cares since then.

To join us in helping the kids, doctors, nurses, families and friends of St. Jude, just click that Country Cares banner to make your donation securely online. Or, you can call 1(800)787-5288 to do it over the phone. Let me tell you just a few reasons why you should.

  • No patient or family is ever refused care at St. Jude because of their inability to pay. This, in spite of the fact that treatment for one patient routinely costs tens of thousands of dollars per month, and is often not covered even by the best insurance policies.
  • St. Jude's current operating cost is more than $2 Million per day, and rising.
  • These higher costs are in large part due to drug costs which have skyrocketed for the hospital over the last decade from $3-5 million/year to more than $50 million in 2014.
  • Survival rates for childhood cancers are falling constantly thanks to the treatments and research of St. Jude, which is shared freely and openly with hospitals AROUND the globe.

In 1962, childhood cancer survival rates were at 20% overall. This is the progress St. Jude has made in the last 50 years. Help us bridge that last 20% in the next 50.

Danny Thomas, St. Jude's founder, famously said,

No Child Should have to die in the dawn of life.

And every day, the people behind St. Jude Children's Research Hospital work to make that a reality. Help us today, by making a donation. Become a Partner in Hope with a commitment of just $20/month. Save a life, BE St. Jude today.

5 Goals for my 35th Year

A year ago when I turned 33, I had an overwhelming lack of accomplishment.
I was now the age that Jesus was when he completed his ministry and died on the cross. To set the bar a little lower, I had outlived dozens of legendary rockers and people almost a decade younger than me were already CEO's and billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg. I felt old.

My podcasts should've caught on by now. I should be making more money in my job. Why aren't the girls already potty-trained? When the boys love Star Wars as much as I do?

I worry a lot. What can I tell you? But everything on that list is just a variation of the same worries and concerns that every grownup has. Can you provide? Is everyone ok? Are we all normal? So, somewhere in the last four months or so, I finally found my 30's groove, and so instead of dreading another birthday morning, I'm setting some goals for myself this year. Nothing earth-shattering, but it's not just a one-year project either. I'm hopefully gonna be around to let myself down with how little progress I've made on these anyway.

5. Never share an article, link or story without verifying the truth of it.
I value honesty and the truth as highly as just about anything. Intellectual dishonesty is one of the surest ways to get me to call you out, directly, loudly and consistently. And yet, I occasionally jump at a contest that ends up being a scam, or jump with indignation at some injustice only to discover that it was all an overblown misunderstanding. The fact that one story ends up not being true doesn't mean that there aren't injustices in the world or even stories just like the one that I shared, with different names and addresses. But sharing false or exaggerated stories dilutes my own "trust factor" for those that read the things I share. If it hurts and angers me when others do it, I must excise it in my own life.

4. Notice my neighbor.
Anytime someone asks me about my faith, I talk about loving your neighbor. It's the second commandment of Christ, after all, and like unto the first one, Love the Lord your God. I do a good job of remembering that I'm supposed to love them, and why I'm supposed to love them (loving them, is like loving God), but I often completely overlook exactly who my "neighbor" is. While I know they don't all look like me, I sometimes forget that they don't all vote like me or pray like me or feel about THEIR neighbors they way I think I'm supposed to. I've got to love them, but I've got notice them first.

3. Pray for my enemies. Until they aren't my enemies.
I've been praying a lot lately. For patience and love, joy in the middle of turmoil and a still tongue in response to insults. That's all good. Necessary even. But I was reminded, by one of my small group members (I'm gonna tell you guys about them at some point soon, and why you should find your own awesome group), that praying for myself will only get me so far. I'm supposed to be praying for those that have me perplexed and stressed. Supposed to pray for those that I'm holding my tongue against. Supposed to pray for my enemies. Not to change them, but to change me. Because it's really a problem of an incorrect mindset. They aren't my enemies, they're my neighbor too. So, I'm praying for them until I recognize our common property lines, so to speak.

2. Love my wife half as well as she deserves.
I feel like if I'm grading myself right now (fairly, but firmly) I'm giving her about a quarter of what she SHOULD get. Of my time, my attention, my affection etc. I'd like to get that to at least 3/8 by our next anniversary. The good news is, I've got all the rest of them to work on it.

1. Keep all my plates spinning.
I am a husband. A father of four children under 8. A full-time employee of a small terrestrial radio group with an air-shift, production responsibilities a couple of sales accounts and a pile of digital management and promotion work. Two podcasts per week (and a third miniseries to announce soon), and a serious jones to watch a movie or two every week at least. There's a lot on my plates, but so far they're all spinning. It seems the more I put up there the better I get at spinning them, so I'll just keep adding it on. Slow and steady, but always pushing myself to spin faster.

Welcome Home, For the First Time

Hello there. 

I started "blogging" in 2004, writing on MySpace (and eventually Facebook) as well as Tumblr (in it's initial phases), and eventually at DrunkenRogue.com then WeAreAwesome.net but never once under my own name and domain. I've produced hundreds of episodes of three different podcasts, YouTube videos, a weekly radio interview with my Mayor even an audiobook.

So, thanks to Squarespace and some friendly neighborhood benefactors, all these things have a home now.

It's a work in progress and it likely always will be, but now this is my place, for all the things. 

I hope you enjoy at least a few of them.

On Writing, and a Year without It

More than a year ago, I posted my last entry to this blog. I'd posted less frequently before that for a year or so, but before that I'd gone through a pretty prolific phase of writing and publishing here or on one of the other places this blog has called home over the years.The reasons my posts had become less frequent (and then after Thanksgiving, non-existent) are numerous but the active ingredients, so to speak, number only two. The birth of my twin daughters, and the birth of my new podcast.

In November of last year my permanent Christmas card lineup was finalized with the addition of Eutaw and Nola, our beautiful twin daughters. Honeybun and I have been overwhelmed and overloaded ever since the day they came into our lives and we wouldn't have it any other way.

While I've been podcasting since 2012, it was last May that we launched Pod on Pod, a podcast review show, and it's been my main side project ever since. Josh and I are really proud of what we've built there, this past November we reviewed two shows every week used nothing but listener submitted shows all month.

We're creating some great audio every week, even if I do say so myself, and I couldn't be more proud of what we've done and are doing.

So, with rambunctious infant twins and a fledgling podcast to maintain, not to mention my marriage, full time job or two elementary age sons, I imagine you can forgive my lack of writing. If not, come babysit sometime and I'll be sure and crank out a few choice posts just for you.

But I do have things to say quite frequently. Facebook is fine for lots of it, Twitter ideal for other things, but long form writing is often how I've worked out my own ideas, and I've always loved having a snapshot of my thoughts online as a record. For me, for my kids someday, for anyone interested in the ongoing experiment that is Joel.

So, I'm back. Or I'm gonna try to be. The current plan is to watch and review 100 movies this year. I've seen 6 already and you'll start seeing those reviews later today.

I'll also occasionally try to write about something else. I'm interested in lots of different topics, and I know many of them don't cross over for anyone who follows me, so feel free to just let these pass you by if you realize it's not for you. But I hope some of you read even the stuff that seems like it's not meant for you. Because I've often found those are the posts that have affected me and moved me intellectually, spiritually, emotionally or just humorously the most.

All that last stuff goes for the movies you don't think you'd like too!

Amazon as the Killer of the Advertising

A beautiful piece from Jack Shafer for Reuters about the death of the Alt Weekly contains this nugget:

Mostly gone, too, is record-company advertising. Before that business was disrupted, the labels would give record stores — remember them? — big bags of “co-op” money to advertise the new releases, and even reissues! Video stores — remember them? — were big advertisers, too. Amazon has helped to clean out whole categories of retailing that once advertised in alt-weeklies, such as electronics, books, music and cameras. Big-box stores have displaced many of the indie retailers that long provided advertising backbone. And while Hollywood still places ads, it’s nothing compared to the heyday. To give you a sense of how precipitous the drop, the smallest edition Washington City Paper printed in 2006 contained 112 pages, with 128-pagers and 136-pagers being the most common. In 2012, the page counts ordinarily ranged between 56 and 72.

As a guy who deals with (if not directly sales) advertising, I've thought many times about the impact of Amazon on local businesses. I hadn't really considered how that would eventually affect publications and yes, broadcasters. Blockbuster is a good example, but mom and pop video stores (which had really already been killed by the time I got into radio) were even better advertisers. In my market, there is no blockbuster. No video rental store, in fact, to advertise. How many other categories can you think of that don't even exist anymore?

I'm not one for propping up declining industries or slowing or halting progress because of the turmoil it creates, but it is noteworthy that so many industries have risen and fallen even in my lifetime. There are many things we gain in our new world. Let us not forget what we lose.

We Are All Podcasters

As I read a great article by Mike Elgan this morning, I couldn't help but be reminded of the old adage, "We're all in sales." The idea being that everyone is selling themselves if not a product or service.Elgan's discussion of Apple's "Podcast Problem" made me think of a new adage that I've been trumpeting around the radio station for a while, but it's application is even more broad than actual broadcasters.

We are all podcasters.

Or should be.

The future, and really the present, of media consumption is on demand and over IP. That means that everything, music, movies, tv shows, blogs and even games will be and increasingly are accessed almost precisely like podcasts.

It's been almost a year since I started my first Podcast and it has been the single most creatively rewarding experience of my life. It's also given me a broader audience and bigger mic than anything else I've ever done independently. You can and should build your own today.

If you are a creator of any kind it is imperative that you get in front of or at least in line with this trend and recognize your new role before it has left you behind.

And you have that sinking feeling that the fact that you are having to articulate the value and persuade other people is probably indicative of the fact that actually it’s not good enough. On a number of occasions we’ve actually all been honest with ourselves and said ‘you know, this isn’t good enough, we need to stop’. And that’s very difficult.Johnathan Ive on the importance of self-editing.

Sometimes, you’ve got to kill your “babies”.