I often hear from Rights Holders "I'm new at this, can you tell?!" That's no surprise. Most authors aren't churning out dozens of books and becoming old hands at being self-publishers on ACX.
Here’s a few suggestions for how to do your end of things well, especially if you’re taking your chances in the Royalty Share pool, because of course you want to give your book the best chance:
When listing the book:
1) Short and sweet! A short audition script might mean you get more candidates auditioning. I personally like it when the excerpt is right in the field rather than provided an attachment, because downloading is extra clicking. My next favorite thing is when the entire book is attached as a pdf, because then a) I know the author has no expectation whatsoever that I’m going to read the whole thing for an audition, and b) If I love it I get to read it, and then you win a Goodreads review:)
When 3-10 pages are attached …. well, on the plus side you’ve given enough material to give lots of character and tonal clues, but then I wonder if the author thinks I’m going to read it all for the audition? I’m not. Two to five minutes is all you get (we all know that you are going to listen to only a few seconds before you know if it’s no or maybe, and also those two to five minutes take at least 30 minutes work). If you want to post several pages, a note indicating that you’re only expecting an industry-standard two minute audition clarifies your expectations.
2) Give your sample script file a name that includes the name of your book. Not "audition", or “audio script for acx”, or “sample”. Because once I go looking for the audition scripts I was interested in in my downloads folder, they pretty much all have the same title (“AuditionACXScriptSample.pdf”)
3) Keywords for characters and performance are important, especially if accents are involved! On the other hand, I don’t need to know the entire life story of a character that speaks two sentences in the sample. That comes later:)
4) Mentioning that you appreciate the work involved in producing auditions (there is quite a lot of work in each audition) or books is a nice touch. Barking about your unrealistic expectations is not, but it does provide entertainment as we narrators pass by your posting:)
5) Please don’t list your book for “$XX PFH OR Royalty Share”, when there’s not the faintest chance you plan to pay PFH for it. That’s fakery. Not cool.
6) Convince me that you really did “love my samples”. Reaching out and messaging narrators asking them to audition for your book is proactive. However, I get a message like this about daily, and I ignore almost all of them. To me it looks like a cut and paste job you sent to the first ten producers that filtered for your genre. Convince me you really did listen to my samples or looked me up, and you’re sincerely interested.
When the auditions pour in:
Karen Commins has a great and comprehensive blog post on all the things you should consider when listening to the audition, and much more about this whole process of getting your audiobook made as well.
1) Use headphones to be better able to assess the sound quality, hear background noise, loud breathing, mouth clicks and noises, and also, because your customers at the end of this road are very often going to be listening to the finished product with headphones.
2) The narrators don’t know if you click “dislike” on their audition :)
3) If you’ve got a short list that you’re stuck deciding between, by all means ask for another sample with a different type of scene or a reading of a different important character, if you need more information to make your decision.
4) When you make an offer to someone and they accept, all the other candidates get a boilerplate message that says the narrator has been chosen (and it’s not you, better luck next time). You don’t have to write to anyone to let them know. Unless you sincerely do mean that you might look them up for future projects.
5) Is someone ghosting you? Unfortunately, the ACX messaging site sometimes fails to send messages, and the only way to be positive your message sent is to check your sent messages. This has bitten me more than once:(
1) Communicate! Provide the pronunciation for those names and worlds you made up. Please don't vanish, ignore all emails, and plan to just click "I approve". If you’re super busy, rarely see your emails, or you don’t have much attachment to how it sounds, including whether or not “John sounds anguished enough in chapter 12”, just say so at the outset, and we’re cool.
Can't offer money? Hoping for the best Royalty Share has to offer?
1) Be flexible! Some of us fill our menus with royalty share between paid work for many reasons (to keep busy, to stretch one’s range, gambling that it might do well, actually really like the book...). Books for pay get priority, so if you have a RS book, be amenable to a long and vague deadline, and be understanding if you get bumped. You might get a real pro for free if you're willing to wait.
2) Can't pay? Lay on the praise. That's useful, seriously. Really, I can use praise - it goes in the bank of accolades for bad days and when I need a website quote. Beyond that, hearing good things motivates me to invest more in your book, because you're so nice. It's a circle of positive niceness.
3) Prooflisten! Proofing is a significant step in the process, and if you aren’t sharing the cost of post-production, you can contribute by doing the prooflistening. Rights holders that are invested in their books tend to be eager to listen anyway, but if you're not paying for your audiobook, it will help if you can find the time to carefully listen to the whole thing.
Hope this helps on your journey to getting your audiobook made!