Time for part 2 discussing timelines. If you haven’t read part 1, here’s a quick summary.
Cost for producing an ebook = US$1,650
Timeline (from start of fund outlay) to receiving income from 688 ebooks = 4 months . 5 months if it only takes you 1 month to write your book.
Methods of Audiobook Production
- Royalty Share.- Mostly via ACX, though I understand FindaAway Voices is looking at producing the same thing. In Royalty Share (for Audible), you and the narrator split the eventual royalties and risk.
- Publisher Purchase – This is where audiobook companies purchase the rights for your audiobook.
- Pay For Production – aka paying for it yourself.
Alright, let’s break this down.
Some things to know before we talk about this first:
- with ACX(who have the largest share of the market, but do NOT have a near monopoly like Amazon), their royalty rates are 40% for exlcusive distribution (through Audible & iTunes) or 25% (for non-exclusive distribution)
- You have 0 control over sale price with ACX. Due to the credit system, Whispersync, etc. the exact amount you’ll get paid for your above royalty rate changes every month. Your ‘average’ amount is around US$4.50 at 40% royalty rate. I have seen this dip down as far as $4.08 and as high as $4.80.
I’m going to talk about ACX here. With Royalty Share, narrators take half of your potential royalties for the 7 years you are on ACX exclusively. So that $4.50 is divided in half for your royalty rates.
Biggest advantage of royalty share? Your outlay is $0 quite often (there are hybrid deals, but I’m not getting into specifics here). You get an audiobook and still keep your rights.
Disadvantages? You can’t look for narrators until your book is published on Amazon.
The vast majority of narrators who are willing to do royalty share will either fit you in when they are not already contracted for paid work or are not that experienced.
You might get NO interest. Remember, narrators have to balance their time (and cost if they are paying for mastering & proofing) with what they might earn.
In addition, for ACX, you are locked in for 7 years with them and you give up half your rate. Depending on the narrator, you might be forced to do a lot more audioproofing too.
18/09/2019 Update: ACX has also introduced Royalty Share+ that allows you to add a PFH amount to a royalty share agreement to get better narrators. FindAway has introduced a similar program too.
Timeline: Varies but likely at least a month after book releases to find a narrator. Recording timeline is generally 1-2 months (record, review, proofing, re-recording and mastering, etc.). So, at the minimum, 2 months, more like 3 months before it’s ready. Then another 4 weeks before ACX approves your files.
Minimum 4-5 months. If your narrator you chose is available almost immediately. Cost = $0 (not including time spent. Most labour intensive method).
I’m sure there’s a better term for this. But this is when the publisher buys the rights to your audiobook. Yay!
Advantages: $0 cost. You often get an advance, so you get paid very soon. Most of the reputable audiobook producers will handle all the production.
Disadvantages: Lawyer fees to review contract if you want to do this right. $400-600 if you have negotiated everything you want in.
Low royalty rates (often given as ‘net’ of distribution fees, i.e. gross amount received by publisher, you get a % royalty rate. 10-20% is the often quoted amount I’ve seen.
Lower control over release dates, timing, distribution, etc.
Often multi-book contracts.
Not dependent on you to get the contract. Yes, you can apply, but contracts and offers are often given only to really successful authors.
Payment dates can be VERY long. Often 2-3 quarters away at the least. Sometimes longer. Assuming you outsell your advance.
Timeline: Varies. But you often get the offer a week or two after release. Contract negotiations can take a few weeks. Finding a narrator (and approving it, if you got narrator approval) a few more. Then, well, recording and publication and promotion. With timing dependent on publisher.
Summary: $0 cost. Timeline is often at least 2-3 months after release for book 1. Book 2 might be longer as narrator is busy and/or the publisher puts you on a lower release rate due to timing / cost and sales of your original ebook.
Pay For Production
This is where you pay for it yourself. It’s worth noting, cost of production varies and is calculated by what is known as Per Finished Hour (PFH). It (often) includes recording, mastering & proofing, whether all done by the narrator or via a 3rd party. Always worth checking on.
The ‘recommended’ PFH is around $250. You can find people for less than $200 (I’ve seen as low as $100) but you get what you pay for. Realise that PFH often means anywhere from 4 to 5 hours of work behind the scenes to get that hour. It might be more. Might be less depending on the experience and quality of the narrator.
If you want the ‘popular’ narrators (not counting celebrities!), you start getting higher quotes at $300 – 700 PFH from what I’ve heard. We’ll use the $250 for your ‘average’ narrator in this case.
Advantages? You have control. You get the full royalty rates and can decide on distribution. You own the audiobook forever and ever, so like your books, it’s ‘yours’ to (hopefully) make money decades into the future.
Disadvantages? You’re in control. You have to do it all yourself, so you need to learn about distribution, you have to proof the final copies and be happy with the voices, you have to keep your narrators on track if they are lazy, get something wrong, etc. You even have to sort out the audiobook cover (which is different in size / format).
Cost is, as mentioned, $250 PFH. So, for a 100,000 word book, it’s $2,500 (about 10,000 words per finished hour. Might be more, might be less depending on your narrator speaking speed and content of book). Paid up front.
Timeline: Pretty much the same as royalty share. Except ‘good’ narrators are often booked up, so you have to wait at least a few weeks quite often for them to be free. Popular narrators (like Nick) can often be booked 2 years in advance.
Yes. 2 years.
Minimum 3-4 months. For newer books, if you are able to plan releases properly and the narrator has time (again, see above comment about popular narrators being busy), you might be able to shorten that to 2-3 months. Or less, if you hold off book releases but have the eBook manuscript ready beforehand.
One last thing. Remember that bit about $4.50 per ‘sold’ audiobook (if you are going exclusive?).
Please note that the audiobook market is a smaller % of the ebook market. Numbers I’ve seen put audiobooks at roughly 25-30% of the digital sales market.
So. If you sold 688 ebooks, that’s roughly 70% of total sales (983 sales total). That means you will sell (roughly) 295 audiobooks.
That generates about $1327.50 revenue. If you paid for production, you are -$1172.50. Yes. That’s a negative.
A Concrete Example
Let’s assume you only have enough money to pay for your ebook to be produced. That means you have $1650 to spend to get your ebook created.
To make enough money to produce your own audiobook (again, remember, you might not have a choice but to do this!), you need to earn at least $2500.
At $2.40 per ‘sale’, you need to sell at least 1,042 ebooks.
You get your money 60 days (not including the month you’re in) after your ebook release. Assuming you release on the 1st, you get it 90 days after.
Let’s assume you project manage well and get set-up so that the moment you get your money in your pocket, the audiobook narrator will have completed production and will get paid when he’s done. So you cut out the 2 months of hunting for and the narrator producing it.
As an author, you have earned $0 (remember, you plowed all $2,500 back into audiobook production) 3 months after you released your ebook. 5 months after you started writing you are still at -$1650.
You have paid for everything, you are now releasing your audiobook. You have to wait 1 month for ACX to clear your book.
Your audiobook releases 4 months after the ebook is released. (start of 5th month)
From your ebook, you get month 2 revenue. Which is often much less than month 1. About 25% (might be more, might be less depending on series / author / etc. But the 30 day cliff is very real). So. You earned $625 from ebook sales.
Your net profit in this month is… -$1025
Also, realise, by now, that you’ve sold over 1,302 ebooks in total. This is considered roughly 1/3 to 1/5 of a trad house small print run these days (3,000 – 5000 copies for a small print run from what I understand). So… you are doing WELL since the vast majority of trad published authors never sell out their print run.
Audible releases your book on the 1st. You get paid by Audible 30 days (not including the month you’re in) after release. So, you get paid roughly 2 months after release.
Assuming your audiobook sells at the 30% rate above, that audiobook will sell 447 audiobooks. Generating revenue of $2,010.
Assuming the same 30 day cliff, you’re looking at (hopefully) breaking even on audiobook cost after month 2 of the audiobook release. All of which arrives 2 months after audiobook release, so about 6 months after your ebook released.
All the while, the ONLY money you get is from your ebook which you are still paying off the initial cost from. Now, using an unrealistic 80% drop-off from month 2 onwards in ebook revenues, you are looking at earning $500 & $400 in month 3 & 4 of ebook release.
Put another way, 7 months after you initial book release, 8 months after you invested $1650 in the ebook publication and 9 months after you started writing (assuming you wrote that 100k word book in 1 month!), you finally start making money. You’ve now earned back the cost of your audiobook production and your ebook editing fees and generated $1,885 in net profit (as the $2010 from ACX drops into your account).
At this point, you’ve also sold 2,500 or so books (ebook & audio). Which is, as many authors will tell you, high. It’s more copies than my latest AoB books or A Squire’s Wish sold.
Audiobook production is expensive and complicated. Even assuming you do a lot of things ‘right’, as an author, you still are looking at a VERY long time period before you get enough money to pay for audiobook production.
And in-between, we still have to eat.
There are (obviously) lots of variations on how these things can work out, but I’ve given enough data for you to punch in your own excel sheet / timeline.
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