A major milestone attained in the wake of the internet era concerns the advancement of “creative independence.” In this context, we refer specifically to the increased freedom to publish books using our own means and at our own pacing, not subservient to the tastes and demands of major publishing houses.
Naturally, this freedom also extends to audiobooks, with platforms such as Audible (an Amazon subsidiary) providing authors a footing to make their works available in audio format. Stick around as we’ll teach you how you can take advantage of Audible’s business model as a self-publisher.
To that effect, you first need to get acquainted with a marketplace called ACX and why it’s relevant to this process.
What is ACX?
ACX stands for Amazon’s Audiobooks Creation Exchange and operates as a hub whereby authors can contact narrators, engineers, and studios for the purposes of creating book recordings.
Through ACX, you can also have your final product published on Audible and various other platforms. Since Audible is wholly owned by Amazon, Inc., ACX is basically the only gateway you have (as of this writing) to secure an Audible release.
We’ll be mentioning ACX at various points throughout this guide, but for now, let’s focus on the first step toward creating your audiobook for Audible.
First Step: Recording
There are currently two main paths to producing an audiobook:
- Recording the audio using your own voice, which is a viable alternative if you have the proper equipment and the ability to deliver a compelling narration.
- Hiring a narrator or studio via ACX or similar platforms. Narrators are often equipped and prepared to produce high-quality audio work at variable rates, depending on the book’s length and the narrator’s or studio’s reputation, among other parameters. If your book is a fictional story that involves several characters, you might be better off with a studio or, in the interest of saving money, a polyvalent voice actor.
Whether you decide to do it yourself or through a hired voice, keep in mind that ACX has specific quality guidelines you must abide by. These guidelines are set to ensure listeners a satisfying experience, regardless of the book they pick.
For example, you should avoid, among other things:
- Drastic changes in audio volume, tone, and noise levels.
- Long spaces that hamper the book’s pacing.
- Disruptive sounds, such as mouse clicks and traffic noise, as well as plosives and mic pops.
- Outtakes and poorly-cut audio tracks.
To comply with these guidelines, we’ve compiled some tips covering each scenario:
In a DIY production, you’re basically in charge of recording, mixing, mastering, and exporting the audio file you’ll eventually upload to ACX. Achieving high-quality audiobook material requires a degree of knowledge in all these areas, as well as:
- Decent microphones, cables, mixing consoles, and headphones (make sure they’re studio headphones if you want a more accurate reproduction, as regular headphones can sometimes mask flaws in the audio, so you won’t be able to address them on the spot)
- A good DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) wherein you can edit your audio tracks and apply various improvements (such as noise reduction)
- A proper recording space (ideally soundproofed)
- Excellent enunciation skills.
Hired Narrator or Studio
To hire a competent narrator or studio, make sure to check ratings and reviews.
Likewise, inspect their profile and portfolio pages to gauge their suitability for your project. Some providers specialize in a specific literary genre or subgenre, so even if they’re renowned voice actors, they might not be exactly what you’re looking for.
ACX has several guidelines, apart from the aforementioned quality standards, that authors must adhere to in order to submit their audio files.
Among other things, the audio must:
- Contain opening and closing credits
- Comprise one chapter per file, with the corresponding header read aloud.
- Be no longer than 120 minutes
- Be in MP3 format (192kbps or higher) with a CBR (Constant Bit Rate) at 44.1kHz
- Have a maximum noise floor of -60dB and -3dB peak values
Second Step: Submit Your Audio
Once you have your audiobook ready for retail, you must set up your ACX account.
The process is fairly straightforward. ACX will ask whether you’re a Producer or Rights Holder, as that will define the kind of profile you’ll have. Since you are uploading your own work, you ought to choose Rights Holder.
- Log into your ACX account and click on “Assert Your Title” in the upper right section of the page.
- Search for the title you want to claim and click on “This Is My Book”
- In the popup window, you’ll see two options. Since you’re about to upload a finished recording, choose the second one (“I already have audio files…”)
- You’ll be prompted to the “Territories and Distribution” page, where you’ll provide information about the territory rights that you own, the language, and how you’d like to distribute your work (Exclusive or Non-Exclusive*). Then, press the “Agree and Continue” button.
In the “Agreement” page, check the box where it says “I have reviewed the Audiobook License…” and click on “Agree and Continue,” though we heavily recommend that you read the agreement first.
*Note: Keep in mind that if you choose exclusive, you won’t be capable of selling your audiobook on platforms other than Amazon, Audible, or iTunes (though you get a higher royalty share).
In “Title Details,” you’ll see six sections:
1. Describe Your Book (with the description pulled from the Amazon page so you can edit it)
2. Copyright Information (where you’ll input the Copyright owner and year for both print and audio versions)
3. Whether the book is Fiction or Nonfiction
4. The book’s category
5. Audiobook Details
6. Reviews and Awards, in which you can relay what critics are saying about your book (optional).
After you click “Continue,” you’ll enter the “Chapter Names” section, where, as the name implies, you’ll outline all the chapters that the audiobook contains (these should reflect those in the “print” version whenever possible.) ACX also gives you the possibility to import the table of contents from Kindle for your comfort. Finally, select “Save and Continue,” and ACX will store all the information you have filled out up to that point.
The next page is the “Production Manager.” There, you’ll be asked to upload the following:
- The cover art
- Opening and closing credits
- The audiobook
- A 5-minute retail audio sample
If any of your audio files have any issues, you will see an error symbol on the “Audio Analysis” tab, which you can check for a detailed description of what went wrong and what needs to be fixed.
After you’re done with the “Production Manager,” click on the “I’m Done” button, and a popup window will appear advising you to double-check everything before confirming. Once you’re certain that the information provided is accurate, tick the “I understand…” checkbox and, lastly, press the “Yes, I Approve” button.
Step 3: Wait for Approval
After submission, you’d have to wait for ACX’s approval before the audiobook can appear on Audible, and they’ll contact you if they find some issues that need to be remedied before distribution.
ACX claims that the review process takes ten business days or less (unless there are errors), but some people have gone through a waiting period spanning from a week to several weeks
In the event that ACX approves the audiobook, it should be immediately available on Audible. At this juncture, you can promote it using all the means at your disposal (e.g., social media, blog posts, youtube videos, email, etc.)