ROYALTY SHARE or
PAY for PRODUCTION?
BY KAREN ROSE SMITH
In developing your audiobooks, should you agree to royalty share or pay
I went into the venture of audiobooks thinking that making the decision
about royalties or paying for production was a no-brainer. Why would I
want to put out money when I don’t have to?
However, let’s look at my goal. I had 15 books I wanted to develop into audiobooks.
Seven of them were part of a continuing series. The main characters were different in each book.
So it didn’t seem a viable option for me to have the same narrator do all seven. I wanted to get the books up
quickly, yet using an effective voice for each. I also realized that the “perfect” voice is different for each and
every listener. I’ve avidly listened to audiobooks over the past 15 years because of eye problems. I know the
voices I enjoy and those I don’t. I also realized that the audiobook market will get glutted just as the e-book
market has, so I wanted to be efficient and timely in getting the books ready for retail.
About that “perfect” voice...
I knew whatever narrator I chose, I would have to live with him or her for seven years, the life of my distribution
agreement with ACX. And even if the voice is “perfect”, presentation is rated on Audible along
with the story, so the narrator will be receiving reviews, too. The rating is averaged.
Let’s look at both royalty share where payment is split between ACX, the narrator/producer, and the
rights holder. The narrator is usually the producer. In some cases, the narrator uses an outside producer to
clean up the recording for sale (extraneous sounds, mouth sounds, editing discrepancies). But in that case,
the narrator pays the producer. This can be the arrangement in both royalty share as well as pay for production.
On my first audiobook, TOYS AND BABY WISHES, a narrator who was looking for royalty share agreements
came to me. However, I had romances to develop into audiobooks, and I wasn’t sure I wanted a male
narrator. After all, weren’t most romances read by women? Yet when I listened to his audition, I loved Johnny’s
voice and his performance of my characters. His narrating, as well as his technical skills, were excellent,
and I had no doubt I wanted him to produce my book. We worked well together, and the process was easy.
He uploaded chapters. I listened and gave him editing changes. He edited, and I listened to those changes. At
the end, I listened to the book again. This process took about six weeks. He was taking a chance on me as
well as I was taking a chance on him. What if the book didn’t sell? When that first book went live, I wanted it
to do well for him as well as for me.
My second narrator came to me, too. However, there was a difference. This book had a stipend. (ACX
puts stipends per production hour on some books. I’m not sure how they choose.) Because the narrator
would receive the stipend in addition to the royalty share, I received several unsoliticed auditions. I listened
to the first voice who was again male. Not only male, but Australian male. He absolutely nailed my hero in
his audition. It had just the right tone and the right emotion. And I liked the way he made his voice “lighter”
for my heroine. But he was Australian. How would listeners take to the light accent? I asked Ben to do a second
audition with different characters. I also listened to more men and women audition. Every time I heard
Ben’s voice, I fell into it. I liked the sound of it. I had my BFF listen to the audition, and she said any woman
would want to listen to his voice! He was good. She just confirmed what I’d realized from the first time I
heard him. He was my hero, and that’s what mattered.
My third project to be developed was also royalty share. This was my first female narrator. She uploaded
the chapters when she was finished, and I listened to the whole book at once for editing.
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