Amazon’s ACX (Audio Creation Exchange): How it works

Steven A. McKay

london-book-fair-press-photoI was lucky enough to be invited down to the 2014 London Book Fair to be part of the Amazon stand and to talk in the Author HQ about my experiences with publishing my first novel, Wolf’s Head. That wasn’t all though. Amazon also asked if I wanted to be one of the first people in the UK to use their ACX programme, and have Wolf’s Head made into a professionally read audiobook. And as Wolf’s Head had been fairly successful, and I decided to go for it: let me share a little of how the process works.

First off, the ACX website recognises your name and finds books it thinks you have written. You choose which one you want to turn into an audiobook, write a little bit about who you’d like to audition for you, upload an audition script and then the fun begins!

There are hundreds of professional narrators available to hire on ACX, but thankfully there are some very handy filter tools to help you find someone suitable without trawling through them all.

I always had an idea of someone like Sir Ian McKellen or Robert Powell reading Wolf’s Head so I set the filters for readings by narrators that were a) male b) middle-aged and c) had an English accent. I then sat and listened to the samples, noted who I liked and sent messages to the best.

Wolfs Head Audible FrontEach narrator has an hourly rate which gives you an idea of how much it’ll cost to hire them so, at this stage you need to decide what your budget is going to be and look for people that fit. OR, you can share the royalties with the narrator rather than paying them a set fee up front. That’s a good way to go if you don’t have the funds ready – but, being an optimist, I assumed Wolf’s Head would sell enough to make my money back!

When I got up the next morning I was pleased to find a few narrators had sent me auditions in reply to my messages and to be honest, every one of them was excellent. I have since spoken to others who have used ACX and they tell me they had some really outrageous and/or hilariously inappropriate auditions – but I never had any like that. Two in particular had the kind of voice I’d been hearing in my head, and I asked them both to quote for me. My preferred reader also offered the better price. His name is Nick Ellsworth and, as you will hear in the audio sample, he is perfect for my novel. His is the kind of refined storyteller’s voice I was looking for.

Now, to the most important part: what did it cost? The ACX page lets you work out an estimated length for your novel in hours, and the narrators advertise their own hourly rates. From this you can work out the probable price for production. Wolf’s Head, at about 97,000 words, comes in at around 10.5 hours and cost me just under £2000 – but if I had wanted there were other narrators I liked who would have cost quite a bit less. Shop around, talk to the narrators you like and see if you can reach a compromise.

Once a deal has been agreed, your narrator begins production and sends you each chapter for approval as it is completed. You can offer direction at this stage, or point out any errors or misreadings. I was downloading the chapters and burning them to CD to listen to in my car at work and it was a wonderful experience. I was listening to MY novel, my words, which I’d proof-read so many times, yet it was like hearing a fresh new book. I actually had tears in my eyes at some of the more emotive points in the story which speaks volumes for Nick’s skill as a narrator.

All this was going on about five or six weeks before I was due to head down to the London Book Fair so I asked Nick if he could have the audiobook ready to be on sale in time for it. The ACX staff didn’t think it would happen in such a short time-scale so I was extremely fortunate because the finished article was indeed ready, and sounding fantastic, in time for its official release at LBF 14.

As it turned out, Wolf’s Head was, as far as I’m aware, the first British ACX audiobook to be finished and available to buy – something I’m very proud of.

Wolf and Raven ebook cover finalThe first two reviews have been extremely positive and I hope I will sell enough to recoup that £2000. It would be nice to make a profit, but if I can just claw the fee back I’ll be able to have my novel, The Wolf and the Raven made into an audiobook too.

Overall, using ACX was an easy and enjoyable process for me. It probably helped that I had a very good idea of exactly what I was after, just as I do when it comes to my cover artwork. If you have the same clear idea of what you want, you should find it just as simple as I did.

What does ACX mean for indie authors in the UK? Well, it opens up an exciting opportunity to not only have our work turned into a professional audiobook, but to have it linked directly to our pages on Amazon. If someone looks at your Kindle book or paperback, there will be a link taking them directly to your audiobook on too – a hugely powerful marketing tool. You even get a few free download codes to give away to reviewers or to use as prizes for your readers.

Steven A. McKay’s debut novel Wolf’s Head was a No 1 bestseller on the Kindle War chart. The sequel, The Wolf and the Raven, achieved the same ranking, and for a while they were both No1 and No2. 

To hear a sample of the audiobook of Wolf’s Head, click here.

To read more about Steven’s experience at LBF14, read his short blog post.

To find out more about his books, see his author page on Amazon.

To find out more about the ACX program, go here.


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