In the typical professional world of audiobooks, most voice talents get paid per finished hour with no royalties. This is the way the industry has been run and continues to be run. In-demand audiobook narrators can make a perfectly good living that way.
Enter ACX and the advent of royalty-share projects. This allows the voice actor to earn 50% of the royalties from the sales of the book. The downside is that the actor typically doesn’t get any upfront payment (unless they negotiate a hybrid deal). Given that, many voice actors are leery of this type of arrangement because there aren’t any guaranteed sales. And they are right. You are not guaranteed to make a dime. That’s why it’s so important to do research on the title before you sign the contract.
So, what should one look for?
Lots of things, but the number one thing is Kindle sales per month.
How does one go about finding that? Mining into the hidden data of the book’s Amazon listing? Tracking the sales rank over time? Tapping into some mysterious algorithm that magically discloses the monthly sales?
No. You simply ask the author.
Yeah, it really is that easy. And the successful author will tell you because they are proud of their numbers. It’s the unsuccessful authors who hide their numbers behind “That’s personal information!” And feign insult. Really, it’s an embarrassment. And that’s ok, because no one ever likes to be asked how much money they make. It’s taboo.
But here’s the thing. You’re not asking out of rude curiosity. You are asking because you are going into a business partnership with that author. Not only should you know, but you also have a right to know! You can be sure that if Google and Apple decide to go into business together, their accountants and lawyers are going to pore over each number to make sure the partnership is financially sound. The savvy narrator will have the same goal.
When is the appropriate time to ask?
That’s part of a larger conversation, but you want to ask when the topic of money comes around. This is best done prior to auditioning so you don’t waste your time or the author’s with an audition for a title you’re not going to be interested in.
Simply tell the author that you’re interested in auditioning, but you first need to know some basic information like monthly Kindle sales. Assure them that you’re not being nosy and the information will be kept confidential, but as a business person entering into a potential partnership, it’s necessary to know. If they balk and act offended, then consider it a bullet dodged. You don’t want to go into business with someone who doesn’t divulge necessary information.
What’s a good number of Kindle sales to take it on as a royalty-share title?
Well, that’s up to you! Keep in mind the more Kindle sales they have, the more audiobook sales they will theoretically have. Remember, a small percentage of Kindle sales will translate to audiobook sales. If you want to sell at least 200 copies of the audiobook per month, a monthly Kindle sales number of 100 units is not going to get you there.
As mentioned, this is but one factor in deciding to do an audiobook on royalty-share. But this is the biggie. If someone is not selling well on Kindle, they probably won’t sell well in audio. And the opposite holds: The better the sales of Kindle, the more likely the book will sell well in audio.
So don’t be afraid to ask the tough question. You have a right to make an educated decision.
Go forth and speak words!
About the Author
Jeffrey Kafer is a full-time SAG-AFTRA audiobook narrator and consultant. He has narrated over 500 books in almost every genre for such authors Clive Barker, Steve Alten, Maya Banks, Gregg Olsen and many others. He has 2 degrees in cinema and broadcasting and spent the first part of his career as a video game tester for Microsoft before following his true passion of acting. He’s been on stage since he was 13 (his mom still has the bellhop costume she made) and currently lives in Los Angeles with his family and dog. Visit him at http://audiobookmentor.com or checkout his audiobooks at http://audible.com/