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What I’m Doing About ACX And Their Royalty Rate Change

Hey, there!

Now, I’m being asked, “What you going to do about this ACX thing?”

I’d suggested yesterday that we all individually decide, as artistic entrepreneurs dedicated to making a living at performing, what to do about it.

And I have. And I’m at peace with it.

So what’s my decision?

I will gladly, not begrudgingly, continue my relationship with ACX and will carefully watch their moves over the next year or so to see if it is worth it to me to continue.

I’ve been really successful on ACX, and I’ve known the people at Audible pretty well for over two decades (before there was an ACX) – and I know they didn’t come to this decision lightly. And, if everyone’s been making such paltry incomes off of royalty share books on an individual basis, that means Audible’s been making two times paltry on those same books, with a much more expensive infrastructure to pay for.

This is business, pure and simple. I’m not about to treat this as a cause for social justice – if you’re losing 20% of what is already a very small amount of money, it’s not going to make any appreciable difference. If you’re doing well, you want to continue to do well, even at 80% of your former income potential.

There you go. They are a business partner. They’ve made a decision that I’m not happy with, but that I can live with. If they continue to reduce my income enough, eventually, it won’t be worth it to me, and they will no longer be a business partner of mine in this area.

And maybe you’ll jump on board with Audible’s affiliate program as well as figuring out ways to attract that new listener bonus. It’s up to you.

So? Again, I ask: what’s your decision? Where is your line in the sand? Tell me in the comments below.

David

17 Responses to What I’m Doing About ACX And Their Royalty Rate Change

  1. norman ellis-flint February 28, 2014 at 11:08 am #

    Don’t like it but, as n aspiring narrator of audio books, I like my chances to make money in a new arena.

    Thanks for the input David, your clarity made it easier to come to the above conclusion.

    Norman

  2. Larry Wayne February 28, 2014 at 11:20 am #

    Hey David…

    I’m a relative newbie to ACX, with 9 completed books and 2 in production. While I’ve always known that ACX royalty share will not make me rich, I enjoy the challenges of audiobook recording as a different avenue for me to practice my craft. That said, when I can make $250 in 15 minutes reading a script for a client vs under $100 monthly with ACX, the decision becomes clear to me. When I am finished with the 2 projects I’m working on right now, I’m done with ACX. I like their website, it was an interesting ride, but my time is limited and it is time to move on.

    Larry Wayne

  3. Phil Williams February 28, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

    Hi David,
    Thanks for your comments…I really appreciate your candor. I too have been fortunate enough to have completed 21 titles through ACX/Audible (several with stipends) and a couple with reasonably significant downloads…There have been some clunkers as well, but I’m optimistically looking forward to gaining the “Audible Approved” rating in the not-too-distant future. Having spent the majority of my adult life in Silicon Valley, and also having three other business ventures currently in play, I view the reduction in royalty payments by ACX the same as you do…a business decision based on revenues and a new focus on goals to remain profitable.

    With the advent of self-published books, and opportunity-based businesses like ACX, the marketplace has been literally flooded by all manner of titles, some good, and some not so good (with no offense intended…it’s just the reality of the marketplace). Literally anybody with a keyboard and an idea can enter the market at zero cost (other than their invested time), and it’s evident that they have. With all of these titles, like everything else today, getting visibility and play in the retail world has become a scratching, biting existence that requires you to be constantly promoting, tweeting, etc to even be seen or heard. Audible/ACX is, in my humble opinion, trying to stem the flow a bit to focus on promoting a higher quality marketplace. If I were them, and had the money, I’d put it to good use by promoting the works that I thought were going to sell, and eliminate the shotgun approach solution (which is, I believe, what they’re doing).

    I suspect that the bean counters and freshly scrubbed MBA’s have a heavy hand in this…but the logic is pretty clear: Focus on those properties/products that ARE potential big winners, and spend the money to promote them: in both production AND marketing. The money has to come from somewhere, and it makes perfect sense to take some away from the “starters” where the success rates are, unfortunately, much lower.

    For those just starting out, history has shown that those who keep plugging away will sometimes be rewarded. While success is not guaranteed, you’re certainly going to do better if you believe in yourself and put in the effort that’s needed to put out the best product you can. If you’re really dedicated to your craft, you’ll stick to it, despite the adversity, and (in a fair world, which we all know this is not) you’ll get rewarded.

    When I started in voiceovers, I got the same pitch that nearly everyone I know has gotten…”it’s easy money…you can succeed!” which was shortly followed by the harsh reality of extreme competition. The frustration with P2P cattle calls, multiple auditions with no responses was disappointing to say the least. And then there was ACX. A way to enter the world of audio books with some reward, and the promise of creating a legacy product. Some of the books I have narrated have done well…others, well, not so much, but it’s helped me to get established in a world I really like. I’ve been fortunate to have established a relationship with several authors who like my work and I will continue working with them…through ACX. I’ve also gotten to know a number of VO Talents very well who have become great mentors along the way.

    While I’m disappointed with the reduction in revenues from ACX, it has deepened my resolve to get that “Audible Approved” rating as quickly as possible, and to continue to build relationships with other publishing houses as well.

    I had a boss who once said “Nobody changes without a significant emotional experience.” Unfortunately, he was the type of individual who went out of his way to ensure that as many people as possible had one on a daily basis! Consider this ACX shift in policy as motivation for change. Flexibility is the key to success.

    That’s my line in the shifting sand. And again, David, thanks for letting us know what you think!

    Best,
    Phil

  4. DSC February 28, 2014 at 2:38 pm #

    David, I agree with your basic analysis. What I’m still not clear about, though, is where does everyone go if ACX holds firm? Sounds like this is the only game in town for free-lancers who aren’t under some kind of lucrative retainer with a publishing house or studio. What do you envision as an alternative? As a firm believer, too, of the free enterprise system, I abhor gritching and complaining at the expense of rolling up our collective sleeves and creating something from the ashes.

    • David H. Lawrence XVII February 28, 2014 at 3:26 pm #

      I don’t have any alternatives in mind. ACX is in a unique position because they’re not just a casting site, they are a feeder to Audible’s retail space. So, since there aren’t any appreciable alternatives to Audible, I doubt there will be any reasonable alternatives to ACX. My alternatives are every other category of VO and on-camera acting I do: commercials, both VO and on-camera; network television and studio films, again, both VO and on-camera; along with everything else I do. Audiobooks are significant to me, but not something I could find time to replace.

  5. Stan Jenson February 28, 2014 at 3:03 pm #

    Like many producers, I primarily hold out for stipend books, but I just signed a contract yesterday for a book of interviews of mystery writers, simply because I wanted to read the book and get as much out of it as I could. Narrating causes me to really concentrate. I consider the stipends to be the income. The $200 – $300 I receive each month from 16 published audiobooks is like TV royalties — a pleasant surprise when they arrive. That said, the reduction in % motivates me to explore additional outlets.

  6. George Whittam February 28, 2014 at 6:24 pm #

    Dave Clark hit the nail on the head as there is no other company taking on the same business model ACX. Audible created it out of thin air, made the massive investment to build the beast, and now have to appease the beast they created. I’m sure if some P2Ptrepreneur sees there is money to be made playing this audiobook game, another competing service will pop up. Don’t hold your breath… Be grateful they created this unique path to train on the job and enter the field of audiobook narrating.

  7. Tim McKean February 28, 2014 at 7:32 pm #

    I think this recent change has brought more clearly to my attendtion something that I’ve been realizing lately, which is that ACX seems to be the “Kindle Store” of audiobooks. Meaning, it seems to be the self publishing wing of the larger audiobook industry.

    Just like the Kindle Store has given the opportunity for any writer to “be published,” ACX gives the same possibilites for authors and narrator alike. But let’s face it, when the next bestseller is produced in audio format it’s not going to be posted on ACX. While David seems to be doing pretty well, narrators like Simon Vance, Jim Dale, and Scott Brick are not getting their work on ACX.

    A previoius commenter asked about an alternative to Audible/ ACX. I think it’s important to remember that ACX is just one route to Audible. Most audio publishers have direct relationships with Audible without going through ACX.

    For a relatively young narrator making a transition into this industry ACX has been, and will continue to be, a great place to gain experience and establish some foothold in the industry, but for those of us serious about audiobook narration as a career ACX is not the final word in audiobooks.

    So. in the spirit of response on “what to do next.” This change in policy has really lit a fire under me to get a new audiobook demo produced (probably will be contacting you David) and start making real efforts in contacting audio publishers directly and make the step up from the “minor leagues” of ACX.

    Love to continue to hear others’ takes on this as well.

    Tim

    • aef May 27, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

      bingo

  8. Al Kessel March 1, 2014 at 9:36 am #

    Hi David,
    Thank you so much for your posts. They always leave me with a positive feeling about my new profession (and despite the fact that since I AM a relative newbie, there IS hope for me!) and enlighten me to some of the ‘tips and tricks’ within. I’ve kept pretty silent about this situation since it hit the social media world for a number of reasons I will not go into here. But, like you, I feel that this is somewhat of a non-issue. Sure, this is a business decision that will impact some people, and it is possible that it may have a somewhat negative impact on some. But in the long run, is it enough to toss a relationship into the trash bin? Not for me. As I mentioned, I’m new to narration. I started this off with ACX and to be honest, have been nothing but impressed and delighted by the way they have treated me as well as the authors I’ve worked with. Coming from the corporate world, I do understand the need, from time to time, to make unpopular decisions. But you can rest assured that these decisions are rarely made out of spite or the desire to ‘screw over the masses’.

    Although to some this reduction in royalty is a big deal, I would imagine that to more it’s ‘the cost of doing business’ with THE best gig around for narrators (in my opinion of course). Also, I’ve read some complaints that narrators are ‘paying the rent/mortgage’ with their monthly royalty payments and this will most definitely cause them financial pain. Ok, so, then just don’t accept royalty share only deals going forward. But to completely discard a relationship like this will do nothing but negatively impact their financial situation! It’s like amputating your arm because you have a hangnail on your pinkie!

    I for one will continue my relationship with ACX/Audible. I have been allowed to venture in to a new and exciting career that I most likely otherwise would never have had a chance at. ACX has permitted me to ‘get my feet wet’ and discover that yeah, I DO have a talent for this business, and whats better, a desire unlike any other for any job I’ve ever had! Sure, it’s slow going for me at the moment and I cannot ‘pay the rent/mortgage’ but I’m working toward that end. So, what I will do next is continue. Continue learning, growing and working with ACX, as long as they’ll have me! – Al

  9. Dan McGowan March 1, 2014 at 9:42 am #

    I’m relatively new to ACX and narrating audiobooks – about a year in now. So far, it has been a nice ride – and I wasn’t sure what to expect.

    My MO has been to focus mainly on the pfh projects – although I do have a few royalty titles. I’ve never really pursued the stipend method.

    So – it sounds like (for now) the pfh system is not going to change.

    Bottom line for me – work is work is work. I’m happy people pay me money for me to talk!
    Thanks for your continued encouragement, wisdom and insight! It is much appreciated!

    Dan McGowan

  10. Gwendolyn March 1, 2014 at 9:46 am #

    I would like to post an opinion but I’m spending all of my time between now and March 11th auditioning for audiobooks and recording my own. I’ll sit down and consider my long-term decisions on the 12th.

  11. Bill Sarkisian March 1, 2014 at 9:49 am #

    Prices, like all things economic go in cycles – up, down, up… Now performer income is down, good narrators will leave, they will have to increase pay to get them back, etc., etc….Maybe we all start treating ACX like the online VO sites, as just good practice!

  12. David Radtke March 2, 2014 at 11:09 pm #

    If ACX is trying to weed out the “lower quality” books waiting to be auditioned for with this new policy, then I hope I will seen more stipend offers for the books that ACX believes are of “higher quality”. And a stipend increase from $100 pfh or more would be a sign of good faith from them as well.

    At the moment, the whole announcement feels like a slap in the face.

    Does ACX or Audible lose money by selling audiobooks that aren’t very poplar?
    If the answer is “yes”, then I agree with the new policy.

    But if it costs them nothing extra to host audiobooks that sell very little, then this new policy can only be viewed as greed.

    If ACX came out with some actual financial data to prove the situation calls for a decrease, then I’d feel a thousand times better. And I’d actually support them. If they said “We are very sorry, but due to this XYZ financial data, we have no choice but to go through with this new policy to keep our business online” then I might actually support them.

    But there is no data.
    There is no apology.
    ACX’s announcement actually made it sound like they were rewarding us with this new policy.

  13. Carmen March 3, 2014 at 1:07 am #

    Even before ACX lowered the boom last week I had decided not to accept royalty share anymore. I haven’t narrated many audiobooks – only four – but from this new narrator’s point of view ACX is just another business model designed to exploit artists. ACX exists for the rights holders. Somebody writes a book and ACX throws a party and makes the narrators clean up the mess. But ACX isn’t the only culprit. I invested a lot of money and time to be able to offer narration. As a writer I am qualified to say shame on authors who don’t believe in their work enough to pay – at the very least – $100 pfh plus royalty share to produce their audiobook. When I write a play, I pay my actors from the moment they show up for a reading even if the reading is free to the public – so I will not enable people who refuse to invest in their own work. An author with a poorly edited book and not a thought about their narrator’s economic situation is certainly not someone I want to partner with in business – and certainly not in art. In my experience, artists care for one another. Just today I turned down four authors for seven royalty share projects on ACX. That high amount of offers coming in so suddenly can only mean one thing – there are a lot of like-minded narrators out there who are pulling up stakes. And – one more thing – ACX pushing me to sell Audible memberships is a waste of their time. I’ve never had a theatre force me to stand out on the street and advertise the show because I have role in it. Why would I spend my time selling when I can be producing? High quality narration and production IS sales – and I wish ACX would just get that.

    • Kalisha October 15, 2016 at 7:40 pm #

      Well said Carmen! I have often quoted a 1-hour pfh rate in addition to royalty just to cover my butt very modestly for my time, refundable if I make at least that much in royalties, and authors still turn me down! Clearly, they don’t think their own work will sell, so why should I invest my time?

  14. Hubert Williams March 6, 2014 at 1:28 am #

    I didn’t join with ACX for immediate wealth, I joined for experience. Experience in recording and producing audiobooks. Strengthening my skills as an audiobook narrator. Experience in choosing authors and publishers who care about their work. Although I don’t believe that I will get rich in my association with ACX. I confidently believe that experience gained from that association will help me with other ventures in the world of audiobooks. I will not be jumping ship anytime soon.

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