Finding a Narrator on ACX

Many of you may remember the article I wrote on using Audiobook Creation Exchange, or ACX, which helps authors who want to put their books into audio form meet narrators and then get them onto Amazon. Well, about four months ago, after a lot of thought and getting feedback from some of my friends, family members and readers, I decided to get one of my own novels turned into an audio book. This past Saturday I finally found a narrator and finalized a deal with him.

Based on my experiences over the past four months, I thought I’d write another article for anyone thinking about using ACX to produce an audio book. This time, I’ve got tips on how to find your narrator.

First, don’t expect narrators to come looking for you. We like to imagine that the clamor to be the narrator of our audio book is like a bunch of knights taking on quests of courage and valor in order to win the hand of a princess, but in reality it’s more like you’re the princess’s father or mother and you’re writing various knights and princes to get them interested in your darling daughter. Believe me, even if narrators are proactive about finding projects to work on—and many of them are—there are new books being uploaded onto ACX every day, and yours can become quickly lost among the others.

The best thing an author on ACX can do—especially if your name isn’t JK Rowling, George RR Martin, or Harper Lee—is actively seek their own narrator. ACX has several thousand narrators, many with multiple audio samples for you to listen to and decide if someone is right for you. And you can narrow down your choices based on specific factors you’re looking for: age, gender, language, accent, and even what sort of payment they’re willing to take. When you find one you like, you can message them and invite them to submit an audition for your book if they’re interested.

Just keep in mind, really good narrators or ones who can do difficult accents can be hard to get sometimes. For my own novel, I needed someone who can do an American Urban accent, and when I first started searching the number of samples for that sort of accent was over three-hundred. Sounds like I could have my pick of the lot, right? Wrong! After eliminating narrators I didn’t like or I felt didn’t fit what I was looking for, I found that a lot of narrators who could do an American Urban accent were either busy or they charged for their services. In fact, one narrator told me after I told her I couldn’t afford to pay her that a lot of the best narrators or those who can do particular accents often charged for up-front payments and royalty shares.

That’s not to say you can’t find a great narrator who can do a difficult accent or voice who fits your budget or needs. I found one who is good at what he does and was willing to meet my needs. It just took a lot of work to find the guy.

You also have to sometimes deal with the fact that sometimes particular vocal styles, languages, or accents may not have a lot of people who can read them. I played around with the search tools a bit, and found that only twenty-two samples came up when I looked for samples of Japanese accents read by women or men attempting to sound like women. I wonder how much they charge.

Another thing to be aware of while searching for a narrator is that some books get stipends. This was something I learned while searching for my narrator. Twice in the first two weeks a book is available for auditions on ACX, it is evaluated to see if it is eligible for a stipend based on factors such as reviews, past print and e-book sales, and length. Especially length. The longer the better. If your book receives a stipend, then even if you can only afford to do the royalty share option, your narrator will receive some money after the completion of the project from Audible, ACX’s parent company. How much depends on how long the book is, usually $100 for every completed hour of audio and up to $2500. Books that are stipend eligible are marked by a green banner on the book’s profile page.

Now my book wasn’t marked stipend eligible, but it’s something to keep in mind. ACX actually recommends waiting during the first two weeks to see if your book is eligible for stipend. Though perhaps that may only be feasible for that five-hundred plus page novel that’s been selling like hotcakes you published a while back.

I have two final points to make. One, is to be aware that ACX sometimes loses messages sent through its system. This is something I learned ACX has a problem with. Messages sent to me or that I sent would sometimes disappear into the ether and I wouldn’t know if I wasn’t hearing back because the other person’s life has gotten crazy busy, or because once again the system gobbled the message up. Just a heads-up so you know when you wonder why the enthusiastic narrator you came across hasn’t gotten back to you after a week even though previous messages have always been returned in two or three days.

And finally, don’t stress out if you don’t have immediate success finding someone. It took me from early August to late November to find my narrator, and I spent quite a lot of lunch breaks looking through ACX’s databases. It can be grating if you don’t hear back from someone, or if someone you thought was a good match doesn’t pan out, or nobody you come across you like. That’s just sometimes how things work out. If you need to, take a break and worry about other stuff. When you come back, you may find things will go quite well for you.

What tips do you have for finding a narrator on ACX? How did you find yours?

12 thoughts on “Finding a Narrator on ACX

  1. Lauralynn Elliott December 1, 2015 / 3:41 pm

    The worst part is having several people audition and having to turn them down. I’m not good at telling people no. LOL

    • rami ungar the writer December 1, 2015 / 5:37 pm

      I need to find a form rejection letter and start using that.

      • Beach Guy December 7, 2015 / 3:36 am

        Hmmm… You’d think that as a writer, you could write your own rejection letter. I had no idea it would be easier to simply find a form rejection letter.

        • rami ungar the writer December 7, 2015 / 10:43 am

          They’re a little bit more impersonal, but they get the job done.

  2. Richard Rieman December 6, 2015 / 4:03 pm

    Once you have chosen a narrator, all others who auditioned get a “form rejection letter” so you don’t have to personally reject everyone.

  3. Amanda Rose Smith December 6, 2015 / 9:41 pm

    “or they charged for their services”
    Do you have any idea how offensive it is that you are writing that as if its 1) Out of the Ordinary 2) a bad thing?

    As someone who has produced 500+ audio books, let me be the first (maybe) to tell you that if you offer a reasonable PFH rate, preferably one that meets union standards, it will be one of the best things you can do for your audiobook. This is your baby- don’t you want it to be up to par? If you don’t have the money for that right now, by all means, save! But don’t you expect to be paid for your hard work? Why wouldn’t another professional?

    If you offer $200+ PFH (keep in mind the average is 6 hours of work per finished hour produced, so thats not a lot of money at all per hour) You wont have to go searching and begging narrators, because the people who know what they’re doing will come to you, as you will be showing that you respect their work and the time and skill it takes to accomplish what they do.

    But if you’re not willing to do that, you will get what you get. And in most cases that will be someone who doesn’t really know what they’re doing. And that wont bode overly well for your sales. Remember, this is a business. You have to invest in a successful business.

    I say this as someone with about a decade in the business, not as an actor, but as someone who directs, casts, and produces audio books.

    • rami ungar the writer December 6, 2015 / 10:44 pm

      Dear Amanda,
      I did not mean to offend or imply that paying a narrator’s production costs was out of the ordinary or a bad thing. If it’s an issue of wording, I can change it.
      However, I have to take in the needs of my audience. For some of us, while we want quality audio books, we cannot afford to do so. Many of us already spend a lot of money making sure our books are well-edited and even have alluring cover art if we can’t design that ourselves, and even advertising costs. This can be in addition to the costs of food, housing, bills, childcare, health, auto maintenance and insurance, and a variety of other issues. I myself am between jobs and have only so much in savings, so I have to look for the best deal possible, as do plenty of other writers who use this site’s advice.
      And while I’m aware of the risks, sometimes narrators who are willing to take royalty shares do turn out pretty good stuff. My own narrator has an impressive resume and his work so far has been amazing, so I’m excited for what he’s going to turn out with my book.
      Once again, I did not mean to offend, I only meant to put things in perspective for the readers who will be relying on my advice if they decide to create their own audio books through services like ACX. I have the utmost admiration for what narrators do, and I wish I could do what they do with books, which is why I’m relying on a narrator to work his magic with my book.

  4. Jeffrey Kafer December 6, 2015 / 10:44 pm

    Yeah, most of us would rather not get a form rejection letter from the author.

    • rami ungar the writer December 6, 2015 / 10:46 pm

      From the sound of things, it appears authors or narrators don’t have a choice in the matter. Still, I tried sending one myself, so I hope that was better.

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