A year later, I think it’s safe to say the service is a big success…answering a lot of needs:
1) For the consumer: allowing for many many more book titles to be available in audio form.
2) For the publisher: providing a service that helps them find available and qualified narrators.
3) For the voice talent: creating more opportunities for work.
If you follow the bouncing ball, you know that Amazon.com owns Audible.com, which runs ACX.com. When you consider who sells, publishes, and records books, it all makes sense. ACX came out of the chute with very few glitches in my estimation. There were plenty of adjustments, though, and ACX seemed agile enough to handle the issues that cropped up.
In August, I posed a number of follow-up questions to ACX’s top guy: Jason Ojalvo, and the result was an August blog post that you can find here.
I keep running into Ojalvo. He clearly has his ear to the ground, and listens to the rights-holders (usually publishers) AND the narrators. He appeared at That’s Voiceover last October in Los Angeles, wehre ACX sponsored a seminar featuring ace narrator Scott Brick.
A couple of weeks ago, I ran into him again at APAC/Audies, and in talking to him, he agreed to once again bring us up-to-date on ACX with answers to a few questions I posed him.
That exchange is posted below. Thanks Jason!
1) ACX launched last May. In August you told me in an interview that you are working to improve the usability of the site so that narrators (producers) can make the smartest decisions about what projects to audition for. How are those usability improvements going?
Ojalvo: Since we’ve talked we’ve released many features (every month) in response to direct producer feedback. Items we have launched include keyword search enhancements and improvements to search filters so that the producer can find exactly what they are looking for. This is good news, since rights holders are posting a far greater volume of titles to ACX compared to last summer. Users can even filter by “stipend-eligible” titles, a designation also indicated to rights holders and producers on relevant ACX title profile pages. We have also provided tools to rights holders to enable them to strengthen their title profiles.
Once you are in a production, we want you to be able to get through it faster, so we made our upload process 15 times faster for you. You can now upload an audio file and immediately upload the next one. Previously, this was a much more cumbersome process. Additionally, when looking at the many titles that you may have on your “My Projects” dashboard, we now allow for sorting and filtering so that you can find them quickly and efficiently.
2) With a year’s usage under your belt, can you share any metrics with us? How many projects have been completed? Are the majority of the books produced through royalty share or Pay per finished hour? What’s the average time from a project being posted to it being completed?
Ojalvo: We celebrated our first birthday in May, and have thousands of titles already in store or in mid-production. The average Audible customer rating on these audiobooks is high, which means that the quality of the books being listed on ACX, and the quality of the actors and the production, is great! That’s what you want to see in a marketplace: the buyers and sellers and users doing good work.
Many rights holders are paying for their productions – for example, about 40% of the ACX titles currently in the store were produced through the pay-for-production model, as opposed to the royalty share model – but the majority of rights holders on ACX more recently have embraced the innovative royalty-share structure, which means that a rights holder pays nothing to a narrator and instead shares royalties and revenues with the producer on all audiobook sales.
3) What other statistics can you share that show the growth and success of ACX?
Ojalvo: About 50 audiobooks go into production every week on ACX. And that number is continuing to grow. Many hundreds of titles are currently in production, and that number continues to swell every month.
In addition, many ACX earners are seeing increased profit from our special $25 bounty, awarded each time your audiobook is one of the first three purchases by an AudibleListener member. Some titles are already earning more than 25% of their total revenue from audio from these bounties, which really underscores the value of promoting your audiobook. Remember that as an actor/producer on ACX, when you take a royalty share deal, you earn half of all revenues. So you get half of this $25 (i.e. $12.50) each time a Bounty is triggered… not just half of the royalties. We award this generous Bounty payment to encourage authors and producers to promote the availability of their audiobook.
4) In this first year, what are the unexpected roadblocks or hang-ups that you’ve had to solve?
Ojalvo: Even though we’ve been thrilled with the progress we’ve made in year one and the fact that we already have a few thousand new audiobooks already made or in production, we are determined to grow those numbers significantly and make lots more audiobooks. As a test, we have opened the ACX service to all authors, so any author can now turn his or her book into an audiobook using ACX (previously, the service was limited to only a few hundred top publishers)—we hope this enfranchises more authors and helps us give audiobook listeners a greater selection of titles.
One thing we’d like to improve is the speed-to-market for productions. The time from when a producer accepts a rights holder’s offer, to when the producer is done (and the rights holder approves the audiobook) is still too long. We are asking many people to stretch their expertise. We’re asking actors to be more self-reliant, maybe learn ProTools or Soundforge and/or build a home studio, and generally become aggressive entrepreneurs “bidding” on projects through the ACX audition process. It doesn’t happen overnight. But the positive feedback from these newly-empowered actors has been great. It keeps the ACX team energized.
5) What are your publishers saying about the service? Are they happy? Have they made suggestions you’ve incorporated into your ACX protocols?
Ojalvo: Feedback from ACX users has been invaluable in enhancing and refining the ACX marketplace, and we’ve made numerous updates based directly on suggestions from rights holders and from audiobook producers. We are grateful that feedback from publishers and other ACX users has been largely positive—and the increasing number of titles posted to ACX is a testament to user satisfaction and positive word-of-mouth.
6) Will narrator/producer stipend offers continue to show up on the site for books you hope to incentivize for completion?
Ojalvo: Response to our special stipend offer – usually $100 per finished hour when a producer accepts a royalty share deal – has been extremely positive, so it is something we will continue to offer, at least in the short term, for titles that we think deserve extra attention from producers.
7) Regardless the payment model a producer accepts with an audiobook project, how valuable is the author’s willingness to promote the book through social media or other channels ON THEIR OWN during distribution?
Ojalvo: It is extremely valuable. As mentioned above, many authors are really capitalizing on our special $25 bounty, awarded each time your audiobook is one of the first three purchases by an AudibleListener member. Some titles are already earning more than 25% of their total revenue from audio from these bounties (the other 75% is from royalties), a statistic that really emphasizes the value of promoting your audiobook.
I said it earlier, but it’ worth repeating: an actor/producer who takes a royalty share deal on ACX, gets to share in this, too. You earn half of all revenues, so you get not only half of the audiobook’s royalties but also half of this $25 (i.e. $12.50). We really want to encourage authors and producers to promote the availability of their audiobook.
Also, FYI, to further encourage authors to draw attention to their audiobooks alongside their print books, we’ve developed Audible Author Services. Authors who have an audiobook for sale at Audible and who enroll in the program receive $1 for each individual audiobook sold through Audible and iTunes, on top of regular royalties. This is for all authors, whether they are the audiobook’s rights holder or not.
8) In August you mentioned adding an enhancement to the site that allows narrators to share portions of the book they’ve completed to the Audible profile listing. Any progress there?
Ojalvo: Yes, we launched what we internally call the DIY service. So if ACX users have audiobooks that were are already completed – and they have the audio rights to that title, of course – then they can upload it to get it into stores using ACX. This enables audiobook publishers and producers who already have finished audiobooks that they created without the aid of the ACX marketplace (which often includes authors who narrate their audiobooks themselves) to upload the finished audio via ACX in order to get it distributed across Audible’s retails channels. That’s a huge win for Audible, by the way, since Audible is always looking for new audiobooks for its store.
9) What do you hear from your parent company – Amazon? Are they proud of ACX? Any new integration into the Amazon marketplace you can talk about?
Ojalvo: We are grateful that Amazon’s technology platform has helped Audible and ACX put audiobooks in front of millions of customers accustomed to buying books and other media online.
Now that we have opened up the ACX service to all authors, we are looking at ways we can work more closely with Kindle Direct Publishing and CreateSpace authors to help them reach the growing number of audiobook listeners.
10) What have I not asked that you think is important to point out re: ACX? How does it feel to have that first year under your belt? Big visions or changes for the future? Please consider this an open-ended question where you get to talk about ACX in whatever way you wish.
Ojalvo: We’ve only just begun! There are still many thousands of books waiting to become audiobooks, and millions of listeners eager for more great books to listen to. Whenever an audiobook listener comes to Audible to search for a book and then doesn’t find it, it’s a loss for the consumer and for the industry. We are hard at work on new innovations that will galvanize production of more audiobooks, including a new production model that offers generous advances if you qualify.