Looking to add audiobooks to your catalog? Will Dages, from Findaway Voices, shares how they’re helping authors get heard, worldwide.
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Will Dages from Findaway Voices joins Dan Wood from Draft2Digital to talk about how audiobooks are a boon for authors, and how you can get your books into audio and distributed worldwide.
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audiobook, book, library, narrators, people, authors, audio, voices, hear, audible, pay, check, sales, find, ebooks, price, hour, royalty rate, audio books, patron
Will Dages, Dan Wood, Kevin Tumlinson
Dan Wood 00:19
Okay, we should be live just about now. Hey, everyone. I’m Dan Wood from Draft2Digital. Thanks for showing up today. I’ve got here with me Will Dages from Findaway Voices. How are you doing today?
Will Dages 00:33
Hey everybody. Hey, good. Thanks for having me.
Dan Wood 00:35
You’re very very welcome. I like your background. That’s very, the tree is very awesome in the background there.
Will Dages 00:40
Thank you very much. My work from home setup is taking over my daughter’s office. And so this is the decal on the wall behind me here.
Dan Wood 00:46
I guess that’s better than having like My Little Pony behind you all the time.
Will Dages 00:50
It’s, yeah, it’s good. It’s not as classy as yours though, man. It looks like you should have like a glass of bourbon in your hand and, like, it’s classy.
Dan Wood 00:58
Yeah, well, what you don’t know is I got a mahogany desk right in front of me, and my bourbon’s just off to the side in one of those, you know, old-fashioned globes that opens up with the alcohol.
Will Dages 01:07
Love it. Smells of rich mahogany.
Dan Wood 01:09
Yes. It’s fun. So, brought you here today, you’ve been on our Ask Us Anything before. And that was by far I think our most watched Ask Us Anything because there’s just a ton of interest in audiobooks right now. And so we wanted to have you back on for these Spotlights. You know, we, everyone—not everyone, but most people are stuck at home right now. And so just it’s just like a quick little thing, where you can hear more about things that can help your publishing business, as well as ask some questions if you’re with us live. So with that all said, let’s go ahead and start talking about Findaway Voices. For those of you who don’t know, Findaway Voices can help you both with producing an audiobook, if you don’t have one, and then can also help you with distributing that book. And so, much in the same way that Draft2Digital can get your e-books everywhere in the world, Findaway can help you get your audiobooks out there to everyone. So we’re going to talk about production today, distribution, and then just some marketing tips. Because for those of you who have audiobooks, it is a little bit different than how marketing works for print and for e-books. And so, first of all, kind of what you guys are I think most well-known for, like, at least with Findaway Voices, is the production side of things. And so, could you talk a little bit about that, and that process?
Will Dages 02:37
Yeah, absolutely. You know, to back up just a minute, like, I’ve heard a lot of people say, “Oh, so you guys are like Draft2Digital, but for audiobooks. And so if you’re familiar with Draft2Digital, probably because you’re watching this, that is a good way to kind of think about it. We help you make your book. We help you distribute your book. You don’t have to make your book with us to distribute with us. You can bring it from anywhere. But it’s that one, you know, you upload it one place and we send it out everywhere. We’re the wide option for audiobooks. So the way we make audio books is a little bit different than what you might be used to if you’re coming from ACX. ACX, you know, is an open marketplace, you can kind of shop around. And we take a much more personalized approach. So we have a casting team in-house that gets to know all of our narrators, the narrators that sign up with Findaway Voices. We have, I believe, over 4,000 narrators signed up with Findaway Voices right now, which you know, ACX has 100,000. We have 4,000. But we’re not trying to, we’re not trying to get everybody in the world. We’re trying to really select it, be selective, and have a high-quality roster of narrators that we can choose from. And then this is where our casting team comes in, right? Because when an author comes in with a project, we ask them a whole bunch of questions about the book, about what they’re picturing. Like, what is that, what’s the soundalike voice that you think you want? And we do all the work of sorting through the database of narrators to find just kind of like a semi-final list of 5 to 10 narrators who we, in our expertise, think would be a fantastic choice for your particular audiobook. This is not some algorithm, this is not a computer spitting it back. This is a real human team. So it does take a couple days too, but you’re getting that personal approach. And when you get your casting list from somebody, you’re going to see that person’s name, and you’re gonna be able to ask that person questions. And if you don’t like it, you’ll give feedback to that person. And that casting agent will also do the next casting for you and they’ll stick with your project. So you’re not being passed around. It’s really, it’s a really personal service. And it’s very attractive. Yeah, it’s very attractive to somebody who’s never made an audiobook before. It’s attractive to somebody who’s never heard an audiobook before. We have a lot of authors saying, the process like overwhelms me because I have no, like, I don’t even know what an audiobook’s supposed to sound like, how can I make a good one? And this is where we come in and like, our casting agents are casting books all day, every day, since the day we launched. And so we know the narrators really well. We’re really good at picking out great fits for the book because really, like, the number one most important thing about your audiobook is getting the voice right. You know, if you have the wrong voice for your book, if you are not picking a voice that’s right for your genre, right, there are a lot of genre readers who are used to this type of voice and if you go with something way off the wall, it’s gonna turn them off. If it’s a scratchy voice, or you try to do it yourself and it just doesn’t sound good, or like all those things. It just completely ruins the audiobook. So one of the—
Dan Wood 05:26
You don’t really want, like, a Southern accent for an epic fantasy. You probably want it to be a little British.
Will Dages 05:33
Some things just don’t fit, yeah. And our casting team is really good about that. And we’ll guide you, if you say you want, you know, a Southern voice for an epic fantasy, like, we’ll talk to you about that. We’ll say okay, well tell me tell me why. Maybe it contextually really makes sense for yours, I don’t know.
Dan Wood 05:49
I hear a lot from authors who started with ACX, and were just overwhelmed. It’s like, hey, here’s 100,000 people, pick a voice. And they’re like, what in the world? And I think the author community maybe listens to audiobooks a little bit less than the average community, because I’ve also heard so many of them that have told me, I just don’t listen audiobooks, so I don’t really know what they should sound like. I know many of the narrators often will bring their own audience, as long as you’re like, kind of adjacent in genre to what the listeners are listening to. And so getting that right one is essential.
Will Dages 06:27
Yeah, there’s some listeners out there who will follow narrators just as much as they follow authors. And you can imagine that, right? Like, you’ve heard some people talk and you’re like, “Oh my gosh, I’d listen to them reading the phone book to me.” Like, those kind of people, if they’re in your genre, you want that voice.
Dan Wood 06:44
And like how we all want to hear, like, Morgan Freeman narrate everything, or Samuel L Jackson reading children’s books. Yeah, it’s beautiful how certain voices that are, really fit the times and fit storytelling. So that’s really cool. To kind of back up a little bit, for those of the authors that are very new to audio, about how many words is a finished audio hour? Because generally you’re going to be charging, how much the audiobook costs to produce is going to be by how long it is.
Will Dages 07:23
Per finished hour. Yeah, this is good. This, I mean, this dives into the number one most asked question that we get, which is, “How much does it cost to make an audiobook?” And so this is the kind of the precursor question to that. So we’ll get to that next. But the way you convert that, the mental math for me, because I’m not I’m not big into mental math: 10,000 words equals one hour of audio. If you want to get a little bit more specific, some of the calculations that we use are based on 9,300 words, which is a little bit more accurate for the average. But, you know, if you’re thinking 100,000 word audiobook, about 10 hours. So you know, just divide by 10 and you’re about good there. So 10,000 words per hour and in the audiobook world, you pay by the finished hour. So it could take a narrator anywhere between three and six hours of wall clock time to make a finished hour of audiobook time, right? So, I mean, they make mistakes, they stumble, they get the intonation wrong, they accidentally say something in the wrong voice, they’ve got to back up, record that again, and then go into the editing studio, make sure everything’s right, and then master it to specs and get it out there. So the editing, the mastering, the proofing, the re-records all adds up to a big multiple of what the finished product is that the author and the listeners actually see. So the industry standard is to bill based on per finished hour, so you’re only paying for the output. But that’s why, when you when you look at it and you’re like, oh my gosh, $200 bucks an hour?! They’re not making $200 bucks an hour.
Dan Wood 08:44
Yeah, it’s so much more work. Either, you know, I think a lot of it comes down on the narrator, but there’s also some of the production behind, to take out—like if the background noises, or to catch things, I know ….
Will Dages 09:02
Well hopefully there’s no background noises in the recording environment. But you know, if you have those kinds of problems, like, those are really hard to fix, and those are really intensive time, like time-intensive to fix, and sometimes they just can’t be fixed, you know? Like, if you have the heater on in the background, and it’s popping on and off and on and off, which, actually mine just popped on and off. I’m gonna turn that off, I should know better by now. I’m the audiobook guy. There’s so much pressure on these things. Like, right before this, I was like, “Oh, are my EarPods charged enough? Do I have like my backup headphones?” Like, I can’t be the audiobook guy who cuts out in the audio here. Okay, so the next question that I kinda want to lead into there, now that you know how it’s billed. How much does it cost to make your audiobook, right? And so that, all the narrators that we work with are independent contractors. They set their rates, we don’t set the rates at all. And so they can set their rates for whatever they want. Generally speaking, you’re looking for a good narration somewhere between $150 to $300 bucks per finished hour. You know, if you’re in that in that sweet spot right in the middle, you’re gonna get a really good quality production.
Dan Wood 10:02
I feel like you’ve done a great job bringing that down, because I feel like $300 was kind of like the average for a long time. And then when Findaway Voices kind of came out, you helped lower some of those costs, I think, with the technology and just helping find new narrators. So that’s been really cool.
Will Dages 10:26
Yeah, I mean, I can’t take credit for that, you know, because I don’t have any, like, we don’t have any influence on the prices that writers are setting. You know, we’re just, the pricing is what it is. And it’s kind of like an open market and people will sign up at whatever rate they have. And they go into the roster. And then we present it to the authors. And usually in that list of 5 to 10 narrators that our casting agents present, there’s usually a range. You know, we try to give some variety of like, here’s what $150 per finished hour sounds like. Here’s what $300 per finished hour sounds like. We don’t have a ton in, like, the $450 $500 $600 $700 $800 per finished hour. We have done those before, and it’s incredible what you get for $800 per finished hour. Like, it is amazing. But it’s not the right choice for most people. And that’s totally fine. But you know, it’s just kind of the market, just kind of … it just it is what it is there.
Dan Wood 11:17
So before we move on to distribution I wanted to take a minute to—in general, these are going to be single cast, like you’re going to just have one narrator who is going to do all of the voices, so they’re going to do the female parts, they’re going to do the male parts, regardless of their own gender. They’re going to need to be able to do whatever accents that you’re very, you know, in your book that you are calling out. And so that’s some of the stuff that their casting really, really helps you with. But that is normal. I know a lot of authors who haven’t listened to audiobooks are thinking they’re going to have like a male and female narrator. And that’s really very rarely the case because it’s very, very expensive.
Will Dages 12:04
And it’s just not what, it’s not what listeners are used to, right? Because it’s expensive, not many do it. And because not many do it, the people who listen to audiobooks all the time, they’re used to hearing female narrators do male voices, and vice versa. And a lot of authors that come to us, just by default, assume that, I got two main characters that are different gender, I’m gonna need two narrators. And sometimes it can make sense. If you have a dual point of view, where it’s like Chapter One is the male point of view, Chapter Two is the female point of view, and you’re going back and forth, that’s actually not that hard to coordinate because you give each person their piece. But if you’re going to try to mesh together, the dialogue, you know, it’s really hard to do that in a convincing way unless both of those narrators are in the same studio looking at each other. And that gets really expensive.
Dan Wood 12:43
Because then it’s I think, really, an ensemble cast. Like you do hear, every once in a while, there are major books or plays that have been produced with four or five different voices. They had to get all those people into the same town, in the same studio, to make sure everything sounds the same. And so, it’s just unusual. So I want to make sure people realize that.
Will Dages 13:06
The other thing is, again, it’s not just the cost. It’s the expectation of the listeners. They’re used to it. They’re used to hearing those voices. And I would say, if you are particularly worried about that, I would make sure that when you do your audition with Findaway Voices, because you get to upload about five minutes of audio that the narrators will read for free, and no commitment, like you get to hear a snippet of your book, read by many different narrators so that you can kind of compare apples to apples. Make sure that that has some, you know, two different characters being narrated in it. So you can hear how this person is performing both genders.
Dan Wood 13:44
You don’t want to pick like the first chapter. You want to pick one of the hardest, like something’s got a lot of characters. I imagine with romance, you want to make sure the person is comfortable reading about the sexy time and so, you know, maybe have someone read something that might make them uncomfortable. But if you’re working with Findaway, they’re gonna know who is big in romance anyway, and so they can help you with that.
Will Dages 14:07
And we help guide you through the audition process too.
Dan Wood 14:10
The other thing I hear people ask a lot, because I’m at a lot of conferences with you, and back when Kelly was with Findaway, is about self-narration. And so, when is that a good idea, and when is it a bad idea?
Will Dages 14:24
So I will say, one of the times it’s a good idea is if you already have like a speaking career, or your voice is already part of your brand. Say you’re a big podcaster, like Joanna Penn, right? Like, do you really want to hear Joanna Penn’s nonfiction in any other voice? No, you want to hear Joanna Penn narrate that book. It just makes sense. And her voice is so much a part of her brand that it makes sense.
Dan Wood 14:44
And yet I think she pays people to make a lot of her audio. I think she’s done some of her audiobooks, but um ….
Will Dages 14:51
She’s doing more and more herself. Even on her fiction. Which, she’s really good at it. She’s really good at it.
Dan Wood 14:56
Will Dages 14:57
Yeah. So if your voice is part of your brand, I think it makes sense. Now, in those cases, if you don’t have the technical chops to do the editing and mastering to hit the specs, you may want to work with some kind of third-party editor, master audio engineer, which, you know, we don’t right now offer those kind of services where you can …. We like, we don’t have anybody with narrators kind of in our roster right now. But you can find those on like, you know, Fiverr or Upwork, or any of those like freelancing sites. Or you can kind of ask around in the network, and maybe we can even help connect you with somebody good. But if you’re going to narrate yourself in fiction, I would say there’s very few authors who do it really well in fiction. And it sounds like it’s an easy job. So what I would do is, I would send you to your closet, I would lock you in your closet for an hour, and I would say, read these, read your book for an hour and every time you make a mistake back up and say it again. Okay? And then at the end of the recording, I want you to listen to the first minute and the last minute that you recorded. Do those characters sound exactly the same? Or did you drift a little bit? Or did you, you know, is the performance consistent? And now, can you stand in a booth and do this for another 10-15 hours? Some people can. I’m not saying it’s not doable. There are a bunch of titles on Findaway Voices that are self-narrated and they sell very well. But it’s pretty uncommon for it to be done really well. And it’s a lot harder than you think it is.
Dan Wood 16:23
Yeah, I would say like 99% of the people I know who are doing fiction end up just going with a narrator. I have seen the cases like you have, where nonfiction, where you have a brand or that kind of revolves around you and your voice, where it’s more common, I think.
Will Dages 16:40
Yeah. The other bit of advice that I give is, okay, say you did that for an hour. You know you can do it. You can still do an audition process with the professional narrators, right? And then because I love, I love testing and doing market research and data like this. This is, you know, this is where I geek out. Go ahead and do a blind test with your audience. Take a couple of your professional auditions, mix yourself in there once, and say, I’m having trouble deciding between these three narrators: Narrator A, B, C or 1, 2, 3. Don’t give names or anything. And then let your audience decide which one they like best, because at the end of the day—
Dan Wood 17:15
That’s a great marketing strategy too, like, to involve them from the very beginning. So that when it comes out, they’re like, “Oh, yeah, I want to hear how that turned out. Because I, you know, I picked that one versus this one.”
Will Dages 17:22
Exactly. And that’s actually a good reason why less is more. So maybe just have two choices, or maybe three choices. Because everybody who votes for the winner is gonna be like, you know, I hard a part in that, like, I’m invested in this, I’m gonna go buy that because I helped create this. But you also might get some, you know, honest feedback that you’re gonna want to hear about your voice, you know, narrating this book, you’re gonna want to know that before you invest all that time and make the book.
Dan Wood 17:49
Yeah. Let’s move on to distribution. Like Will was speaking about earlier, no matter if you have already produced your audiobook and want to get it to more places, or if you have it produced through Findaway, or even if you produce it through ACX, but you decided not to be exclusive with Audible. Findaway, you upload the audiobook to them, and then they can help you get to a lot of places, including the one I’m most excited about, the library systems. And so yeah, let’s talk about distribution. Where do you go? I know that you go to a lot of places, so you might have to generalize some, but …
Will Dages 18:27
No, it’s a good point to reiterate, it doesn’t matter where your audiobook was produced, you can still upload it to us as long as it’s not exclusive. And if it was exclusive with Audible and you’re thinking about not being exclusive anymore, that’s cool too. We actually have a landing page at Findawayvoices.com/more, that kind of, that lists out all the steps to do that. It gives you some help. It helps you understand, you know, are you in a royalty share or not? There’s a whole flowchart of like, can I get out of exclusivity? And what a lot of people don’t realize is, if your book, if you’re not in royalty share, and you just chose exclusivity with Audible, it’s a seven year contract, but after the first year you can request out of it. So if your book’s been live for a year, and it’s not royalty share, you can go from exclusive to non-exclusive. You do jump down to that lower royalty rate, but that means you can go to 40 other library and retail systems all over the world. It opens up a lot of opportunities and we’re seeing a lot of people doing that. And it’s becoming a very good business decision to do that. We hit all the major retailers. We do distribute to Audible, we distribute to Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Bibliotheca on the library side, Scribd, Google, Apple, we have a direct relationship with Apple. So even if your book is getting to Apple through ACX, you’re going to want to go through us because the royalty rate is 45%, whereas your non-exclusive royalty rate through ACX is gonna be 25%. So that’s like 20 extra percent on every sale you make at Apple, which is not insignificant. We have over 40 library and retail partners all throughout the world. We work with each one individually and we have relationships with every one of them. And it’s, the marketing channels are the ones that are really exciting right now, especially with the times we’re in. I don’t know about you, Dan. II know in Oklahoma City, you have like an unbelievable library system. It’s one of the best in the world.
Dan Wood 20:11
It really is great. Yeah.
Will Dages 20:13
It’s fantastic. And, but I have a couple different local libraries, like the county library and my city library. And I’ve gotten emails from all of them saying, hey, our doors are closed right now. Check out our digital catalog. And people who have been relying on print books for the longest time now are being pushed to these digital solutions and trying their library system for audiobooks and e-books for the first time ever.
Dan Wood 20:35
I’ve been using Libby which is, Libby is Overdrive’s app, because our local library has Overdrive, and Hoopla because they also have Hoopla. And so between the two, I’ve gotten to try out all kinds of like new authors that I had not heard before, without any of the, you know, without any real cost to me, which has been great. And I do go on to buy, like when I find an author I like at the library, I go on to buy their books because I want to support them. But the great thing is even with through the library systems, they’re getting paid, so.
Will Dages 21:09
Yeah, that’s a common misconception. People think that because patrons are able to check out the books for free that that means the books are just free and that you don’t get paid. That’s not the case, you get paid as an author when a book sells in the library system. There’s two main, there’s two main models, business models, and the library system is probably worth going over. In fact, actually, Mark Leslie from Draft2Digital was recently on the podcast with Joanna Penn, The Creative Penn, just talking about libraries for like an hour. If you’re interested in diving deeper into libraries, I would totally recommend that episode because it is wonderful. They go really in depth, they talk about all kinds of stuff that we would never have time to talk about here, just because they’re spending a whole hour just on libraries, but I’ll just try to hit the highlights. So there’s two ways that your book sells in libraries. One is a librarian buys it. When a librarian buys it, they get to circulate it in their catalogue, basically forever. So for the rights to continually circulate that book, they’re going to pay a higher price than a consumer would. Generally we recommend 2 to 3 X, whatever your retail price, should be your library list price. So if you’re selling a book for 10 bucks in, you know, Apple and Google, you’re gonna want to sell it for 30 bucks, 20 bucks to a library, it kind of depends on how competitive you want to be to attracting the librarian’s eyes. And a lot of times when patrons will request your book, this is how it gets bought. If a patron can’t find your book in the catalog, and they ask the librarian for it, they will almost always buy it. It’s a really good like, the marketing message is, if you can’t find my book at your local library, ask your librarian, or request the book from the library.
Dan Wood 22:39
I always tell people who are coming out of Kindle Unlimited and they say, you know, I came out but now my readers are complaining because they can’t get my book for free without Kindle Unlimited. Well, they’re paying $10 a month for Kindle Unlimited, but you can let them know, hey, my books are now available through the local library systems. If they don’t have your book right then, the reader can request it. And libraries have budgets set aside for requests. And in a lot of cases, you’re mentioning this first model is the like one, they purchase it, they purchase one copy, it treats it like a physical copy, so only one person can check it out at a time. There’s the other, which I’m sure you’re about to get to, which is the cost per checkout, or I’ve heard it called a couple of different things.
Will Dages 23:29
It has a bunch of different names. So don’t get confused if you see different services. It’s called pay per use, it’s called cost per checkout, it’s called cost per listen, it’s called .,,, It’s called a whole bunch of different things. We call it cost per checkout, and I think Draft2Digital does too. But basically, this is like your library just became Netflix. And instead of there being this tiny catalog that the librarians control and curate, every book in the system is opened up to the patrons. And when a patron searches for it, it’s there. The library doesn’t have to purchase it first. It’s just there. The whole catalog is open. And when I, as a patron say, yes, I want to listen to this book, then a small charge gets back to the library, which then gets passed to the author. And it’s usually, you know, it’s 50 cents or $1, instead of that $20 or $30, it’s much smaller. But you don’t have that gatekeeper there of a librarian who has to get the attention of the indie author and buy it or have the request from the patron. It’s just there and you can mobilize your audience to just go search for it.
Dan Wood 24:24
And as many people as want to at the same time can check it out. So like, let’s say you had a radio interview with like local news. 10 people could go check it out, and you’re going to get paid by all 10 in the future. Like, you know, over time with the one copy method, you get paid a lot up front, but then you don’t get paid anything for any other person checking out in the future.
Will Dages 24:51
We don’t, I mean, don’t sleep on this. You know, thinking those 50 cents or $1 transactions don’t add up is a huge mistake.
Dan Wood 24:58
Yeah. Music studios have shown they’re more profitable than ever now. Spotify, Apple Music, getting paid like the little chunks but opening it up to where everyone can read whatever they’re thinking about right at that moment is really powerful.
Will Dages 25:15
It adds up. I’m writing some real checks, royalty checks every month, just for libraries. And I do want to be up front about the two models, right? Like, the pay per use model is a huge boon for Indies. Because in that librarian model, it’s still weighted really heavily towards the big publishers that have the huge multimillion dollar marketing budgets and have the huge demand from the patrons. So I would say, like, 10 to 1, pay per use—by dollars, by revenue dollars for author royalties—10 to 1, pay per use is more popular than the library system. It’s great to be in both. Any time the librarian makes a sale at $20 or $30 bucks, that’s awesome. That is a really good sale. You want to be there. But like, pay per use is where it’s at. We’re seeing unbelievable growth in that, especially over the past couple of weeks when every library is sending emails to their patrons, saying check out our digital catalog. And this pay per use is there. And there’s no hold list, and the whole catalog is there. It’s awesome.
Dan Wood 26:17
And it’s not just the libraries. I’m seeing a lot of articles like this out there at the different news platforms. I’m seeing a lot of the Apple Store, their app store, they just recently featured, like Libby and Hoopla and all the different ways you can download some free content while you’re stuck inside, A) for yourself, but B) also for your kids. Because odds are, your kids are driving you nuts at this point and you want to entertain them with something. Okay, let’s move on because we’re starting to get close to that half hour mark. Marketing. So my favorite thing about distributing through you guys is the pricing control that people now have over most of the platforms and how that’s giving them some marketing options. So if you’d talk about that, and then some of the ways you’re seeing people market their audiobooks,
Will Dages 27:15
Yeah, for sure. Price control is huge. The ability to set your price on an audiobook sounds so basic, right? It sounds like, how is that a feature?
Dan Wood 27:23
I think it surprises people when they realize, oh, I don’t have that at Audible. Like, I just, here, Amazon, price it however you want to.
Will Dages 27:31
Yeah, exactly. So when you use ACX or when your book is on Audible, you don’t have any control of your price. It’s largely based on duration. They have a chart on their website to show you about what it’s probably going to be priced at based on the length, but if you want to discount your audiobook, sorry. You can’t. You can use the review code to give it away for free but you’re not making, you know, you’re no longer making a royalty on that. And so when people, when we opened up Findaway Voices, I was surprised by how much price control was both a huge issue point for authors but also like our biggest marketing message, Like the thing that surprised people the most, like, I can actually set the price on this? Like, I have a 10 hour audiobook, and I can make it $2 on sale for a month, or I can have the normal price be $8.99, which looks really attractive against the price of a credit at $15 on Audible. And I can, you know, siphon readers to somewhere I’m making a lot more, higher royalty rates, like, it’s crazy. The one thing that we built about six months ago was a pricing recommender. We realized, as people were coming through, they’re like, “Oh, this is awesome. But I have no idea what an audiobook should cost,” right? Like it’s not as straightforward as you think. Now if you think your audiobook should cost whatever Audible says it should cost, think again. Okay, because the way Audible works, so you got to think of it, you got to kind of reverse engineer how this works. Audible works by charging a listener $15 a month for a credit that they get to change. They get to turn this credit into an audiobook, right? And so if your audiobook is listed on their site at less than $15, it looks like you just made a bad deal. The price of the books have to be as high as possible, so it looks like “Oh my god, that book’s $22 bucks and I got it for the price of a credit.” That looks really good. That credit system doesn’t exist on Google, Apple, Scribd, Kobo, all the other places it doesn’t, you know, people are just paying for it and so your book needs to be priced more aggressively there than $15.
Dan Wood 29:25
And people are outright buying the book, they’re not using a credit to get it. Google, or I’m sorry, Kobo does have their own audio service where it does have some credits. But people can buy ad hoc. I’ve been excited lately, the Apple store has been both featuring and running a lot of great deals on audiobooks. And so, audiobooks under $5, I’ve seen some free first in series, audiobooks under $10.
Will Dages 29:50
They did a great job promoting Indies too, not just big pubs. Like the audiobooks team is crushing it over there. I love it. It’s great. So price is a big one. Running promotions too, you don’t just set your list price, you can set promotion prices. We have this baked right into the dashboard just for two retailers right now: Chirp and Apple. You can set up, you know, time boxed price. So if you want to put your book on sale at either one of those retailers for a little bit, you can do that right in the website. And then occasionally, we’ll have other promotional opportunities that we’ll email you about and say, you know, we’re running this carousel or we’re helping you know, this partner run a carousel for this genre, would you like to be in it and discount your book to be part of that? So you’ll get those too if you’re on our email list. And as far as author marketing, the one that I really got to talk about is Chirp, right? So this is BookBub’s new audiobook service. If you haven’t heard of it, check out Chirp Books.
Dan Wood 30:45
Sign up for it. Like, I’ve gotten so many great deals from it.
Will Dages 30:50
It’s daily deals for audiobook, right? Yeah, deeply discounted, like, you know, $1.99, 99 cents for an audiobook, which is kind of unheard of in the industry, and it’s really. Oh man, it’s so exciting to be on there. But it’s also just a full retailer. So what a lot of people don’t realize it’s not just daily deals. Chirp is a full retailer, like they have your book just for sale every day, and they do a straight 10% discount off of anything that isn’t like a daily deal. But you know, if you get a daily deal for book 1, book 2, 3, 4 are available through the same platform. Now, the way they’re structured is interesting, though, because when you get the daily deal, you don’t link out to other retailers. And it makes sense. It makes sense because you can’t discount on Audible. How would you run a BookBub-like service without linking out to Audible—
Dan Wood 31:38
That makes perfect sense why they did it that way.
Will Dages 31:43
So they are the retailer. They control it, they let you discount the prices it. And they are attracting readers like gangbusters. It is so fun to watch that. They’re out of like the waitlist. They’re still in beta. They’re out of a waitlist though. You can, right on your partner dashboard, you can look for audiobook deals right in your BookBub partner dashboard and submit an audiobook deal right there. Because you get it there. Everything’s taken care of, we have a really tight integration. You don’t have to change anything on the Findaway Voices dashboard, you just, you know, it’s—
Dan Wood 32:11
They’re actually the followup to you tomorrow. So we’re having, I think, Carlin from BookBub is gonna talk to Mark. And so we’re really excited about that, because
Will Dages 32:23
She’s great. I’m gonna have to tune in and start throwing some hardball questions.
Dan Wood 32:27
Oh, yeah. So we’re kind of right at that point to start looking at some questions.
Will Dages 32:34
I see Readsify on here saying “Yay, Libby.” I love that.
Dan Wood 32:37
Yes. So the first one I wanted to tackle was from Anthony St. Clair. “I release a short story e-book monthly wide, not in KU, and a novel annually, in an ongoing fantasy magical realism series. How are authors using audio for standalone short story releases?”
Will Dages 32:55
Man, that’s great. That’s a great question. So it depends on how short the short stories are. I would say, if they’re really short, you need to be aware that there’s a one hour minimum charge. So if your book’s only gonna end up being a half an hour long, you’re going to get charged for a full hour. So you might want to bundle two or three together to get to at least 10,000 words, so you’re not just throwing money away, right? And that’s just, that’s something to help protect the narrators from—they do a lot of work to set up their environment and edit and master and get to know a piece. Like they, we don’t want to prorate below one finished hour for them. So you might, you might need to bundle up a couple to do at once to make it more economical and then you can kind of split it apart. I’ve seen a lot of short stories gaining traction and a lot of it is because of the price control, right? When you don’t have price control on ACX and Audible and that’s your only sales outlet, what’s the 30-minute or one hour book gonna do for you when the majority of sales happen from a credit? Somebody just paid $15 bucks for this credit, there’s no way they’re spending—
Dan Wood 33:54
Like they could get one hour of your audio or two hours of your audio, or they get the Brandon Sanderson, his most recent fantasy novel that’s 55 hours long, for the same credit.
Will Dages 34:03
For a credit. Yes, exactly. Now, that’s not to say that nobody buys a book outright on Audible, and that the credits are the only way to buy it. But that is the vast majority. So I would say price aggressively, consider doing audio only for some short stories to see how much of your audience will cross over to a different format. You know, audiobooks are generally more expensive than e-books. And if you can convert more over, that’s higher royalties for you. And just see how fungible your audience is. And it’s also a way, I’ve seen a lot of people dip their toe into audiobooks with short stories before they invest in the full length series, just because it’s cheaper. I can spend $500 bucks and make these, you know, two or three short stories, test the waters, see how they sell, how are they doing in libraries, how are they doing in retail, where am I focusing my marketing efforts, before I decide that I’m going to go both feet, jump in the pool, and make the real investment for the full length audiobooks.
Dan Wood 34:59
So we have some, also, same thing with Anthony, just mentioning that Creative Penn podcast, with Mark Lefevre and Joanna Penn talking about library systems and how to get into them. Great, great podcast, highly recommend it. Got Lexi Green, “Love seeing the big push for libraries when it comes to indie e-books and audiobooks.” I sure do too, like it’s been—five or six years ago, there was definitely a stigma against indie published work, so it was very hard to get libraries to take a chance on them. Now we routinely are running some promotions, kind of like we’ll mention they do, where they email people out on the ebook side, we’re emailing people about promotions with Overdrive, with Bibliotheca. We have one coming up with Baker & Taylor. And so, just the library systems are really enjoying indie authors. A lot of indie authors now are bestsellers, you know, just out there because they don’t need traditional publishers anymore. The other thing is, there’s a huge need for content. And the traditional publishers charge considerably more than indies charge for e-books and audiobooks. And so, a really good time.
Will Dages 36:21
Yeah, and I want to add, too, we sent out a promotion last week. And it was a really tight turnaround, it was only like two or three days that you had to submit to it. But we worked with a couple pay per use library partners to see I didn’t know how this was going to go. We just opened it up and we said, “Hey, are there any authors there who’d be willing to just give their books away for free for the month of April to help libraries out?” Because remember—or not remember, but you may not know this—in the pay per use model, you can imagine a readership or patron base going so crazy that the library runs out of money. Like, what if a billion people checked out a book today, how much would I owe? So they have like daily, weekly monthly limits to make sure that they can’t go over that. And then once they hit that weekly limit or whatever, you may go to check out a book and they’ll say, hey, check back next week, right? But if you can have a catalogue of free books, that when your budget runs out, you can still point them to these free books that don’t impact your budget at all, then you have unlimited listening. And so we said, okay, would authors be willing to give away these books for free? And it’s amazing, like, we don’t we only make money when authors make money. We didn’t talk about how Findaway Voices makes money but like, when a book sells for free, I’m not seeing any money. So it’s not like you know, it’s very generous of the author. But it’s also just not something that happens quite a lot. And I was blown away by the response, like hundreds of authors, and almost 600 titles submitted for this promotion to just give away for free. Like unbelievable, the author community is so cool. I was just so heartwarmed by that.
Dan Wood 37:56
I think they definitely see the value of building lifelong readers and so libraries are one of the best ways to have discoverability out there and to help them, you know, it’s not just about selling the book right now. It’s about selling your books for the rest of that reader’s life and your life.
Will Dages 38:17
We recommended series starters for this, right, for that reason. But I was blown away by how many standalones were submitted too, and how many just like—yeah, just like, really it’s not gonna, it’s not gonna help the rest of the series sales here, you’re just doing it out of the goodness of your heart. That’s what really like blew me away.
Dan Wood 38:36
Yeah. You mentioned earlier but I wanted to draw out this comment from Readzify, “Yay Libby”. If you’re an indie author, and you have not checked out Libby, you really really should.
Will Dages 38:46
And this is Over—this is one of Overdrive’s listening apps. And I don’t think it’s their default.
Dan Wood 38:52
The main one is for adults, and they also have one for kids as well, right?
Will Dages 38:54
Yes. I forget what that one’s called. It’s another cute name. But I think the Overdrive app is still the default. So if you’ve been using Overdrive and the Overdrive app, you just download Libby, you log in with the same information. It’s like a whole new UI.
Dan Wood 39:11
It’s so much easier. It works with CarPlay, which I’m a huge tech geek. And so I love it that, with my Apple phone, I plug it in, I can listen to my audiobooks in my car. So really, really easy.
Will Dages 39:24
And a cute little branding plan where it’s like, Libby at the library, and like, it’s good.
Dan Wood 39:28
Odds are your library works with Overdrive, they’re by far the biggest library provider. If you don’t already have a library card, a whole lot of different library systems are letting you sign up for a card remotely through, I believe it’s through the Overdrive app, or maybe you go to their website. They check a couple of things to make sure you’re a resident in that town. But like, you don’t even have to go into the library to sign up for that. It can be a lot of resources for you, and potentially for your children.
and your state library might be working with them too. So I know like, you know, I live in Ohio, the Ohio State Library works with them. And you can get a library card through the State Library. And, you know, check out that catalog and your local library catalog and kind of double your chances of finding a book with a license available.
Dan Wood 40:14
So I had a question from Tory, “Does Findaway offer translation for audio?”
Will Dages 40:19
Great question. So we will produce audio in just about any language. We have support for I think 18 languages and dialects right now. But we don’t do the translations. So as you probably know, it’s not a good idea to just throw your book in Google Translate and take whatever comes out the other end. Translation is an art in itself. And it requires a lot of hard work and it’s expensive. So we don’t just do like the automated translation. If you have had your book professionally translated, you can absolutely upload that manuscript. We will pair you with a narrator who’s competent in that language and dialect that you want. And we will help you produce that audiobook, Even if you can’t speak that language, and you have no idea how to proof it, it can still be done. You can still make an audiobook, and we support a lot of different languages. Now, you may not get 5 to 10 choices in every language. You know, we’re thinner in some languages than others. But surely like French, Spanish, you know, most of the European languages, Italian, like we’re pretty, pretty deep benches on those languages.
Dan Wood 41:20
I might check out your Navajo translators and narrators. From Anthony, “Can individual audio titles be bundled into collections?”
Will Dages 41:30
Yes, absolutely. It’s a great strategy. I have a lot. You just have another thing to sell. It’s actually good for a couple reasons. One, we talked about, we keep talking about this credit system model and how the longer books are more attractive.
Dan Wood 41:43
You have to because Audible is the biggest player in the audio market. However, one thing I noticed that a lot of indies don’t seem to know is that Audible is not nearly as dominant in audio as Amazon is in e-books. And so.
Will Dages 41:59
Yeah, Audible’s not 80-90% of the market. It’s closer to 50, maybe 40. You know, we’re tracking that a lot. It’s hard to guess, you know, obviously not a whole lot of public knowledge out there for us to glean. But it’s not, I mean, you know, 30% of our sales come from libraries.
Dan Wood 42:16
I tell authors, it’s the most important choice. You know, with Kindle Unlimited, if you choose to be exclusive with Amazon, it’s only a 90-day commitment. The, really the most important choice is choosing to be exclusive with audio or not, because that’s going to tie you up for a much longer time. Like Will said, most cases, they’ll let you out after a year of exclusivity. I never can say that word, but you know what I’m talking about. However, I have heard of people where they didn’t, and legally they don’t have to. And so as everything gets a little bit more competitive in the audio market, I would make the choice up front to not be exclusive in audio because I think that’s really going to hold you back in the future. So we see all these different players have their smart speakers out now. Google has their Google minis. And Google Home, I believe. Apple has this their HomePod. Those are great devices for audiobooks. So we’re just gonna see—
Will Dages 43:12
I don’t think there’s native audiobook support for the HomePod yet.
Dan Wood 43:19
There’s not, you have to stream to it. Apple, if you’re watching that right now, go ahead and add audiobook.
Will Dages 43:27
But I do want to get back to Anthony’s question just a little bit more, though. So Anthony, you know, on the bundling, the longer your book, the more likely it is to sell for that credit model, that purchase there. But also, it’s another thing to sell, right? You got, say these three individual books that you’re selling, and then you bundle it up. Now you have four things to sell. Now when somebody does a search, four search results are going to be dedicated to you instead of three. It’s just a really good strategy for that. I will say on Audible, you have to be careful because you can only bundle titles up one way. So you can’t reuse individual books in two different bundles. So say you have a six book series, you can bundle 1, 2, and 3, you can bundle 4, 5 and 6. But you can’t do that and bundle 1 through 6, or you can’t do 1, 2, 3 and 2, 3, 4 and 4, 5, 6. Like you can’t do it like that, you can only bundle individuals once. So think really, like hard and strategically about how you want to bundle those on Audible. No other retailer has that restriction. If you wanted to bundle 1, 2, and 3, and 2, 3, and 4, and 4, 5, and 6 on everywhere else, you can do that. It’s just, Audible is going to reject it. I wouldn’t recommend doing that. But there’s some legitimate reasons why you might want to bundle things in a couple different ways. Like, one interesting one is bundling 2 through 6, right? And then marketing really hard to everybody who bought number 1. Because they’re gonna feel like they’ve already bought one-sixth of it if they, you know, those are those are kind of basic things. But yes, you can absolutely bundle individual titles in audio.
Dan Wood 44:51
Makes sense. We’re getting close to the 45-minute mark. So I wanted to close out on just talking about how you guys get paid. We talked about, with production, you do get a cut of the production. But then with distribution, what is your payment model?
Will Dages 45:09
Yeah, the distribution model is really, really simple or really complex, depending on how you look at it. Let’s look at it simply, which is, you keep 80% of the royalties you earn. It’s that simple. We have a 20% distribution fee. So all the royalties you earn, you’re going to see those and then you’re going to get a check for 80% of that. That’s how we make money. So our incentives are aligned. I love that. The more you make, the more we make, you know, we’re not just paying, like you’re not paying us a monthly fee to do our job. And then we don’t care whether your book sells or not. It’s just, it’s a much healthier way to align our incentives there. And so we’re incented to like, make your book sell, and like, get it in all these promotions that are coming through and include it there. The complicated thing is, each retailer that we work with—we’re working with 43, I think, library and retail partners—they all have different terms. So it’s not a really easy thing. Like, if your book sells for $10, it’s gonna make this over here. And this over there, and this over there, and this over there. And so we have all those details really cleanly laid out in Schedule C of our distribution agreement. So you have to sign up for Findaway Voices, then you can see the agreement. Contractually, we’re not allowed to put this publicly because of some agreements with partners. So you have to, it has to be behind a login. So you just sign up for Findaway Voices, you see the distribution agreements, scroll down to Schedule C, and then you’ll see this big table with like, this one’s based on this price. This one’s not based on this price. This is how this is calculated. This is how this one’s calculated. Here’s the ones that pay 45%. Here’s the ones that pay 50%. In general, retail, a la carte sales, like what you imagine like paying for a book on Apple, is like 45 to 50% of the list price. Credit subscription models are usually about 32%. The exception is Audible obviously, which is 25% of whatever they decide to sell it for. They don’t base it off a list price. Subscription models and pool models, generally a little bit smaller payouts, but a wider audience. And in the library, those two models that we talked about earlier.
Dan Wood 46:58
With the audio market, I know this varies a lot in the e-book market. There’s, some of the major retailers, we get estimates like the next day. But there’s a lot of our partners that we don’t hear like how much sold for a month or two, or sometimes even three. I think the audio market is more where you don’t hear directly as much? Is that correct?
Will Dages 47:20
Yeah, it’s a little, so it, you know, the 43 partners that we have, we have varying levels of integrations with each of them. Some work really closely with us as our as their exclusive distributor to get every one of their audiobooks from Findaway. So every time they make a sale, we know about it within seconds, and we pass that information along to you in your real time sales dashboard. Others report monthly, others report quarterly to us. So you get paid within 30 days of when we get the money, which could be quarterly for like, StoryTell, for example, pays quarterly, so I can’t pay every month for StoryTell but I’ll pay you within 30 days of when I get paid. And that’s why, like, it does fluctuate a bit.
Dan Wood 47:59
Yeah, because not everyone. People forget, like, traditional publishing, they pay people very very slowly. And so there’s a lot of partners that we work with that just can’t tell us every day, or even every week or every month.
Will Dages 48:19
And some of the models, it just doesn’t really make sense, either. So like, for example in a pool model, it’s based on the listening for a month, and your share of that total listening, and their subscriber count and their subscriber revenue. Like, they only calculate that once a month. So like, we don’t know mid-month really how it’s going. We have some indicators. But like, I can’t give you daily sales on Scribd, I just can’t, because we don’t know what daily sales are. Because it’s not calculated till the end of the month, because it’s based on some other factors that aren’t as easily transcribed as like, this was a transaction that happened. Like, I handed you money and you gave me an audiobook. It’s not that simple anymore. So it’s, there’s a lot of complexity around managing the relationships between 43 different partners, and compiling it all into one nice, neat sales report that you get monthly.
Dan Wood 48:30
Well, we’re kind of at that time. I did want to share with you, if you sign up for …. A) At Draft2Digital, we’ve been working with Findaway, we were the first people that worked with them.
Will Dages 49:25
We launched together.
Dan Wood 49:27
We have a lot of integration. And so if your book is already up at Draft2Digital, you can go to the audiobook tab and learn, like, sign up for their process. It kind of walks you through. We send them over all of your metadata so you don’t have to re-enter all that. You also save on their $49 casting fee, so they don’t charge that for you. And so you can kind of start the process with no upfront costs.
Will Dages 49:09
And there’s no difference in your royalty rate. There’s no, like, it doesn’t cost you anything. You absolutely, if you’re a Draft2Digital customer, you should absolutely be clicking that button.
Dan Wood 49:18
Yeah, sign up for Findaway through Draft2Digital because it’s gonna save you $49. Check out Findaway Voices at findawayvoices.com. And thank you so much for being with us today. We have, tomorrow at noon, Carlin Robertson from BookBub. And so you can ask questions about BookBub daily sales, their ads, maybe talk to them about Chirp. So.
Will Dages 49:44
Ask them about Chirp and audiobook ads. Oh man. That’s so exciting. Okay, that’s your teaser. Come back tomorrow and have Carlin tell you all about audiobook ads.
Dan Wood 50:14
Awesome. Thanks, everyone. Goodbye.