Episode Summary

If you’re looking for more control over your audiobooks, Findaway Voices has just the thing. In this episode of Self Publishing Insiders, we talk to Will Dages about the company’s new Marketplace, and how it can help both authors and narrators alike.

Episode Notes

Audiobooks are becoming a bigger part of the party for self published authors, and the company leading the charge is D2D’s partner, Findaway Voices! In this episode of SPI, we’re talking to Findaway’s Will Dages about their new Marketplace, and how it’s changing the game for indie authors.

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Transcript

Kevin Tumlinson  00:01

Well hello everybody, thanks for tuning in to another Self-Publishing Insiders with Draft2Digital. Not just Draft2Digital this time, this time we brought along a friend. We call him a friend of business, FOB. This is Will Dages from Findaway Voices, and we’re gonna be talking about audiobooks, but also in particular Findaway Voices’ new Marketplace. So welcome to the show, Will.

Will Dages  00:25

Thank you so much, good to see you Kevin, good to see you Mark. Kevin, I just saw you a couple weeks ago at NINC, but Mark it’s been a while. It’s nice to be here on the show, and love talking about audiobooks.

Kevin Tumlinson  00:35

Mark was there in spirit.

Mark Lefebvre  00:37

I was there in spirit, I was listening to you from afar. But Will, m\Marketplace. What a remarkable new endeavor. And you just announced that last week, wasn’t it? Or was it …

Will Dages  00:49

Yeah, it’s still really fresh. So if listeners here haven’t heard about it, don’t feel bad. It’s still really, really new. We just launched it, the first phase of it last week, along with the announcement and I was on Joanna Penn’s Creative Penn podcast and been doing some Clubhouses and stuff. But do you want to just jump in? I’ll tell you right about Marketplace?

Kevin Tumlinson  01:09

Yeah, jump, jump. You’re talking to, I’m green on this. I know next to nothing about it. Just what you announced on Twitter is all I know. So you get to instruct me.

Will Dages  01:19

Okay, I love that. I love that. So Findaway Voices has been around for a little over four years now, right? And obviously we distribute books, I like to tell a lot of people that we are like Draft2Digital but for audiobooks. It’s the simple: upload once, you can distribute anywhere, it doesn’t matter where you make your book. You don’t have to produce with us to distribute with us. But we’ve had production services from day one. And we’ve done the making books part the exact same way since the day we’ve launched, which is a very personalized experience, a very handholding experience. If it’s your first audiobook, it’s a really great way to go through it when you’re about to spend, let’s call it $1500 bucks. And you want to make sure that like, I don’t trip up and do something wrong and get a crappy audiobook at the end and have to pay this. So we’ve taken this approach where, hey, we’ll help you find the narrator. We’ll assign you an agent to help you through the production process. If the narrator needs a nudge, we’ll nudge them. If there’s a problem, we’ll get in the middle and mediate. Like we make sure everything goes great, right? So Marketplace is a second option to make books now. That one’s not going away. If that’s still good for you, we’re still here. And nothing’s changing about that. But if you are an author, maybe like Mark, who has made lots of audiobooks, or has a narrator that he trusts and wants to bring it to us, or, you know, just knows the process, we can slow you down in that other way, right? Because we are hand holding and we’re sitting in the middle. And Marketplace is a way to open this up with a set of tools that are free from Findaway Voices to let you run a production yourself on our platform, and still stay on the rails. So we don’t have casting services. But for the first time ever, we’re going to open up our entire narrator database so that you can search, you can filter through, you can listen to samples at your own pace and audition narrators. And then there’ll be a whole set of production flow tools to make sure, after auditions you’re going to sign a contract, and then you’re going to do the extended sample, and then you’re going to have a review process. And then you’re going to, you know, go through the process in the way that we know good audiobooks get made. We’ve taken a lot of experience and made a lot of audiobooks. And then we built software tools around that to say, what would this look like today? If we were to build tools today, not 10 years ago, and layer on top of them, right? Today, what is the ideal production flow between an author and a narrator if we’re not involved? And so we built those production tools. And the coolest thing is, we’re giving them away for free. There’s no Findaway markup to use them. So if you’re an author and a narrator, and you want to come to Findaway Voices and run the production through us, it’s not gonna cost you anything extra, you’ll still be able to use our distribution services. But you actually don’t even have to use our distribution services. We’re giving this as like a great tool for the industry because we want to grow the whole audiobook industry. So if you’ve been looking for a place to make audiobooks that doesn’t serve a single retailer, but serves the entire audiobook industry, that’s what we’ve built here.

Kevin Tumlinson  04:19

It sounds glorious, man. Because it sounds similar to the service that shall go unnamed. Although I have no problem with it, it sounds like a better version of ACX, is what it sounds like. And that’s not hard to do. But you guys even get …

Will Dages  04:38

Well, it was not easy to build. I’ll tell you that. We’ve been working on this for a long time. We’ve gotten a lot of input from a lot of narrators and authors, we’ve done user testing, we’ve looked at what works on our process and we’ve used all of that to build it. It’s been no simple task, and we’ve been working on this for over a year. And I have been so excited to tell people about this, but we’ve had to keep it secret. So yeah, last week was finally the weight off my shoulders to finally be able to start telling people what we’re doing here.

Kevin Tumlinson  05:05

Finally.

Mark Lefebvre  05:05

So I love that you put the control back in the authors’ hands, and you’ve given them choice. So now, or soon, because I know it’s not ready for authors yet. And I’d like you to talk about that in a second. But when I go to Findaway Voices, which I can do through Draft2Digital, I have my ebook set up, I click a button, it ports all my metadata over. And then I have the option of having your awesome project manager process find me a narrator based on what you guys know about the industry, based on the expertise that I’ve leveraged several times. Or I could, right now I could do that, or I could, you know, I have a narrator I work with on one of my series. So I just have the files he’s provided for me and I just upload them directly, and I’m good to go. But then soon, I’ll have the option of saying, well, maybe I want to go audition for this other project. I need a different voice. And I know you did help find me a couple narrators that I loved. So thank you. But now you’re opening that up. So there’ll be three options. Now, as an author, can I ask this question? Is anyone with a really crappy microphone just going to be able to be a narrator on Findaway Voices? Or is there some sort of curation, where you’re like, oh, you have to be a certain standard? 

Will Dages  06:20

Yeah, that’s a great question. So Marketplace is much more of an open market, right? Anybody can sign up for Findaway Voices Marketplace and put their samples out there and set their rates. You know, everybody’s an independent contractor, they can choose whatever rate they want there. For the productions that we do, you can be confident that nobody’s going to be on a casting list that isn’t trustworthy, that isn’t going to meet quality standards that we’ve vetted. But Marketplace is going to give you a lot more freedom to just pick anyone in the world. So there’s going to inherently be a little bit more risk there for authors. But we’ve worked really hard on building up a set of trust tools. So you know, we’re thinking strategically about Marketplace a year ago, we’re thinking, what are the core pillars of what we want to build? And trust and transparency was one of the big pillars for us. We don’t want somebody to just be able to sign up and say they’re Morgan Freeman. Like, there has to be a little bit more trust and transparency there. So a couple of the things that we’re doing is, at the end of every production, the author will be able to rate the narrator. The narrator will be able to rate the author. So both sides are going to have ratings and reviews. We’re going to show you how long any narrator has been signed up on Findaway Voices, we’re going to show you whether they’ve been used for a production that we’ve trusted them for in the past, if they’ve been hired by us, either for an Audioworks production, which is our high-end studio division, or an Orange Sky, which is our publishing division, or through our managed productions with Findaway Voices over the last four years. So you’ll get to see that Findaway has trusted them. You’ll also get to see how many minutes they’ve recorded on our platform. Right? So they can’t just say like, “Hey, well I’ve done 10 books for Findaway.” And it’s like 10 one-minute books, right? So like, trust and transparency is key. They’re also elevating things like how often do they deliver on time? 95% of my projects were delivered on the due date or before. Those kind of transparency metrics are built into the very core foundation of Marketplace, because we are opening it up to the whole world. And we want authors to make informed decisions when they’re making these expensive decisions.

Kevin Tumlinson  08:24

That’s fair, I love that.

Mark Lefebvre  08:25

So you’re also allowing a new narrator who has skill, but maybe doesn’t have the previous experience, they have an opportunity to really use this platform and leverage it to get a foothold in the industry, provided they do it in a professional fashion, and they can rise up, right?

Will Dages  08:42

Absolutely. This is, for a narrator who has no work samples, and they may be very talented, they may be an actor who is out of, you know, in between jobs there and has good studio setup, they just don’t have a backlog of audiobooks, they may be great. Even in that scenario, it’s tough for them to get our attention on a casting list, because we really focus on choosing talent that we know and we trust and we vet them based on their past experience. So it’s really hard to get a foothold in the industry in that way. Marketplace we really hope is going to grow the industry, both for narrators and authors, giving everybody a lot more opportunity. There’s like 7 million ebooks in the world, and there’s only half a million audio books. There is so much more potential to grow this industry and to do that we’re going to need more great voice talent that is able to get a foothold and get started in the industry somehow too. So we’re all about that.

Kevin Tumlinson  09:35

So we’ve got a couple of questions coming in. Let’s pop this first one up. This is from Michael, and I’m going to pronounce your name as Brain, but you can correct me Michael. Sorry if I got that wrong. But he asked, “Will you offer an option like ACX does, where you can split revenue with narrators, say, 50-50 instead of having to pay up front?”

Will Dages  09:54

Great question. So the royalty share stuff is coming down the line. It’s not going to be there at launch because it’s a little more difficult. But I’m actually trying to, I’m thinking about this a little bit differently, which is, I’m thinking about royalty shares more on a distribution side than a production side. And so there’ll be a way to kind of hack this in the system earlier than we officially support the full end to end thing. Because what it’s gonna be, what its gonna look like, I think. And I’m gonna give you like, you know, because we’re all friends here, and we’re live, I’m going to give you a sneak peek into kind of my brain here. But this is not an official announcement, this could absolutely change. What I’m thinking about us changing royalty share to would be more of a, any two parties. It could be two authors, it could be an author and a narrator agreeing on a royalty split, 50-50, 60-40, 70-30, 90-10, whatever it is. If both parties agree to it, I’ll split the royalties that way, and there’s no minimum term. It’s just going to continue as long as both parties don’t want out. So if one party wants out, but the other doesn’t, that’s too bad, it’s gonna continue. But if both parties get the little nuclear key and turn them at the same time, then the royalty share kind of explodes and it goes back to the rights holder only. What that means is, you can make a side deal on the production side and say, “Hey, you know, on Marketplace, lower your rate for me down 50%. And then we’ll work it out on the distribution side.” As opposed to it being coupled, where the production side says, okay, you are at X percent. And then I have to enforce this distribution. So I think I’m gonna, I’m thinking about really putting a, you know, cutting that in half and thinking about those two things very separately. That could change, that could change. That’s kind of where I’m thinking about with royalty share. But to answer the question, there’s not gonna be anything that specifically addresses this at launch.

Mark Lefebvre  11:44

At launch. Okay. But you do have the Voices Share program, and you have had that in production for a while now. Which is sort of, it’s not paying nothing upfront. Can you explain that, just for people who aren’t familiar with it?

Will Dages  11:57

Yeah. The way we do it, the way we do royalty shares today is a hybrid royalty share. So we cut the production costs in half, so 50% of what you would have paid, and then you split 20% of the royalties with the narrator. 20% is our cut, which is normal. 60% of the royalties to the author. And that’s a 10-year term that the author has the ability to buy out of, for an extra 100%. So let me walk through the buyout option really, because I think it’s important to have a buyout option, because the other player doesn’t have a buyout option. And that’s putting a lot of people in a really bad situation. The way it works, say the book was gonna cost $1000 bucks. You would pay $500 bucks up front for Voices Share, and then you would start splitting royalties. If you had a $1,000 royalty month, then the narrator would get $200, Findaway would take $200 for their fee, and the author would take home $600. And then at any point in that 10 years, if the author wants out of the royalty share, they would pay an extra $1,000, the original 100% cost of the audiobook, bringing them up to 150% total. So that’s $1500 bucks all in. The narrator obviously would get to keep all of the royalties they shared up to that point, but then get a bulk payment of another 100% of what they would have made. So we think that’s a pretty fair arrangement. I don’t think I’ve ever, we haven’t had a single author actually blow up a contract yet. So but that will probably be deprecated to this, you know, obviously we’ll honor those contracts. But going forward, we’ll probably just offer this new structure when that comes out.

Kevin Tumlinson  13:25

Oh, very cool. And that may in part address some of what our next question was about. Richard Stephens says, “My previous audiobooks were published through Audible’s royalty share. I’m now looking to go wide. I have a new audiobook already narrated, wondering how I go about using Findaway to publish, without” in all caps, “WITHOUT incurring the 30% surcharge that I was told I as the author would have to pay up front. Can I use Findaway to upload and distribute through without the extra charge?”

Will Dages  13:56

Okay, let’s unpack this, because there’s a couple interesting things here.

Kevin Tumlinson  14:00

Let me drop off the screen so we can see you. You want me to pop it back up there?

Will Dages  14:03

I might need it back up just because I want to make sure I don’t miss anything.

Mark Lefebvre  14:06

Yeah. Move Will up top and put me down there.

Kevin Tumlinson  14:10

Okay, let’s do that. Let’s do that.

Will Dages  14:12

Um, thank you for the question, Richard. This is a really interesting one. I’m actually, I would love. I don’t know, can we ask a follow up question and see if he can … So your books are still in a royalty share program, but you want to get them out of royalty share to go wide? Or are you looking at reproducing them? Because the 30% surcharge thing is a production thing for us right now. So because we have all of the infrastructure today, for the casting agents and the production assistants and all of the contracting and everything that we do in the middle, it’s actually just as much work for us to manage a production where the author and narrator already know themselves, or know already know each other, versus one that we pair up. So we do charge a 30% upfront fee on top of the pre-negotiated rate if you and the narrator come to us for the manage production. When Marketplace launches, that will go away.

Mark Lefebvre  15:05

It looks like he said, this is a new one. And he did say, it’s already narrated. So he has all the files. And he just wants, I think, correct me if I’m wrong Richard, but he just wants to upload the files to Findaway. Is there going to be a surcharge for that?

Will Dages  15:19

So there’s never been a surcharge for just uploading finished files. If you want to work with the narrator on our platform to produce the files, that’s where the 30% comes in. So maybe there was a misunderstanding there at some point, but we’ve never charged anything up front to distribute, ever. In fact, you know, even if you tried to pay us, there wouldn’t be a way to do it. So really, the 30% is, if you and the narrator want to make the book on our platform and use our production services and pay through us and have us be in the middle of the contracting phase.

Kevin Tumlinson  15:49

So I don’t like for there to be problems without solutions, Will, so if anyone wants to pay Findaway up front, my PayPal account is at your service. 

Will Dages  16:00

Nice try.

Kevin Tumlinson  16:03

Sorry, no, that is a joke, please don’t send money to me for Findaway Voices.

Will Dages  16:09

Now, the previous books, though, going through Audible’s royalty share is pretty difficult to get out of those royalty shares. And if you are interested in taking those books wide, I don’t have clear advice for you other than, you need to contact ACX’s support team and see what your options are been. My understanding is there’s been a few different versions of those royalty share contracts. And it might depend a little bit on when you had …

Kevin Tumlinson  16:31

I will say they’re getting pretty good, because I actually just peeled my Kotler books out of ACX. All I had to do was get the permission. Me and the narrator had to come in together and say it’s fine, and then we could move them out. So they’re getting pretty good about that, even if you’re still in that seven-year deal with them. So the answer then is ask, and make sure your narrator’s on board.

Will Dages  16:58

Yeah, hopefully, you can still get a hold of your narrator, too. It sounds like, hopefully, if it’s the same narrator for this next book, you’re still in touch.

Kevin Tumlinson  17:04

I did have a narrator pass away, which did make life very, very challenging.

Will Dages  17:10

Yeah. So how did you manage that?

Kevin Tumlinson  17:13

You have to go through their estate and there has to be, there’s a whole lot of paperwork that has to be done saying that they own the rights, and then they sign over the rights and you have to cut the deal with them. It’s very, it was very challenging, but you know, it could be done. So it does emphasize that you should probably, if you’re doing a partnership with someone, you should probably have some sort of paperwork, legal paperwork, that outlines what happens when one of you dies. Not fun to think about on this show, but yearh.

Will Dages  17:47

I would also just use this opportunity to caution anybody from entering a seven-year royalty share deal today. The industry is moving so fast. There’s so many people who, even just a couple weeks at NINC, Kevin, I was talking to so many people there who had book one of their series locked in royalty share. And that makes it so hard to go wide, even though they’ve made great decisions since, they’re still paying for that one bad decision. Because, you know, I’ll be honest with you, if you bring me books two through five in the series, I can never get you featured. There’s no merchandising opportunities for you. What retailer would want to advertise book 2 in the series as the first one that they can get to you?

Kevin Tumlinson  18:29

Yeah, exactly. Maybe renumber that series one through four, and then there’s a prequel that’s only available on Audible.

Will Dages  18:35

That’s actually, that’s not a bad idea. And that is, for some people, when they’re more standalone-ish books, and they’re not as reliant on the sequential nature, I have recommended that in the past. It’s worth, you know, updating the cover and updating the metadata and reordering the series, right? So that book two is now book one. It’s still not ideal, though, right?

Kevin Tumlinson  18:55

It’s not ideal, of course. Right. But it’s the same old challenge. If they won’t release the book, then that’s, you have to take some kind of extreme measures if that’s the plan you have, like if you want to have those deals.

Mark Lefebvre  19:10

Can I, Richard had a follow up question, which I think is important about our wonderful partnership between Draft2Digital and Findaway Voices. “Can I bring a finished file to Findaway and have you distribute them?” Yes. “Where on the site can you do that?” Well, Richard, if you have a Draft2Digital account, and the ebook version is already published, there’s a little audiobook tab there. Click on that audiobook tab. And it’ll ask if you want to port the metadata so you don’t have to re-enter you know, some of the information. Obviously, the narrator information, you’ll have to enter it on Findaway and you have to change the cover from the rectangle to the square, which is custom for audiobooks. But when you do that, it’ll port you over to Findaway Voices, create an account for you if you want, and also, you know, save you some keying in right? Because I know Richard, you write hundreds of thousands of words every month, so you don’t want to be typing in metadata. You want to be back on the next book. And then you can choose, hey, find me a narrator, or I got everything I need to go, and there’s two different options. It’s very easy. I love the way Findaway Voices makes it so easy. I love the way Draft2Digital Findaway have partnered that way. 

Kevin Tumlinson  20:18

So I just dropped a link in the comments, and I’m gonna add it now to the screen. But it is findawayvoices.com/d2d, if you need a direct URL, it amounts to the same thing. So you can do the easy button from Draft2Digital, if you’re distributing with us. If you’re not distributing with us, you can always go to them through that link. We appreciate it if you go through our, that’s our partner link. I don’t think Will minds.

Will Dages  20:49

No, I love it. We have a great partnership. And the other thing this link gives you, either when you go through the Draft2Digital dashboard or if you sign up with your account this way, if you do choose to produce with us in the future, and you heard about those casting services that we do, where we go through our whole database, and we find the narrator that’s right for you. We normally charge $49 for that service, and we waive that fee for you if you come through Draft2Digital. So definitely sign up there it does not cost you anything.

Mark Lefebvre  21:14

That’s what a good partner does. Can I, you talked about merchandising and promotion, and I bet you there’s so many listeners that their ears perked up and went, merchandising and promotions? Can I get merchandising and promotions through Findaway Voices?

Will Dages  21:29

Yeah, we have great relationships with our retailers. It’s one of the benefits of having direct relationships with all of the 42 retailers that we work with. And I have a team dedicated to merchandising, and every month we’re sitting in front of those retailers like a publisher does, pitching their new catalog. And we’re going through for some of the best new releases that have come through Findaway Voices, things that are on sale, and we’re pitching those. So those are, some of those are reach-out opportunities where you know, maybe Apple will say like, hey, we’re doing a carousel in two months that is themed on Halloween. And so we might go out and solicit some discounts from people and say like, hey, would you like to participate in this? They need it to be in this price point. In which case it’s kind of a “don’t call us, we’ll call you” kind of thing. Some are more open calls, like every year in June, June is audiobook month. So we get like a ton of space on retailers to promote audiobooks. And we generally do more open calls for that of like, hey, submit what you would like to have included there. And sometimes we can get 200 or 300 books on some retailers featured in special lists, which is great. And then of course there’s things that are more retailer-driven, like Trip Deals, where you would apply directly on the Trip site, the Trips website, the BookBub partner dashboard is where you do it, and you apply for that promotion, then you hear from them whether or not you get it. And then aside from merchandising, you can run a sale through Findaway Voices on either Chirp or Apple at any time you want. If you want to just do a limited time discount, take your $15 book down to $7, you know, or something like that, to run a special sale, maybe you discount book one when book five is released or something like that. And another really good tip, everybody ears, listen right now, this is a great one. If you do get a Chirp deal on book one of the series, we’ve seen a lot of success with you manually going in and discounting books two, three and four. Depending on how long the series is, maybe just book two. So that if your Chirp deal’s at $1.99, maybe you set book two yourself to $2.99. And then book three is $5.99. And what we’re seeing is people will find book one, and they’ll grab more than that in their cart right with book one right away, as opposed to getting book one, waiting until they finish, and then maybe converting at full price to the next one. We’re seeing really good results in that strategy.

Kevin Tumlinson  23:51

I’m just gonna throw in here, by the way, that if you get a deal, and you’re setting up a sale like that for your audiobooks, you should do the same on your ebooks and you can schedule price reductions for a temporary time through Draft2Digital. So if you’re distributing through us, you can set up a little promo deal. I’m just gonna throw that in there, because that would work really well together.

Will Dages  24:13

Yes, it does. It works both ways. We have, even before Chirp launched, we could tell when somebody got a BookBub featured deal. Because more attention would go on the ebook and some people just prefer the audiobook. And it goes both ways. So they’re both, think of them both as, you know, curation engines that are reaching consumers you wouldn’t have normally reached, and peaking their interest because of the price. But once they get there, you know, I certainly look at BookBub featured deals and Chirp deals as kind of editorial recommendations. And maybe I don’t want to buy right then, but maybe I want to get the book on. Maybe I only read ebooks nonfiction, maybe only do audiobooks for fiction, or something like that. You just never know. And it doesn’t hurt to cross-pollinate.

Kevin Tumlinson  24:53

That’s the way that works by the way, right? Like that’s what I do. I’m sure everyone here does. Like I listen to all the nonfiction stuff on audio for some reason, because it’s easier to get through.

Will Dages  25:03

I do too. I’m a big nonfiction reader and I do almost all of that on audiobook. However, I know a lot of people who will only do nonfiction in print, or will only do a nonfiction in e, so that they can make notes and they can review them easily. And they can make annotations, which is a lot more important in the nonfiction world. So  I experience it the same way as you Kevin, but I’ve met a lot of people who do it the opposite way.

Kevin Tumlinson  25:29

We’re auditory learners. So our own Lexi Greene asks, “Marketplace sounds like an exciting opportunity,” exclamation point. She used the exclamation point that I gave her last week, by the way. “Is there a projection for when that might be going live?”

Will Dages  25:45

Yeah, great question. We kind of skipped over this. We moved past Marketplace and we didn’t talk about how it’s launching. Yeah. So when I said it was announced last week, we’re actually launching in a couple of different phases. So what we launched last week was just for narrators. We have about 15,000 narrators on our platform. And think of them as having old profiles on our platform, we have the information that we needed to be able to cast them and categorize them and sort and filter ourselves. But we were much more ambitious on the tools that we wanted to give authors, when we were opening up the whole database, a lot more data we need to collect in a structured way. So we’re having narrators for the next few months update their profiles. And we’ve seen hundreds already do it just in the first couple days, which is awesome that narrators are jumping on this. But they’re, if you’re a narrator, log into your Findaway Voices account. And you’ll see, you won’t be able to miss it, the option to upgrade your profile. You’ll be able to add in a whole bunch more information to customize the information, and then actually publish it and get a public link, which you’ve never had on Findaway Voices before. And it’s, you’re going to be really excited when you see how good your profiles look. It’s like, it’s night and day compared to what the industry standards are. We’ve really leapfrogged everything here and they’re beautiful. And so I encourage every narrator that’s listening, or every author who knows a narrator, let them know to upgrade their profiles, because we need that critical mass of upgraded profiles before we can launch the author tools, so that we don’t want to launch and have an author ever find like just a couple search results. We want thousands of narrators in the database upgraded on those new profiles before we launch. So we’re hoping the author tools will be ready to launch before the end of this year. And I’m not going to give a more specific date than that. You guys know how these things go.

Kevin Tumlinson  27:28

I do, I do. Okay, Merrie Housden, I’m gonna say? And if you’re from Texas, it’s Houston. So she asks, “In author groups that I’m in, there seems to be a growing trend of indie books being claimed and produced into audiobooks by someone other than the author (those using ACX). Do you have any safeguards in place to prevent that from happening on your platform?

Will Dages  27:55

Yeah, this has been a big problem lately, and it’s caused a lot of headaches for people. Especially people who are outside the areas where you can even have an ACX account. Like if this happens to you in Australia, you’re not even allowed to sign up for ACX to claim your own books, which is really, that’s really tough. This whole system is really difficult too. We don’t have anything like the claiming system, right? Because the whole claiming system works based on the ebook records. You cannot submit a book to ACX unless there’s a corresponding ebook. You want to go audio first, or audio only? You can’t do it. So and obviously, we’re an audiobook company, we don’t have the records of every ebook to claim against. Not that we would go that route anyway. Because it’s a little too easy to just search for any book and just say it’s mine, at the click of a button. Yeah, um, what we do is, we have a human QA team that’s looking for certain patterns that we have identified for fraudulent behavior at the submission and resubmission of every single book. We have a pretty robust payment profile setup that will flag us to any suspicious activity, or request extra information like government IDs and stuff from people who trigger certain flags. So we do some work there, there’s more coming. But I think much of the problem stemming from ACX’s thing there is the $0 upfront ability to make an audiobook. And that is not something that’s going to happen on Findaway Voices. I don’t believe in the $0 upfront, I don’t think narrators should assume all of the risks of production. So we’re never going to formally support that. And so I think that’s going to help a lot too. But obviously, we’re not naive. We know that there’s a lot of fraud in the industry. We’ve seen a lot of fraud try to come through Findaway Voices, we catch them more than you would believe. And I know we’ve talked about this too, Kevin, and you know, there’s a lot of tools that you’re like, boy, I’d rather be building something that’s getting a lot of value to authors than building something that’s just stopping the scammers. But we put a lot of time and effort into that, and we’ll be watching the platform really carefully and adapting quickly as we see patterns emerge. If you’re listening and you’re a scammer, back off. We’re gonna find you.

Kevin Tumlinson  29:59

We’re gonna come after you. It’s gonna become FindaScammer Voices. Yeah so Elyssa, who works with us, talked about this. And I wanted to pop it up here, because it’s not just indie authors who are getting hit by this kind of stuff. This was a scam that actually impacted the narrator more than anyone. She says she saw an article about a guy who was hired to read Dune and got duped and didn’t get paid. So yeah, that happened.

Mark Lefebvre  30:26

That’s quite the short novel, too.

Kevin Tumlinson  30:27

I know, right? Like, you know, dupe me to read like The Old Man and the Sea or something. Don’t dupe me to read like the epic tome. So that’s a hard one.

Will Dages  30:37

That is heartbreaking. That is why we want reviews on both sides, though. We want narrators to be able to review authors and authors to review narrators, so if you’re a narrator and you’re picking up a book from somebody who has no reviews, obviously everybody starts with zero reviews. But like, we want those trust factors and transparency to really be key on the platform. It breaks my heart and I would hate to see that happen.

Mark Lefebvre  30:57

Will, because I’ve worked with professional narrators through Findaway Voices, do I as an author, will I have the ability to go in and give them a five-star rating because I loved working with them? Would that be a useful thing for authors to do?

Kevin Tumlinon  31:12

Even if you haven’t produced with them through that platform? 

Mark Lefebvre  31:13

No no, I worked with a few different narrators through Findaway Voices that Findaway Voices found me, but I don’t remember being able to rate them. And i’d love to.

Will Dages  31:21

Yeah, we never had that before. We had kind of our own internal tracking and stuff, but I love that idea. I think that’s a great way to seed some reviews early on and we obviously have all that data, we know who hired who, because we sat in the middle of all those productions. So I’m gonna take that idea and run with it, and we have a couple months before the tools launch, and that would be a great time to build some stuff around that. Thanks for the idea, I love it.

Kevin Tumlinson  31:42

All right, we’ll send you the bill. Yes, speaking of that, I mean you guys are always working on something new and I know you can’t reveal much of the secret sauce going on. But are there some things that you’re excited about coming up that you can talk about?

Will Dages  32:01

We put a lot of energy into Marketplace. You know, I see Marketplace not as just this production feature right? That is the first launch for Marketplace. But if you think of Marketplace as a new platform, I think it’s really going to be the center of the audiobook industry for creators. I see this, we’re starting with productions, but shortly after we’re going to take on some more complex productions. Dual narrator, duet productions, even full cast, we want to be able to support those things. I want to bring in other professions too. Mark, if you’re self-narrating and you need somebody to do mastering, why should you have to go to Fiverr for that, or Upwork for that? Like, we should really be the hub.

Kevin Tumlinson  32:39

Now you’re talking my language. Yeah.

Will Dages  32:41

We want to empower everybody. Yeah, exactly. We want to empower everybody who wants to make an audiobook to come up with the best experience possible. And we’re just going to keep building tools and the other ones are a little more far-fetched. So I’m gonna stay with those easy to conceptualize ones.

Kevin Tumlinson  32:56

Pulling it directly out of our brain as we hear it in the voices we prefer.

Will Dages  33:02

Think of Marketplace as the future of Findaway Voices, and the future the audiobook industry. We are going to build so many tools around this and features around this, Marketplace is a huge area of focus for us. And it’s really strategically core to the direction that I want to move Findaway Voices. So this is just the first of many launches, we have a lot of really cool ideas up our sleeves, and there’s a lot more to come. And obviously you know, there’s always new partners on the horizon, there’s always more opportunities for distribution, we’re never gonna stop thinking about that. People have been asking us forever about international pricing support, we’re working on that kind of stuff, we want to have more integrations with Books2Read and have it easier to find your links everywhere, like there’s all kinds of stuff that we want to do and that we’re not gonna stop innovating in those ways either. The reason we’ve gotten to this point is because we keep building, you know, great products and keep building great features that people want. That’s not going to stop, it’s only going to accelerate.

Mark Lefebvre  33:55

I have to give kudos to you and your company and the team because for the productions I have done myself, every single time I go to master a file through Adobe Audition, Wes has provided such amazing step by step video tutorials. And because I’m not a pro at this, I’m a writer, every single time I master an audiobook I go through his steps, step by step by step. And I just was like, thank you so much for creating this really comprehensive, even for relative beginners, way. If you want to do it yourself it’s going to take some work, but here’s how you do it. So thank you so much.

Will Dages  34:37

It’s a fantastic resource. We should have just put that thing on Masterclass.com and retired because, yeah, it’s so valuable people would pay for it. But you can also see Marketplace as being a hub for education, right? You can also see this as being, like we talked earlier about this platform as a springboard for new talent getting into the industry, it’ll be the perfect place to focus educational materials too. And we’ve obviously seen success with things like Wes’s video, that tutorial on mastering that you just referenced. And there’s a lot more things that we can do to really help bring up, you know, we’re incentivized to grow the entire industry. We’re not here to grow a single retailer, that’s not what we’re doing. We are growing the entire audiobook industry so that everybody wins. And it’s so fun to think about all the tools you can build when you have that mindset.

Kevin Tumlinson  35:24

A couple of questions here. The first one I want to pop up real fast, Gil Jackson says, “Hi, team Sorry I’m late. Will, go back to the beginning.” No, I’m sorry. There’s no comma. I know, I know. I just had to throw that in there because that’s the way I read it at first, and I was like, start from the beginning? What are you crazy? Okay, so Sharon Jansen says, “I’ve heard about authors hiring narrators,” and we addressed this a little bit earlier, but we can come we can swing back around. “I have heard about authors hiring narrators with an agreement for royalty split instead of upfront payment. How does this work?”

Will Dages  36:00

So that’s on the other platform, that’s on ACX. We don’t do any $0 upfront work on Findaway Voices, and I don’t think we ever will. I don’t believe in that model. I don’t think it’s a healthy model for the industry. But to answer your question, the way it works on ACX is, you pay nothing up front, the narrator assumes all the risk, the narrator does the production and delivers it to you at their expense. And then you split royalties 50-50 for 7 years. So half the royalties go to you, half the royalties go to the author or the narrator. But you have to be exclusive to Audible that entire seven years. So you’re at the 40% royalty rate, so you’re each making a 20% royalty rate. And it is sometimes difficult to get out of those agreements. Obviously, if the narrator doesn’t want out, there’s no getting out of the agreement. But also at the end of those seven years, you don’t own the audiobook. You have the right to take down the audiobook, but the narrator owns the recording, the performance, and you own the source materials, and neither one of you can do anything with it without negotiating a rights transfer at the end. And then obviously, when you pull the book down at the end of those seven years, you lose all your ratings and reviews on Audible and you have to submit fresh, so it’s really, in my opinion, and this may be a little too brutal for some people to hear, it’s a really short-sighted decision. You want to own your, this is an asset that you are going to leverage in your audiobook business and your author business for a while. You want to own that. You want to own that and have the rights to make a move when the industry shifts. And don’t be beholden to a single retailer who may not always have your best interests in mind.

Kevin Tumlinson  37:28

Yeah, it’s kind of a Faustian bargain you strike, and you end up with, you end up holding basically nothing at the end. For all that work, if the two of you decide, you know, you’re going to go forward or whatever, then it becomes even more complicated later. So yeah, I wouldn’t do it. That, again, is ACX, not Findaway. Findaway has a way to test their own process and you can usually find a narrator at a pretty good rate that is generally affordable for most authors, I think. You know, the cost of producing audiobooks is always going to be a little on the high side for some authors. But you guys are working on ways to kind of mitigate that, right?

Will Dages  38:11

Well, we want to give people more options. Cheaper is not always the better business decision. You know, I was talking to a couple authors at NINC a couple weeks ago. I know I keep coming back to this, but they got rockstar narrators and they paid a lot for them. But they attribute the majority of the success of their audiobook to the audience those narrators brought with them. You know, like, there are people there who said, RC Bray. You know, I would pay as much as RC Bray wanted to charge me for the book because I know he brings an audience and I know it will end up being worth it. There’s some narrators out there like that. So it’s not it’s not always about driving the price down. But it’s where you are at in your in your career and where you are as far as what you can afford to do, is obviously a factor. But I would say, just to put the seven year commitment in context, Findaway Voices has only been around for four years. And when we launched, Chirp didn’t exist, right? Google didn’t sell audiobooks. Apple was still exclusive with ACX. We launched with, like, 17 partners, and we have 42 today. We have changed the audiobook world in just four years. And if somebody was, you know, doing a royalty share on that day, they’d still have to wait three more years. Just wait to see what we can do in three years. This industry is moving so fast, seven years is a lifetime. And you don’t want to lock yourself into that kind of term.

Mark Lefebvre  39:32

Well, can you add? Can you talk a little bit about, because I know in just the last year, people expected with a pandemic, with lockdowns, and people not driving to work, there was an expectation that oh, people listen to audiobooks in their cars. But I heard you recently share a stat that indicates that people have still continued to listen to audiobooks and it’s growing, but not necessarily in their cars. Can you talk a bit about that?

Will Dages  39:59

Yeah. I mean, real talk here. When the pandemic hit, and even I who had an hour commute each way to work, was now all of a sudden working from home, I was nervous. I was like, oh boy, what is this gonna do to the audiobook industry? That is where I listened, right? That is where my personal habits fell. And so I was very, very nervous there. And we did see a pretty significant drop in those first couple weeks when the lockdowns happened, but then it bounced back. And it settled at a much higher baseline than it was before, which shocked all of us. The APA stats, which is what you’re mentioning there, the Audio Publishers Association, they do some statistical reports every year which are always interesting to read. And they found that there are a ton of people who are just sitting in their home with headphones on listening to audiobooks. This is their leisure time. This is their TV time, but they’re doing it with audiobooks instead as their escape. And you know, after asking around and being like, you know, trying to find some people in my life who do this, it’s like, oh, crap, like a ton of people do this that I know. I just didn’t even know it. Yeah, so I encourage you to even like ask around to your family and friends who you know listen to audiobooks and ask them where they listen. There’s a lot of people who do when they exercise, when they’re on the treadmill, when they’re on the bike, you know, or just like sitting at home listening. So we really saw listener habits adapt and shift a little bit last year, but the baseline is like more people are reading and listening than ever before

Kevin Tumlinson  41:21

Yeah, I got a question for both you guys. Do you listen to audiobooks at 1x? Regular speed? Or do you speed it up, like 2x or 1.5, or whatever?

Mark Lefebvre  41:34

Rarely do I ever listen at 1x. So it’s a minimum of one and a half. But if the narrator is really slow, I can easily hit two times and I’m fine, because that allows me to read faster, because I’m a slow reader. 

Will Dages  41:51

I am different between fiction and nonfiction. So when I’m doing nonfiction, I find 1.3 to 1.4, when the app allows that kind of fine-grained control, I love it. That’s the sweet spot for me. But if it’s fiction, and the performance is really like part of the reason that I’m picking it up and enjoying it, then I got to listen to it at 1x. I gotta follow the narrator’s lead and trust their performance there. But if it’s really, 1.4x all the way, baby, that’s right. That is the sweet spot for me. Mark, my head would be spinning at 2x.

Kevin Tumlinson  42:22

I listen at 2x. And it took a little bit to get used to it. But one of the things that’s happened while we’ve been doing the whole van life thing is, you know, Kara and I have discovered that we can only talk so long before we start getting on each other’s nerves. And, oh, I almost lost my mic there. And so I’ll pop that in and there are so many books I want to listen to that I decided I would try 2x to see if I could kind of speed up the consumption. And once you get used to it, it’s fine. I mean it’s clippy, you know, it’s very, it’s like listening to an old timey radio guy for like, 10 hours. But you know, I pick it up, I retain it. So interesting. Dan Wood popped up, says “1.5 to 2x? You monster.”

Mark Lefebvre  43:15

Yeah, I just want to read more, I want to consume more. I mean, I have subscriptions to both Audible and Kobo. And so I’m going back and forth between the two platforms and listening to more audiobooks than ever before. You know, walking the dog, going for a run, washing the dishes, even just walking around the house making breakfast or whatever, I’ve got the headphones on, and I’m listening to podcasts or audiobooks. And it just allows me to consume more. And I find that I still retain the stuff. Yeah, there are some there are some performances, I agree with you Will. I think Lincoln in the Bardo, like that was a multicast performance. Because of all the voices and stuff, that that was one I probably, I think I listened to at regular speed. But I’m the kind of person who’s looking for the fast forward button on people’s foreheads when I see them in person. 

Kevin Tumlinson  44:02

Yeah, it messes with your brain. Okay, listen, we got like a minute left. And I want to make sure we get this question from E.M. Kelly on YouTube. Says, “I have two years left with my split royalty contract with ACX. When the seven years expires, can I pull it down, reproduce it, and list it on Findaway Voices?”

Will Dages  44:24

If you buy the rights from the narrator. Like I mentioned before, my understanding … and you really should check with your specific contract and ACX’s support on this, because I do not know what every single royalty share contract looks like. And my understanding is there have been some differences between contracts over the years. So this is not legal advice. This is not policy advice for ACX because I’m not ACX, so you should check with them. My understanding is at the end of the seven-year term, you are able to pull it down, but you don’t own the production. You need to get the rights from that production from the narrator at that point, and if hopefully they’re willing to deal with you to give that to you, at that point, you absolutely would be able to resubmit it to ACX not excuse and submit it to us, or you could submit it to us and we’ll send it everywhere. We’re not all or nothing. So if you want to upload a book to us and uncheck ACX, go direct there, that’s totally fine with us. We’re happy to help you with district distribution everywhere else. But what I would say is, if you do plan on reproducing it, like your thing says, you actually don’t have to wait till the seven years expires. The royalty share is for that production. And you cannot put a second book up on ACX, but if you are going to reproduce it anyway, you can make a new production at your cost and distribute that wide anytime you want. Because you sign an exclusivity contract for that production, not the source material.

Kevin Tumlinson  45:36

Interesting. That’s the first time I’ve heard that. So that’s interesting.

Will Dages  45:40

Yeah, it’s an expensive solution. But if you’re planning on doing it anyway, you actually don’t have to wait another two years. 

Kevin Tumlinson  45:47

Interesting. Yeah, because they make you think that you’re exclusive. Like you couldn’t, you could not produce that book elsewhere. But you’re right, in the language of it, that’s true.

Will Dages  45:58

Again, check your contract. Check your contract. I’m not a lawyer. I’m not giving you legal advice here.

Kevin Tumlinson  46:04

That’s Will Dages everybody, he’s an attorney. He is giving you legal advice right now over the air. No, no. Yeah, always check your contracts. And if you have an attorney, which by the way you don’t, if you need legal advice and things like that, you can use a service like … what’s the LegalZoom.com, you can actually pay a very low rate to have some someone review, sorry, your contract. So it’s usually worthwhile. Okay. So that is going to wrap us up, probably just in time. I’m starting to choke. Pardon me. Um, but Will, thanks so much for hopping in. I’ve actually learned a lot about everything you guys were doing. And I thought I already knew a lot. 

Will Dages  46:53

We got some exciting stuff ahead of us, too. Thanks for having me on. It’s been way too long. I love this. And thank you, for everybody who sent in a question during this time as well, like that makes this so much more valuable to everybody, I think, to get everybody’s questions out there and answered. And I would love to come back on again in a couple months when we launch this tool for authors to just talk about it again. So hopefully we can make that happen.

Kevin Tumlinson  47:13

Yeah, we’ll do it. And we’ll figure out other ways to help push this around. So Mark, did you have any last minute questions or anything you wanted to … ?

Mark Lefebvre  47:23

I just wanted to say thank you, Will, so much for your great insights.

Will Dages  47:27

Always a pleasure, guys. 

Kevin Tumlinson  47:29

All right, everybody, thank you for tuning in. Of course, the URL currently at the bottom of your screen, findawayvoices.com/D2D will get you to Findaway Voices. And then you where you go from there is up to you and your dreams. But also make sure that you are doing other fine things, such as subscribing to us on YouTube and on Facebook. If you go to youtube.com/draft2digital or Facebook.com/draft2digital, you can like and subscribe and click little bells and all kinds of things to make sure you don’t miss out on stuff like this in the future. But heck, just type any URL/draft2digital and see what it gets you. You never know.

Will Dages  48:08

Not any URL.

Kevin Tumlinson  48:09

Any URL. Well, okay. Let’s limit that. Let’s not go to the not safe for work sites. So be sure you bookmark D2Dlive.com, because that’s where we’ll give you a little countdown for each of these live events. We’ve got another one coming up. So I’m going to go ahead and say it, even though I haven’t locked it in, but we should be chatting with Honoree Corder next week at this time, so you’re going to want to tune in for that. If you haven’t met Honoree, I love her. She’s one of my favorite people. She’s a lot of fun to talk to, so we’re gonna have a good time there. All right, everybody. Thank you for being a part of today’s Self-Publishing Insiders with Draft2Digital and Findaway Voices, and all the skulls on Mark Lefevbre’s shelves. And we will talk to you all next time. Take care.