Nathan Agin: Double Your Audience With Audiobooks
Nonfiction Authors Association Podcast | July 27, 2022
“I would just say, just like launching your book, launching the audiobook is another part of the process, and you don’t want to skip over it. And you don’t want to just kind of let it happen without making it another big event in this book’s life.”
Nathan Agin is an actor, online marketer, and audiobook narrator/producer. He has completed over a dozen audiobooks for independent and self-published authors (including Chris Fox, Sean Platt, and Johnny B. Truant), as well as narrating 100+ articles for New York Times best-selling author Mark Manson (The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck). He also brings 10+ years of web design, email marketing, and social media experience to his work as an audiobook coach and consultant. Learn more at https://audionathan.com/
Find the video podcast, show notes, links, quotes, and podcast transcript below.
Live on July 27, 2022 at 10:00am PT
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In this episode…
- The benefits of audiobooks.
- The pros and cons of audiobook services available to authors.
- The difference between recording and narrating an audiobook.
- How to find narrators for your audiobook.
- Range of cost for producing an audiobook.
- How to determine how long your audiobook will be.
- Royalty rates authors can expect to earn from their audiobooks.
- How to set a retail price for your audiobook.
- How to use giveaway codes to promote your book and audiobook.
Hello and welcome to the nonfiction authors Association podcast. Today’s session is our monthly replay from the archives. They date all the way back to 2013 when NFAA founder Stephanie Chandler started recording weekly teleseminars with experts selected to help you write, publish, promote and profit with your nonfiction books. NFAA members have access to all 400 plus of these recordings, and you’d be surprised at how many of these are still useful today, such as the one you’re about to hear. I’m Carla King, and I’ve been your host for the weekly podcast since April 2022. And I’m happy to have you with us today.
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And now here’s today’s replay.
Stephanie Chandler 1:49
Hi, everyone. Welcome to our Teleseminar Series for the Nonfiction Authors Association. Today’s session is with Nathan Agin, and we’re going to be talking about how to double your audience with audiobooks. I love this title. I’m your host, Stephanie Chandler. Always appreciate it when you spend time with us. This event was 30 minutes and recordings are available to Authority and VIP Members of the Nonfiction Authors Association. If you’re new to us, in addition to recordings, our community members receive exclusive templates, checklists, and other content released weekly, media leads sent out by email every Friday, access to our active member community on Facebook, free admission to local chapter meetings, discounts off our year round Nonfiction Book Awards program, our Nonfiction Writers Conference events, and our online courses and author toolkits. And finally, discounts with our awesome partners, including Lulu, Findaway Voices, Office Depot, Ingram Spark and more. We would love for you to join us over at nonfictionauthorsassociation.com.
And now I’d like to introduce our guest today. Nathan Agin is an actor, online marketer, and audiobook narrator and producer. He’s completed over a dozen audiobooks for independent and self published authors, including Chris Fox, Sean Platt, and Johnny B. Truant, as well as narrating over 100 articles for New York Times best selling author, Mark Manson, whose book The Subtle Art of Not Giving An “F”, I’m gonna leave it at that. He also brings 10 plus years of web design, email marketing, and social media experience to his work as an audiobook coach and consultant. You can learn more at nathanagin.com. Hey, Nathan, thanks so much for joining us today.
Nathan Agin 4:04
Thank you, Stephanie. Thrilled to be here.
This is such a great topic, because the audiobook market is just on fire right now. So, can you start and tell us a little bit about what’s happening there?
Nathan Agin 4:16
Yeah, sure. So one of the big things that really changed how audiobooks were consumed was the invention of the iPhone. Because then you could start carrying things around in your pocket. And of course, it started with music, but now that has translated over to audiobooks and even, to some extent, podcasts. So instead of having–needing people to have tapes or CDs–suddenly, you know, they could just consume audiobooks all over the place. And there’s a lot of people that really enjoy the audio content. Not only are there the people who prefer it, maybe because they have a long commute or they’re exercising or have any kind of secondary activity, like cleaning or doing the dishes, but then there are also the people who really need that audio content. And that could be people who have arthritis who have trouble holding books. Or have eyesight issues–people who are blind, you know, this is how they can consume the same content. Even people with dyslexia. So there’s a lot of crossover, and a lot of different groups of people who are really excited. And I’ll just say that, of the surveys that are done, there’s been, I think, at least seven consecutive years of double digit growth–sales growth–in the audiobook market. So it just continues to expand just exponentially every year.
Stephanie Chandler 5:47
Yeah, it’s amazing. I think a good part of that comes from, like you said, the mobile phones. Also, I think that Apple CarPlay is a game changer, where they’re now putting in the dashboard of brand new cars the iPhone interface. So you can easily listen to your audiobooks, or your podcasts, or even check your messages, which is kind of crazy. But yeah, I think it’s such a cool trend that’s happening. And it’s a great opportunity for nonfiction authors. There’s really a couple of primary platforms that are kind of leading the way right now for audiobook publishing. One is ACX, which is owned by Amazon, or it was acquired by Amazon, and Findaway Voices. Can you give us some pros and cons of using each of these services?
Nathan Agin 6:38
Yeah, sure. So ACX, as you mentioned, is the back end of Audible and also Amazon, and they are great for DIY if you just want to get it out to Amazon, and Audible and Apple. And I should say, you are going to need to use ACX to some degree if you want to release your audiobook on those platforms–you have to go through ACX. It’s just if you choose to go through ACX directly, and kind of do everything yourself, or hire somebody to do it for you. But then, that’s pretty much all ACX can do for you–is get it out onto those three platforms. Now, those are the lion’s share of where people are finding audiobooks. But that’s certainly not the only place that you can purchase or–even through some libraries–rent audiobooks. So that’s what ACX does.
And like I said, all the other distributors, all the other places where you can produce your audiobook–if you want to sell it on Amazon, audible and Apple, you go through ACX. Now, the other example, like Findaway, they have more distribution options. So if you just want to go somewhere and hire a service that will help get you out to 40 plus places–all different kinds of audiobook selling sites, and lists, and all these other kinds of things. That can be a great place for Findaway. Both services allow you to look for narrators on their platforms. And then, I should say, Findaway doesn’t have the royalty share option. That’s something that ACX does offer. So Findaway you either pay–you just pay the narrator–you pay for production rate, and then that completes the contract, and then you as the author get all the royalties. But if you want to split that because maybe your budget or your marketing plan or whatever–you want to pay a little bit less upfront and split the royalties–that’s something you can do with ACX. So that’s just kind of a quick look at a little bit of the differences there.
Stephanie Chandler 8:57
Yeah, I tend to like Findaway because–in great part–they’re not married to Amazon. I think it’s good to be independent in the fact that they reach so many other outlets. I think that I’ve been encouraging our community to go that route. And a lot of authors assume that they can just simply sit down and record an audiobook at their desks, but that’s just not really accurate, right? So tell us what’s involved with recording an audiobook.
Nathan Agin 9:30
Sure, well, you know, anyone can record an audiobook, but not everybody can narrate an audiobook. And I’ll unpack that a little bit because, you know, an audiobook really is a performance. And that is whether you’re talking about a fiction book that has characters, and story, and a plot, and all that kind of stuff. Or even a nonfiction book.
Whatever genre it is, whatever topic it is, it needs to be entertaining, it needs to be engaging. Certainly if it’s nonfiction, it should be informative and enlightening, those kinds of things. If it’s fiction, you get wrapped up in the story, you get carried away. And that’s not usually the skill set of a lot of writers–is being able to perform their material. They may know the characters really well, but being able to bring that story to life is a whole different skill set. It’s why not every screenwriter is also the lead in their film–it’s just a different skill set. And really, a lot of authors–their time is better spent writing their next project or marketing their books. It’s not saying an author can’t narrate. But it just takes a lot of skills to do it. And we didn’t even touch on the amount of time it can take to narrate a book, and the equipment. There’s a lot of considerations that go into that.
Stephanie Chandler 10:59
Well, and, equipment is a big factor. Obviously you’re coming through loud and clear–you’re clearly on a great microphone. And that’s a big piece of this, right? Because there’s quality standards with ACX in particular that, of course, your audiobook needs to be the highest quality possible. So if you’ve got your dog barking in the background, or the garbage truck going by, that’s going to potentially impact that book quality, right?
Nathan Agin 11:27
Yeah, absolutely. So I mean, you know, microphone is definitely one consideration. And then also, as you were kind of alluding to, it’s your recording space. There are a lot of times that I might need to stop, because there’s a leaf blower outside. And you know, I’m not going to run out like a crazy person and tell the person to stop their job, because I need to record an audio book. So you have to deal with those things as they come up, and make sure that the quality is as high as possible, as you were talking about. So it’s, that’s another reason why it can take a long time to do these things, because unless you have a soundproof booth, or you go the really expensive route and go hire some studio space, which is even more expensive than doing it yourself, all those costs go into it. And, I’ll say, at the end of the day, when you’re adding up all these costs, usually just hiring a professional narrator will probably save you 50% more than if you tried to do it yourself, in terms of the time investment, the money investment, all of that stuff. So again, it’s not say that, an author cannot narrate his or her own book, it’s just, you really want to think about is this the best use of my time and money?
Stephanie Chandler 12:41
Yeah, that’s a great point. Because not only do you have to prep your manuscript and actually get through a solid recording, but then the recordings have to be edited and prepped based on very specific requirements with ACX. And hiring studio space, if you really, really want to do it, you can go to a local recording studio and do it. But you’re absolutely right. I think there’s a lot of value in hiring voice talent, because correct me if I’m wrong, Nathan, but when you hire a voice artist such as yourself, the voice artist not only produces all the recording, but gives you back fully edited, ready to publish files, correct?
Nathan Agin 13:26
Exactly. I mean, really, you can think of it as a one stop shop. I mean, most of the time, when I work with authors, they send me a manuscript, I send them a sample just to kind of sign off on. And then after that point, I go and finish the entire book and deliver it ready to go. And of course, you can always negotiate within that, you know, in terms of cost or scope or what you as the author want to do. But really, that’s what professional narratives do. And that’s why, on many of these platforms, including ACX, we are called producers. We’re not just called narrators, because we are really responsible for producing the entire audiobook. And that’s, I think, what a smart author should be looking for is, ‘Yeah, this is not my skill set. This is not my specialty, I’m hiring you to do this and deliver this so that I can just go click Yep. Ready to sell.’
Stephanie Chandler 14:16
Awesome. And so as authors, we can go out and look for voice talent, like yourself. Also, you mentioned both ACX and Findaway have a pool of voice talent, right?
Nathan Agin 14:32
Yes. Yeah. I mean, with ACX, there are lots of narrators on the system, and we can search for projects that are open and available. On Findaway, they use a different system where they’ll kind of match you up based on what the author’s looking for and the qualities, and they’ll do their own kind of algorithm and searching, so it’s not as open of a system for narrators. But in both platforms, you can kind of listen and look. And so through those systems, you can find narrators, but there’s also lots of other places. And of course with Facebook groups and all these other platforms looking at, well, who were other narrators that people are enjoying? Or, who’s a narrator that another self published author just used? And did you listen to a sample? Do you really like them? So there can be a lot of different ways and even pooling your listeners. Like, you as an author–you have fans of yours, readers–and going, ‘Okay, what audiobooks are you guys really enjoying these days? What narrators should I be thinking about if I want to produce an audiobook?’
Yeah. Those are great suggestions. Can you give us an idea of what a range of costs might be to have an audiobook recorded and produced?
Nathan Agin 15:51
Yeah, sure. So, I would say a good professional narrator will usually run–if you’re just going to pay for production, and you’re not going to split any royalties–$200- $400 per finished hour is a pretty standard rate for a good solid narrator. Now, they can be much more expensive, depending on how in demand they are, and how accomplished they are, and all that kind of stuff. But that range, $200-$400, is pretty reasonable for what you’re getting. Again, as a professional and for everything you’re doing, because of course, you might hear, okay, for example, $300 per finished hour of audio. But, how many hours of work go into that one hour? It doesn’t take just one hour to record, to narrate, one hour of audio. It can take multiple hours to do that. Then there’s, as you mentioned, the editing, the mixing, the mastering, all that kind of stuff, the proofing. We hire somebody else to listen back to the recording to make sure we were word perfect. That’s one of the other things that is part of what an author gets when they hire a professional narrative–that’s part of the service. So that all goes into that rate. So, if you got a five hour audiobook, you might spend anywhere from $1200 to maybe $2,000 for your audiobook, but believe me, that’ll be a bargain compared to you doing it yourself.
Stephanie Chandler</15:51 > 17:18
Yeah, I tend to agree. I’m not a big do-it-yourselfer, I’d much rather hire an expert and do what I do best. So is there any, like, rough way to estimate how many finished hours your book is going to be? Is it like 10,000 words an hour? Is there a ballpark guess that you can give us?
Nathan Agin 17:38
Similar to what narrators charge. Every narrator has a speed at which they record. I think ACX uses the number of 9300 words per hour. That’s how they estimate how long the books will be. Some narrators, like myself, I’m a little bit under that, you know, I’d usually do about 8200-8300 words per hour. Some narrators are faster than that. So that’ll just be part of the calculation. Now, I wouldn’t, as an author, purely just write down like, ‘Oh, this author narrates at 7500 words, and so it’d be way more expensive.’ Well, right. But if you love that narrator and that is the right voice for your project–I mean, yes, money always factors into it–but I wouldn’t immediately scratch them off, because they might be ‘more expensive’. You just want to think about–who’s the right voice to bring this project to life?
Stephanie Chandler 18:35
Absolutely. Great points. So on the flip side of that, what kind of royalty rates can authors expect to earn from their audiobooks?
Nathan Agin 18:45
Sure. So with ACX–and again, that’s just a very popular platform–if you do an exclusive deal with them, meaning the book is only going to be sold on Audible, Amazon, and Apple, then they will give you 40% of the retail price. And that’s going to be about the highest you’ll see from anywhere. And the tricky thing for authors to remember is when you go to other places, and they say, ‘Oh, we’ll give you 80% of the retail.’ Well, that is true with an asterisk, because ACX–everybody has to go through ACX for those three platforms. So ACX isn’t going to give anyone a better rate. So what you’re seeing is you’re going to get 80% of that 40% for those platforms. And now for the additional platforms that they distributed you to, you might get 80% of the retail.
But it’s important to remember that no one is getting a better rate than what ACX is offering you directly. So that’s another consideration is like–okay, well what do you want to make on your audiobook? If you’re gonna go somewhere else, and have them submit to ACX, you’re losing a little bit upfront. So 40% is your exclusive, then it’s 25% of the retail, if you want to go non exclusive, meaning you want to sell your audiobook on your own website, you want to sell your audiobook on all these other services, there’s lots of different places. And then, if you decide to do a royalty share project–where you’re splitting the royalties with a narrator, or producer–well then, you have to be exclusive with ACX. And what it does, is it takes that 40%, and it splits down the middle. So both the author and the narrator share, or get, I should say, each 20% for a period of seven years. And then after seven years, the author gets 40%. So a lot of it depends on your budget. But really, you want to think about, ‘You know what, it might just make sense for me to figure out how I can afford to just pay the narrator his full rate upfront.’ And then you’re getting 40% forever.
Stephanie Chandler</18:45 > 21:04
Well, I would imagine most narrators would prefer that arrangement anyway, because they’d rather get the money upfront than gamble on royalties, right?
Nathan Agin 21:12
Absolutely. Because unless it is an author with a really, really strong marketing plan, and has an established track record, and knows how to, like, make a lot of money on their books, as a narrator, it’s a big gamble. And in that same example, if an author knew what they were doing, why would they be giving that money away? You know, they would just be like, ‘Well, no, I know, I’m going to make a big return. So I’ll just pay for production, and then I won’t have to share it.’ So, you know, a lot of authors think, ‘Oh, well, I can just save some money now.’ But how much are you giving away later?
Stephanie Chandler 21:46
Right. And then, you know, another consideration is setting the retail price on the audiobook, right? So tell us how that works with ACX?
Nathan Agin 21:56
Well, for a lot of the systems, actually, you don’t have total control over what they sell it for. You can give a list price and suggested price, and all that kind of stuff. But a lot of them will base it on the length of the book. And so that will have some considerations. And then of course, a lot of these places might run their own deals, might run their own discounts. Sometimes you’ll get your percentage based on what you had originally suggested or wanted it listed at, sometimes not. There’s just all these different factors. So unfortunately, it’s not as direct as if you’re publishing on Amazon, you say I want to sell it for $2.99, well that’s what it’s listed as. With audiobooks, there’s a little bit less control there. Of course, outside–if you want to sell it directly on your website, then of course, you can put whatever price you want.
Stephanie Chandler 22:46
Absolutely. Great. And then there’s also giveaway codes available from some of the audiobook retailers. Tell us what those are all about.
Nathan Agin 22:55
Yeah, so the giveaway codes are a great way to get your book out there and get it into the marketplace. Not only can you use it for giveaways to your readers, your listeners, your fans, but then also advance copies to blog posts, or blog writers, or podcasters–people that are reviewing audiobooks, or in a Facebook group, or something like that. And all these distribution places–ACX, Findaway, Spoken Realms–they all offer giveaway codes. And that’s what you want to be thinking about is like, ‘Okay, how can I use these to get my title out there?’ And there are even services where you can pay a very nominal fee to list your book in these email blasts, or online, to audiences of people who just love consuming audiobooks. And usually in exchange for a code, people write a review. So that’s another way just to drum up interest, drum up attention, get people on your page–on the audiobook page–reading reviews, listening to the sample. So it’s just a great–it’s another part of the marketing arsenal that you want to employ once the book is launched.
Stephanie Chandler 24:14
And they’re not giving you unlimited codes. You can’t give out 1000 of them, right?
Nathan Agin 24:19
Well, you can request. I actually don’t know if there’s a cap, but you can request multiple codes. I think they give, on ACX, 25 at a time. And so, I mean, I would imagine if you are trying to request like 10,000 codes a week or something like that. I’m sure there’s something–it’s a manual process, so they have to approve it. But I haven’t run into any language about there being a cap as to how many codes we’ll give out yet.
Stephanie Chandler 24:50
Okay, great. Nathan, is there anything else we should know before we wrap up? This has been so interesting.
Nathan Agin 24:57
Well, yeah, I would just say, just like launching your book, launching the audiobook is another part of the process. And you don’t want to skip over it, and you don’t want to just kind of let it happen without making it another big event in this book’s life. And so whether that’s social media stuff, or as I talked about podcasting, or whatever. I mean, podcasts are such a great medium that also lend itself to interviewing the author and the narrator, or playing a sample from the audio book. I mean, there’s just so many ways to market your audiobook now. And it’s really just very important for authors to consider that as part of their plan. And just like they did probably when writing the book, really plan out, and think about–and this is things that I tend to share with people I talk with and work with–how much time are you going to need to make sure your audio book is ready, based on when you want to launch it? What is that timeline? What does that look like? So, those are definitely some things to think about.
Stephanie Chandler 26:04
Wonderful. So tell us about the services you offer, and how our listeners can connect with you.
Nathan Agin 26:11
Yeah, absolutely. So I do audiobook narration, I help authors with audio book marketing. And then I can also–as we kind of touched a little bit here–I can do some consulting on the process, if somebody just needs like, me to walk through it and say, ‘Here’s what you need to do.’ And I can even do a little bit of coaching with authors who have decided, ‘Nope, I definitely want to narrate my audiobook. What do I need to know?’ So, I tend to focus more on nonfiction coaching, but that is something I can help with. And as you mentioned at the top, they can go to my website, nathanagin.com/audio. And they can find out more about what I do, and see some samples, and hear some of my audiobook work, and connect with me there.
Stephanie Chandler 26:59
That’s wonderful. Nathan, thank you so much for sharing so much great information with us today. We really appreciate it.
Nathan Agin 27:07
You’re very welcome, Stephanie. Thank you so much for having me here.
And thank you to our listeners for joining us today and every week. For a list of guests and topics just check our schedule on the site, use your favorite search engine, or better yet, sign up for our mailing list at NonfictionAuthorsAssociation.com.
Quotes from our guest…
“I would just say, just like launching your book, launching the audiobook is another part of the process, and you don’t want to skip over it. And you don’t want to just kind of let it happen without making it another big event in this book’s life.”
“So instead of having–needing people to have tapes or CDs–suddenly, you know, they could just consume audiobooks all over the place. And there’s a lot of people that really enjoy the audio content. Not only are there the people who prefer it, maybe because they have a long commute or they’re exercising or have any kind of secondary activity, like cleaning or doing the dishes, but then there are also the people who really need that audio content. And that could be people who have arthritis who have trouble holding books. Or have eyesight issues–people who are blind, you know, this is how they can consume the same content. Even people with dyslexia. So there’s a lot of crossover, and a lot of different groups of people who are really excited.”
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