Hybrid Royalty Share with Findaway Voices

An unplanned BREAKING NEWS type post for anyone looking at audiobook production.

Two days ago, I got a notification from Findaway Voices that they have started a new program for hybrid royalty sharing.

For those who don’t know, Findaway Voices is an audiobook production and distribution platform. Prior to this announcement, their program was strictly pay-in-full. Meaning, once your audiobook was completed, part of the author’s approval process was paying the full amount of production costs before the audiobook could be distributed. It was (and still is) a pricey proposition which not many authors can afford.

But it’s important to look at what you actually get for that price: Full and unlimited ownership of all rights.

That means, once you pay for your audiobook, you can do whatever you want with it. You can use Findaway Voices to distribute your audiobook to their partner stores and libraries, or to do it yourself. You can also do both: distribute through Findaway Voices and sell it yourself on the side. No restrictions. You set the price. You call the shots. You get what you pay for.

Now, they have a program they call Voice Share and you can click the link to read the announcement. The basic gist of it is this:

You get the option of paying in full at the conclusion of your production, or using Voice Share. If you use Voice Share, you pay only 50% of the full production cost and agree to have a share of your royalties go to your narrator. Narrators have to sign up for this program, and authors have to prove some past sales trends to qualify.

Once the agreement is made, the book is distributed to all the same Findaway Voices partners with the only restriction being that the author cannot publish it on his/her own elsewhere. If, somewhere down the line, the author decides they want to stop sharing royalties, there is a buy out option to pay 2 times the original payment (for a total of 1.5 times the full production cost) and they can reclaim their full rights. Narrators get to keep any royalties earned up to that date.

It’s still a pricey proposition, I will say that right off the bat. But it’s an option, and I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you about it.  Now, let’s compare with a direct competitor, shall we?

 

Findaway Voices Amazon ACX
Distribution Channels iTunes, Audible, Amazon,
Google Play, Scribd, Bibliotheca,
Audiobooks, Chirp, Walmart,
Hibooks, Hoopla, Storytel,
Rakuten (Kobo), Overdrive, Playster,
Nook Audio, Audiobooks NZ, Baker & Taylor,
Beek, Downpour, EBSCO, eStories,
Follett, Hummingbird, InstaRead,
Libro.fm, MLOL, Nextory,
3 Leaf Group, 24 Symbols,
Odilo, PermaBound, Wheelers
Amazon, Audible, iTunes
Author/Publisher Sets Retail Price* YES NO
Standard Royalty Rate 80% 40% (Exclusive)
25% (Non-Exclusive)
Royalty Share Options Voice Share Royalty Share
Royalty Share Plus
Royalty Share Upfront Cost 50% total production cost 0 (Royalty Share)
Negotiable PFH rate (Royalty Share Plus)
Royalty Share Rate to Author 60% 20%
Royalty Share Restrictions Distribution exclusive through FW to all partners Distribution exclusive through ACX to all partners
Contract term Indefinite 7 years, automatically renewed in 1 year increments
Cancellation option Any time At end of contract term
Cancellation fee 2 x original payment (100% production cost) N/A

*Findaway Voices allows authors/publishers to set the retail price for their audiobook and it can be changed at any time. This pricing does not carry over to retail partners who set prices automatically based on audiobook length, such as Audible, and those who pay out of a royalty pool, such as Scribd. When publishing through ACX, authors/publishers have no control over the retail price at any of its retail partners.

Certainly puts things into perspective, no?

With this move, Findaway Voices will appeal to authors/publishers who like a little flexibility in payment options. The terms of their hybrid royalty share program are a great deal friendlier to authors than those of ACX, and with a worldwide distribution network and their partnership with Smashwords, they are in an excellent position to level the playing field a little bit and loosen Amazon’s monopolistic hold on the book industry. Little by little, in 7-year increments. (ACX launched in 2011, some of those early projects have their contracts fulfilled, and Findaway Voices does give you the option of uploading a completed audiobook *hint hint*)

And now I return to my August #AuthorTips.

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Findaway Voices: Part 2

I am back with more! I’m sure you’re very excited. 😉 If you missed the previous post in this series, Findaway Voices: Part 1 talks about how to start the process of getting an audiobook into production. Here, I’ll go into more detail about how the proofing and approving works.

So, at this point, you’ve crossed all the Ts, dotted all the Is, submitted all the forms and contracts, and now your producer has the book as well as your notes. And off we go!

FIRST 15 MINUTES SAMPLE

Once you submit your notes, the producer records the first 15 minutes of your book for proofing. This is where those notes come in handy. You’ll have a chance to listen to the sample and make comments, corrections, and requests on it before live production begins. Here is where you check that your character voices sound the way you want them to, that the tone and pacing are good, that there are no dead spots, missing words/sentences, etc. Whatever notes you provide here is what will guide production going forward, so be clear, address everything that needs to be changed, and be specific, down to the time stamp.

Also, the comments you make go directly to the producer, so you can discuss issues if necessary. If corrections are needed, the producer will re-record the first 15 minutes so you can proof again, until you are satisfied with the sample and ready to move forward.

No matter what you say in the comments on this recording, you’ll need to give your final approval directly to Findaway Voices, not the producer. Production will not and should not move forward until they get an email from you saying you approved.

PRODUCTION AND PROOFING

Here, I have to confess something: I think I did this step wrong. At least, I’m not sure I didn’t get ahead of myself, but it was less stressful for me this way, so I’m going to say it was fine. The contract stipulates that once your book is fully recorded, you have one week to give your final notes/approval. If they don’t hear from you, they assume you approve and move on to send you the production bill. This was terrifying to me, because I knew my book would be long and, with a full time job, I was worried I wouldn’t make that 1-week deadline.

My producer ended up uploading the chapters in batches. Each chapter is its own separate file, so it’s not all one big massive audio. I wasn’t notified of the uploads, but I was checking my account almost every day so I was able to see them and proof them along the way. I though that was how it worked.

Here, the proofing works the same as with the 15-minute sample. You’ll want to be specific about your notes, and those notes go directly to your producer. They also disappear when a revised recording is uploaded.

Note: Only certain things can be changed at this point. If it’s something that should have been addressed in the first 15-minute sample, your producer is under no obligation to comply with your editing request.

My producer was amazing about making any necessary corrections, and as we got to the end, she asked me if it was okay to “Approve” on her end. Apparently, that’s what triggers the system to let authors know the book is ready for proofing in the first place.

I got the email notification within seconds, telling me I now had 10 days to proof the book. But since I’d already done all that, I just had to go in and submit the final recording. I then received a confirmation that the recordings were accepted and being processed for production.

FINALIZING AND PAYMENT

That second email notification also directed me to the next step, which was filling out and/or updating the metadata. All of this is available to complete before and during production, but I’m always hesitant to slap on a firm release date when I don’t know how long it’ll be before it’s all finalized, so I saved this step for last. There were required fields for author names, narrator names, ISBNs, release dates, pricing… the usual. The pricing is all up to you, so you can set it, or change it at any time, and they do provide some rough guidelines for people (like me) who have no clue how to price an audiobook. It’s generally based on the length, but it gives you some overlap and wiggle room to determine your own price.

On the next page, you approve the distribution channels. Here, you can choose where you want your audiobook to be sold. You can choose all of them, some of them, or none of them (as far as I know). I chose all of them and confirmed my selection, which then sent me to the final step: Payment.

The payment screen is pretty much the same as it would be on any online store. You choose your payment method, enter your information, and submit. Be forewarned, it will be a hefty sum, so make sure you’re using a card or account that won’t overdraw. And check to make sure the payment went through, as well. My bank flagged the transaction and I had to manually approve it before the funds were released. I kind of expected that to happen, though, so I was able to do it right away, and this entire process of finalizing and payment took maybe 15 minutes total.

Just to be doubly sure, I set my release date a couple of weeks in the future so I would have time to make corrections if any were necessary, but  everything seems to be in order now, so I’m just going to sit back and watch it go live. 🙂

So there you have it. This is how you get your book narrated through Findaway Voices. 🙂

3-1-trw-postcardIf you found this post helpful, I hope you’ll take a moment to check out the book this series of posts was about. The Royal Wizard is now available as an eBook and paperback world wide and will be officially released as an audiobook narrated by Rachel Hine on August 30, 2018!

Findaway Voices: Part 1

Hello again!

I’ve been working hard on all things book-related lately, but wanted to do another step-by-step post for Findaway Voices the way I did for IngramSpark to outline the process for anyone interested to see how it works in action. I chose Findaway Voices for a few reasons:

They’re not Amazon. I know that sounds petty, but it’s something I’ve thought about a great deal. Don’t get me wrong, Amazon has been a pioneer of self-publishing, and they deserve credit and praise for that, but I have big issues with their business model and royalty structures in certain areas. Their ACX program might still work for you, and is a perfectly legitimate option. I just made a personal decision to go with a different company.

They let you control production and distribution. This should be a given, but it’s still nice that you can choose where to distribute, where not to, whether to distribute at all, and still have the option of selling the audiobooks yourself. You also have full pricing control (as opposed to ACX, which sets prices for you, based on length), and you can even upload your own ready-made audiobook, bypassing the production stage to go directly to distribution.

They have a working relationship with Smashwords. Logistically, this makes sense for me, since my eBooks are distributed through Smashwords already. The process of transferring over to Findaway Voices is literally a couple of clicks, and the usual setup fee is waived, which is always nice.

I went with my fantasy book as my first audiobook experiment, because it felt like the most natural choice. The setup process was fairly simple, since all the metadata got transferred over automatically from Smashwords, and all I had to add was the square cover image and ISBN number. Findaway Voices has an option to let them assign the ISBN number for you, but since I have a whole bunch of my own, I just used mine.

Here’s what happened next…

BOOK QUESTIONNAIRE

The first thing you do when starting from scratch is fill out the first questionnaire. This was the most difficult part for me, because it’s not just about providing a synopsis. They ask very specific questions about how you want your audiobook to sound. Do you want a male or female narrator? British or American accent? What is the general tone and feel of the book? What are your characters like? The more detail you provide in this stage, the better they’ll  be able to match you to the right narrator, so it’s important that you actually know what you want your audiobook to sound like. This may be easier for those who already listen to and are familiar with audiobooks. I wasn’t. While I could hear in my head how my characters sounded, I found it difficult to put into words on paper.

AUDITIONS

Once you submit your questionnaire, it takes about a week for Findaway Voices to collect a variety of producer files for you to listen to. I got about 10 producers to choose from, and each one had 3-4 previews from various books in different genres. This is where you listen for what you want to hear. Not every voice will appeal. Not every tone and style will fit your narrative. Take your time and listen to all of them before you start the elimination process. If none of the voices appeal to you, there is a handy button you can click to request more samples. If you find one or more that you like, you can move on to the next step: requesting an audition. I found two in the very first batch of producers that sounded like they’d fit the book I had chosen, and I requested an audition from both of them.

An audition is a 5-10 minute excerpt narrated from your own book, so you can hear how it’ll sound. It takes about another week or so for the producers to record the audition, and there is no obligation during this process to contract with anyone–yet. That’ll come later. The main purpose of all this is to find the right producer for your book. If you don’t, no problem. You can cancel at any time. You’re also not interfacing with the producers directly until the actual production begins, so there’s no hard feelings on either side.

BOOKING

The next step is the actual booking. Each audition is accompanied with a “book for production” button that lets you indicate the producer of your choice. Until you click that button, you still have access to all the samples from the producers you hadn’t chosen, as well as the option to request more. You still haven’t committed to anything yet. Once you click that button, Findaway Voices takes over. They contact the producer, confirm their rates (if you see a lower rate in auditions than what ends up on the contract, the producer will honor the lower rate), and draft the contract. The contract will spell out the terms and tell you the per-finished-hour rate, the estimated completion date, and all the other things you’ll want to read carefully before signing. It basically says the audiobook will be created in the stated time frame, barring an act of God event like illness or injury that prevents the producer from completing the project. It also tells you when you’ll be billed for production, and what rights and options you’ll have at the very end, in terms of ownership and distribution.

PRODUCTION NOTES

Now it gets interesting. While the entire process up to this point was easy and enjoyable, this may be the thing I loved best about it. Once all the contracts are signed and dated, Findaway Voices sends you a more in-depth questionnaire about your book. Here, you go into details about the book to give the producer directions on how it should sound. It covers everything from the tone and pacing, to pronunciation guides, character descriptions, and any other notes not covered. It’s very in-depth and addresses every detail I was worried about from the start. This one document put my mind completely at ease. Again, you’re still not interfacing with the producer directly. All of this is going through Findaway Voices first, and they pass it on to the producer.

The form is also accompanied by additional documents that give you an overview of the process of production and proofing. It tells you how to use the commenting section, what things to listen for, and what things will and will not be fixed once production begins. It’s a great preparation for the next step.

Once this is submitted, the ball gets rolling and the hard work begins. My next post will outline how the proofing/approval process works. 🙂 Stay tuned!

3-1-trw-postcardIf this is your first time on my blog, and you’d like to know more about this book being narrated on audio, check out more information and listen to a small sample of the audiobook on the book’s page at my author website:  The Royal WizardIt’s now available as an eBook and paperback world wide!

 

Update: Publica

Hullo boys and girls, Alianne checking in again all quick-like because this was too good not to share. Remember this post where I talked about the new kid on the block, Publica? Well, I’m signed up for their newsletter and one of their most recent ones announced that they are looking for authors to publish their books through their systems now. Ground floor entry, if you have a book ready to release this year. For now, the process is to fill out an interest form here, and they’ll contact you with additional info if you’re chosen.

If you’re still not convinced, or if you’re as confused about the entire process as I was, check out the video below, which explains the technology in very simple terms. Hint: Pay very close attention to the resale capabilities, where readers can resell their copy of your book to others, and you get a percentage of that sale.

As authors, we’re always looking for new readers, but as self-publishers, we also have to look for better ways to sell our books. Call me a bright-eyed idealist, but I think this may be it. 🙂

A Potential New Player(?)

By now, everyone has heard of Bitcoin. Bitcoin is all the rage. For a few days in January, even the news reported on the massive spike in value of Bitcoin, and Warren Buffet came out with a statement predicting its downfall (article here). To be honest, I rarely pay attention to the stock market, and I was only aware of the concept of Bitcoin in the vaguest possible way of it being a “fake currency.” Well, when that article came out, I started paying attention. I found a few more, read up on it a bit, with most of what I found going way over my head, but what I retained was this:

Bitcoin is like an apple tree. It’s one of several different kinds of trees, that just happens to have grown the biggest. But all those trees are rooted in a framework that is very, very interesting to me. It’s essentially a new system of virtual accounting that adds a third entry to the standard double-entry style of bookkeeping. That’s already confusing, so let’s break it down:

In traditional accounting, every time money changes hands, two entries have to be made in the books. The first is the money going out, and the second is something else coming in. That way, there is always a record of how much money is being spent and what it’s being spent on. In this new way of accounting, the third entry marks the transaction, which adds additional details. It’s not just what was bought and for how much, it’s who bought it, when, and where. As long as the purchased item stays within this realm, this record keeping then continues down the line each time it changes hands, so you can track a particular item from its most recent buyer all the way back to the production facility, and farther back to the facilities where all its different components and ingredients came from. It essentially records the total life of that item.

As soon as I read this, it hit me that this could potentially be the solution all authors have been waiting for: an end to digital piracy. If every single eBook were to be tracked this way, then every single pirated eBook could be tracked back to the original pirate. Not only that, the system could identify every single pirated copy and there is a lot we could do with that info, starting with disabling those copies and making them unreadable, and ending with having hard evidence for prosecution.

Fast forward about a month. I received an email newsletter from IngramSpark, telling me they will be featured as an exhibitor at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference. Since that’s in my neck of the woods, I checked out the event, browsed through the exhibitors, and found something I never heard of before. I clicked the link, and discovered that someone out there had the same thought I did, and is actually putting it into practice. There is this platform called Publica, which doesn’t seem to be open to authors just yet, but will be soon. It is built on, and will operate on the concept of cryptocurrency (like Bitcoin), and promises the elimination of the middleman, taking an author’s books directly to the reader.

Of course, in practice, that just makes Publica another self-publishing platform. It’s still questionable whether they would be able to compete with Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other eBook platforms, and I still have a lot of unanswered questions. I submitted those questions to them, and am waiting for a response but, if I understand this correctly, and if it actually works, then I want in. Now.

The concept of this new system of accounting is still in its infancy, but more and more companies are embracing it, and each time a company announces it, their stocks go up. The problem is, each of them has their own cryptocurrency, which is going to cause issues in the future, if every time you want to buy a product from one of them, you have to do a currency exchange first. My prediction, however, is that cryptocurrency will be the future. Once enough companies jump on board, the normalization will begin, and a unified currency will replace all the others.

For now, I see Publica as a pioneer. Whether or not they’ll be able to make it work in the long run isn’t even the point anymore. Could be in six months someone else will have put Publica out of business with a better, more streamlined, more accessible system. Could be this is a sign of a brand new industry being born. Publica is opening new doors, forging the path for others to follow.  The point is, the possibility is now there, and it is real, and I really, really hope it’ll help right some imbalances for authors, artists, musicians, and others who rely on the sale of their own unique products for a living.

It will also upset a whole lot of people for whom this means an end of an era, and those people will fight tooth and nail to keep it from coming to fruition. The ultimate potential for all of this is an end to money as we know it, which would put a lot of banks out of business, and majorly disrupt our stock markets, etc. (Plot bunny, anyone?)

Then again, it could also be nothing. Reminiscent of the dotcom era, it could all be a massive bubble that will eventually burst. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see. I will definitely be keeping an eye on this, for sure.

ETA: Here are the responses I received to my questions:

1. Publica is a distribution channel, so where does it distribute to?

Authors can use Publica and blockchain to publish their books. Authors can sell their books to Publica tokenholders / platform users and protome a book to their existing customer base. Once a book is published on the platform, readers will be able to find a book using search or by entering a direct link (that can be promoted by author). Authors can continue to use their existing promotional channels.

2. If my books are already published through another platform, will there be a conflict?

No, it’s not a problem. If there are no legal limitations that allow an author to publish a book only on a specific platform, a book can be distributed through several platforms.

3. Do readers need a special app to access the books? If so, what format will it support/require?

We are currently developing e-reader app that will serve double duty as wallet and e-book reader. The app will support popular e-book formats (like ePub).

Feel free to check our live AMA session, CEO Josef Marc answering question about supported formats: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DjAZg8_i8fo&t=2872s

4. If everything is done in PBL currency, how does an author redeem earnings in real currency?

Authors will be able to exchange PBL tokens to fiat money (for instance, USD or EUR).

5. Does the platform have protection measures against digital piracy?

By using a token as an access key to digital content, only actual tokenholders can access their purchased content. Readers (tokenholders) can give away or sell their tokens, and ownership/access to the content will be transferred to the new tokenholder. Blockchain technology is making the whole process transparent and decentralized.

IngramSpark Part 3: The Little Things

For my last trick, I have a few little details and opinions to share about IngramSpark. They are all things I either contacted IS about, or researched online because I had lingering questions after I read their guidebooks and FAQs.

A note to start: IngramSpark’s online chat is great if you have questions. They’ll ask your account number and ISBN for the book you have issues with, and they’ll be able to help you then and there. It’s the most efficient way to get assistance. Email takes a few days for a response, which isn’t ideal, and I haven’t tried the phone support yet.

Since this turned out somewhat longer than I originally intended, I sorted it all into sections again.

Continue reading

IngramSpark Part 2: Interior Layout

Because of the printing and formatting details discussed in the first part of this series, I made several judgment calls for my own books’ setup:

1. I changed the trim sizes from the original 6″ x 9″ to 5.25″ x 8″. I think the smaller size is more fitting for a paperback book. It’s also more practical and easier to hold/carry around.

2. I changed all the covers. This was both for aesthetic reasons, and more practical ones, since my old covers didn’t always print very well, and I couldn’t afford to do seven iterations of each (the way I had done with CreateSpace) to get it right.

3. I updated the interior formatting (a necessity because of the smaller trim size), spruced up the chapter headings, and made the fonts smaller to cut down on page count, and thus printing costs and unit price.

4. I set my prices low enough to be attractive but not net me negative royalties. Going along with this, I also set my books as non-returnable, because that would definitely have bankrupted me. More on this later, if there’s time.

This post deals with the technical aspects of formatting a book interior. It’s a lot of information to share, so prepare yourself. I won’t have one for the covers, because there is only one hard and fast rule to stick to there: If you want to stock your book in stores, the book price MUST be printed on the cover as part of the bar code.

Ready? Here we go!

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IngramSpark Part 1: Homework

You may have noticed I haven’t been very active here recently. Part of the reason is that I made the decision to switch my print book distribution from CreateSpace to IngramSpark. I did this because…

1. CreateSpace closed its online store, now only allowing authors to sell through Amazon and its Expanded Distribution. This not only affects how authors will earn royalties, but also distribution strategies, like the one I had planned, which now got flushed.

2. IngramSpark is the go-to distributor for Indies and small publishing houses because, unlike CreateSpace, it is not in direct competition with the bookstores and libraries that order through them, which increases the likelihood of getting a physical book onto store shelves.

3. My print sales through CreateSpace were almost nonexistent, so I figured a change was in order. Whether it pans out or not is yet to be seen, but doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is not in the stars for me.

I figured, since I have this website, and it’s meant to help other authors, I would document this journey for posterity. Frankly, I didn’t realize until I started how much work it would actually be just to shift 8 existing print titles, so this is going to be a series of posts, rather than one big one.

This being the first, it’s naturally about homework. Because I actually did months of it before I took a single step toward my ultimate goal. When the idea took shape in my head, I was hesitant to do it, largely because of the cost involved (Spoiler Alert: the cost is steep). So I didn’t do anything for months, thinking I was fine where I was, and there was no reason to change. But, me being me, I couldn’t leave well enough alone, so I started reading up on IngramSpark. What follows is what I learned…

Continue reading

Enhancing Your Author Website

Multiple writing projects have kept me busy lately and I haven’t had a chance to update this blog (or my author one, for that matter), but I came across this article just this morning and had to share, because I couldn’t have said it better myself. Yes, as an author, you absolutely do need a website. But just having one isn’t enough, if you don’t have it properly set up to inform your readers and capture their interest. The Book Designer’s “Top 10 Ways Your Website Leaves Readers, and Leads, in the Dust” aptly summarizes the basics of how your website should work.

Because it’s geared more generally toward fiction and non-fiction authors, I offer one caveat for fiction writers specifically:

You don’t need to, and likely shouldn’t, post too much contact information on your website. Unlike non-fiction writers whose books usually support their other career, and who want people to contact them for business reasons, you probably don’t want strangers and fans blowing up your phone and showing up on your doorstep uninvited. That can get super creepy and becomes a privacy/security issue. What you do want is to provide your email address and your social media links.

If you’re making your own website, the best advice I can give you is Google your favorite authors, check out how their websites are laid out, and try to emulate the features you like best.

Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

Book Covers: the good, the bad, the ugly

So, I made another video. Apologies ahead of time for the crappy sound—I’m currently working with audio equipment from the 80s. Also, I get really nervous when speaking and I hate the sound of my voice. Between us, I got through this by pretending no one would ever see it.

The video is basically a comparison of the 3 versions of covers that Virtual had, including the latest and greatest. Yes, I will likely do more in the future, but it might be a while. For now, enjoy!