Indies & Audiobooks: An Alternative to ACX

headphones, a book, and reading glasses

by Kevin Morris | via Flickr

Note from Jane: Today’s guest post is by novelist Lee Stephen (@epicuniverse). It was updated on Dec. 3 with the addition of “Submitting High-Quality Audio to ACX” and “Sales Figures.” See also the Nov. 23, 2015 update at the bottom of the post.

Like many an independent author out there, I blazed the indie trail out of a love for the artistic side of things and an understanding that total creative control could result in better projects. And like my fellow indies, I soon realized that Amazon could be an outstanding ally. Their platform for self-publishing was second-to-none, and it enabled us to pack the wagon and head out west (figuratively speaking) to the wild frontier of doing-it-oneself.

So naturally, with audiobooks starting to catch fire, Amazon was poised to once again be our faithful companion. Right?


Not so much.

What Are the Terms of Amazon’s ACX?

The knocks on Amazon’s ACX platform have been duly noted in numerous blogs across the web. They keep either 75% or 60% of your profits, depending on whether or not you value the privilege of selling your own material. They require you to sign a contract that handcuffs you to your decision for the next seven years, after which they set the price of your work.

When I set out to create an audiobook for the first novel in my Epic series, Dawn of Destiny, I had done no research on the actual selling of an audiobook. I only knew that I wanted mine done differently. I wanted fans to hear it all and feel it all, like going out to see a summer blockbuster that happens to not have a screen. I hired 32 voice actors, packed the project with bombastic music and sound effects, and came out with an audiobook that sounded like Independence Day. It underwent nearly five years of development and cost more than most people would dream of spending on an audiobook. When it was finished, I was proud of it. This was different. This was new. This was what being an indie was all about. The only thing left for me to do was sell it.

Excited, I ventured into Audible territory.

Needless to say, what I found there devastated me. After five years’ worth of effort, ACX was offering me a mere spoonful of the feast I’d prepared. There had to be an alternative. There had to be a better way.

So I looked. I looked, and I looked, and I looked.

I found CD Baby.

Important note: Before I get into this, I want to make it clear that I do not work for CD Baby. No one from CD Baby has asked me to do this, and CD Baby is not paying me for this. They don’t even know that I’m doing it. I feel these facts must be mentioned beforehand, because things are about to get all warm and fuzzy!)

What Is CD Baby?

I was surprised when CD Baby ended up on my list of places to look into, as audiobooks are not what they do. But apparently, a handful of authors had taken a stab at their services, and from what I could find, no one had much to complain about. Just the same, there wasn’t a whole lot of information out there regarding CD Baby as an audio distributor.

I simply had to investigate.

One hour later, I was sold.

For those who know CD Baby, you know that they pride themselves on being a platform for indie musicians. For those who haven‘t heard of CD Baby, you might be surprised to find out that they’re exceedingly influential in the music industry for the aforementioned reason. Every indie band knows CD Baby.

But I’m not a band. I’m an author. But I’m producing audio, soooo…a phone call was in order.

Several minutes later, I was talking to a person.

Stop right there. Did you catch that? I’ll repeat it again, just in case, because this is actually kind of mind-blowing to anyone who’s needed desperately to talk to someone from Amazon in a pinch.

Several minutes after calling CD Baby, I was talking to a person. Not a sales rep. Not someone with English as their third language. A helpful human being who had the ability to answer my questions, help me set up a profile, then look at said profile to make sure it was the way I wanted. A person who loved their job.

An indie.

This helpful human being then informed me that, yes, while audiobooks weren’t their typical product, they still had worked with some audiobook producers in the past. They informed me that, yes, I could set my own release date and price. Yes, I could have links to my CD Baby store anywhere. Yes, I would keep a majority of the profit. 91% of it! No, there were no binding contracts. I could cancel, change the price, pull the product, or change any of its information, anytime I wanted.

It was my product.

Audio Quality of CD Baby Versus ACX

Did you know that Audible doesn’t upload audio files at their highest level of quality? Audible Enhanced Audio uploads at a sample rate of 22.050 kHz. This is what they consider CD quality. Funny enough, though, the rest of the world considers 22.050 kHz to be “low fidelity,” and 44.1 kHz to be CD quality, which is the level of quality that CD Baby makes available to the consumer.

Audible also requests that all uploaded files be in mono, not stereo, meaning there’s literally no depth of sound coming from Audible files.

It goes without saying that CD Baby, who specializes in digital audio, uses stereo. In layman’s terms, what does this mean? It means Audible files don’t sound as good. And by “don’t sound as good,” I don’t mean at a level at which only composers and dogs can differentiate. I mean noticeably not as good. I’m getting ripped off not as good. You can’t even find websites that audibly compare 22.050 kHz to 44.1 kHz, because it’s not even a debate.

Submitting High-Quality Audio to ACX

A (very legitimate) point was brought up in one of the comments below, and it warrants a clarification here. If you look at the ACX Submission Guidelines, you will see that you can submit audio files at 192kbit/sec, 44.1 kHz, and in stereo. All of these things would seem to contradict some of the audio quality issues I just told you about. Unfortunately, this is another area where you have to dig a little deeper to find out what’s really going on.

If you read the requirements, they reference that Audible files are available in a variety of formats. And that’s where you have to focus. As you’ll see, there are no specifics as to what quality of audio file the consumer actually downloads. Instead, there’s a level of quality with descriptions such as “CD,” all with asterisks attached. If you look down, you’ll see that the asterisk means: “sound quality similar to.”

Similar to what? When you’re dealing with kbits/sec, there is no “similar.” There simply is, and there isn’t. 196kbits/sec is not like 128kbits/sec or 320kbits/sec. If the files are at 196kbits/sec, they’re at 196kbits/sec. But by using “CD” as a quality identifier, they’ve allowed themselves some wiggle room.

So what gives? What bit rate are consumers actually downloading? ACX doesn’t give you an answer, not even in their Audible Enhanced Audio Help Center. In fact, there only seems to be one website that gives you the answer to this question: Wikipedia. There’s a chart in the center of the page that actually provides numbers for what consumers are downloading. Of the four formats available, only one is available in Stereo. And its quality? 64kbits/sec, 22.010 kHz.

Telephone quality.

You’ll note that the Wikipedia even cites Audible’s description of “CD Quality” in the chart, but make no mistake: 64kbits/sec is not CD quality.

Wikipedia is not my only source for this, and anyone who Googles sound quality on ACX will find numerous comments and articles by audiophiles much more knowledgeable than me clearly referencing the fact that while files can be uploaded at higher quality rates, they can only be downloaded at 64kbits/sec. As my last point of reference, I would just say … listen. Just listen to Audible files, then listen to higher quality files. You’ll be able to tell.

What About Distribution?

CD Baby can distribute your audiobook to iTunes and Amazon, with the caveat that it will not show up in the audiobook category, but in the “spoken word” category of music.

I do not recommend doing this, especially if you’ve invested as much as I have in your audiobook production. Though both iTunes and Amazon will respect the release date and pay a higher percentage of the profit than they would an audiobook, they will still not respect the price you’ve set for your product through CD Baby. Your audiobook will get listed for $8.99. Thus, I am only allowing digital distribution through CD Baby itself.

Crunching the Numbers

My research revealed that the average price of an audiobook on Audible’s Top 20 was $33.68, with a high listing of $69.97 and low listing of $19.93 and $19.95 (the next lowest after those was $22.67, then everything was mid-$20s and way, way up).

I listed Dawn of Destiny on CD Baby for $25.99. This was $7.68 less than the average, and it would have made Dawn of Destiny the 5th cheapest audiobook in a list of twenty.

Now, all of these numbers are subject to slight change, both upward and downward, as Audible’s Top 20 fluctuates. But it gave me a solid variety of actual figures with which to set a list price.

Had ACX listed Dawn of Destiny themselves and set the price for $25.99, I would be making either $6.49 or $10.40 per sale depending on whether or not I wanted the ability to sell it myself. I would have signed away my rights to the project for seven years, having no control in any area of what happens with it. My product would have been delivered to the consumer at a sound-quality level that isn’t even used in side-by-side comparisons because it’s just that poor.

At CD Baby, none of the negatives in the aforementioned paragraph are an issue, and I make a profit of $23.65 (91%) per audiobook sold while selling it at nearly 25% below the average audiobook price.

What About Visibility to the Market?

You might wonder about the wide exposure that comes with having something on Audible. To that, I would say that our fan bases are our exposure—the incredibly amazing people who follow us on Twitter, who like us on Facebook, who join our mailing lists, and who hound us for our next release dates. And they don’t care if you point them to Audible, CD Baby, or a shed in your backyard. If they follow you, if you’re fair to them, and if you reward them with quality material, they’ll make the purchase.

Sales Update (Dec. 3, 2014)

Many people have asked me about my sales figures. Unfortunately, I’m one of those “never discloses numbers” writers, even in the realm of books sold. But, I do want to be as helpful as possible, and asking about sales figures is legitimate. You want to know if you can make money with this, right?

Well, I do, too.

This is a learning experience for me. The potential is there to make considerably more money on a per-unit basis through CD Baby than through ACX. Whether that potential can actually be realized is something I’m still figuring out (and hoping for!). My intention is to write a follow-up entry in roughly six months, where I’ll identify trends and give honest feedback on what works and what doesn’t. If this is not a viable way to actually turn a profit, I’m going to flat-out say so. In six months, I will have exhausted every promotional tool at my disposal, including a widespread audiobook tour. If there’s money to be made (or not made), I will know, and I will share—even if a disclosure of actual numbers doesn’t accompany that.

Here’s what I can say, so far: sales started decently, then slumped. This is kind of what I expected, being that no one really goes to CD Baby on their own to seek out an audiobook. Audible is still the dragon. I’m just trying to see if there’s a way to slay it. I mentioned it in one of the comments below, and I’ll mention it here, too: I’m impassioned about this. If this doesn’t succeed, there will be a part of me that feels like I’ve failed. If this project succeeds, more authors will look at CD Baby. If more authors look to CD Baby, CD Baby is going to notice. If CD Baby notices, they will offer us more services. And if they offer us more services, well, the game will have changed. Nothing would make me happier than to play a role in authors getting more freedom of choice.

Final Thoughts

I’m pretty sure this was long so far as guest entries go, but it really is important. CD Baby has made me feel empowered as an indie audiobook producer. You deserve that feeling of empowerment, too. Don’t sell yourself (or your products) short.

I hope you enjoyed this entry and found it useful! I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. Feel free to ask me any questions about my CD Baby experience either below in the comments, on Twitter, or via email.

You can also check out the five-minute YouTube clip from my audiobook. I was aiming for something different, so let me know if I hit the mark (I do recommend headphones!). Or visit Dawn of Destiny‘s page on CD Baby.

Update from Lee (11/23/15): I just wanted to let you guys know that a major, collaborative update is in the works and will be coming in the near future. The short preview is that the route described in my original entry didn’t work as well as I’d hoped simply for a lack of natural foot traffic. However, all is not lost! I’ve signed on with Author’s Republic and couldn’t be happier. Details will be forthcoming in a later update.

Posted in Guest Post, Marketing & Promotion and tagged , , , , , .

Born and raised in Cajun country, Lee Stephen spent his childhood paddling pirogues through the marshes of South Louisiana. Now a resident of Luling, Louisiana, Lee spends time every day delving into the world of Epic, the science-fiction series that has come to define him as a writer and producer. Alongside his wife, Lindsey, their son, Levi, and their dog, Jake, Lee has made it a mission to create a series that is unique in its genre—one unafraid to address the human condition while staying grounded in elements of faith. In addition to writing, Lee works full-time for the Department of Homeland Security & Emergency Preparedness. He has also spent time as a church deacon, guitar hobbyist, and New Orleans Saints season ticket holder. He is a graduate of Louisiana College in Pineville.

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Stephen W. Hiemstra
Stephen W. Hiemstra


I appreciated your comments about audio books. I have order a book on audio books to learn the ropes so I am committed to coming out with an audio edition of my own book, A Christian Guide to Spirituality.

Your Dawn of Destiny sampler is amazing. It is better than a film production because it forces you to visualize with your imagination.


Jane Friedman

Just to clarify: These good comments (and the Dawn of Destiny audiobook) are by Lee Stephen; I serve as his host today. 🙂

Stephen W. Hiemstra
Stephen W. Hiemstra

Opps. Sorry about the confusion. Stephen

Laure Reminick
Laure Reminick

Wow. Just wow. Lee, you’ve set a new bar for audiobooks. And blazed the path for distribution. Thanks a million for your efforts and the heads up. And may your efforts return to you in the millions!


Thanks for your expose of ACX and showing a way for indies to bypass The Machine once again. I looked at the CD Baby site and was wondering if they could redesign it so that your audiobook looked more like a book and less like audio music tracks. Confusing… Any conversation with them on that?

Also, have you had any sales numbers that you can share to give the rest of us heart? You must have put down some serious cash to make your audiobook; I hope that you are reaping some benefit.


Deb Atwood
Deb Atwood

Great article! I wish I had seen this before it was too late. (ACX requires a 7 year contract.) One question: Does CD Baby offer a list of narrators?

Myka Reede
Myka Reede

To say amazing doesn’t begin to describe the surprise when I read your post!! Decision made for me when I get to that point. Now the question about finding narrators outside of ACX.

Peg Brantley
Peg Brantley

While this sounds like a fabulous alternative, what’s your upfront cost? I’m really pleased with the royalty share program for one of my books and have begun a project for a second book. Did you pay for the narrator and a producer?

Bob Mayer
Bob Mayer

What is your P&L on this? Cost vs. money made? What is the average cost vs earned in this mode? Your price, while below the top 20 (which only 20 are in, duh, are of dubious value given various payment options such as subscription), is way above the average audiobook. Does CD Baby pay bounties on new listeners who come in through your work?

Simplest question: how many copies have you sold, in how long? I wouldn’t ask that, but you put numbers out here. So put all the numbers out.


Glynda Woolam
Glynda Woolam

Marvelous, insightful, and helpful! Thanks!


Interesting ideas, though as an Audible subscriber I only pay 11.62 per book and won’t generally consider looking to Apple for an ebook, especially as the music app on iPods and iBooks does not handle book chapters nearly as well as the Audible app.


[…] Stephen on Jane Friedman Indies & Audiobooks: An Alternative to ACX “Like many an independent author out there, I blazed the indie trail out of a love for the […]

Amelia Smith
Amelia Smith

Thank you! I’m still probably a year or more away from making any audio books, but I’m glad to hear about this alternative to ACX. One question: are there any exclusivity agreements with CD Baby? I would like to be able to put Book 1 of my series on podiobooks (free) as well, if I do ever get around to doing this.

Evo Terra

CD Baby doesn’t require exclusivity, Amelia. They’re dedicated to indie, which makes them awesome!

(And thank you for planning to include your book on when you’re ready!)


[…] Indies & Audiobooks: An Alternative to ACX – Jane Friedman […]

C.M. Mayo

Thank you ever so much for this very informative post. I am about to do an audio book myself. I’ve done CDs with CDbaby in the past, by the way, and I found them terrific to work with, so I am hearted to hear this.

In addition, right now looks very interesting as a venue for selling anything digital, including audiobooks. I have not yet offered any audio on gumroad but I do have a PDF download ebook for sale there. I found their interface lickety-split easy to use.


[…] Around the ACX Wall […]


[…] to the rest at Jane Friedman and thanks to Bridget for the […]

Remington Rand
Remington Rand

To Mr. Stephen — I took your blog entry quite seriously because I’m shocked at ACX requiring a 7-year commitment for selling an audiobook. Upon doing my own research, I’m finding that you are incorrect about most of your technical details. For example, ACX accepts stereo files, no mono only as you incorrectly assert. They require a constant bit rate of 44.1 kHz, not 22,050 as you state. These and other details are readily findable within one minute on the Producer tab at ACX: . Your idea of audible’s pricing is completely wrong, since they sell more through monthly… Read more »

Justin Young (@AuthorJR_Young)

Lee, thank you for helping authors understand the expense involved in audiobook production. As an author AND professional Voice Over actor/producer your looking at anywhere from 6 to 10 hours of production time for every hour of finished audio. So if you have a 4 hour book, it’s going to take about 40 hours to produce — and thats just standard one actor readings. Add more actors, SFX and soundtrack on top of that and, yes, it will easily cost between $10 and $20K. With CD Baby (music distribution), and BookBaby (book distribution) it only makes sense for them to… Read more »

Lee Stephen (@epicuniverse)

Thanks, Justin! I definitely think CD Baby needs to realize how much of an opportunity they have to be a part of the audiobook market. There’s a lot of potential there (for them and us). Time will tell if they get that message – it definitely won’t be from a lack of trying from me! 🙂

Bruce Van Deventer (555aaa)

I realize that this is a little late, but I wanted to point out that my company, Mondello Publishing, has also produced a full cast audio drama on CD Baby, The Island of Doctor Moreau. It’s also available on actual physical CDs. I can concur with all the points above, also the production costs which were similar for us. We also produced Euripides’ Andromache in 2013. There’s some ads (that you can skip) and some video on the editing process on our youtube channel here: You pretty much have to have stereo in audio drama, and good stereo… Read more »

Lee Stephen (@epicuniverse)

(okay, the internet went wacky when I replied to this the first time, and it showed as a new post instead of a proper reply – here’s hoping second time’s the charm!) I’m so sorry I’m this late in replying to this, Bruce, but thank you for your comments. To give credit to CD Baby, they genuinely do understand what it is we’re after and by their own admission would love to be able to provide the services we seek to the same capacity that Amazon (Audible) does. One of the challenges they face seems to be their relationship with… Read more »


Lee, as the co-author of the Zombie Crusade series and a number of other works, I just want to offer you my profound thanks for sharing the results of your research and work with us. ACX is an unjust system, period. We greatly appreciate KDP and other services related to publishing offered by Amazon, but their audiobook business model is simply tyrannical. We’re jumping into the audible book market (not the way you did–we don’t have that kind of capital), and looking for options to make our work available to our loyal fan base. This posting is the most helpful… Read more »

Lee Stephen (@epicuniverse)

Thank you so much for the kind words, Sandopolis. This has NOT been an easy road (in fact, a rather somber follow-up to this article has been sent in to Jane), but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the fight. The trick is to try and find that crack in the wall and keep pounding away until you finally make it through. I know that strength in numbers is a key, so look for an email from me touching base about this. If enough of us rally together and move as a united front, we’ll start widening that crack in… Read more »


[…] even their own websites. Now before you despair, ACX isn’t the only deal in town, not long ago on Jane Friedman’s blog, one author talked about going to CD Baby to circumvent ACX’s undesirable terms. This may not be […]

Lee Alan

Thank you all for a highly informative discussion. I was particularly interested in the 32 actor full cast, music, effects discussion and how the casting was done through voices123. My specific question was, after the casting was complete since the “voices” actors are all in different geographical locations, how was the recording accomplished ? Did they each perform their lines separately..part by part and then submit to a studio for mixing etc., was everyone on simultaneous ISDN ? if so that would have been extremely expensive just for the mastering, music, effects, etc. As for ACX, even though I and… Read more »

Lee Stephen (@epicuniverse)

Hi Lee! To answer your first questions, all of the actors either had home studios or studios nearby where they could record the lines. All recorded lines were then sent directly to me, and between myself and my dialogue editor, Natalie van Sistine, we mixed the dialogue, music, and sound effects for all ten hours of audio. No outside studios were involved. This was very much a home-grown project, even down to purchasing/selecting the music and effects (that was solely on me). And everything else you said? Man, I hear you. I first decided to do an audiobook, ironically enough,… Read more »

Ann M. Richardson

Lee, good for you for broaching this subject! As a professional audiobook narrator for the past 7 years, I can tell you that we narrators despair at the fact that the high quality audio we upload to ACX, is churned out at less-than-optimal quality. It is often reflected in the reviews listeners leave us, in the form of comments such as “The narrator sounded flat, like a robot.” Many professional narrators also bemoan the fact that there are very low tiers of payment for the narrator. These are not the Royalty Share projects. These are “pay per finished hour” rates… Read more »

Lee Stephen (@epicuniverse)

Ann, I’m so glad you made this post. I think some folks who have read this don’t believe that the audio quality on Audible is turned way down from what’s submitted. There’s such a huge difference. People won’t notice it if they’re listening through the speakerphone of their iPhone, but plug in some high-definition headphones and the difference is astounding. You’re not paying for what you should get with Audible, especially considering the price of audiobooks there. There’s just no comparison in quality.


I must say, when I download audible there is a distinct difference in the quality of normal and “cd”. It definitely isn’t the same

Lee Stephen (@epicuniverse)

The lack of specifics for what the consumer gets should be the first red flag for Audible listeners. People aren’t getting what they pay for.

Thanks for commenting, Bec!

Lee Stephen (@epicuniverse)

I’m so sorry I’m this late in replying to this, Bruce, but thank you for your comments. To give credit to CD Baby, they genuinely do understand what it is we’re after and by their own admission would love to be able to provide the services we seek to the same capacity that Amazon (Audible) does. One of the challenges they face seems to be their relationship with Amazon itself, as Amazon is already an outlet for their products (though in the Music category, not Audiobook). I’ve actually heard some of your stuff before, as we audiobook dramatists aren’t exactly… Read more »

Spencer Hawke

Best supplier of bulk audio book CD’s for author self promotion. Any ideas?

What seems evident from above, is WE the author are not getting VALUE from ACX. No marketing to speak of, but our hands are tied. I am now using a non exclusive contract, so I can control ownership, so I can be creative with distribution.

Mike Pitt (@TheMikePitt)

Hi Lee, great post. Thank you for the insights. My first audiobook is currently being produced and I am interested to read your 6 month assessment of CD Baby and sales rather than ACX. How did your pioneering approach translate into sales? Units downloaded etc…What has been your results? Thanks. Best regards, Mike


Lee, thanks for your post. I am a voice over talent interested in becoming a narrator of audiobooks, so I am going to check out CD Baby for my own book that I hope to turn into an audiobook.


[…] and other platforms. In a guest post on Jane Friedman’s blog, author Lee Stephen discussed using CD Baby to publish his audiobook without going through ACX. While Stephen was able to obtain pricing control, better sound quality, […]


OK, this is the end of July 2015 and I was referred here by Jane and this has been a heck of a read—-pretty consistent with all the research I’ve been reading. I am a traditionally pubbed self-help author with audio book rights and am nearly finished narrating my book at a local studio…Are there still no better choices?

Marcia Yudkin

Hi Lee,

Just to clarify, you are using CD Baby to create and sell physical CDs, correct?

Once created with barcodes and ISBNs, is there some reason you can’t submit the physical audiobooks to Amazon’s Marketplace program and sell them that way? Seems to me that’s a back door to getting the CD version on Amazon, as long as the company is willing to link them to the book and ebook versions.

Marcia Yudkin

Charlene Harris

Hi, Lee.

As a Canadian, I can’t get into ACX or CD Baby. It’s perfectly ridiculous. During your research, have you come across a resource for Canadian Narrator/Producers to break into the market?

Steven Jay Cohen

ACX is now open to Canadians. My company, has been working with Canadians for a while. in fact, this November, there is going to be a workshop for audiobook narrators in Toronto run by audie award winning narrator Johnny Heller and myself.


Just one quick thing. Mino 22khz is the same quality as stereo 44.1kHz. The only difference is one channel of audio vs two. Most people listen to audiobooks on headphones or like me. With just one. Stereo is not a concern with 99% of audiobooks. I just wanted to clarify that with you. I’m anot audio engineer – oh and voice actor as well. .. 😉 The 64kbps limitation is for optimization. We are talking about voice over here. Not a Symphony. If an engineer can’t produce a great sounding product at 64 then they should probably get another job.… Read more »

Steven Jay Cohen

And to correct the record, ACX expects 44.1 kHz 192kbps files uploaded, much higher quality than 64kbps. But, it you want higher than that, you do need to look elsewhere.


[…] follows pertains mostly to the ACX production process. Not all authors find that ACX is the right fit for their production. After investigating other options, you may find that another production and distribution process […]


[…] Audible. One author wrote a guest post for me a couple years ago describing how much work he did to avoid the ACX path, with mixed […]

Brian @ SFFchronicles

Would be good to get an update on this piece, especially as Lee Stephen appears to have ended up going through Audible after all.


Hey Stephen! Thank you for a wonderful post and information. And your samplers are very engaging. I have scored the wide ‘wild’ web for solid unbiased advise since 2014. You have provided me with just what I need to get my audiobook published. After recording my book, I began my upload process with ACX. You can imagine to my shock and surprise when I got to the bog-hole of “You must be a resident of the US or UK…” (I am based in Nairobi, Kenya). I was devastated! However, a look at Author’s Republic has given me hope again. I… Read more »

Steven Jay Cohen has already worked with Kenyan rights holders to produce audiobooks.


Thanks Steven for your response. I will check them out. Cheers!

Ian Russell

I’m a relatively new audiobook narrator (2 years) and found this post when looking for an alternative source of projects to look at other than the ACX platform. If CD baby decided to create an audiobook production arm I would say with confidence that there would be 100’s of great narrators who would be willing to collaborate

Steven Jay Cohen

Except that their content would still not get listed as an Audiobook in the iTunes store. The European Courts struck down the exclusivity deal between Audible and Apple as monopolistic, but the courts in the US and CA have not. So, CDBaby would still not be able to have its content listed as Audiobooks. That would still be exclusive to Audible/ACX.


[…] also CD Baby, according to Jane Friedman. Even Pandora has spoken word, though it’s just comedy for […]

Sylvia Dallas

As a publisher of the Christian genre in Jamaica, I was trying to set an account in ACX only to be told that they have not opened up to our country yet. I will be interested in any follow up on this

Steven Jay Cohen can work with Jamaican rights holders.


I’m new to audio book world…& would like my book narrated “with music”…more like “singing” the words in a musical tune… as opposed to just ” plainly read out loud” .
-WHAT companies can offer this?
-As well as will allow sound effects?

Hopefully a company that is affordable!!!

Please reply ASAP

Jane Friedman

You could try contacting ListenUp and see if they can help. Another company to try is Findaway:

Steven Jay Cohen

Findaway Voices is a very good choice for non-exclusive distribution. they are very new to the production end and rely on their narrators to do quality checks for them. They don’t have the expertise in-house yet.

Steven Jay Cohen

Be aware that you would need the rights to all music used in the production. If that is the case, let me know. There are a few companies that could help.

Takara Shelor

What a great post. I was searching for ACX alternatives and ended up here. I can’t tell you how glad I am I visited. Who wants lower quality and a 7 year commitment for less money? Good grief! Even the added comment about Author Republic has me all excited. I have several books and it is definitely time to get them in audio format. I do a lot of interviews and feel I have the voice for it. The question was just what platform to use. Thansk again!

Steven Jay Cohen

There are a few alternatives out there now (more than there were when this article was first written). In addition to my own company, , you can also check out Findaway Voices. Please spend some time to really understand exactly how much you are being promised in royalties. Many companies are simply re-selling ACX’s service with them acting as a middle man. So, when they say that you will be getting 80% of the royalty, don’t confuse that with 80% of the sale price. I speak to authors who make that mistake from time to time. Since our contract… Read more »


[…] Amazon created the ACX (Audio Creation Exchange) to help Indie authors and small publishers create audio editions. It is a fine program worth investigation. Amazon owns and is the largest online sales vehicle, which makes integration with ACX a snap. Jane Friedman wrote about alternatives to Amazon on her informative blog: […]

C T Mitchell

Sensational article – thanks for the heads up

Jill Collins

Hi Lee,

I love your honesty about your experience! I’m a native of Louisiana (New Orleans), as well. I’m also a fiction writer looking to produce an audio version of my second novel. Good stuff! Thank you!

Oh, btw, first novel titled ‘Surrender’. Second ‘Hide and Seek’. It’s New Orleans based. I write cozies…


Jonathon Chambers
Jonathon Chambers

Thanks for your article. It was exactly what I’m looking for. When my audiobook actually starts to sell, I’m buying a copy of yours. You’ve earned it, just in this article alone.

Steven Jay Cohen

Another ACX alternative can be found at

We have a publishing contract directly with Audible and can match ACX’s percentages (something many others cannot do). We can submit audio as full CD Quality WAV files.

Our submissions are listed as Auddiobooks alongside other audiobooks from places like Harper Collins and Blackstone, etc.

We can work with rights holders and narrators from any country (ACX is limited to the US, CA, UK, and IE). And, we can work with multiple narrators on a royalty share (ACX cannot) as well as multiple rights holders (ACX cannot).

Let me know if you’d like to know more.


I found this article both interesting and helpful. Rattling Books is a Canadian audiobook publisher with a small but fine catalogue. We are well under the radar and it is wearisome to hear so much hype around audiobooks when the field is so dominated by best seller this and celebrity that. It has always been tempting to join Audible but infuriating when you sit down and read the terms. So I can really relate to the experience you described so well in your article. Audible has just moved in to Canada and the publishing news up here this fall is… Read more »


I forgot to mention in my earlier comment that Rattling Books has used CD Baby as well. A few years ago now I put some of the shorter poetry titles on there as they were the most amenable to fitting a square peg in a round hole. I will check them again now and see if putting loner fiction and non-fiction works on there would work out.

It is more than a little disappointing to be assigned to the spoken word section though. It does undermine one’s “discoverability” for audiobook users. But if one is not with Audible ……