ACX is a constantly evolving platform, and along with Audible they are a couple of companies that haven't really managed to find their niche in the Amazon universe. The problem is that even though the demand for audiobooks is intensifying, it is still a very small market and doesn't really seem to have a clear direction.
Observation One: Codes and Gifting Problem
One huge problem, for example, was the use of codes and gifting. Audible created a system whereby readers could gift books to friends and family by selecting a book, utilizing the gifting system, and then simply paying for the book with a code.
Then, they scrapped it.
It was abused heavily because of another program wherein they would give away codes to any author or producer that requested them for free books. Their mistake: they also paid for those codes out of the general pot of subscribers. What this meant was authors and producers would load a short and ridiculous eBook onto the platform, request codes as often as possible (often getting hundreds per book) and then gift them out to guarantee monthly income from the program.
This was a huge oversight on their part and eventually developed into a problem akin to the gaming of the Kindle Store that many authors participate in. Finally, their solution was to axe the gifting program and cut down dramatically on the number of free codes that authors are given for releasing a book through their platform.
Does this kill the system, though? Hard to say. Let's keep going.
Observation Two: Contract and Rights
ACX wants to lock you into a seven year contract.
Seven years is a really long time to get stuck with one specific company and not be able to change, and if you also lock yourself into a royalty split contract then you're just going to have to live with it.
For a lot of people, this isn't really a problem. After all, ACX is giving you a low cost (or free) way of entering an entirely new market that you probably haven't even dipped your toes into before. If, however, you think that down the line you might want to pay for some major quality distribution of your audiobook and get it on a lot of platforms, then ACX might not be a good route for you because of that seven year contract.
Observation Three: Easy to Use
ACX is incredibly easy to use. I've personally released seven different eBooks through the system and through it all it has taken me only a few minutes of work here and there to keep the system going.
Basically, if you are an author, you just offer up your rights, pick the narrator you want that is also interested, and then wait around twiddling your thumbs until they are done. Then, you listen and approve it and let it out into the world.
There are other platforms out there, but many of them aren't really open to indie authors or are significantly more difficult to use. One problem with other systems is that there are often fewer producers looking for work, which means the pool of talent is smaller. Likewise, there are fewer books, which means the pool of good content is smaller, which therefore means there will be less talent.
If you're looking for a really easy program to set and forget, then this could be the perfect option. Like I said, for me it is just an added (albeit small) revenue stream that supplements all of my other streams.
Observation Four: Free
Okay, so it isn't free if you decide you want to own the rights yourself, but if you do the royalty split option then you won't have to pay any money during the entire process. It doesn't get any better than that.
The royalty split is right down the middle, and all you have to do is offer up your rights and pick a narrator. They do all of the work putting the audio files together and getting them ready to go. You just have to sign off along the way and collect the benefits.
Another benefit is that they distribute for free to multiple platforms. You just set it up at the time of creation and forget about it until the money comes rolling in.
Is it worth it?
It's hard to say. Some authors are making a fortune from the program, and others are struggling to get by. In my experience, it's been a lot of fun releasing them and I found some great producers, but I don't really make any money off of it.
Should you hold onto your rights just in case something changes in the future and you get a better deal? Maybe. But, there really isn't much to be lost by loading up your rights, and the potential for being on the ground level of the growth of the audio industry means you could get lucky and strike it big.
Like most things, everyone has to decide for themselves!