Should You Publish an Audiobook?

It’s hard to walk and read a book. Fortunately, audiobooks allow anyone to multitask while “reading” a book. In fact, the main reason people listen to audiobooks is so that they can multitask. Exercising, driving to or from work, and cleaning the house rank top among the activities people do while listening to an audiobook.

Multitasking combined with the ease of listening via smartphones, which are highly portable, are driving factors in the increase of audiobook consumption. The Audio Publishers Association reports that audiobooks are growing at a tremendous rate. Their most recent report shows that following numbers:

  • Audiobook sales rose 18.2% from 2015 to 2016 to an estimated $2.1 billion.
  • Unit sales rose 33.9% to 89.5 million over the same period.
  • Production of audiobooks rose 43.1% to 50,937 units in 2016 over 2015.
  • Digital downloads of audiobooks accounts for 82.4% of audiobooks.
  • 24% of Americans listened to at least one audiobook in 2016, an increase of 22% over 2015.
  • Just about half of all audiobook listeners are under the age of 35.
  • Audiobook listeners either read or listened to an average of 15 books in the last year.
  • 29% of audiobook listeners listen to the audiobook on their smartphone.
  • Audiobooks borrowed from libraries increased 34% in 2016 over 2015.

These numbers are promising and may stimulate you to get your book produced as an audiobook. Before you run out and take this leap, consider the following:

  1. Audiobook production is not cheap. On average, it costs $3,000 to $5,000 to produce a quality audiobook.
  2. Fiction drives audiobook sales. The most popular categories for audiobooks in 2016 were mysteries/thrillers/suspense, science fiction/fantasy, and romance. So, if your book is nonfiction, give careful consideration to whether your target audience consumes audiobooks.
  3. The competition is stiff. Just because you produce an audiobook does not mean that people will buy it. You will need to market your audiobook heavily to keep it from getting lost in the mass of audiobooks available to consumers.
  4. If your print book is not already selling well, producing an audiobook will, as a rule, not help you sell more books.

The bottom line is that if you create an audiobook version of your book, it will still require promotion to sell. Marketing is key to selling products, including print, digital, and audiobooks. If you don’t have a robust marketing plan, don’t take the audiobook plunge until you do.

Many in the publishing industry are proclaiming the audiobook as the new ebook. What do you think?

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Are You Limiting Yourself?

“This book is for men,” the author said to my daughter as she stood at the book display looking at his book.

“This book caught my eye because I like to travel,” my daughter responded.

“But it’s really for men,” the author countered. “It would make a great dad gift. It’s really for men.”

At that point, my daughter, feeling embarrassed for showing interest in a book “for men” walked off.

Later, she related this story to me. She told me that the book was a travel book with maps and a journal written by a male author. She stated that the author was actively discouraging her from reading his book, even though she was showing interest.

Clearly, this author knew his target audience—men who enjoyed travel. However, he was so tuned to his target audience, that he was limiting himself to “men only”.

Maybe he was not aware that women read books geared for men and that men read books geared for women. While this author may not want to spend his marketing efforts and advertising dollars on women, he could sell more books by keeping in mind that some women might be interested in his book. This mindset would help him keep from shutting out females who show an interest in his book.

One author at CBA Unite shared that she had written a book for young adult females ages 13 to 18. She, too, knew her target audience. However, she went on to say that many moms and dads also read the book. She stated that one of her best reviews was from a dad who read the book.

Knowing your target audience is important. It helps you hone your marketing message and efforts. However, don’t limit yourself to your target audience. After all, a target is just a place to aim.

You should encourage anyone showing interest in your book to read it because:

  1. God can speak to anyone he chooses to through your written words.
  2. Stereotypes are generalizations. They don’t apply to everyone.
  3. The person may be considering purchasing the book as a gift for someone.
  4. Even if your message is not for the person reading the book, they might recommend the book to someone they know will enjoy it.

Whatever you do, never discourage interest in your book. Don’t limit yourself. Keep an open mind when considering who might be interested in reading your book.

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Best Practices for Selling eBooks

Smashwords, an ebook self-publishing and distribution platform, analyzes their aggregate ebook sales across their distribution network each year. This analysis of over 450,000 ebooks by 130,000 authors and publishers provides information for best practices for selling ebooks.

The vast majority (87.5%) of Smashword’s sales are fiction titles—well in line with digital book sales trends.

In his 2017 Smashwords Survey, Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, provides insights to help authors make their books more accessible, desirable, and enjoyable to readers. Here are three questions the most recent Smashwords survey answers.

1. Should I offer a free promotion of my ebook?

Smashwords survey found that free still draws readership, but that best results come from offering a first in series book free to hook readers on the series.

  • The number of downloads from free ebook offers has declined over the past three years. In 2016, offering an ebook for free produced 33 times more downloads on average compared to priced titles in the past 12 months. However, in 2015, the number was 35 times more and in 2014, that number was 41 time more.
  • Free is still a powerful sales catalyst for series or backlists. Series that offer the first book free earn 55% more on average than series that don’t offer the first book free.

2. What is the best price for an ebook?

On average, nonfiction ebooks sell at a higher price point than fiction titles. The Smashword’s survey found that the most common price point for indie authors fiction ebooks is not the price point that maximizes earnings.

  • The most common price point for indie author selling fiction books is $2.99.
  • The top four price points for maximizing unit sales (other than free) are $3.99, $4.99, $0.99, and $2.99.

3. Do shorter ebooks sell better than longer ones?

On interesting takeaway from the Smashword’s analysis is that the average length of books that are selling the most copies has decreased over the past few years.

  • In 2012, the average wordcount for the top 60 best-selling romance titles was 112,195.
  • In 2016, the average wordcount for the top 70 best-selling titles romance was 92,725.

I would love to see more statistics about Christian ebook sales. Sadly, Smashword’s does not break out statistics by categories. However, they do provide ranking for sales of books by category for overall sales. Smashword’s survey found that Christian fiction ebook sales ranked 14 out of 17 categories. For nonfiction books, the Religion & Spirituality category ranked fourth out of 16 categories.

I think the two most noteworthy takeaways from this study are that the best price points for maximizing earnings for a fiction ebook is $3.99 or $4.99 and that free can still drive discoverability for an author.

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Four Benefits of Winning a Book Award

“The best piece of advice you gave me was to enter my book into book awards.”

Of all the marketing advice this independent author had received from me, he felt that the encouragement to enter his book into book awards was the most valuable. Holding up his book, the author pointed to the new book award logo on the cover. He shared with me how winning the book award opened doors for promotion and sales opportunities.

Winning a book award provides many benefits. Following are four ways authors benefit from a book award. Winning an award:

1. Gives your book a seal of approval.
Your award sticker signals to the world that your book is excellent, that it is a quality book worth readers’ time and money.

2. Helps your book stand out from the crowd.
An award sticker gives your book’s cover bling, making it eye-catching. Additionally, studies show that when buyers are presented two books on the same topic, they will pick the one with an award sticker over the one without.

3. Brings you prestige.
When you win an award, you get to bill themselves as an award-winning author. Having this type of clout opens doors of opportunity.

4. Provides you and your book publicity opportunities.
The media will pay more attention to a pitch from an award-winning author. Winning a book award gives you additional opportunities to tell your audience about your book and persuade them to buy.

There are numerous book award contests available for authors to enter. One award, the Christian Indie Awards, sponsored by Christian Small Publishers Association (CSPA) is open for nominations. This award honors Christian books by small publishers and independent authors.

If you are an independent author or a small publisher, you can nominate your book for the Christian Indie Awards. Nominations are open at www.christianaward.com.

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Do You Have the Wrong Expectation?

“If you self-publish, expect to sell less than 100 copies of your book.”

These words were spoken by a Christian author on a marketing panel at the recent CBA Unite International Show. This particular author was both a traditionally-published author and an independently-published author. She had published books using both routes.

The authors on this panel were sharing the lessons they had learned in marketing their books. After making this statement, the author neglected to talk about what authors could do to help ensure that they sold more than 100 copies of an independently-published book.

I am happy to say that I strongly disagree with this author’s statement. I don’t believe that any self-published author needs to “expect” to sell less than 100 copies of a book.

Expect means “to regard as likely to happen.” Truthfully, up to 99% of self-published books do sell less than 100 copies. However, this statistic does not reflect what an author should “expect.”

Most self-published books sell less than 100 copies because the author does not market the book effectively. Too many self-published authors have the idea “if I publish my book, people will buy and read it.” This mindset sets an author up for failure.

With over 1,300 books are published every day in America. The competition for readers’ money and attention is stiff. How many copies you sell of your book is largely dependent on the quality of your book and on your marketing efforts.

Having sold thousands of copies of an independently-published book, I can attest to the fact that you do not need to “expect” to sell less than 100 copies. What you do need is:

  1. A basic understanding of the book publishing and selling industry.
  2. A strong selling point or promise to your reader.
  3. To know and understand how to reach your target audience.
  4. To invest time and money in marketing your book to your target audience.

If you need to gain knowledge and information in any of these four areas, resources exist to help you. Some of these resources include:

Don’t expect failure. Instead, plan and act for success. You can expect to sell more than 100 copies of a self-published book with some knowledge and effort.

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Photo courtesy of Vincent van Zalinge