Should You Create an Audiobook?

Audiobook listening has been growing for the past decade. The 2018 Annual Audiobook Sales Results published by the Audio Publishers Association showed that audiobooks experienced double-digit sales growth since 2012.

Audiobook Infographic

June is Audiobook Month—a month dedicated to highlighting audiobooks. Audio publishing is a growing segment of the book industry. Many indie authors are dipping their toes into creating audiobook versions of their print books.

Should you make your book into an audiobook? Here are two questions to ask yourself to determine if creating an audiobook is right for you.

1. Is My Book Selling Well?

If you are only selling a couple copies of your book a month—or have sold less than 1,000 copies of your book or book series overall—then creating an audiobook is probably not the best use of your publishing and marketing funds. A better use of your money and time might be to invest in a robust marketing campaign to increase sales of your print and ebook.

Remember, an audiobook is just another format of your book. People still have to know about it to purchase your book in audiobook format. In other words, creating an audiobook version of your book does not guarantee more sales.

2. Am I Willing to Invest a Chunk of Money into Creating an Audiobook?

Creating an audiobook is not cheap. According to Findaway Voices, an average audiobook created with their service has about 50,000 words and costs between $1,000 and $2,000.

The narrator often makes or breaks an audiobook. Most traditionally published audiobooks have professional narrators. Sometimes an author will narrate their title. Even with an author narrating, the cost to professionally edit the audiobook to remove extra sounds and make it smooth starts at about $250 per hour.

There are ways to save money when producing an audiobook. For example, with ACX, indie authors can find narrators willing to split royalty payments instead of being paid upfront. This can help save money when producing an audiobook.

A new service has recently popped up. Indiepub claims that they can make audiobooks 100 times more quickly with 10% of the regular cost to produce an audiobook using artificial intelligence. This new service claims they will turn your print book into an audiobook in 15 minutes for $499 (currently offering an introductory price of $99). However, I was unable to find a sample of an audiobook recorded with a digital voice on their site—so I have no idea how it sounds.

Related Posts:
Should You Publish an Audiobook?
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Audiobook Listening On The Rise

A recent Pew Research survey reveals that reading rates still remain largely unchanged since 2012. About three-quarters (74%) of Americans read a book in the past 12 months (in any format). Print books remain the most popular format for reading, with 67% of Americans having read a print book in the past year.

While reading rates have remained the same for years, audiobook consumption is on the rise. The Pew survey found that just about one in five (18%) Americans listened to an audiobook in 2017. This is an increase of 4% from 2016.

Currently, the vast majority of audiobook sales are fiction books. With mystery, thriller, romance, and fantasy/science fiction the most popular audiobook genres. Interestingly, these are also the most popular genres for ebook sales. Nonfiction only accounted for 26.2% of all audiobook sales in 2016.

To capture the most sales, the majority of publishers and indie authors currently offer their books in both print and ebook format. As audiobook consumption increases, it may eventually become standard for books to be offered in all three formats: print, ebook, and audiobook.

Smashwords, the largest independent publishing ebook platform, is banking on the continued growth of audiobooks sales and the trend toward publishing books (especially fiction books) in all three formats. To help independent authors produce and distribute audiobooks, Smashwords has partnered with Findaway Voices.

With this partnership, Smashwords has built audiobook creation right into their publishing workflow. With a single click, Smashwords authors and publishers can instantly deliver an ebook to the Findaway Voices platform to begin the audiobook production process. Audiobooks produced through this partnership can then be distributed through Findaway Voice’s global network of over sales outlets including iTunes, Audible, Scribd, and OverDrive.

Two of the biggest tasks in producing an audiobook are choosing the right narrator and the cost of producing an audiobook.

1. Choosing the Right Narrator

With a print book, the emphasis is on the written words. Therefore, in producing a print or ebook, choosing the right font and layout design that matches the message is important. For audiobooks, it’s all about the voice. A narrator’s voice sets the tone for the story. In choosing a narrator, finding the voice pitch and pace that fits the story is critical.

2. Cost of Production

Recording an audiobook can be a costly endeavor. Smashwords says that Findaway’s fees are based on the number of hours and minutes of the finished production. Each hour of recorded content comprises roughly 9,000 words, which means a 26,000-word novella might run about three hours and a 100,000-word book would run about 11 hours. Narrators typically charge between $150 and $400 per finished hour.

Selling books is all about creating a quality product and marketing it well. Before you jump into producing an audiobook, be sure that you already have steady sales for the print or ebook version of your book. If your book is not already selling well in print, it probably won’t sell well as an audiobook either. Don’t sink money into producing an audiobook when those dollars might be better spent marketing your print or ebook.

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Photo courtesy of PouquoiPas.

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?

Related Posts:
Reading Rates Remain Consistent
How to Become a Bestselling Author
Predictions for 2016 that You Should Know

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Photo courtesy of Alice Moore