Should You Publish an Audiobook?

This month, Alex Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group (IWSG) asked, “Have any of your books been made into an audiobook?” In the spirit of full disclosure, I have not made an audiobook, but IWSG’s question got my creative juices flowing. According to Albert Einstein, “Your imagination is the preview of life’s coming attractions.” First, I had to ask myself, should you publish an audiobook? I queried my writer’s database, and a tsunami of writing notes came up. Here’s what I discovered.

What Are Audiobooks?

Audiobooks styles range from simple to complex.

  • Some are a verbatim book recordings made by the author.
  • Most are studio produced recordings by professional narrators.
  • A few are full-cast, immersive audio dramatization of a book (i.e., like a stage production).

Who Produces Audiobook?

With a quick internet search, you’ll find many audiobook producers. According to audiobook producer Sarah Jaffe, creating an audiobook is much more than simply reading the book. The novel’s style (e.g., was it written in first or third person?) and content (e.g., is the story light or serious?) influence the narrator’s voice. Like a movie, recording an audiobook requires casting to match the right narrator to the story.

If the production includes a full cast with original music and sound effects, it’s even more involved. That’s why authors search for an experienced company capable of producing and retailing their audiobooks.

Why Do Readers Love Audiobooks?

It’s no secret: humans love stories — it’s how we learn and survive. Audiobooks are perfect for busy people doing other things. A quality audible story adds to the magic, engaging audiences with clever narration. Today’s ubiquitous smart phones and tablets offer the convenience of listening to stories without the need to lug around books.

Who Should Publish an Audiobook?

Writers have several options. I’m not recommending one method or company over another. Instead, I invite you to explore what’s right for you.

Before you decide to offer an audiobook, I encourage you to research your contractual obligations, especially the rights assignment, commitment length, unit cost, and unit pricing. Seek opinions from qualified legal and financial professionals as needed.

Pricing differs between the many service providers. For new books (i.e., unproven in the marketplace), evaluate the potential to recover upfront fees based on the track records of books and writers with comparable content and author reputation.

➨ACX

I’m an affiliate of Amazon, and curious how Audible’s production company, ACX, could help me produce and distribute audiobooks. I knew from experience, Amazon favors exclusivity, requiring you to decide whether to accept those limitations or go wide. For example, an exclusive contract with ACX would sell audiobooks only through Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

➨Findaway Voices

It’s interesting exploring the connections between Findaway Voices and Findaway as compared to ACX and Audible. In contrast to ACX, Findaway Voice makes it easy for writers to produce their audiobooks and distribute worldwide. For example, Amazon provides a narrow channel (i.e., Audible, Amazon, and iTunes), but Findaway Voice offers wide distribution to 40+ retail and library partners, ranging from major global brands to fresh new startups.

➨Freelancers and Production Companies

A quick internet search for “narrators” (e.g., freelancers at Fiverr, Voices, Upwork) will net you individuals eager to narrate your audiobook, but keep in mind you’ll manage all the details. You can search for “audiobook producers,” and discover production companies offering audiobook management services (e.g., casting, narration, production, audio editing, digital formatting, uploading to online sellers, distribution, promotion, and royalty collections).

Conclusion

Factors that influence whether an author should publish an audiobook include personal goals, chosen genre, production costs, and potential sales.

Although I’ve not produced an audiobook, I have experienced publishing only through Amazon’s KDP and going wide through Draft2Digital. I found it was no more effort to go wide with Draft2Digital than publishing exclusively through KDP. That experience taught me how a reputable company could handle all the intricate details, allowing me to focus on writing instead of managing things outside my expertise.

A tool like Publisher Rocket can help authors assess the potential of future profits and recovery of upfront costs, but the variables limit any certainty of audiobook sales.

On the surface, going wide with Findaway Voice appeals to me when compared with locking in an exclusive ACX contract. That’s merely my current thinking, and I encourage you to decide what’s right for you.

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Have any of your books been made into audio books? If so, what is the main challenge in producing an audiobook?

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Insecure Writer's Support Group

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Above all, the IWSG site is fun and informative!

8 Comments

  1. What great information in your overview! I’ve only had one audio book and that was handled by my publisher. Now I’m thinking it’s an avenue I need to explore with my self-pubbed books. Hmmmm…

    1. Glad you found the post helpful, Nancy. With the growing trend and enough sales, profitable, too! Thanks for commenting.

    1. Thanks, Jacqui. I will use the research in the future. During the interim, I hope others find it useful.

  2. I appreciated your insight on audiobooks, Grant! Thank you for a great post!

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Alex. Audiobooks can add significantly to an author’s overall footprint in the marketplace.

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