Don't yet have your books on audio? Wondering whether it's worth the investment of time and money? ALLi Professional member Amy Shojai,who writes fiction and non-fiction on animal themes, makes a persuasive case for taking the plunge into audio and suggests different options.
According to the most recent (2017) Audio Publishers Association annual survey, a six-year trend of double-digit growth in sales continues. A companion survey of consumers revealed 54% of listeners were under the age of 45, and the most popular genres were mystery/thriller/suspense, science fiction, and romance. The next survey results will be released in April 2019.
For independent authors, it makes sense to expand our audience with audiobooks in this growing platform. You connect with listeners and enhance your brand. For nonfiction authors, an audiobook may be your invitation to additional speaker opportunities. And because there’s less competition, lesser known authors more easily get traction. Here’s one example:
- Type “cat books” into the Amazon search bar = 100,000+ results
- Type “cat books” into the Audible search bar = 461 results
That’s one reason my nonfiction pet books sell surprisingly well. My two thrillers and four nonfiction audiobook titles sell an average of 30 copies a month. With more choices now available, I’ve made changes in distribution and plans for future titles.
So, what’s changed? Just about everything—and it’s great news for independent authors.
DIY Audiobook Details
In the “old days,” audiobooks typically released only after a successful traditional book publication. Then the ACX.com platform opened the doors to independent authors, making it easy to audition voiceover (VO) professionals, and distribute audiobooks. Thank you, ACX!
My first two audiobooks released in 2012, two more in 2013, and another two in 2016. I chose the ACX exclusive contract to gain the higher royalties and because at the time there were no other options for indies. Today, FindawayVoices.com and AuthorsRepublic.com also offer audiobook opportunities for indie authors. Below are comparative details of these three services.
- Serves residents of the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Ireland
- Must have a book “live” on Amazon
- Offers VO help (you negotiate terms) or you can DIY
- Distributes to Amazon, Audible, and Apple platforms
- Excusive 7-year ACX contract earns 40% royalty
- Nonexclusive contract offers a 25% royalty
- ACX controls distribution & pricing
- Pays via direct deposit
- $49 Administration fee (waived if partnered with Draft2Digital.com)
- Serves residents around the world
- Offers VO help ($250/finished hour) or you can DIY
- Distributes to Audible, Apple, Kobo, etc into 170 countries & dozen libraries
- Offers 80% royalty (keeps 20% of your sales—royalty/platform varies)
- You control distribution & pricing
- Pays via direct deposit
- Serves residents around the world
- Suggested list of recording professionals
- Distributes to 30 platforms including Audible & Apple
- Offers 70% royalty (keeps 30% of your sales—royalty/platform varies)
- You control distribution & may suggest pricing
- Pays via PayPal (must have 10 titles to qualify for direct deposit/US only)
Professionals charge from $100-$250 per finished hour, which includes recording, editing, and mastering the production. Expect to pay $1350-$1650 for about 50,000 word manuscript when working with FindawayVoices and AuthorsRepublic.
The ACX platform allows authors royalty-share options to potential VO artists. That can bring the cost down. There also may be subsidized programs for authors to help pay for the production costs.
As an actor and VO artist myself, I chose to record my own fiction and nonfiction books in my home studio. It’s a challenge for non-actors to perform fiction with different characters and pacing, but listeners often prefer to hear the nonfiction author-expert read the audiobook. Note: There are economical options for software and recording equipment available, so don’t discount this option!
A book that takes 10 hours to read (about average for a thriller) requires at least triple that amount of time to edit and master.
VO professionals typically read 9400 words/hour, but voicing different fiction characters can slow the process. A voice needs rest, too, and my not perform as well in marathon stretches.
For me, the time issue has been the greatest barrier. I’ve also been frustrated by promotion challenges. How do listeners find my audiobooks?
The Amazon search function offers amazing specificity, but not so the Audible search.
Listeners have to know the author name or book title to easily find it. Also, there is no easy way to advertise audiobooks or offer promotions—until recently. ACX does offer codes for free Audible downloads to share with listeners for possible review, but they expire and listeners may use them for any book (not only your new title).
ACX controls the price of its audiobooks, limiting the ability of authors to run effective promotions or to leverage price reductions if/when they happen.
There are collaborative author promotions that can boost visibility of full-priced audiobooks in a similar way that the multi-author list building promotions work.
For the most part, though, audiobooks must piggyback on the marketing tail of the corresponding ebook or print title being promoted. For instance, each time I’ve had a BookBub feature deal, my audiobook sales also increased. That’s a major reason I’ve made changes to my audiobook distribution.
Chirp Audio Books – the Newest Audiobook Service
BookBub.com, the giant ebook promotions venue, announced last week it’s entered the world of audiobooks with ChirpBooks.com. The dedicated site curates audiobooks and shares limited-time discounted titles with subscribers. The program currently is in beta, but authors can sign up to the waiting list here. (I did!)
ChirpBooks partners with FindawayVoices, which in turn partners with the ebook aggregation platform Draft2Digital.com. Yes, I know, circles within circles! Since I already work with Draft2Digital to distribute my ebooks, a simple “click this button” transferred my book descriptions and other metadata to FindawayVoices, and created an account.
The seven-year term on my two earliest audiobooks expires December 2019, so I needed to opt out of the automatic renewal. In doing so, I discovered something liberating. The contract may be changed, under certain circumstances.
Check Your Contracts
Once an exclusive audiobook has finished one year of its seven-year term, the rights holder may request the contract be changed to non-exclusive.
I emailed my request to ACX support, and they confirmed my titles all have met/exceeded the year-anniversary benchmark. My request was forwarded for review, which I’m told will take 14-20 days before I can expect an update. Stay tuned!
For authors with a royalty-share contract, changing the agreement theoretically is possible but more difficult to accomplish. The voiceover artist would also need to agree, in writing, to the change. For most authors, that’s not worth the headache.
I’m grateful to ACX, and my existing and future audiobooks will be distributed to Audible and on Amazon. Since my ebooks and print titles are published “wide,” it’s important that corresponding audiobook versions also be available in all arenas.
Today, independent authors have many more options to reach our audience. New audiobook production and promotion options expand the independent author’s audience, augment our brand, and potentially increase our profits.
It’s a great time to be an author!
OVER TO YOU Do you have any other advice about self-publishing audio books to add to Amy's? Feel free to share it via a comment!#Indieauthors - are you #selfpublishing #audiobooks? If not, you should certainly consider it! @AmyShojai explains why and how to go about it, drawing on her own success story. Click To Tweet
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From the ALLi Author Advice Center Archive