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Why Indie Authors Should Make Audiobooks Part of their Self-Publishing Strategy

Kevin Tumlinson, indie author of thrillers and marketing director of Draft2Digital

Kevin Tumlinson, indie author of thrillers and marketing director of Draft2Digital

Have you been assuming that only top-earning bestselling indie authors can  cost-justify self-publishing audiobooks? Think again, sayd Kevin Tumlinson, indie author of thrillers and marketing director of ebook aggregator Draft2Digital, which has just announced a new product aimed at making audiobooks more affordable and viable for self-published authors. Here he outlines many reasons you might want to consider entering the audiobook fray yourself.

Indie authors have never had a more level playing field than they do today. We’ve been empowered by a vast array of services and products, built with us specifically in mind, to the point that generating, distributing, and selling ebooks has become virtually automated. At the very least, it’s become a great deal easier than it was even five years ago.

Now it’s time to set our sights on a new frontier: audiobooks.

Audiobooks aren’t unreachable for indies, but getting from written word to audio can be both expensive and difficult.

But the cost of hiring a narrator can be enough to dissuade most indies from even making the attempt. Therefore many authors opt to stick with ebooks and print, and write off audio as something they’ll do “when the books become successful.”

The problem is, that’s a short-term way of looking at this very powerful resource, and it’s one that may be hamstringing a lot of author success.

Why Should Indie Authors Create Audiobooks?

Let’s look at some of the benefits of having audiobooks as part of your author strategy.

Another revenue source

Audiobooks represent a way to introduce a new revenue stream into your business by leveraging your existing intellectual property. The time commitment is comparatively minimal, coming down usually to a few weeks of waiting, rather than months of writing.

Revenue diversity

Aside from giving you an additional revenue stream, audiobooks represent a different source of revenue. At first blush, there may not seem to be much of a distinction, but customers of audiobooks tend to vary from customers of ebooks and even paperbacks, in terms of habits and demographics.

What this means for you and your strategy is that you can somewhat ‘weatherproof’ your business. By offering audiobooks in addition to other formats, you can create a revenue stream that may be up when other channels are down, helping you to level out the low spots of your annual revenue.

A broad new market

The difference in demographics between ebooks, print, and audiobooks means that with an audiobook you can actually increase your market size, and even open new markets that you might never have reached otherwise.

Though there’s plenty of crossover between print readers and audiobook listeners, there is a subset of readers who only consume books through audio.

Whether they have little time to read, have long commutes, or just have a preference for audio over text, you have a chance of gaining a whole new and previously unreachable audience just by offering your work as an audiobook.

Increased discoverability and credibility

This new audience isn’t isolated. They talk. They also review, recommend, and sometimes rave. In practical terms, that’s one more set of readers who can be out there pitching you to all of their friends and family.

Word of mouth is still the best marketing tool there is.

Increased chatter means increased discoverability. It becomes easier for new readers to stumble across your work if original readers (or listeners) are touting your praises. Peppering a new market with your work is as much a marketing tool as it is a revenue opportunity.

A side effect of this discoverability, though, is increased credibility. In an age where practically anyone can write and publish an ebook, being able to claim ‘author’ on your resume doesn’t carry quite as much weight as it once did. Publishing became a low- to no-barrier-to-entry business, practically overnight.

Audiobooks, however, require some overhead and investment. There’s a cost to production, and therefore having an audiobook says something about you. It tells people that you’re invested. It increases your credibility as an author.

Less competition

The overhead, mentioned above, helps you in one other way: It means there’s less competition in the marketplace.

For certain, there are tons of audiobooks available, in every possible genre and on every possible topic. But the volume is comparatively low when you factor in the horde of ebooks on the market. Your competition on any given topic is going to be pretty thick, most of the time.

Audibooks, on the other hand, offer you a chance to play in a shallower pool. You have a higher chance of getting noticed by readers, because there may be fewer books like yours on the audiobook market.

If you’re having trouble breaking into a particular market, due to genre saturation, an audiobook can help break things loose and get the iceberg moving.

Where to Start with Audiobooks

Love Audio logoThere are dozens of ways to produce an audiobook from your work, with services such as Audible Content Exchange (ACX) and ListenUp offering an assist. Recently, Draft2Digital partnered with Findaway to launch Voices, which we bill as an ACX alternative. (Click here for the full story on that development.)

All of these put you in touch with narrators, who will work for an agreed-upon rate. In the case of ACX, you can even do a revenue share, if your narrator is willing, which can help reduce your overhead.

Best practice, though, is to pay a narrator up front, and keep all rights to your audiobook, as well as all royalties due.

It’s expensive to hire a narrator, for certain, but you can recoup the cost quickly in many cases, and then all profit is yours.

Consider Being Your Own Narrator

If you happen to have access to recording equipment, you might even consider narrating your book yourself. Chances are you won’t be able to match the quality of a professional narrator, but you may do well enough that readers don’t notice or don’t mind.

In the case of non-fiction books, narrating your own work is generally a good idea, because it connects you with the reader on a deeper level.

Regardless of how you get there, though, it’s very smart idea to include audiobooks as part of your overall author strategy. Take the time to research all the tools and resources that are available for this, and do whatever you can to take the leap.

There’s a very good chance you’ll see the benefits, and have no regrets.

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OVER TO YOU Have you tried audio yet? What top tips would you offer other indie authors about it?

Why #selfpublishing authors should make #audiobooks - by @KevinTumlinson of @Draft2Digital Click To Tweet

OTHER GREAT POSTS ABOUT AUDIOBOOKS FROM THE ALLi ARCHIVE

Book Publishing: How to Self-publish an Audiobook on Author’s Republic

Reaching Readers: How to Create Audiobooks via ACX

Success with Audiobooks: What You Need to Know to Get Your Book Into Audio: Becky Parker Geist

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4 Responses to Why Indie Authors Should Make Audiobooks Part of their Self-Publishing Strategy

  1. Royal Jaye Joiner April 30, 2018 at 4:30 am #

    I am a Voiceover Talent that has narrated many commercials, whiteboard animation, corporate narrations, aniomations, and more…..including audiobooks. I booked and filled a few royalty-share contracts through ACX. I was ampe to see my name associated with the final product on Audible and Amazon. That was 3 years ago…..there’s been some business improvements since then.

    It cost nothing for an independent author to make an audiobook on ACX. There’s are a lot of narrators willing to produce your novel for FREE on ACX……in the hopes that it will sell enough units to recoup the cost they invest in it’s production. It’s a 60/40 split with ACX and you will split that 40% with the narrator. So you and the narrator split 40% in half. You get 20% and they get 20%. Great deal…..really?

    As a narrator, my colleagues and I have invested hundreds of dollars in out tools and development of the applicable skills needed to interpret your words and breathe life into your characters. Then there’s the editing and mastering of the audiobook to make sure that it not only sounds great but meets the specification set forth by ACX or other distribution outlet requirements. The cost for all this is 20% of sales over a 10 year period…..and the price of the audiobook is set by ACX.

    If a 4 hour audiobook cost $100 per finished hour (PFH) to complete it will have the ACX narrator $400 to produce the product. If the audiobook sales at $10 on ACX and Amazon, the book will have to sale 200 units just for the narrator to recoup their cost over a 10 year period (the life of the ACX contract).

    Realistically, this is a one sided relationship in my opinion. It requires too much sweat equity. Both you, the author who sweated creating the novel, and the narrator are hoping to make enough money to support themselves. What can you do?

    Some of us enjoy reading novels and making a living doing so. A lot of the narrators, including myself, are on rosters of various publishing companies. Our skills, talent, and time are compensated upfront. Some of us, including myself, still have a profile on ACX. There are other deals that CAN be made on ACX so that it will beneficial to both parties. The risk is shared.

    Here’s the thing…You get what you pay for, Nothing from Nothing leaves Nothing. It’s exciting to bring a novel to life, A lot of author’s have no idea what goes on behind the microphone. This is just my perspective. I’d love to talk about creating an audiobook for you. Your words deserve THE ROYAL TREATMENT!! Hit me up sometime.

  2. Braden Wright April 23, 2018 at 2:19 am #

    You make some great points — btw, ACX stands for Audiobook Creation Exchange (here is the link to verify, from Audible’s ACX website: http://audible.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/7253/~/what-is-acx%3F

    Don’t have to publish this comment, but wanted you to have the correct info for your authors.

  3. Julie Christine Round July 13, 2017 at 11:19 am #

    I narrated my first novel, “Lane’s End” and recorded it at a studio then gave it to Calibre audio library but I would be interested to find out how else I could distribute it.
    I have a copy on discs and those who have listened and read it say they prefer listening so my narration must be OK.
    I’ll check out the outlets noted in this very interesting post.

  4. Mary Maddox June 23, 2017 at 12:18 am #

    I’ve contracted with a studio to produce an audiobook on my novel. May I still use Draft2Digital for distribution?

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