There are many options for publishing your work and audiobooks are one of the hottest formats. Here are some things to know as you consider this popular market.
Audiobooks are currently the highest growing segment of publishing. The worldwide market is estimated at more than three billion dollars, nearly two billion of which is the U.S. market. Audiobooks are great for fiction and are growing in nonfiction. But not all books are well suited to the format, including books that are full of procedures, technical jargon, and supporting images, such as cookbooks and how-to books.
Audiobooks are useful to people with impaired vision or limited reading abilities. They’re also fun when traveling, exercising, and working! Edison Research surveyed 2001 people and found that 43% had listened to an audio book, reflecting a strong current interest as well as a strong potential market. The study also found women (55%) listen to audiobooks more than men (45%) and 14-18% of people aged 24-65 listen to audiobooks, consuming an average of 6 books per year. Also, as you develop the audiobook, share samples and get feedback from your followers on social channels like YouTube, Facebook, etc. Don't forget to ask for feedback on the content, voice quality, and pace.
Current trends include car manufacturers offering free audio content with new cars, retailers bundling ebooks and audiobooks, music delivery services moving into audiobooks, better mobile apps, and growing international markets.
The average audiobook is 100,000 words, or about 11 hours long (55 words a minute, 9300 per finished hour). It takes four to six hours to produce one hour of completed audio, or 44-66 hours per book. Average sale prices vary by length. Five to ten hours is $15-$25. Ten to twenty hours is $20-$30. Over twenty hours is $25-$35.
The field of retailers and distributors for audiobooks is large and growing. It includes players like Amazon Kindle Unlimited, Audible (owned by Amazon), eStories, Overdrive, Hoopla, Ubook, Audiobooks.com, and Storytel. Research these companies, including their delivery models, contracts, revenue models, royalty structures, customer reach, and submission guidelines. Then pick the best one for you. For instance, Audible’s ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) connects authors and narrators for free. But not really. ACX makes its money through royalties by keeping 60% of your book sales for the first seven years! The remaining 40% is split evenly between you and the narrator. They also require you to distribute your book only through ACX, which includes Audible and iTunes but excludes all other sites, including your own website. They have an option for you to pay the narrator up front, keeping the full 40% royalties, and allowing you to sell on other platforms. Pick a path based on sales targets and your needs around up front costs and sales flexibility. Up front costs for narrators are from $50-$400 per hour, depending on quality, experience, whether they’ll edit files. The average project is 50 hours, or $7500 at $150 an hour.
To get the best recording you’ll need to convert your manuscript to a script. Remove digital content elements such as hyperlinks and “click here” references. Remove visual elements like captions, tables, drawings, and photos. Remove the glossary, footnotes, and the bibliography. Add opening credits with the title, author name, and narrator name. Add closing credits with those items, such as the copyright (year and copyright holder), and the production copyright (year it was recorded). Create a table of contents and record audio files one chapter at a time. Test read the script before recording.
Some folks say that you only need a decent USB microphone and a free audio editing program to make an audiobook. This may be true if you’re a techie and only need something ‘good enough’ to get into the market. However, if your goal is professional quality, there are other considerations. Do you have the equipment (a professional microphone, a sound proof space, and recording and editing software)? Can you produce cover art that meets retailer requirements? For instance, Scribl requires images to be 300x300 pixels, but Audible requires at least 2400 x 2400 and only accepts JPG, PNG, or TIF files). Do you know the best bitrate for spoken word recordings and the best file format (WAV, AIFF, or MP3)? Do you have 66+ hours to create a quality recording, including time to practice, evaluate test clips, and learn the process?
If you decide to hire someone, there are resources to help you. Voice over work is a specific skill and hiring an expert may save you time, money, and frustration. With fiction books you’ll definitely need voice actors to portray the characters. You can find voice actors through services like Voices.Com, VoiceBunny.Com, Voices123.Com, and TheVoiceRealm.Com. The better sites provide work samples and let you search based on age, language, gender, and accent. Always request a 15-minute demo for your review and approval before the project begins. Insist on regular contact so you’re not dissatisfied at the end. These are professionals, so know your budget, scope of work, due dates, and payment terms. Another option is a production service, that sells a flat package rate for narration, editing, and distribution of physical CDs and digital files.
Great resource and very informative and useful, thank you.
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