OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
I love ACX.com and I am all in with my fiction there, but I'm also a podcaster and after years of doing my own interviews and audio, I decided to read my own non-fiction audiobook, and sell it direct!
Recording the book
I live in a basement flat with pretty good acoustics for audio i.e. no high ceilings or wooden floors, so I knew it would be OK to record here. If you want to record yourself and distribute professionally, you are likely to need a studio, but I went ahead at home and just stopped if it got too noisy.
I am not hugely technical and I didn't want to do much post-processing, so I focused on a quiet background. You can sort out noise in post-production, but ideally, you want a clean read, which is why so many podcasters and audio people record in padded cupboards!
I have a Snowball mic and used Amadeus Pro software on the Mac to record the initial files. You can also use Audacity, GarageBand or whatever free software you have.
I had Scrivener open to the book and read from the screen chapter by chapter. I saved each audio file at around 20 minutes and managed two or three per day.
I actually found it was really tiring to concentrate, plus my voice struggled so I drank a lot of peppermint tea to keep it going. When I made mistakes in the file, which was at least every couple of minutes, I would clap loudly and then be silent for a few seconds. This creates a visible spike and space on the file so you can find the bits to clean up without having to listen to the whole thing again.
Yes, you WILL make mistakes. It is not easy to read a book aloud! I have renewed respect for my audiobook narrators.
I decided to make the audio more interesting by adding my own little comments at the end of some of the chapters, giving the people who bought that version a little extra something. I also found a few bits I wanted to change as I read the book aloud, so I did update the ebook files as I read. It's great to read aloud for that final proof-read!
Editing and QA process
After I finished a couple of 20 minute files, I would edit them in the same software. I removed all the mistakes and silences and gulps and coughs.
I then used Dropbox to send the files to my virtual assistant who listened to the audio to check for any other issues. I left in things that were natural speech but removed clear errors e.g. when I had left the same section in twice, or a little burp from too much tea!
After the QA process and final edits, I put the files together to create six files of one hour each.
I also included an intro and outro little piece of music which makes it sound professional. I get all my royalty free music from Incompetech, an amazing site with loads of music options.
Then I used Auphonic.com to level the sound and add the metadata and tags so it looks nice in your mp3 player.
I decided to package the 6 audio files with the DRM free ebook files in Kindle and ePub formats as the final product. I made the cover on the left with Canva.com, a fantastic tool for creating images.
Selling the file
I've talked about your options for selling direct before.
My choice is to use Selz.com to package the audio files with the ebooks in Kindle and ePub formats.
I also set up a discount code which is in the back of all the ebooks and print books so those who have already bought the book in other formats can also get the audiobook version if they like for $5 reduction. Click here to go straight to the audio sales page on Selz so you can see what it looks like.
In the first 13 days, I've sold 16 audiobooks directly at a total of $305.53, and also 24 copies of the ebook directly at a total of $119.76.
It's not going to buy me a house but it's also not bad for the first couple of weeks and in a direct sales channel that I only introduced recently!
The 24 direct sales of the ebooks may ‘cannibalize' sales from the ebook platforms but I get a closer relationship with my customers and I get the money within a week, instead of waiting a couple of months.
It's early days and I expect Business for Authors to be more of a constant seller, as my book, How to Market a Book, is as well.
The book is mostly evergreen material so I don't expect to have to update it for a while. I'm definitely considering recording my other non-fiction books as well. It is a time investment but I think they will be pretty constant sellers. I'll keep my fiction on ACX.com but for non-fiction, I think I prefer this option (but I reserve the right to change my mind!)
Here's one happy customer, Henry Hyde:
“What a fantastic resource you have created. I’m really glad I bought the audio version with the extra downloads, and your little asides are lovely, reinforcing how very human and surprisingly humble you are despite your amazing achievements.
I’m going to have to listen to the whole thing again, this time in conjunction with the written version and workbook … My head is buzzing with ideas … I’d recommend this book to anyone running any kind of creative business, not just writers and publishers. A massive round of applause for what is bound to become the go-to reference work in the field.” Henry Hyde
You can listen to a 20 min sample on SoundCloud, or click play below. You can also find out more or buy the audiobook package here.
Update for Dec, 2014 – EU VAT Tax on Digital Products
On 1 Jan, 2015, the EU introduced new VAT tax laws that impact anyone selling digital products to the EU – that includes authors who sell books or courses direct. Essentially, VAT is now calculated based on where the customer is located, NOT where the seller/vendor is located. The tax varies per country and to be compliant, businesses need to collect 2 pieces of evidence proving location. Previously, there was an exemption limit for small businesses but this law gets rid of the limit so anyone selling anything and making any revenue above 0 must pay this VAT. Many of the companies above will help with sorting out this tax information, but many small businesses are pulling down their direct sales – myself included – until the law is revisited for small businesses. For more information, please read this article.
I'd love to hear your comments on this topic. First of all, do you like to listen to audiobooks read by the author? Do you want to try doing this yourself and do you have any questions?
Liz Hurley says
I have an audiobook that I own all rights to and is on Findaway Voices (thank you for that advice). That alone made me one of your patrons. I own a bookshop and have thought about pressing my own CDs and selling it as a hard copy in the shop. I would like to be able to throw in a free audio download with the CD but I can’t think how to host a free version? I have a website but don’t know if it would be possible ? Not that tech savvy. Any suggestions?
Joanna Penn says
Great idea since you have your own store! You can do a free audio download using Bookfunnel.com or you can even just host an MP3 file on your website on a secret page. All the best!
I would like to know how I can sell my own audiobook directly from my personal website. Is that an option? My site will be up soon and I’d rather start out selling it myself instead of going through ACX or Audible. Is that an option? If so what special files or software will I need to accomplish this goal?
Joanna Penn says
You can sell MP3s or any other digital files through sites like Payhip.com or Gumroad or Shopify etc, but the problem is that the user has to get the files onto their device. The best option is AuthorsDirect from Findaway Voices, which is a separate app, but it is not available outside the US (as at Feb 2020), so basically, there is no good option right now. Hopefully, that will change …
Ok thanks! 🙂
Charlene Joseph says
Can someone record an audiobook that is an old classic for example – Sherlock Holmes or maybe some others and sell the audio material without having any rights to sell?
Joanna Penn says
You can only do that with material that is out of copyright. I believe only some of the Holmes stories are in that category.
But remember, you need to market the book, and why would someone buy your version over that read by famous narrators? It’s always best to write your own material than use other peoples.
Kaiuani Facciani says
Hi, thanks for providing helpful information. I am self-publishing 3 books, all available in print (via Amazon for direct sales, Ingram Sparks for bookstores), 2 are available in ebook form through regular channels or discounted on my site for direct download. One of them will have an audiobook version. I recorded and mastered it myself and have 32 mp3 files. I will be submitting it to audible but wish to make a discounted version for download from my own site/store. I’m kinda confused about file formats and how best to distribute it. My web guy says to just zip the mp3s together and provide instructions on how to unzip and listen to mp3s however, they normally listen to mp3s. I’m a little concerned that my audience may not be very tech savvy and apple for example, has made it harder to load mp3s onto your mobile device for files you havent purchased from them. Im concerned that my audience probably has only listened to an audiobook in Audible and will want an .aax file. I found a free program that will convert mp3s to an tax file so perhaps I could offer a choice (as I did with ebook formats). I’m very interested in what you have to say about this issue. I haven’t been able to figure out what format chirpbooks delivers in. Are there other formats I need to provide as an option as well? Thanks.
Joanna Penn says
I offer zipped MP3s for sale direct: http://www.payhip.com/thecreativepenn
That is the simplest option.
Chirp is only available to some countries – and not to me in the UK, so I don’t know about that.
OMG.. Dear Joanna… I am soooooooo glad to see this post.. Here’s my dilemma. I want to sell my audiobook and ebook directly from my own store. I am already in the process of uploading everything with Selz. My question is do I need an ISBN number and/or barcode somewhere? Also, should I have two separate barcodes.. And here’s the biggie.. my book includes music because of my character singing. I have several musical selections where you can purchase them separately. Will I need a barcode for each song that’s included in the book? Also, I love the idea of giving $5.00 off of either book when a customer purchases one or the other. I had an affiliate, of an affiliate, of an affiliate, of a major company that wanted to distribute the book but would not offer a promo budget. And I felt there were too many hands in the pocket. And decided to do it myself. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
Joanna Penn says
I don’t do barcodes on my digital products. I also don’t use ISBNs on them. Sorry, you will have to liaise with SELZ about your specific situation. All the best.
Charlene L Carnes says
I really want to get into the business of “reading” books for authors and of course selling them. Can you tell me how to get started? I appreciate any help that you can provide.
Tamar Pretorius says
Hi, Joanna. I’d like to read children’s books aloud and sell those – perhaps even from a dedicated website. Is there ever a problem with the rights to books? Does one need permission from a publisher? Thanks!
Joanna Penn says
You can only do that with your own books, or books that are in the public domain i.e. out of copyright.
Otherwise, you are in breach of copyright.
Tamar Pretorius says
Thanks, Joahnna. How do I find out if a copyright has expired?
Joanna Penn says
If it’s a famous book, just google it.
Or check how long it’s been since the author died.