Audiobooks are the fastest growing segment of the publishing market and more opportunities arise every month for authors who want to get their books into audio format.
Streaming audio in smartphone apps means that it's easier than ever to buy and consume audiobooks and podcasts. Google Auto and Apple Carplay brought streaming audio to cars in 2016 boosting commuter listening.
The Amazon Echo and Google Home brought audio into living rooms, syncing with mobile devices.
Whispersync technology means that you can be reading on your phone or device at breakfast, then get in your car and continue listening where you stopped reading, and when you get home, cook dinner while listening on your Echo, all without losing your place. Amazon also bundles audiobooks with ebooks, and if a customer owns an ebook version, the audiobook is cheaper.
Listeners can get great value audio subscriptions with Audible and Kobo Audio, and both are heavily investing in advertising to increase listenership.
In addition, the number of audiobooks available right now is considerably smaller than print or ebooks, so you have more of a chance of standing out. Most traditionally published authors have signed away audiobook rights and many of those will never be turned into audio, so indies have the advantage of a faster response to this growing market.
Use ACX to go indie for audio
ACX.com is the Audiobook Creation Exchange, where authors and rights holders can collaborate with narrators and producers to essentially self-publish audiobooks. It's an Amazon company and your book will be for sale on Amazon, Audible and iTunes.
At the time of writing, ACX.com is only available to authors in the US, UK, Canada and Ireland, but hopefully, they will be expanding to other territories over time.
Check out Making Tracks: A Writer's Guide to Audiobooks and How to Produce Them by J.Daniel Sawyer if you want to find out more technical detail and other options.
If you are able to use ACX, the process works as follows:
The rights holder/author logs into ACX and claims their book.
You can search with the Amazon ASIN, the number that Amazon assigns to every book on the store. You have to legally own the rights to do this, for example, if you're an indie who hasn't signed a contract for the book or a traditionally published author who didn't sell the audio rights.
Enter in extra details about the book relevant for narrators
For example, what type of voice would be best? An older African-American male vs. young adult female would be two extremes. You also add in information about reviews and sales, which is particularly important if you want to attract an experienced narrator.
Decide on the contract
The options are:
a) pay the narrator an amount per final audio hour and you retain the entire royalty. If you do this and then choose a non-exclusive contract, you can publish the audiobook wherever you like. This is now my preferred option when finding narrators on ACX.
c) record the audio separately, either yourself or with an external narrator, then upload and retain the entire royalty. I'm now doing this with my non-fiction, which I have recorded locally and upload later.
Decide on whether you will go exclusive with ACX
If you go exclusive, you will get higher royalties but you won't be able to sell outside the channels of Amazon, Audible and iTunes.
As audiobooks continue to grow as a format, it’s likely that other options will emerge for indies through various distributors as they have done for ebooks.
Upload an excerpt from your book for narrators to audition with
Narrators will be alerted to your book and some will audition for you. When auditions come in, you can decide whether or not the narrator is what you're looking for.
You can decline auditions and give feedback if you want. If you're not getting any narrators auditioning, it's likely to be because your book doesn't have enough reviews or sales on it.
You can also find narrators through your author contacts and go looking for them instead of passively waiting. I actively found two of my narrators through recommendations from friends, and another found me through ACX.
When you find the right narrator, accept the audition, and then decide on dates for production
You'll need to QA the files, listening and checking the words as well as any issues. I trust my narrators as professionals and I consider the audiobook to be an adaptation, so I only correct obvious pronunciation issues which usually stem from British vs. American pronunciation.
Once the files are QA'd, the audiobook will go live. You will receive some promo codes from ACX so you can get some early reviews on it and then sales should start.
If you do a royalty split deal with a narrator, there is no money paid upfront and you just split the royalties between you. ACX do this for you so the money is deposited into your bank account every month.
Personally, I think this is amazing and in the last year, this has been a fantastic new income stream for me and many other authors. You can also sell audio directly from your website, as I do through Selz.
You can also pay narrators upfront, which will cost several hundred dollars per finished audio hour. You can even hire a studio and narrate the book yourself, as I did for my book, Business for Authors: How to be an Author Entrepreneur. It was such hard work that I now use professional narrators!
Studio costs and audio production will vary in cost. Most authors with decent sales will cover these upfront costs within the first year, and future sales will be profit. If you retain the rights, then this can be a significant income stream over the long-term.
More interviews and resources:
- How to read your own audiobook and sell direct to customers – without ACX
- How to record your own audiobooks and use ACX for distribution
- Going further with audiobooks: An interview with audio rights expert J Daniel Sawyer
- Audiobooks for indies with Simon Whistler
- Audiobook narration and working with narrators with Veronica Giguere
- How audiobook narration and production works with Rosalind Ashford
- Audiobook production and marketing tips with Jeffrey Kafer