Hello, Lifers! Today, we're diving into the world of audiobooks, the still-rising star in the self-publishing universe. If you're not already exploring this medium, buckle up, because you're about to discover a goldmine.
What at first looked a bit like a a passing trend, or perhaps a niche market at best, has shown itself to be a seismic shift in the way people consume stories. In our fast-paced, multi-tasking world, audiobooks allow readers to immerse themselves in your world while commuting, working out, or cooking dinner. While there are pros and cons aplenty to whether they SHOULD be so important, the fact is they are--they seem to be the perfect companion for the busy modern reader, and their popularity is continuing to grow.
But why should you, as a self-published author, care? Well, Lifers, it's all about reaching your audience in every possible way. Diversifying your formats means you're not just a writer; you're a content creator. And that's a powerful thing.
The concept of audiobooks isn't as modern as you might think. In fact, it dates back to the 1930s when the American Foundation for the Blind and the Library of Congress joined forces to create "talking books" for people with visual impairments. These early audiobooks were recorded on vinyl records and played on specially designed record players.
Fast forward to the 1980s, and the introduction of cassette tapes brought audiobooks to a wider audience. Libraries began to stock audiobooks, and companies like Books on Tape and Recorded Books made it possible for consumers to rent or buy audiobooks for personal use. More and more folks began getting into them, particularly in places where urban sprawl created longer and longer commutes--or where, say, some nerdy future author was looking for a way to keep from going crazy while doing repetitive tasks at his job as he worked through school. Just for example.
The real game-changer for audiobooks, however, was the digital revolution. With the advent of the internet, MP3 players, and smartphones, audiobooks became more accessible than ever before. No longer were listeners tied to physical formats; they could now download or stream audiobooks directly to their devices. Which meant that PRODUCING them in massive quantities became much cheaper and cost-effective.
This opened up new avenues for distribution. Audible, founded in 1995, was one of the first companies to see the potential of digital audiobooks. Today, it's the largest producer and retailer of audiobooks in the world, with a catalog of over 200,000 titles (and counting).
Today, audiobooks represent a significant portion of the publishing market. According to the Audio Publishers Association, audiobook sales in the U.S. alone reached $1.8 billion in 2022, a 30% increase from five years before. This growth outpaces that of ebooks and print books, making audiobooks the fastest-growing segment in the publishing industry. By far.
So should you grab a piece of this growing pie?
Creating an audiobook might seem daunting, but it's more accessible than you might think. You can hire a professional narrator, or, if you're feeling brave, narrate it yourself. Platforms like ACX make it easy to find the perfect voice for your book, or to learn the ropes of DIY narration.
Remember, an audiobook is not just a verbatim reading of your work. It's a performance. It's about bringing your words to life in a new and exciting way. So, whether you're hiring a pro or going the DIY route, make sure the delivery matches the tone, style, and spirit of your book.
A lot goes into creating an audiobook, and though some authors try to create the audiobooks themselves, most of us just aren't qualified (and/or don't have the right equipment) to do a good job of it. There are tons of options out there, but one of the author-friendliest (from a creation standpoint, at least) is ACX. ACX, or the Audiobook Creation Exchange, is an Amazonn company that helps indies set up audiobooks--either creating them wholly themselves, hiring and paying someone to do so, or offering royalty-split deals whereby the narrator and author split the proceeds 50/50. I'll definitely be going into more detail in my Bestseller Life courses, but for now here's a simple guide to getting started:
First things first, you'll need to set up an account on ACX. It's a straightforward process: just click on "Sign Up" and follow the prompts. You'll need to provide some basic information and agree to the terms and conditions. Once your account is set up, you're ready to start the fun parts!
Next, you'll need to claim your book--basically telling ACX that you're the author of said masterpiece and so you have the rights to produce an audiobook. Simply search for your book by title or ISBN, and click on "This is my book." ACX will then verify your claim.
Once your book is claimed, it's time to create your project. This is where you'll provide details about your book and specify what you're looking for in a narrator. Be as detailed as possible to attract the right talent. You can specify the gender, age, accent, and performance style you're looking for. You can (and SHOULD) upload a short script for narrators to use for their auditions.
You'll also probably decide on the terms of the deal at this point. What does that mean? Why, I'm glad you asked!
ACX offers two payment options: Pay for Production or Royalty Share. Pay for Production means you pay the narrator upfront, while Royalty Share means you and the narrator split the royalties 50/50. Choose the option that works best for you, but be aware of the terms and conditions of each! Specifically, be aware that Royalty Share locks you into exclusivity with Audible/Amazon for a period of years (not for everything, but for this audiobook particularly). There is other find print, so make sure to check it out carefully!
Now it's time to find your narrator. ACX has a vast pool of talented narrators to choose from. You can listen to samples, invite specific narrators to audition, or open your project to general auditions. Take your time and listen to as many auditions as you need to find the perfect voice for your book. Like anything else in self-pub, you'll feel an urge to hurry, and/or to accept the first offer that comes your way. DON'T DO THIS. Take your time, or you may end up with a narrator or end product you don't end up enjoying (BELIEVE me on this, please!).
After you find the narrator you like, you extend an official offer (through the ACX system, which has its own emails/message boards and other tools for internal communications), and it's off to the races!
After the deal is made, production begins. Your narrator will record the first 15 minutes of your book for your approval. This is your chance to provide feedback and make sure everything is on track. Once you're happy with the first 15 minutes, your narrator will record the rest of the book. You'll have the chance to review the final product before it goes live, but it's better by far to get things hammered out ahead of time. Again, this is something I'll talk about in more detail when I discuss audiobooks in the Bestseller Life courses.
Once you've approved the final product, your audiobook is ready to go live. ACX will distribute your audiobook to Audible, Amazon, and iTunes, and you'll start earning royalties. Congratulations, Lifers, you're now a published audiobook author!
Now, let's talk about the fun part: making money. Selling audiobooks can be a lucrative addition to your self-publishing business. Platforms like Audible, Google Play, and iTunes are hungry for new content, and your book could be their next big hit. I have PLENTY of friends who make more money on audio than on any other platform, and that money can be huge, so this is a market worth exploring.
But don't just throw your audiobook into the wild and hope for the best. Be strategic, just as you would be with any other product you create. Price it competitively (if you can; especially if you choose a royalty share through ACX, this is something you may have limited control over), market it aggressively, and leverage your existing fanbase.
Remember, your audiobook is not a standalone product; it's an extension of your brand. Use it to drive sales across all your platforms.
Looking ahead, the future of audiobooks looks bright. Factors such as increasing smartphone usage, the popularity of in-home smart speakers, and the rise of podcasting (which has helped normalize the consumption of audio content) continue to drive this popularity.
Audiobooks have come a long way since their inception as "talking books" for the visually impaired. They've evolved from vinyl records to cassette tapes to digital downloads, and along the way, they've transformed the way we consume literature. Today, they're a major player in the publishing industry, and their influence is only set to grow. So, if you're not already on the audiobook bandwagon, now's the time to hop on. Or, as countless moms say to bratty kids, "Listen to my words, darling!"
Okay, that was weird.
Point is: audiobooks. Get involved in 'em now, or you may be missing the thing that puts you over the top into superstardom!
Remember, Lifers, the world of self-publishing is vast and varied. Audiobooks are just one piece of the puzzle, but they're a piece that's growing in size and importance every day. So, don't miss out on this opportunity to expand your reach, diversify your income, and connect with your audience in a whole new way.
I'm Michaelbrent Collings, an international bestseller and produced screenwriter, as well as a multiple Bram Stoker Award and Dragon Award finalist, and maker of a fair-to-middling chocolate chip waffle.
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