Over the past few months indie authors have been discussing audio books and many of us have questions such as; how do you make one, should even you make one, and where do you promote them? So I went on a quest to learn the ABCs of audio books but before I begin let me be clear.  When I refer to audio books I am talking about both MP3 files as well as CDs.  Yes, there are people still listening to CDs!

Major Misconceptions About Audio Books

Despite what you’ve heard, audio books aren’t for the blind or small children who are struggling to read. Lots of people listen to audio books at the gym, in their cars, and even at work. The numbers reflect this, because every major publisher has reported increasing audio sales since 2012.  This explains why it’s become standard for publishers to demand audio rights these days.

Another big misconception is that the bestselling audio books are all nonfiction. But not according to the APA (Audio Publishers Association) 2014 Sales Survey which says adult fiction takes 77% of the audio book market.  Don’t believe me? Just go over to Audible, the biggest audio book retailer, and look at their bestseller list.

The Pros and Cons

Pro: Right now Audible (which is owned by Amazon), has only about 180,000+ audio books for sale as of this date. However, that is predicted to explode as Google and Apple aim to make their software standard in new cars. This has the interest of many indie authors and it was the talk of many book conferences this year. There’s no doubt that the market has potential but it’s still small.

Con: The sad thing is, the most popular entry into the market is through ACX (also owned by Amazon), which makes producing audio books easy for authors but it all comes at a price. ACX has both exclusive and nonexclusive deals and none of them favor authors. For example, if you decide to go exclusive, you’ll get a royalty of 40% but you’ll have to remain exclusive with them for seven years. No, that wasn’t a typo, I said seven years, as in almost a decade! In that time, they will distribute your work to Apple iTunes and Audible however, there is no mention of Barnes & Noble, or Overdrive nor any of the other retailers in their FAQs. They also set the price of the book, not the author.

It only gets worse, indie authors who decide to go nonexclusive, will only get 25% royalties but they can sell their audio book(s) anywhere, even their own websites. Now before you despair, ACX isn’t the only deal in town, not long ago on Jane Friedman’s blog, one author talked about going to CD Baby to circumvent ACX’s undesirable terms. This may not be such a bad idea for the author who actually wants to make money from their audio books! Keep in mind, there will be expenses associated with this as CD Baby does not provide narrators like ACX.  The average narrator can charge per hour or according to the length of the book.  Even if you decide to narrate the book yourself, you’ll need the proper equipment like a quality microphone and recording software. Another thing to note is CD Baby also has its own service fees ranging from free (minus 15% of your royalty) to $89.

Promoting Audio Books Can Be A Challenge

Recently, Goodreads (Another Amazon subsidiary) opened its doors to audio books so things are changing albeit slowly.  It’s also been rumored that Kobo and Google may be looking to get in the audio game so things are evolving. If this continues the supply will meet demand and we will begin to see marketing services catering towards audio books but right now, there aren’t that many options to promote an audio book.  Don’t get me wrong, there are several small advertising outlets for audio books however, there is no BookBub for audio books. (For those who don’t know, BookBub is the go to for online book advertising.)

On the flip side, getting a review for your audio book isn’t as challenging. I discovered several groups on Facebook, and Goodreads for audio books and reviewers. Below is just a small list of reviewers and online magazines catering to audio books.

Reviewers for your audio book
Audio File Magazine
Audio Book Jukebox
Eargasms
Books for Ears
Audio Book Reviewer (Giveaways & Reviews)
Audio Book Jungle
Library Journal

As you can see, there are many things to consider before committing to publishing an audio book. If you do manage to produce one, you have to make sure the quality is just as good as your print or ebooks.  If listeners don’t like the quality of your book, it won’t sell. Another thing to consider is that this is a burgeoning market so it’s unrealistic to expect your ROI to be as high as your ebooks or print editions.  Indie authors have to see this as a long term investment and treat it as such.

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