Five years ago, I wrote a post about audio books and I’ve been wanting to write another since there have been so many changes in the past year alone. When I wrote: Audio Books: What Indie Authors Should Know, producing an audiobook was expensive and time consuming. Also, there was the fact that there wasn’t any real place to promote them. In the article I actually said, “there is no BookBub for audiobooks,” but guess what? That all changed in March of 2019, when BookBub announced their latest newsletter called, Chirp, which promotes limited audiobook sales to readers. Neat, huh? However, the feature is still in beta and you’ll have to join a partner waiting list.
As if that weren’t enough, Kobo announced their own audiobook subscription service for readers which costs $9.99 per month. This is lower than Amazon’s Audible’s subscription fee of $14.95 per month. So for the first time in a long time, Amazon has some competition when it comes to audiobook retail. This is great for indie authors because the barriers to enter this market are slowly disappearing bringing opportunity to distribute audiobooks farther and wider. Audiobooks have always been difficult for indies and here are just a few hurdles we’ve faced:
Problem #1: Production
Just a few years ago, you had two choices when producing an audiobook and those were: DIY (Do It Yourself) or go through Amazon’s ACX. This was because most professional narrators have a fee of around $200 – $400 per hour. At ACX, they had narrators who were either paid based on a flat fee, or shared a piece of the royalties. Many authors pressed for cash took the later and hoped for the best. Today however, indie authors can find reasonably priced narrators (notice how I didn’t say cheap) or find a narrator who will agree to a royalty share at the following places without any exclusivity:
Problem #2: Distribution
If you went through ACX, the terms were exclusive or you paid for expanded distribution with smaller royalties. Since at the time, ACX was the biggest game in town, most indie authors went in that direction, naturally. Making money with ACX was hard because you could only sell your books on Audible, Amazon.com or iTunes. Many indies, myself included, didn’t see the point in even producing an audiobook when distribution was a joke.
Luckily in 2017, Draft2Digital partnered with Findaway Voices to make audio production and distribution seamless. So now that ACX has real competition in this arena and indies should be seriously considering getting into the market. If authors start going elsewhere to produce and distribute their audiobooks, maybe Amazon will be forced to rethink their contracts at ACX.
Problem #3: Marketing
As I stated in the beginning of the post, just a few years ago, there weren’t any major sales routes for indie authors wanting to advertise their audiobooks. However, things have improved and now, there are more serious avenues that indies can pursue when promoting their audiobooks.
For those who don’t have a big advertising budget, there are sites that will review your audiobook and even hold giveaways if you’re interested:
- Audiobook Jukebox
- Audio File Magazine
- Audiobook Reviewer
- For The Love Of Words
- Books For Ears
- Audiobook Fans
The Reality Of Audiobooks: Doing The Math
What a lot of indie authors don’t understand is that it takes time to get an ROI on an audiobook. Despite all of the hype that has been going around the publishing community in the last year, this is a lot of work. One professional narrator said that authors have to sell about 100 ebooks to make just one audiobook sale. So this is not a get rich quick scheme, in fact, despite the new opportunities, I would still caution indie authors to set realistic expectations when going into the audio market.
Another point authors don’t consider is the complexity of a project, for example, some authors commission several narrators to read the female and male characters of their book. If this is your idea, you’re going to have to pony up more money of course.
So as you can see, audiobooks are not the cash cow that some people are claiming. I still think audiobooks are worth the investment but only after you’re making consistent sales on your print and ebooks. I see audiobooks as a more advanced part of an indie author’s career. This particular game isn’t for rookies because you can easily lose money in this type of project. Nonetheless, the audio market is evolving after years of stagnation and those indies who are ready could find another potential stream of income and this is always a good thing in our industry.