A Starter Guide to DIY Audiobooks

Audiobooks are the fastest growing segment of the publishing industry. For indie authors or traditionally published authors who have retained their audio rights, now may be the perfect time to consider creating your own audiobooks. Here's your how-to guide to DIY audiobooks.
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Audiobooks are the fastest growing segment of the publishing industry. For indie authors or traditionally published authors who have retained their audio rights, now may be the perfect time to consider creating your own audiobooks. Here's your how-to guide to DIY audiobooks.

If you haven’t heard, audiobooks are the fastest growing segment of the publishing industry. People are listening to books on their phones in the car, while commuting on public transportation, exercising, gardening, cooking and the list goes on. According to the Audio Publishers Association (APA), audiobook sales in 2017 totaled more than $2.5 billion, up 22.7% percent over 2016, and unit sales were up 21.5% percent. The most popular genres continue to be mystery/thriller/suspense, sci-fi/fantasy and romance.

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For indie authors or traditionally published authors who have retained their audio rights, now may be the perfect time to consider creating your own audiobooks. Before you dive in, here are some things to keep in mind.

Is Audio Right for You?

Do You Have the Rights?

Audiobook sales are growing, but that doesn’t mean they’re for everyone. If you are traditionally published, read over your contract or talk to your agent regarding the audio rights. If your publisher holds them, it’ll be up to them whether or not they want to exploit that opportunity (though you can certainly make your wishes known—best done through your agent, if you have one). If the rights remain yours, then the decision of whether or not you’d like to pursue the format is yours, too. And for self-published authors, of course, it’s all up to you.

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What is Your Genre?

Certain fiction genres perform better than others as audiobooks. Investigate yours: Look at how flooded the bestselling audio lists are in your category, whether or not the same handful of bestsellers dominate there, and how many titles are performing exceptionally well. For example, romance readers are huge consumers of digital content in the genre sometimes consuming two, three or four a month.

Do You Have an Audience?

As with other areas of publishing, a platform is an early key to success—and the stronger your platform in other formats, the better your chances of succeeding in a new one. If you have an ebook that has a strong following and is doing well on digital platforms, investing in creating an audiobook makes sense.

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Create Your DIY Audiobook

It’s easier than ever to create and release an audiobook DIY style, and new platforms spring up regularly. For a full-length novel, you can expect to pay, on average, $1,500–$3,000 for your audiobook. Here’s a look at some of the current leaders on the field:

  • ListenUp Audiobooks
    In 2016, ListenUp partnered with Canadian-based ebook platform Kobo to offer special discounts to Kobo Writing Life authors interested in turning their ebook content into audiobooks. ListenUp was developed as a way to extend to independent authors the same services they offer to major publishers at a reasonable cost. They can help you choose a narrator, produce the book and make it available on the various audiobook platforms. Authors retain the rights and receive eighty percent of the royalties for each sale.
  • Findaway Voices
    Based in Ohio, Findaway Voices helps authors with each step along the way. After you create your account and provide the information about your book, the Findaway team provides you with 5-10 narrator choices. Once you make your choice, the book is produced (takes about 6-8 weeks). Then you can have Findaway distribute it to their 29 different channels or you can take care of it on your own. Authors retain the rights and receive eighty percent of the royalties for each sale.
  • ACX
    This is Amazon’s platform that offers an indie audiobook service similar to that of self-publishing an ebook through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). You can narrate the project yourself or hire your own voice artist. Once created, these audio titles are distributed through Audible, Amazon and iTunes.

With ACX, all of the choices require a seven-year commitment. Exclusive contracts get a higher royalty payout (40% of retail sales), but the audiobooks can’t be published on any other platforms apart from Amazon/Audible. With the non-exclusive option the royalty is lower (25% of retail sales), but authors can publish through other venues. There’s also a royalty share option, popular among those with smaller budgets, for which the narrator/producer and the author split the 40% royalties 50/50, with no upfront costs.

How to Reach More Listeners

Once you have your audiobook available on the different platforms, here are a few ideas for ways to reach more listeners:

  • Link to your audiobook on your website (include sample)
  • Pitch your audiobook to sites specific to audiobooks (audiobooks.com and audavoxx.com)
  • Pitch to podcasts
  • BookBub ebook promotions can spike audiobook sales

Audiobook popularity continues to rise, so now may be the perfect time to provide your readers with the audiobook versions of your stories.

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