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.
Author:
Publish date:

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.

Image placeholder title

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.

The Making of a Grammy-Winning Audiobook: Directing Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist

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.

Image placeholder title

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.

Learn new writing and publishing skills in these upcoming online courses:

Writersdigest.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com and affiliated websites. 

20_most_popular_writing_posts_of_2020_robert_lee_brewer

20 Most Popular Writing Posts of 2020

We share a lot of writing-related posts throughout the year on the Writer's Digest website. In this post, we've collected the 20 most popular writing posts of 2020.

Malden_1:16

Carla Malden: Writing With Optimism and Innocence

Screenwriter and author Carla Malden explains why young adult fiction and the '60s go hand-in-hand and how she connected with her main character's voice.

writing_mistakes_writers_make_talking_about_the_work_in_progress_robert_lee_brewer

Writing Mistakes Writers Make: Talking About the Work-in-Progress

The Writer's Digest team has witnessed many writing mistakes over the years, so we started this series to help identify them for other writers (along with correction strategies). This week's writing mistake writers make is talking about the work-in-progress.

Kelly_1:15

Greta K. Kelly: Publishing Is a Marathon

Debut author Greta K. Kelly reveals how the idea for her novel sparked and the biggest surprise of her publication journey.

Poetic Forms

Mistress Bradstreet Stanza: Poetic Forms

Poetic Form Fridays are made to share various poetic forms. This week, we look at the Mistress Bradstreet stanza, an invented form of John Berryman.

capital_vs_capitol_grammar_rules_robert_lee_brewer

Capital vs. Capitol (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use capital vs. capitol with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Dulan_1:14

On Writing to Give Grief Meaning and Write Out of Challenging Situations

Author Lily Dulan explains why writers have to be willing to go to difficult places inside themselves for their writing to make a positive impact on ourselves, others, and the world.

Brandt_1:14

Gerald Brandt: Toeing the Line Between Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Science fiction author Gerald Brandt explains how this new series explores the genre boundary and how he came to find his newest book's focus.

plot_twist_story_prompts_moment_of_doubt_robert_lee_brewer

Plot Twist Story Prompts: Moment of Doubt

Every good story needs a nice (or not so nice) turn or two to keep it interesting. This week, have a character experience a moment of doubt.