The most exciting thing about my job is working with an author to turn their amazing book into an amazing audiobook, but I hear from a lot of indie authors how confusing and intimidating it is if they haven’t done it before. Is it worth it?
As an audiobook producer and narrator whose first audiobooks were recorded inside a car because it was the closest thing she had to a soundproof booth, I get it. It’s hard to know where to start and what steps to take, especially when Google is your only guide.
Here’s the good news: if you’re an indie or self-published author, actually getting your audiobook into the ears of your audience is easier than ever, and it’s a huge opportunity to grow your fan-base and your business. On top of that, it’s not as expensive as you might think. And you don’t have to give away your audio rights to get a great audiobook.
But where to start? How much will is cost? Should I voice it myself? Or hire a narrator? How do I get it on Audible? How do I make money? All good questions. I help authors answer these questions every day (stay tuned for a deep dive into some of the details) but that’s not where to begin. The most important first step is to understand what makes the audiobook landscape special for an indie author.
Guess what? You can do this! And it’s a really fun and supportive community. To be successful, it’s important to take advantage of your opportunities and be aware of what listeners expect. Here are five insights into the audiobook business to help you get started in a good place:
1. Audiobooks are booming
Audiobooks are predicted to be a $3.5 billion global business in 2020, with 73 million people listening in the USA. And with more major players getting into audio storytelling, from podcasts to audiobooks, it’s projected to keep growing. Bottom line: if your book isn’t in audio, you’re ignoring a big audience and leaving money on the table.
I was chatting with Anthony Colletti, a financial advisor to many successful indie authors, and he said some of his clients earn nearly 50% of their book income from audio sales.
2. It’s a unique artform
Your audiobook is not simply a recording of your book, but a new artform with unique needs and audience expectations. It’s a performance, and just like a play or a film, the production, direction, casting and acting will shape the text in new and magical ways for an audience that prefers to listen to your book. Some authors have a clear sense of how their book should sound, others are looking for an audiobook partner (aka producer) to help develop it with them.
“The spoken word is the acid test. They don’t call it story-telling for nothing.”Steven King on audiobooks
3. Narrators are rock stars
Listeners place a high priority on quality of narration (h/t APA) and just as authors have their own fanbase, so do narrators. You can grow your readership by having a professional narrator on your audiobook that has a fan following. But most importantly, narrators are the ultimate storytellers, voicing a multitude of characters and weaving the story together in a way that leaves listeners begging for more.
“I’ve had Lyft drivers say, ‘Have we met? I hear your voice, I feel like I know you.’ I’ve had women who said, ‘I take you to bed every night with me!’“Scott Brick, Award-winning narrator
4. Production matters
If you’re a serious indie author then you know how important quality is. Today’s listener has a very discerning ear and they care about production value. Casting your audiobook with the right narrator and having expert post production can make all the difference. (Ever released a book without sending it to your editor first? Yeah, I didn’t think so.)
“I’ve done audiobooks with a single narrator doing all the characters, and books with a big cast of different narrators. It’s just a creative and budget decision. But no matter big or small, narrator choice and production are key. It needs to sound great. It’s the difference between a listener liking the audio or absolutely LOVING it.”Kim Holden, International bestselling author
Indie authors are always looking for more ways to promote their books and having a multi-platform release gives you more opportunities to do that. You benefit from having your book for sale on audio-only outlets like Audible, and there’s an entire industry dedicated to reviewing and promoting audiobooks to a passionate fanbase. You’ll expand your promo toolkit —you’ll have an audio sample and maybe a ‘booth outtake’ or two— and new ways to reach fans, like a live reading on Facebook, or featuring your narrator in your marketing material. Having an audiobook gives you access to more fans, and more ways to get your book in front of them.
So, what are you waiting for?
Hopefully this provides some insight, encouragement and confidence to get started!
We’re planning on digging deeper into the process of creating audiobooks and more specific issues on upcoming posts (and maybe even a webinar), so please stay tuned by subscribing to our newsletter. If you’re an author and have specific questions, please feel free to email me.
All in all, nothing makes me happier than helping authors reach the dream of getting their book in audio. It’s an art form all it’s own and I’ve had authors email me telling me they’ve laughed and cried with joy when they listened to their audiobook. Having your words read with real emotion and nuance is a gift that your fans will thank you for again and again.
Erin Spencer is an award-winning narrator of over 300 audiobooks and the founder and executive producer of One Night Stand Studios, a full-service audiobook production company for independent authors.
I'm the founder of One Night Stand Studios and an audiobook producer, director and award-winning narrator.