Self-Publishers: Don't Overlook the
Profits in Audiobooks!
by Marcia Yudkin
With the recent explosion in
self-publishing, both in paperback and for Kindle
and other ebook reading devices, one important
content delivery medium rarely gets mentioned:
audiobooks. This is a serious oversight. According
to the Association of American Publishers, audiobook
sales were up 33 percent in the first quarter of
2012 over the same period in the previous year. By
comparison, ebook sales (including Kindle) rose only
28 percent in the same time interval.
Audiobook sales are rising because
there are so many more ways to listen to audiobooks
now. You can download them to your smartphone, iPad,
Kindle, Nook or MP3 player in addition to listening
to CDs that you purchased or borrowed from the
library in your car. Sales are sure to keep going
up, given the growth in sales of such devices and
Audible's new Whisper-Sync option, where you can
purchase both Kindle and audiobook versions of the
same book and easily go back and forth, either
listening or reading.
For example, a well-known colleague of
mine has published 70 books on copywriting, marketing
and business communication from well-established
publishers like Wiley, Alpha and Amacom. Guess how many
of those 70 books have audiobook versions? Zero. None at
all! I discovered much the same when I looked up several
standard self-help topics like divorce, stepfamilies,
forgiveness and conflict resolution: I found very few
unabridged book-length audiobooks.
If you have a pleasant speaking voice
and have basic audio editing skills, you can record your
own audiobooks. I use a Plantronics headset microphone
that attaches to my computer and free WavePad software
for recording in my study at home. It takes me about
three hours to finish recording each audiobook hour and
edit it to mistake-free status.
If you have to hire voice talent to
read your audiobook, it can run into quite an expense
because of the lengthy reading time involved. I've seen
rates for audiobook narrators ranging from $80 to $250
per finished hour. For a 70,000-word book, which runs
around 7.5 hours when read out loud, that would cost you
from $600 to $1875. Some experienced audiobook narrators
are willing to invest their time in exchange for 50
percent of the income from the audiobook, which I
believe is a very fair deal.
Learn how to get your point across in
one page or paragraph as well as how to
satisfy a strict word count for magazine
or newsletter editors. Discover how to
identify and cut repetition, eliminate
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and convey a wealth of facts in a small
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You may be thinking that you can
eliminate the need to hire voice talent by using a
computerized robot reading voice. Because such
programmed voices are hard to listen to at length and
often misread proper names or other specialized words,
audiobook listeners almost universally reject that
solution, so you'd better give up on that idea.
You would probably also need to pay a
graphic artist or your original cover designer to
convert your rectangular book cover to the square
CD-style image required by audiobook marketplaces.
As for distribution, it's easiest to
work with a so-called aggregator, a company that ensures
that your audiobook files, cover and content description
meet the needs of Audible.com and the other online
marketplaces that they distribute to. They charge a
minimal or no upfront fee and a percentage of your
royalties in exchange for their service. Two such
audiobook aggregator companies are eBookIt and Big Happy
You'll need patience as you wait to
enjoy the financial fruits of your efforts, since it
takes a while for new titles to get set up and another
while for quarterly royalties from consumer purchases of
your audiobooks to flow. But once they start, you can
expect them to continue for years.
Copyright 2013 Marcia Yudkin. All rights reserved.
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