Indie authors have never had a more level playing field than they do today. We’ve been empowered by a vast array of services and products, built with us specifically in mind, to the point that generating, distributing, and selling eBooks has become virtually automated. At the very least, it’s become a great deal easier than it was even five years ago.
Now it’s time to set our sights on a new frontier: Audiobooks
NOTE: Be sure to check out our new partnership with Findaway Voices, making it easy to start producing your own audiobooks!
Audiobooks aren’t unreachable for indies, but getting from written word to audio can be both expensive and difficult. Overhead for hiring a narrator, alone, is enough to dissuade most indies from even making the attempt. Often, authors opt to stick with just one format (maybe two), and write off audio as something they’ll do “when the books become successful.”
The problem is, that’s a short-term way of looking at this very powerful resource, and it’s one that may be hamstringing a lot of author success.
Let’s look at some of the benefits of having audiobooks as part of your author strategy:
Another revenue source
With the right approach to marketing and promotion, you can reach a level of success where you know, more or less, how much money is coming in each month. Your income becomes predictable. But it can be tough to push past that comfort level, and continue to grow your income based on book sales alone. Your only recourse, typically, is to write more books. Not the worst plan, but it means that your increased income comes at the expense of increased time.
Audiobooks represent a way to introduce a new revenue stream into your business by leveraging your existing intellectual property. The time commitment is comparatively minimal, coming down usually to a few weeks of waiting, rather than months of writing.
Aside from giving you an additional revenue stream, audiobooks represent a different source of revenue. At first blush, there may not seem to be much of a distinction, but customers of audiobooks tend to vary from customers of eBooks and even paperbacks, in terms of habits and demographics.
What this means for you and your strategy is that you can somewhat ‘weatherproof’ your business. By offering audiobooks in addition to other formats, you can create a revenue stream that may be up when other channels are down, helping you to level out the low spots of your annual revenue.
A Broader & new market
The difference in demographics between eBooks, print, and audiobooks means that with an audiobook you can actually increase your market size, and even open new markets that you might never have reached otherwise.
Though there’s plenty of crossover between print readers and audiobook listeners, there is a subset of readers who only consume books through audio.
Whether they have little time to read, have long commutes, or just have a preference for audio over text, you have a chance of gaining a whole new, previously unreachable audience just by offering your work as an audiobook.
Increased discoverability and credibility
This new audience isn’t isolated. They talk. They also review, recommend, and sometimes rave. In practical terms, that’s one more set of readers who can be out there pitchign you to all of their friends and family.
Word of mouth is still the best marketing tool there is.
Increased chatter means increased discoverability. It becomes easier for new readers to stumble across your work if original readers (or listeners) are touting your praises. Peppering a new market with your work is as much a marketing tool as it is a revenue opportunity.
A side effect of this discoverability, though, is increased credibility. In an age where practically anyone can write and publish an eBook, being able to claim ‘author’ on your resume doesn’t carry quite as much weight as it once did. Publishing became a low- to no-barrier-to-entry business, practically overnight.
Audiobooks, however, require some overhead and investment. There’s a cost to production, and therefore having an audiobook says something about you. It tells people that you’re invested. It increases your credibility as an author.
The overhead, mentioned above, helps you in one other way: It means there’s less competition in the marketplace.
For certain, there are tons of audiobooks available, in every possible genre and on every possible topic. But the volume is comparatively low when you factor in the horde of eBooks on the market. Your competition on any given topic is going to be pretty thick, most of the time.
Audibooks, on the other hand, offer you a chance to play in a shallower pool. You have a higher chance of getting noticed by readers, because there may be fewer books like yours on the audiobook market.
If you’re having trouble breaking into a particular market, due to genre saturation, an audiobook can help break things loose and get the iceberg moving.
Where to start
There are dozens of ways to produce an audiobook from your work, with services such as Audible Content Exchange (ACX) and ListenUp offering an assist. Recently, Draft2Digital partnered with Findaway to launch Voices, which we bill as an ACX alternative. All of these put you in touch with narrators, who will work for an agreed-upon rate. In the case of ACX, you can even do a revenue share, if your narrator is willing, which can help reduce your overhead.
A best practice, though, is to pay a narrator up front, and keep all rights to your audiobook, as well as all royalties due. It’s expensive to hire a narrator, for certain, but you can recoup the cost quickly in many cases, and then all profit is yours.
If you happen to have access to recording equipment, you might even consider narrating your book yourself. Chances are you won’t be able to match the quality of a professional narrator, but you may do well enough that readers don’t notice or don’t mind. In the case of non-fiction books, narrating your own work is generally a good idea, because it connects you with the reader on a deeper level.
Regardless of how you get there, though, it’s very smart idea to include audiobooks as part of your overall author strategy. Take the time to research all the tools and resources that are available for this, and do whatever you can to take the leap. There’s a very good chance you’ll see the benefits, and have no regrets.