Audiobook sales are on the rise, which means indie or self-published authors need to pay attention.
Goodereader reports that audiobooks are the fastest growing digital segment of book publishing in 2017. 26% of the US population has listened to an audiobook in the last year, creating a $2.5 billion market. PW reports that audiobook sales jumped 22.7% in 2017. Other reports say that the children’s book market is about 10% of the overall market:
“#11. Young adult and children’s audiobooks account for over 10% of industry sales on the average year. In total, about 18% of youth in the United States will listen to an audiobook at least once over the course of a year. (Statista)”
Narrators for Audiobooks
The first hurdle is to get the audio recording. I’ve done it three different ways.
First, ACX.com is Amazon’s audiobook portal for self-publishers. There, you can set a book for audition and listen to narrators read a sample. You have two choices on contracts with ACX. Option 1 is a 40% royalty, but you must give ACX a 7-year exclusive. Option 2 is 25% royalty for a non-exclusive contract, which means you can take the audio anywhere. See all the details here.
A second way I’ve obtained audio is a private contract with a narrator. One was a local personality, and another I found by listening to audiobooks and then contacting the narrator.
Finally, I’ve hired a company to do the audio. I’m not free to share that info, but look for companies who deal with lots of audiobooks.
There’s a new way to commission audio these days, and that’s Findaway Voices, either going there straight or through your relationship with the ebook distributor Draft2Digital. Findaway is similar to ACX in that you can listen to narrators auditioning for your story. Read more about Findaway’s process here.
Distribution of Audiobooks
Since we’re discussing Findaway, let’s start with them as a distributor of your audiobooks. One interesting option from Findaway is their Authors Direct app which allows you to sell or giveaway audio directly to the consumer. They must listen through this app, and can’t just download files. It’s currently by invitation but you can email to ask for an invitation. It opens many options for advertising and selling audio.
Another nice thing about Findaway is their reach. ACX only reaches Audible, Amazon and Apple. With Findaway, you have the freedom to choose any, all, or none of the following distribution options:
- Audible, Amazon, Apple
- Google Play
- Kobo, Walmart
- Barnes and Noble NOOK
- eStories (formerly eMusic)
- hibooks (formerly Otto)
Library & K-12
- 3Leaf Group
Honestly, will this long list of distributors mean more sales? Not really. Right now, Audible still dominates the audiobook market. But if you’re wide, then you should be as wide as possible. For my audiobooks, the other distribution channels are growing, but are still a small percentage of sales.
ACX remains one of the main channels for distributing your ebooks because they reach both Audible and Amazon.
Go Direct for Your Audiobooks
Some distributors have said that they’ll take direct submissions of audio files soon. Kobo|Walmart is one exciting avenue for going direct. That should get you into Overdrive, as well, since Kobo’s parent company, Rakuten, owns Overdrive; but we’ll have to wait for the announcement. Mackin, an education distributor, will begin distributing it’s own audiobooks instead of through Findaway this year. Expect this trend to continue; however, you can always choose an aggregator for audiobook files, just as you do for ebook files.
Apple recently rebranded their books app and it now includes audiobooks. Expect them to allow direct uploads soon, or to allow them through aggregators.
Audiobooks to Read-Aloud ePub3 ebooks
A final use of audiobook files for children’s books is to create a Read-Aloud ebook. For this type ebook, the audiofile is synced so that every time a word is read, the word is highlighted. You can see these type books at the ListenAndRead.Store.
The ePub3 standards have allowed the integration of ebook/audio for a long time, but the distributors couldn’t handle the files until recently. The easy way to create these files is to use the Circular Flo add-on to Indesign, because no coding is required. If you or your designer already use InDesign, this is a great option. Circular Flo charged about $50/book to create these files. These stores take the ePub3 read aloud ebooks: GooglePlay, Mackin and Overdrive. Look for more to accept these files in the future.
If you don’t have audiobooks you’ll want to add this option to your publishing program soon. Sales are poised to take off and you want to be included in that gold rush!