Blueprint to automate your author marketing - click here:Get the Webinar
Free Webinar "Automate your Author Marketing"

blog

Audiobooks for Authors: How to Increase your Reach and Royalties

Even if You Can't use ACX

 

GET MY FREE EBOOK

HOW TO FIND YOUR FIRST 10,000 READERS

Free Download for You
100% Privacy Guaranteed. No shenanigans.

There’s no denying it… Audiobooks are hot right now. With sales growing at over 30% per year, and with 24% of the USA tuning in last year, getting your books onto Audible and the other Audiobook platforms has never been easier.

But, like all things in publishing, you’re going to need to make a choice…

Do you go with a royalty share – where you team up with a producer for no upfront costs – or are you going to pay for the whole thing upfront?

Are you going to use ACX to distribute your work, or someone else?

(That’s even if you have access to ACX in your country – if not, don’t worry; we’ve got you covered).

Are you even going to (gasp) bite the bullet and record, produce, and distribute it all by yourself?

Thanks to the massive leaps in technology, you now have a wealth of options in front of you. Which, of course, means it’s harder than ever to make a decision…

So, here to break it all down for us is author, entrepreneur, and audiobook expert Derek Doepker. 

Take it away, Derek…

How To Increase Your Reach and Royalties With Audiobooks

By Derek Doepker

Want to expand your reach to a 1.6 billion dollar market and increase your monthly royalties for work you’ve already done?

Enter audiobooks.

Like many authors, I knew audiobooks were a potentially huge market, but I had no idea how to get started, or if they were even worth the investment of time and money. It’s the question of “Are audiobooks worth it?” that held me back the longest from getting started. Let’s look at some reasons why I’m now convinced that most authors with a text heavy book need to have audiobooks.

First, you’ve already done the hardest work writing the book. I took about three hours to produce an audiobook that has since gone on to make thousands of sales. The audiobook edition typically outsells the Kindle edition. The thing is, that book had been on sale for over a year before I made the audiobook edition. It got me wondering, “How much money am I losing each month by not having audiobook editions of each of my books?”

The second reason to create audiobooks is there’s both a huge audience and less competition. I barely do anything to promote my audiobooks, and yet they’re selling consistently. Since fewer authors create audiobook editions of their books, this means you have a much better chance of your book being found in the audiobook market.

In addition to increased royalties and reach, I’ve also been able to use audiobooks as a bonus for my audience when they purchase a book during a promotion or as a list building offer. This makes having audiobooks a useful asset in your overall author arsenal regardless of paid sales.

In this article, you’ll discover the three ways to create audiobooks. Once you have an audiobook ready to go, the next step is uploading to a distributer like ACX.com which gets your audiobook on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. For authors who previously thought audiobooks weren’t an option because they didn’t have access to ACX.com, which is just for those in the US, Canada, Ireland, and UK, you can now use a service like AuthorsRepublic.com to distribute your audiobooks regardless of what country you live in.

 

 

How Do You Create Audiobooks?

While audiobooks are obviously pretty freaking awesome, the big problem I faced and noticed some other authors struggling with is figuring out how to get audiobooks created, especially without a big budget. What I discovered is that there are three ways to produce audiobooks that will work for almost any author.

Option 1: Hire a Producer

Hiring a producer means paying an upfront investment for them to narrate and edit your audiobook. You keep all the rights to the book with this approach. This has the least amount of time investment on your part with the biggest out of pocket costs.

When I hired a production company to produce the audiobook edition of Why You’re Stuck, I ended up investing $1,300 for the production. While I made that money back in sales eventually, it made me want to explore the other options you’ll read about to reduce expenses. The cost varies based on who’s producing, however you can expect to spend in the hundreds to thousands of dollars per full-length book produced.

You can find a producer using ACX.com and read about their process here. Alternatively, you can go directly to audiobook production companies and freelance producers on sites like Upwork.com.

The Pros:

  • Less time and work on your end
  • You own the rights to the book to do as you please

The Cons:

  • Higher out of pocket investment
  • Risk of taking a long time to get your money back if the book doesn’t sell well
  • Wait time can be up to several weeks or longer depending on the narrator

The Conclusion:

This is a potentially good option if you expect good sales of the audiobook to recoup your investment, and you have bigger priorities in your business than creating audiobooks yourself.

 

 

Option 2: Do a Royalty Share With a Producer

A royalty share with a producer gives you the benefits of a producer doing all the narration and editing of your book, at the expense of giving up 50% of your royalties to the producer. This is done through http://ACX.com, and you must enter into an exclusive contract with them.

What that means is you can’t offer your book anywhere else except ACX, can’t use it as a free bonus, and will lose half your overall income from royalties and bounties for a period of 7 years. If you feel your book has good sales potential, then it may make more sense to go with option 1 or 3. I haven’t personally taken this approach because I’d much rather have control over my work.

Go here to see a comparison of ACX’s production options.

The Pros:

  • No initial out-of-pocket investment
  • Less time and work on your end

The Cons:

  • Lose half your royalties
  • ACX only and locked into an exclusive 7-year contract
  • Wait time can be up to several weeks or longer depending on the narrator

The Conclusion:

A potentially good option if you have a severely limited budget and can’t narrate yourself.

 

 

Option 3: Do It Yourself

My personal favorite and preferred method of audiobook production is the do-it-yourself approach. After dropping $1,300 on having a producer create an audiobook, I wanted to see if there was a way I could record my own audiobooks. Not only would this save a significant amount of money, I also discovered that readers often enjoy hearing an author narrate their own work. That alone makes it worthwhile even when having the money to pay a producer.

What I discovered is that you can produce an audiobook yourself in a matter of hours (for a shorter book), and the total investment was less than $150 for a home studio setup. Since then, I started sharing my system with other authors who’ve found the process is both doable and even be a lot of fun.

You don’t need any type of special voice acting experience. Just the ability to read your book in a way that’s clearly understood. This would mean those with heavy accents may wish to get feedback by doing a test recording first, and asking others if they can be understood.

The Pros:

  • Save a significant amount of money – upwards of thousands of dollars in some cases
  • You own the rights to the book to do as you please
  • Deeper connection with your audience
  • Get books done on your schedule, even before a book launches

The Cons:

  • More time commitment on your end to learn and engage in the process
  • May not be suitable for those with a strong accent

The Conclusion:

This is a great option for those who want the benefits of connecting with their audience, saving money compared to paying a producer, and are willing to invest the time in learning and producing.

 

 

The Journey From Author To Audiobook Producer

Maybe you’re open to the idea of recording yourself to save hundreds to thousands of dollars in creating audiobooks, keeping full control over the rights, and connecting with your audience. I was sold on this, but then I wrestled with figuring out what equipment you need, how to setup a recording environment at home, and how to actually record and master an audiobook to proper standards.

After months of research and testing, here’s what I found.

  • A home studio can be created for less than $150
  • It’s possible to produce one hour of audiobook content within 3-4 hours
  • Even non-techie authors can learn the process in an afternoon

Here’s what you’ll need to get started.

Home Studio:

The equipment I use and recommend.

  • Microphone – Audio Technica ATR2100 or Samson Q2U – $50-80
  • Pop Filter – $7
  • Microphone Stand – $13 for Neewer desk stand
  • Monitor headphones – $24
  • Music stand – $15
  • Blanket, pillows, thick clothes from around house to put up behind you

I was originally using a Blue Snowball, but as a condenser microphone it picks up a lot of noise. Same thing occurs with a Blue Yeti. The ATR2100, which is a dynamic microphone, was a life saver once I got it to cut down on extra noise and reverb. The Samson Q2U is an alternative I found for those who live where the Audio Technica isn’t available.

As you can see, you’ll be looking to invest about a maximum of $140 one time for your own studio, as opposed to paying possibly $400-2000 for a narrator each time you want a book recorded. Can you see why I prefer the do it yourself approach?

Recording Environment

You’ll want to record in a smaller room if possible. If you have a walk-in closet and a laptop, this makes a great environment. The picture below is the setup I used when visiting my parent’s house and recording in my sister’s old closet. A bathroom is not a good environment however as it’s reflective.

 

 

When recording in a large studio loft with terrible acoustics, a nifty trick I used was to put up a patio umbrella next to my computer with a heavy blanket thrown over top. I used some foam originally, but later just used a blanket as it didn’t make a difference. It only takes a couple minutes to setup and take down.

 

 

This means regardless of your environment, you can almost always make it work without needing to build anything or have special treatment done.

Software

You can use Audacity for Mac and PC from http://audacityteam.org which is free. While Audacity took a little getting used to, it turns out there are some clever shortcuts in the program that make audiobook production a breeze. I’ve used many other digital audio workstations and audio editing programs, and while they’re great for other projects, I strictly recommend Audacity for audiobooks.

The Production Process

I went to ACX.com and saw the audiobook production requirements at: https://www.acx.com/help/acx-audio-submission-requirements/201456300. Even though I have a background in audio editing, I was freaked out when I read the following:

  • Have room tone at the head and at the tail and be free of extraneous sounds
  • Measure between -23dB and -18dB RMS and have -3dB peak values and a maximum -60dB noise floor
  • Be a 192kbps or higher MP3, Constant Bit Rate (CBR) at 44.1 kHz

I was worried I’d mess something up.

Something inside me though made the decision to figure it out. I spent months testing and refining a process to record and produce audiobooks, and I found it was actually pretty simple once you know the steps to take. Since then, I went on to produce almost all my books as audiobooks, and reaped the reward of additional royalties each month.

After I saw how realistic it was for virtually any author to record their own audiobooks, I wanted to help other authors interested in the do-it-yourself approach learn the process without all the trial and error and expenses I endured.

It does take a couple hours of training and over the shoulder type of teaching to get transfer this knowledge. So if you’re interested in the do-it-yourself approach, there are plenty of video tutorials on Youtube – or, if you want a step-by-step blueprint, you can take a look at my course on audiobook creation called Audiobooks Made Easy that covers everything I discovered on how to create your own audiobooks. Even experienced audiobook producers have taken the course and discovered new tips that sped up and improved their process significantly.

 

 

Conclusion

One thing I wish I could do would be go back and create audiobooks of all my books sooner. However, I didn’t know all these insights and just how awesome audiobooks were until after I got started. Now that you know three approaches to creating audiobooks, decide which one you’re going to use and implement right away. There’s a whole world of audiobook listeners ready to embrace your work who are waiting on you.

Share in the comments below: which approach are you going to use? Have you had any experiences with audiobooks that you think other authors would benefit from? Leave a comment!

 

Derek Doepker is a seven-time #1 bestselling author who helps authors through workshops, courses, and retreats to turn their passion for writing into a thriving business. You can learn more about his work and download a free copy of Why Authors Fail at http://derekdoepker.com/authorship/. You can learn more about his audiobook course here.

53 Comments
  1. Lori L. Robinett says:

    Thanks for the helpful roundup – and pros/cons of each.
    One of my goals for the past three years was to make my books into audiobooks (I commute 1+ hrs a day and listen to audiobooks daily), but it terrified me. I finally dove into ACX and decided to search for narrators that fit my work instead of waiting for auditions. I ended up with contracts on 2 of my books and literally JUST approved the first 15 minutes of the first book. I decided to go with a royalty share, because I figure that gives the producer/narrator incentive to make it the best it can be. I’m not thrilled with the 7 year contract, but can live with it. Thanks again for the post – very informative!

    1. Derek Doepker says:

      Glad you found it helpful Lori and congrats on taking the leap past your fears to get your books narrated!

  2. Tom says:

    I just put my second (fiction) book out, so I’m starting to look at audio. The seven-year exclusivity is a big turn-off on the royalty share. I’d rather suck up the initial costs and control the book myself (even if that means I get the non-exclusive royalty rate on Audible). It’s something I’m considering for later in the year, when I have a bit more of a catalog, and (hopefully) some more income from books to finance it all. Good article.
    It seems like option 3 is mainly for nonfiction authors, right? I would *never* want to narrate my own book as a fiction author.

    1. Derek Doepker says:

      Hey Tom, I know a number of fiction authors that narrate their own audiobook. The main consideration would be if you want someone of the opposite sex narrating the book. Some authors prefer the narrator to match the sex of the protagonist.

  3. AP Jensen says:

    Yes, thank you for this article. This is definitely on my list of things to do in 2018!

    1. Derek Doepker says:

      You’re welcome!

  4. Rhoda Baxter says:

    This is very useful, thank you. I’ve been thinking about this for a while. I’ve got a couple of novellas out, which may not be worth putting into audiobook because people would rather spend their Audible credits on longer works, but if there was a way of doing it cheap… then maybe.
    I get the impression that the DIY option would work best for non fiction – is that correct?

    1. Derek Doepker says:

      The do it yourself option is just as applicable to fiction. The one consideration is if you prefer a male or female narrator to match the sex of the protagonist.

  5. Lila Diller says:

    I’ve been toying with the idea of recording my own audiobook as the narrator. I asked for a mic for Christmas and got it, I downloaded Audacity, and now this article gives me the push I need. I’m going to take the plunge and do it all myself!

    1. Derek Doepker says:

      Yes! Go for it Lila!

  6. Michael Cordova says:

    You said that your audiobooks are selling themselves, but have you found any sites to advertise, or promotion methods that work to consistently sell the audio books?

    1. Derek Doepker says:

      There’s not much that I’ve found for audiobook specific promotion as of yet. What does happen is promotions that drive traffic to the Amazon book page can lead to increased sales of audiobooks.

      1. Michael Cordova says:

        Not sure if this will be placed in our own thread, but I thought I’d add this audiobook promotion resource. It was given to us at WildBlue Press by one of our most prolific audiobook producers. http://audiobookboom.com is a great place to do audiobook promos. It works well for us. You can’t beat the price of $10. Just looking for more. Many more ideally.

        1. Derek Doepker says:

          I’ve used Audiobook Boom as a resource to get reviews and it’s definitely worthwhile.

  7. Sean says:

    Many thanks for your helpful insights Derek. Your words have reignited my inspiration to start putting my home studio to good use again!

    1. Derek Doepker says:

      You’re welcome Sean!

  8. Tricia says:

    Thanks for the summary.

    1. Derek Doepker says:

      You’re welcome Tricia!

  9. E T Ellison says:

    Just what I needed to hear, Derek. I’ve done some tests of narrating one of my seven (longish) novels using Garage Band and convinced myself I can do it…given enough breath and an ample supply of throat lozenges. And It’ll give me a chance to use some of the recording gear I’ve been carting around forever. Thanks for the validation…and the tip on Audacity…and disabusing me of the idea that I need to build a vocal booth.

    1. Derek Doepker says:

      Rock on E T. You may find it can be quite enjoyable when you find a good pace for yourself.

  10. Deb McEwan says:

    Great article thanks. I have a strong accent so am considering Option 1 or 2. I’d love to know how to find the most suitable producer if you ever consider writing about that.

    1. Derek Doepker says:

      Hey Deb, how do you define “suitable?”
      You can have different narrators audition on ACX.com, and you only pick the one you like the best. You also don’t have to pick any of the ones that audition.

      1. Deb McEwan says:

        Hi Derek. Thanks for your reply, much appreciated. By suitable I meant fitting the voice to the genre but I’m probably over-complicating things. I live in Cyprus so can’t use ACX.com, but intend to check out other resources.

  11. Kristan Julius says:

    A great article, and it’s convinced me I can do this on my own! Thanks so much for sharing your experience and expertise!

    1. Derek Doepker says:

      You’re welcome Kristan and happy to hear you’re inspired to move forward!

  12. Elodie Colt says:

    What a great article! But I have a question: Is it possible to search for a narrator on ACX, produce the audiobook there, and then distribute it via Authorsrepublic.com? I live in Austria, and I’m not a native, so royalty share with ACX and producing myself are no options for me.

    1. Derek Doepker says:

      I’m not sure if it’s possible. I would suggest going directly to an audiobook narrator or audiobook production company. You can find narrators on Upwork.com

  13. Chris says:

    Great article. Audiobooks are very much on my radar. This has given me a kick to get on with it. Thanks 😀

    1. Derek Doepker says:

      Awesome! The sooner you get an audiobook out there, the sooner you can start profiting and reaching more people.

  14. Teagan Kearney says:

    Hi Derek,
    Great information here. I’m halfway through my first foray into audiobooks and using the Royalty Share option – though I might have given it a go myself if I’d read your article a few months ago.
    One of the downsides of the RS seems to be that your work might have to take second place to paying jobs for the recording artist/producer causing it to take longer, (and which is a fair enough reason). I was very satisfied with the sample audition of the person I chose to go with, but recording the book hasn’t been so straightforward. However, I’ll wait until it’s finished before I pass judgement! Thanks for sharing and you’ve inspired me to get some equipment and start recording some short stories for YouTube… maybe!

    1. Derek Doepker says:

      That’s a great idea! Getting audio samples of your work out there can give you the practice and validation that listeners want to hear more from you for future projects.

  15. Keith Foskett says:

    Hi Derek,
    Nice introduction and grounding in audiobooks.
    I’m in the process of doing this soon, but I was looking at Findaway Voices to produce mine, their commision rates are far better than ACX, and general feedback from Facebook groups is great.
    Have you had any experience with them?
    Cheers!
    Keith

    1. Derek Doepker says:

      I have no experience with them. There are many good production companies out and they may be one of them.

    2. James Conroyd Martin says:

      I would recommend that authors NOT choose the exclusive contract on ACX. This excludes you from dozens of markets. I plan to use https://findaway.com/. They are non-exclusive and will get you to many more markets. Plus, they are fair and I believe worldwide.

  16. Terry Lee says:

    My biggest obstacle has been finding the right narrator. I’ve become a complete snob on what I’m looking and not looking for. This may be my solution…
    I want a narrator to give life to the story through the characters, not merely read, no matter how “proper” their use of the English language may be. In my opinion, that’s not really how people talk.
    Have been told more than once I should narrate my own book, so…
    Only have my first book on Audible and am waiting out the 7yrs. for contract to end. Narrator is from the north, and in my opinion talks too fast (can you tell I’m from the south?)
    Thanks for the advice. I was ready to go with the royalty split but may give it a go myself…

    1. Derek Doepker says:

      While I’m all for outsourcing, as you’ve noticed sometimes the best way to get what you need as a creative artist is to create it yourself. No one else will know quite how you want it to be the same way you do.

  17. Leanna Englert says:

    You’ve about convinced me to record my novel myself & I want it to be available both on Audible and in libraries. Any special considerations?

    1. Derek Doepker says:

      Is there something specific you wanted input on?

      There are a number of important steps to follow for doing it yourself in making sure it meets all the requirements. Can’t have too much background noise, the right level of volume, etc. It’s covered in the course I put together.

  18. Kosa Ely says:

    Thank you Derek for the great info. Just finished an audio book to accompany my next children’s picture book, with my husband as producer. He’s a singer/musician who’s been producing his own albums for 20 years, so we had the equipment and home studio. My previous audiobook we produced CDs to sell along with the book.
    What would you suggest for a children’s audiobook (15 minutes with music and soundtrack)? Do I host it on my author website or Itunes or Sooundcloud? Or?

    1. Derek Doepker says:

      Hey Kosa, is your book also available on Amazon? If so, I recommend having an audiobook distributed through ACX or AuthorsRepublic. With non-exclusive agreement, you can also sell on your own website. Generally speaking it’s great to have it in more places unless you need total control over the price. These other retailers will set their own price for the book.

  19. W Bradford Swift says:

    Thanks, Derek, for a very informative article. I gleaned much from it. I do have one point I question:
    “You don’t need any type of special voice acting experience. Just the ability to read your book in a way that’s clearly understood.”
    While I agree this is true for nonfiction books, I do challenge it for fiction. I read/listen to a ton of novels and by far and away the best ones are those where the narrator can create each character with their own unique voice. I know there are some narrators who read their books pretty straightforward without much if any changes with characters. Do you happen to have any figures on how these different approaches compare? I have recorded two of my own books, one nonfiction, and the other fiction. The nonfiction has sold much better than the fiction.

    1. Derek Doepker says:

      Since fiction is a very broad genre, I’d suggest those in fiction genres check out other audiobooks in their specific genre and see what’s the norm. You can see sales rank on Amazon for the audible store to determine popularity. I don’t know if anyone has broken down statistics of how voice acting, or lack thereof, correlates to sales rank.

  20. W. M. Raebeck says:

    Good article, Derek. Thanks for walking us through. I’ve been planning on narrating my first audio book for about 2 years now. Got all the stuff, and have done some practice recordings, but I don’t have the walk-in closet or small space. I LOVE the umbrella idea though. It could work for me!! Doing my own recording will be yet another intense DIY challenge, but my non-fiction books are quirky, so quirky audio will enhance the brand.

    1. Derek Doepker says:

      I’m happy to hear the umbrella trick will help you out. I spent a week racking my brain to figure something out knowing there HAD to be a solution. 🙂

  21. Lyle says:

    Excellent information. Thanks for posting this. I had no idea that ACX was available in Canada. I have a several novels on Amazon and have thought about audiobooks, your article is a great catalyst to get things moving. Thanks.

    1. Derek Doepker says:

      Happy to help! I just found out myself ACX opened up in Canada very recently.

  22. Gary says:

    I have the proper audio equipment from doing several interviews and a short lived podcast. The one question I have is there a way to do a sample file and upload to ACX to make sure you are in their parameters for sound quality? I would hate to record the entire book and have it rejected.

    1. Derek Doepker says:

      Great question and the answer is yes! I did this for my first audiobook. You can contact their support, and they’ll direct you to where to send the file. Then they’ll give you feedback that it meets their standards. I recommend all authors do this before submitting their book to ACX, and those in my course also get my feedback on their file on exactly how to make any changes suggested.

  23. Janet Pywell says:

    HI Derek
    Great blog / article. Thanks very much. It’s something new for me and I definitely want to get this up and running for all my books this year. You’ve been really information – it’s just finding a quiet space (without a puppy, traffic and neighbours!)

    1. Derek Doepker says:

      A quiet place can be a challenge. The good news is the right microphone and setup can do a lot to reduce the noise that’s picked up.

  24. James Conroyd Martin says:

    Great article, Derek,
    I had already gone through some of the steps, blunders and near blunders, but backtracked and chose to us FindawayVoices, finding it preferable certainly to the limiting ACX and even to AmericanRepublic. Besides the ubiquitous Audible they get it distributed to 30 or more outlets, including libraries. I hope you and your readers check it out.

  25. Kris says:

    Thank you SO much for all the tips and advice. Here’s my question about audiobooks: are sound effects or subtle musical cues allowed and/or encouraged? Or should the audio be strictly voice from the narrator?

    1. Derek Doepker says:

      Sound effects and music depend on your intention. If you want to be in WhisperSync, which syncs a kindle book up to the audiobook edition and can enhance sales, then you do NOT want to have any added effects.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 

GET MY FREE EBOOK

HOW TO FIND YOUR FIRST 10,000 READERS

Free Download for You
100% Privacy Guaranteed. No shenanigans.