One in five people in the US listens to top audiobooks. That’s impressive, right? That’s another reason to learn how to make an audiobook and step foot into this growing market of book listeners.
Deloitte predicts to have 25% growth in audio this year. Why would you not want to jump on the bandwagon?
What is an audiobook?
According to our trusty Merriam-Webster, an audiobook is a recording of a book or magazine being read aloud. It can be listened to by anyone who can understand the spoken word. It’s a wonderful opportunity for children who do not read yet or for those looking to relax with a pair of headphones.
When it comes to understanding the structure, in author/publisher language, an audiobook consists of metadata and content.
Metadata can be any information that is tied to the book itself including (but not limited to): contributors (typically the author(s) and narrator(s)), title, subtitle, series name, series number, languages, description, category, keywords, price, territory rights, and publication date.
When it comes to audio metadata, narrators count as additional contributors to books. Narrators can be anyone who performs the recording of the spoken word. We highly encourage hiring a professional for narrator jobs. It doesn’t just give listeners a high-quality experience, but if the professional narrator is a well-known actor, it can draw some attention for your book.
Whether you create your own audio files or hire someone to do that, you should understand what content files should look like. The content of audiobooks is a bunch of audio files, usually mp3.
If you listen to an audiobook, you can find that it is divided by chapters just like a regular book. That means for authors and publishers, all chapters are separate audio files. Also, chapters have to have a title name, at least “Chapter 1”. It’s also good to know that audio files should start with the chapter number being read out loud.
How do audiobooks work?
Readers can listen to audiobooks as streams. Kindle Unlimited's audiobook collection is a popular one. But listeners can find audiobooks in their favorite retail stores like Google Play Books, Audible app or Apple Books. But also, they can find them at many other subscription platforms such as Scribd, Storytel, Bookmate, or digital libraries like Overdrive -- even music subscription services like Deezer.
Listeners can open, for instance, the Google Play Books app on multiple devices (iOS or Android or even desktop) and navigate audiobooks to start playing! Listeners can find free audiobooks there, but also preview the first 10% or 5 minutes of a book.
What does this all mean to an author or an indie publisher? That audio is a great way to expand to reach new readers and also, new platforms.
How much do audiobooks cost?
Audiobooks are more expensive than ebooks. But let’s look at the bright side, they can result in cool opportunities for indies as audiobooks are still in a smaller pond in regards to competition.
The financial aspects of audiobooks have two dimensions:
- Production costs: Depending on the length of the book and the narrator’s track record (plus price per narrator per finished hour), costs may range from $1,000 easily up to $5,000. If you decide to narrate your own book, that might be free to produce or nearly free as you have to get professional devices to do that.
- Royalties: The usual royalty rates are between 25-50% nominally for publishers depending on which business models and partners they opt in to. With PublishDrive, you can see the store rate for audiobooks here that provides you with the best royalty payout in the industry today.
If you do the math, you might find it difficult to make it a viable business by selling only on Amazon and earning up to 25-40% royalty rates. That’s why we suggest publishing on other platforms to make the most out of distributing audiobooks.
How to make an audiobook
As audiobooks are more expensive to create, we recommend publishing your book in ebook and print format first with PublishDrive.
If you decide to step foot in the audiobook market, these are the decisions you need to make early on:
- Decide who will create the audio files
- Work with an audiobook producer (many of them help with finding the right narrators too)
- Create an audiobook at home
- Decide who will record it:
- Hire a narrator
- Record the audio yourself
- Work with an audio producer
There are audiobook producers you can trust to handle all aspects of production if you wish. But if you decide on creating the files yourself, you have to play not just the role of the narrator, but the audio engineers as well.
Without getting into the specifics, make sure you invest in professional gear and devices like: computer or iPad, recording software like Garageband (comes with a Mac), Audacity, microphone, and a quiet space for your audio work. As an extra tip, buy a pop filter to make sounds more equalized (the best part is you can re-use these devices for podcasting or for online interviews).
Here are the tech specifics you need to understand in order to make an audiobook for commercial purposes:
- Files tech:
- Export into 192 kbps or higher.
- Mono recommended.
- Include opening and closing credits that match the title's cover art. They should be separate files from the very beginning until the very last audio file.
- Read part/chapter loudly at the beginning of all separate files.
- Create a sample audio file between 1 to 5 minutes.
- Keep 1-2 seconds room at the beginning and 3-5 seconds at the end of all files
- Avoid background noise.
- Avoid longer files than 120 minutes.
This is just the tip of the iceberg; audiobook production is hard work. But as with everything in life, if you recorded an audiobook the next one will become easier.
How to publish an audiobook?
When you finally create your content file, the next step is to sell it everywhere to ensure your investments can return as soon as possible. There are many ways on how you can do that, but some options are currently not available for indie publishers yet, only through partners like PublishDrive.
Publishing has never been easier (really!). Indies can simply upload an audiobook, but also ebook, or print (with multiple/bulk content files). Then browse and select desired stores including Google Play Books to distribute to, with a click of a button! There is no need for an ISBN to publish an ebook or audiobook with PublishDrive, but you better have a nicely designed cover, edited manuscript, and content files (which we also help with).
With PublishDrive, you can reach an additional 50 million potential listeners by reaching out to audiobook stores like Google Play Books or Kobo, subscription services like Scribd or Storytel, music service providers like Deezer, and digital library providers like OverDrive. That’s up to 70% of the list price to take home for authors. Or in the case of Google Play Books, 50% of the list price indies can earn without any commission taken out.
So why publish print and audio with PublishDrive? We help publishers save time, increase royalty payouts, and get smarter about their business.
Here is what you’ll need for publishing your audiobook with PublishDrive:
- Sign up to PublishDrive
- Prepare your cover and audio content files
- Upload your audiobook to PublishDrive
- Select your desired stores like Google Play audiobooks or Overdrive audiobooks
- Click on the publish button! :)
After publishing, you can follow store links for your published book, check reviews from Goodreads and Amazon, and track real-time sales from the PublishDrive dashboard. We also got a whole bunch of editorial and featuring opportunities directly accessible from the dashboard.
Do more with your publishing business and expand into audiobooks, one of the hottest trends out there right now. With PublishDrive, you can reach 50 million potential listeners and get up to 70% of the list price to take home. Give your readers a new reading option and dive deep into a new audience!