Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
Recently, an author commented in a writer’s forum that he was just starting to create audiobooks and felt like he was coming late to the party.
I could understand why he’d feel that way. After all, news sites and other authors often discuss the explosive growth in the audiobook market, noting that this industry has doubled in size for two consecutive years.
In 2003, when I narrated my first commercial book, most audiobook productions occurred in pricey New York or Los Angeles studios. The finished products were packaged, shipped and sold on cassette or CD. Due to high production, warehousing and distribution costs, audiobooks were almost exclusively the domain of the biggest print publishers and reserved only for the bestselling authors and highest-profile titles. As a result, only about five percent of all books published were made into audiobooks.
In recent years, however, four technological and cultural shifts have radically changed the industry:
1. Anyone can listen to audiobooks. In 1931, the Library of Congress established the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) to provide books for blind adults. The first “talking books” were produced in 1934 on 12-inch records and purchased by citizens who met the legal requirements. Since only blind people originally used recorded books, the general public never would have requested them.
2. Audiobooks no longer require a special player. I can remember the not-too-distant past when audiobook publishers used proprietary audio formats, which naturally required proprietary hardware devices to play the books.
Now, the industry has standardized to deliver audiobooks on CD or in MP3 format. You can play audiobooks on any smartphone, tablet or computer, but those aren’t your only listening options. For instance, you can play audiobooks on your Garmin nüvi GPS.
Audiobooks have long been a favorite form of entertainment in the car, whether during commutes or road trips. It’s no surprise that the automobile industry is facilitating technological shifts in audiobook playback. Over 100 automobile manufacturers now include Apple CarPlay in their new cars to connect the iPhone to the car’s in-dash display and speakers. Aftermarket manufacturers have developed receivers to retrofit older cars for this capability.
3. Our connected society no longer demands physical media. More people became interested in audiobooks when cars were equipped first with cassette players, and later with CD players. Devotees of this art form would swap cassettes or CDs as they progressed within a story. Keeping up with media in the car was a nuisance!
Today, the majority of audiobook consumers opt for instant gratification by downloading audiobooks straight to their devices. Downloadable MP3 audiobooks can be purchased one sites like Audible, Amazon and iTunes, or borrowed through a library with Overdrive, OneClickDigital or Hoopla. Some people even pay non-resident fees to libraries in other areas to take advantage of that library’s audiobook catalog.
If you want to listen to a book with family or friends, you could select one found in the Audiobooks.com streaming subscription service that runs on Apple TV or as part of Apple CarPlay.
4. Audiobook production is no longer cost-prohibitive. Authors and publishers can contract directly with a narrator like me who also acts as the audiobook producer. Producer/narrators offer one-stop service, from recording the manuscript in our own studios to hiring editors and proof listeners needed to create a high quality production. We return the polished, retail-ready recordings to you as the finished product.
With audiobooks becoming a mainstream option for entertainment, I encourage authors to set a goal to produce audiobook editions of their titles.
Even the newest authors are benefitting immediately when they produce an audiobook. First, they are enjoying greater visibility and discoverability from having their work in audio. It can be lucrative to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond!
As an example, let’s say a romance author publishes a new Kindle ebook. Her story now competes with more than 350,000 other romance ebooks in the Kindle bookstore. However, the audiobook of that same book currently faces only around 20,000 competitors on Audible.com, the main distributor of audiobooks.
Furthermore, purchases of audiobooks continue to multiply. People who love to read books and people who never read a book all buy audiobooks.
In our increasingly fast-paced lives, more people are choosing to listen to books as they multi-task on some other activity, such as cooking, crafting, cleaning or commuting. In fact, a 2014 Bookriot survey found that each audiobook consumer on average listens to 17.5 books a year.
For prolific authors and publishers with a backlist, the increased consumer interest in audiobooks represents a tremendous opportunity to reach new audiences and generate additional income each year by creating audiobooks of your books!
Spring is a time of new growth, so please send me any questions you have about the audiobook production process. I’ll write more articles to help you get started and succeed in your goal of producing audiobooks in 2016.
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