The Audiobook Boom: What’s Happening and How Can I Be Included?

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

The Audiobook Boom: What’s Happening and How Can I Be Included?Audiobooks have long been operating in the digital space. Well before ebooks were gaining major popularity, digital audiobooks were helping audio publishing grow. With the introduction of the iPod at the turn of the century and the adoption of smartphones over the last decade, audiobooks have been booming: over the last five years, both the number of titles produced and the sales of the product have skyrocketed. Publishers submitting to the Audio Publishers Association (APA) Sales Survey reported a production increase from 7,237 titles in 2011 to 35,574 titles in 2015—a nearly 500-percent increase. Sales revenue of audio has been continuously gaining as well, with nearly 21 percent growth reported for 2015 over the prior year.

So what’s happening to fuel this explosion? Changes in technology have assisted in the growth cycle: not only can book files to record arrive quickly and easily (no more waiting for the FedEx delivery), but once an audio file is recorded, it can be returned simply and easily (no more waiting for the FedEx pick-up). Simple changes such as reading from an iPad as opposed to the printed page (and eliminating the page-turn sound in the process) have supported increased efficiency. The large technological change of moving from recording on physical tape to recording as digital files, which can be more easily manipulated and modulated, has changed the way publishers operate.

Professional narrators used to work exclusively in formal studios under the watchful ears of seasoned directors and engineers. Now, most full-time narrators use their own home studios for at least a portion of their work. From home, they take on larger production roles and, while they need greater technical skills and training, they can increase their output and enjoy flexible hours. Participants in all areas of the process—writers, narrators, directors, editors and engineers—can reside anywhere and not only communicate about their work with ease, but work on a project together instantly. The world of digital files is a good one for audiobook publishers!

With all this change, bigger publishers are producing a much greater portion of their print list on audio, as success and accessibility encourage each other. Smaller publishers are also increasing their title acquisition and production schedules, and authors are getting into the game directly by publishing their own audiobooks. As sales and the audiobook profile rises, even celebrities are getting into the game, reading not just their own autobiographies, but classics and blockbuster releases, too. All this helps to further raise the profile of the format, again supporting the sales and availability of titles—an exciting circle of growth for audio publishers and listeners.

So what about titles not yet produced in audio? Audio publishers are constantly mining the coffers of agents and publishers to find their next great title to record. If a title is not picked up by an existing audio publisher, however, it does not mean the title cannot make it to audio. Authors and book publishers have the option of doing it themselves, through a number of roads. Audiobook production studios across the country are available to assist, and they will help with casting, recording, directing and mastering an audio production. They are experts for a reason.

APA supplier members in the studio category offer full-service delivery options that can make audiobook production simple for the rights holder. See the Getting Started tab of the APA website for a list of studios that make audiobooks each and every day and can provide the level of service right for you. A rights holder can also cast and coordinate production through the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), or even work directly with a narrator for delivery of a complete production.

The importance of care in choosing the right narrator cannot be over-emphasized. A professional narrator will not only give voice to an author’s words, but can truly elevate the experience with his or her vocal prowess. Experienced narrators who focus on audiobooks not only produce great listens time and time again, but they keep production intervals low, as they can complete the recording in approximately a two-to-one ratio (two hours in the studio for every finished hour of listening). For the inexperienced, that ratio can easily be twice that or more.

Need guidance in narrator selection? Look for professional reviews of audiobook titles by publications like AudioFile. Plus, AudioFile’s Talent and Industry Guide has searchable narrator listings with contact information and demos for easy access.

Once the recording is completed and mastered, there are multiple options for digital distribution through APA members. Once again, you are in the hands of experts who want to ensure your title gets placed so that both you and they can earn revenue. A list of distribution options for independent audiobook publishers and authors can be found at APA’s Getting Started page.

Today’s consumers want the full range of format selections. And you don’t have to leave audio out of that mix thanks to modern technology and the many APA members—publishers, producers and narrators—who are experts in the audiobook business.

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