What authors need to know about the audiobook boom

What authors need to know about the audiobook boom

Pandora White, former publisher at Orion Audio, shares her insight into one of the fastest growing areas of publishing.

As someone who has spent twenty years at the forefront of trade audiobook publishing, nothing puts a larger smile on my face than hearing and reading about the recent buzz around the huge shift in the popularity of audiobooks. This is all thanks to the digital download format creating instant access to thousands of yummy titles across all genres.

Of course, the audio edition is not at all a new part of any publishing programme and library publishers have also been supplying their market for decades, but part of the problem publishers previously had in trying to drive physical sales, is that audiobooks have always had a rather ‘fuddy-duddy’ image around them and it just wasn’t ‘cool’ to be listening rather than reading. This fact, coupled with the challenge of high production costs and low print runs meant the physical edition, cassettes and then CDs, had to have a much higher purchase price than the print edition. I think people have always wanted to listen to audiobooks but accessibility and affordability just wasn’t there.

But then in 2006 along comes the digital download format and boom! We have lift off! This was really the beginning of the revolution and publishers had to think on their feet regarding how to keep up with the massive seismic shift in the production process of audiobooks and indeed how they delivered the digital format. The last ten years have been exciting times in the audio industry and how thrilling it is to know that more people than ever, and of all ages, are now hooking into the audio format as a way to access their favourite books; any time, any place, anywhere!

But, all this rah-rah and razzmatazz about the growth of audio is all very well, but I feel at this point in the so-called revolution, we need a little snitch of a reality check. I don’t want to dampen everyone’s enthusiasm but it might help to steer potential self-publishing authors in the right direction.

So, the one thing that hasn’t changed through this transition is that a successful print edition emphatically drives the sales of the audio edition. This is an important fact for any self-publishing author.

Production costs are historically high with a good recording requiring the participation of a producer, reader, editor and then finally a check listener. The final fee could be well over £2500. If the sales of a title are low it won’t even begin to earn out its huge overhead.

Audible, owned by Amazon, have of course done a fantastic job at growing the market but they are the only substantial retail players in town, at the moment. Others are slowly coming on board like Google, Storytel and Apple but it’s still not easy for self-publishing authors to find a home for their audios. Audible does have the brilliant ACX platform on their site which allows lone authors access to skilled industry people who will produce audios for them.

Now that more people are listening, there is an increase in awareness of quality productions. The reader and producer have to be selected skillfully to suit the content. Remember, the digital edition is there forever!

Having expressed some cautious stuff, on a more positive note, an audio recording can also be a great marketing tool for any author and it’s always good to have an audio edition available,

Who knows, one day text to speech might be perfected and then all you say is ‘Alexa, read me War and Peace’……eek!

Pandora White was a guest speaker at our Writer’s Summit 2018.

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