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Are audiobooks the future of book sales? Do you have your stories on audio?
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Audiobooks are a wonderful innovation that have made books more accessible to readers who may have struggled in the past with a format that can prohibit those with physical limitations from enjoying a tale. However, I don’t believe that this is going to take the world by storm. They provide a great source of entertainment on driving trips, and opened up the ability to multitask; consuming the latest read while you work. But, are you paying attention when you’re cooking and listening, or whatever you’re doing while listening?
I know I can’t always give my full attention to a television show or audiobook if I am doing anything else. Cooking, as mentioned above, requires concentration that can shut out other stimuli. I miss things. Multitasking, don’t forget, is proved to shorten attention spans and increase anxiety. It’s not a good thing to do on a regular basis.
All of that aside, there are other hurdles to audiobooks. For writers starting out, or even established authors, recording a book is a large investment. You’ll need to hire a service and a voice actor. There are also legal matters (releases and the like) that must be agreed to. Then, you have to figure out where you’re selling it: apple, android, amazon, and other sellers. Do you need to upload your file to them separately, or will the service provide that?
When I mentioned a large investment, I meant it. Just affording an actor to read one of my books was going to cost me several thousands of dollars ($6k+), because actors are paid a standard fee (they are members of SAG). You don’t want just anyone reading your book. Voice talent will matter for the success of the audiobook. The service that helps you record won’t come cheap either. They’ll expect a per sale fee, especially as a distributor. Check out ACX, who insist it won’t cost you anything, but be warned that it will if you want to actually get one made and sell copies.
Sure, you can also record the book yourself. Do you have voice training? Do you have a great voice for reading? You’ll need both to produce a good product for the market. Not just anyone should be reading a book, and just because you’re the author doesn’t mean you should either. If you still think you can, you’re going to need to invest in recording space and equipment. Just getting some quiet time won’t be enough. And, you’ll need more than an smartphone with a voice memo app. How do you figure you’ll get rid of that air sound or other ambient noise? How will you suture all the recordings together and manage the large file?
Who will distribute that book for you when you get it all together, should you have access to all of this?
An author would need to make enough in sales to cover production costs in order for an audiobook to be feasible. Otherwise, they’ll be investing their funds, and hoping they make the money back in sales. Some will, but most will not. Audiobooks are only so popular and only account for a small percentage of book sales. They serve an accessibility niche and convenience niche, neither of which create overwhelming sales. Taking out a loan to create an audiobook would be unwise as a business investment, unless the book is required reading as part of a course and/or there’s a large demand for this accessible format.
Writers have been a-flurry about audiobooks for a few years now, but I think they’re starting to realize that it’s a limited interest. Most people still like picking up a paperback or hardcover and traditionally reading a book. I don’t think audiobooks will takeover the market or rise further from the heights already gained. Even hardcovers are a demand of a specific population with an aesthetic interest, and a demand that remains small.
Although writers continue to circle this idea, it’s mostly from the standpoint of gaining an appearance of having made it. In order to improve sales, a lot of authors seek clout. Audiobooks have somehow become a symbol of success in their mind; a gimmick, if you will. It’s a boon for accessibility, but it’s not really a boon for authors. Investing the money you might spend on an actor on marketing instead would create way better returns.
You could always do YouTube episodes, and thus test out my theory on how successful you’d be at reading your own books as audio with whatever equipment you have. You don’t have to just take my word for it. YouTube won’t cost you anything, and experimenting could be quite helpful for your platform. Releasing it in episodes could also make it more attractive to viewers. You wouldn’t have to distribute the audiobooks at all, just share the link to your channel. Organize them in a playlist for each of the books, to make it easier for watchers to locate and use. YouTube can be played in a car. You can’t, however, set up a paywall until you’ve reached a certain clout status. Patreon is another platform on which you can release art. There, you get subscribers who have to pay before they can play.
In my honest opinion, audiobooks have been overtaken by sites like YouTube and Patreon. They’re much simpler to use and have direct access to the audience. Patreon supplies the paywall control a writer might be seeking while releasing webisodes of their work (YouTube has a private option, so you can share links with those you want to have the access, but you’d have to send that link to those people yourself). Whichever you choose, it’s more likely this will be the future for audiobooks than ACX or similar publishers. These sites are also accessible to those who need them due to physical limitations.
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