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For years, ebooks have been considered the salvation of the publishing world, a democratizing force allowing untold numbers of armchair authors to easily reach the reading public, and a kind of digital Bodleian Library for archiving all sorts of rare written material. All of those things are true—mostly. But the real reading revolution is one no one ever saw coming: It’s the audiobook. Now more than ever, both established and aspiring authors ought to consider the importance of the auditory. Following are three reasons why you should think about having your text recorded as an audiobook.
Reason #1: Audiobooks have gotten dramatically cheaper.
My earliest memories of audiobooks (or “books on tape,” as well used to call them back in the day) involved picking them up from various Cracker Barrel restaurants during our annual summer vacations. That chain of country-cookin’ eateries had locations stippled throughout the American South and featured books on tape for rent at spinning stands next to its cash registers. Pick one up in Florida, return it at South Carolina for a partial refund, and grab another for the remainder of your trip. Back then, renting was the way to go. Your average book on tape retailed for anywhere from $60 to $100, and even listening to it was a chore. You had a big brick of a box stuffed with cassettes, and good luck if the previous listener forgot to rewind.
Those days are long gone thanks to the advent of smartphones and MP3s. As Anthony Goff, vice president of Hachette Audio notes, “Everybody has an audiobook player in their pocket at this point. It makes that much easier for the masses to try it.” Doing away with physical packaging has made audiobooks both easier and cheaper to purchase. Instead of having to break a Benjamin for that book on tape, today’s audiophiles can spend $15 to $30 for average-length titles and $50 to $60 for popular tomes that cross the forty-hour-long threshold. There are even monthly subscription services that start at $9, and music streaming service Spotify is offering a handful of curated classics for free. What’s more, it’s all available with push-button ease.
Reason #2: Publishers and retailers increasingly see the value in audiobooks.
Consumers aren’t the only ones responding to the digital revolution. Publishers are getting in on the game, too, and no wonder. Most audiobook listeners are affluent professionals with plenty of time available during their commutes, and such availability is reflected in the sales numbers. A recent report from the American Association of Publishers shows that downloadable audiobooks are the industry’s fastest-growing segment, with sales growth of more than 26% in 2013 and 28% in 2014. Supply is also rising to meet that demand. The number of audiobooks available in 2011 was roughly 7,000, but by 2013, it had jumped to 35,000. Retailers haven’t been shy about the trend either. Audible, iTunes, Kindle Unlimited, Scribd, Oyster, Skybrite, Penguin Random House Audio, and Audiobooks.com all offer pay-to-purchase or rental audiobook services.
Reason #3: Audiobooks are easier to produce than you might think.
Creating an audiobook might seem a little intimidating to authors, for whom writing is mere words on a page. Take heart, though: You don’t need studio time, Hollywood contacts, or a professional payroll. There are plenty of places to which you can turn as a manuscript’s rights holder to make your title sound great. Professional services such as Voices.com, Voice123, VoiceJockeys.com, and Audiobook Creation Exchange all specialize in audio and narration work. You can also find good voiceover talent at multi-disciplinary sites such as Guru, Fiverr, and Upwork. Finally, you can always hire an independent professional who’s willing to sign a solid contract. But no matter where you get your talent, make sure you read the fine print first. Some services include exclusive distribution clauses and royalty-sharing agreements in lieu of flat-fee payments. These are necessarily bad options. Just make sure they fit with your book, your budget, and your overall selling strategy.