It’s no secret that even prepandemic, audiobook sales were one of the largest growth areas for authors. Over the last few years, audiobook sales have skyrocketed—and they are predicted to continue on this accelerated path for the next couple of years.
“The takeaway here is that the audiobook market . . . is continuing to grow today even as we move away from pandemic isolation and regain a sense of ‘normalcy,’” writes Marissa DeCuir in “Why Audiobooks Are Skyrocketing, and How Writers Can Take Advantage in 2022.” “And that growth shows no signs of stopping. Audiobooks are predicted to become a $19 billion dollar industry by 2027.”
We’ve all seen it coming—audiobooks have been one of the easiest trends to spot over the last few years. And since June is Audiobook Appreciation Month, we thought it was time to give a little extra love to a format that too many authors overlook.
There are a few really good reasons for creating an audiobook, aside from the sales boom. One of the biggest reasons is make reading more accessible for book lovers who have difficulty reading, whether they have learning disabilities, are blind or sight-impaired, or have difficulty holding books or tablets.
Audiobooks have also become a staple for commuters and folks who are traveling long distances, whether alone or in a car filled with people. (As a passenger, I have yet to remain awake any time Stephen Fry reads The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy—it just lulls me off to sleepy time.)
But audiobooks have also become a staple for people while they are working or even while prepping dinner. It’s the relaxation of hearing a good friend tell you a thrilling, hilarious, or heartwarming story. And in a world that is focused on multitasking, it is quickly becoming a favorite “while you are doing other things” pastime.
“One of the special things about audiobooks is that readers don’t necessarily have to ‘set aside’ time to engage with the story in the way they do when ‘reading’ a print copy or watching TV,” points out DeCuir, noting that audiobooks blend seamlessly with multitasking. “Instead of ‘competing’ for a reader’s time, audiobooks enhance the limited time readers already have. This makes audiobooks a desirable (some may say addictive) form of entertainment that readers actively and regularly pursue (particularly once they’ve signed up for services like Audible and Overdrive).”
Would my book make a good audiobook?
Think about what people like to listen to, whether on the radio or podcasts. Narrative fiction stories are going to resonate best with readers. A lot of nonfiction (obviously not just the narrative kinds) also garners a big following, most notably self-help or inspirational reads.
DeCuir reminds us that you might be able to get both the print and the audiobook sale combined—especially if your book is one of the high-demand genres. “And if you’re a romance or mystery author, you are in a prime position to boost your book sales. These genres dominate the audiobook landscape and have a devoted and voracious fanbase,” says DeCuir. “So if you write in these genres (as well as other popular ones like inspirational, business, crime, suspense, thriller, sci-fi, fantasy, and horror), now is the time to make sure readers can listen to your book as well as read it! In some cases, this could even mean two sales per reader as some people prefer to read both versions simultaneously.”
It’s no secret that more visually based books aren’t going to be a huge draw for audiobook consumers. Picture books, comics, graphic novels, and early children’s books won’t be terribly popular audiobooks. Recipe books, reference guides, and travel guides also don’t tend to do well in audio, unless you know a lot of people who have a penchant for having recipes read to them. (Don’t laugh. I know some of these people.)
What’s involved in making an audiobook?
One of the most important factors for creating a good audiobook is quality. Not only do you need an excellent narrator, but you also need to ensure that the sound quality is studio grade, with no background noise, echo, or distortion. It’s not an easy feat for an author trying to make an audiobook with just a mobile phone.
In “How to Make an Audiobook: Publishing on ACX and Audiobook Marketing,” Jason Hamilton suggests that authors who don’t have access to professional (or at least professional-sounding) recording equipment consider paying voice talent to record an audiobook for you. Often, these specialists not only have access to professional grade equipment you’ll want to feature, but they will also do the work of recording the book for you—and even have an audio engineer create mastered audio files. There are also companies that specialize in creating audiobooks for authors who might not have the time or resources to produce a high-quality audiobook. But it’s gonna cost you a little extra.
“Cost-wise, a good rule of thumb is that a high-quality audiobook can generally be recorded at the rate of about $300 per 10,000 words,” Hamilton warns. “As with anything, costs can vary widely and undoubtedly you can find cheaper narrators out there (and much more expensive ones as well), but $300 per 10,000 words is a good benchmark.”
Much like editing and cover design, audiobooks need a certain amount of love and attention to grab readers’ attention. And that means not just a great story but excellent sound and production quality. The more professional your book, the greater chances you have of receiving good reviews.
What are the downfalls of creating an audiobook?
There are always costs associated with creating a project, and audiobooks are no different. As we mentioned above, one of the biggest drawbacks in creating a quality audiobook is the cost. Whether it’s the talent narrating your book or the costs for higher quality production (a necessity), creating an audiobook can get a bit pricier than you might like. However, if you put in a little extra time and effort, you can probably save money—if you’re willing to learn how to do it properly.
“Voice acting, like any skill, takes time and practice to master,” reminds Hamilton. “Most people can speak at the rate of 8,000 to 9,000 words per hour, and it’s hard work to speak for an hour unless you’re a voice actor! Voice actors can just go into their studio, sit down, and knock out hours of recording on end. Like any technical skill, if you’re doing it for the first time, it’s going to take a LONG time.”
And like with traditional books, you’ll still need to get your book in front of the right audience. Marketing and promotion can take a lot of energy, and while audiobooks are a hugely popular format, they still require some work.
But the market isn’t nearly as saturated as physical and digital books . . . yet. So if you’re ready to up your game, June might just be the month you take your book to another level.
Hannah Guy lives in Toronto and is a professional writer and copywriter who specializes in books, books, and more books. Follow her on Twitter at @hannorg.