how to publish an audiobook

How to Publish an Audiobook

In today’s digital age, audiobooks have gained immense popularity, providing a convenient way for people to consume literature while on the go. Publishing an audiobook can help authors reach a wider audience. Plus, it’s exciting to hear your story come to life!

Learning how to publish an audiobook can be intimidating, even for an experienced author. In this article, we will guide you through the process of publishing an audiobook, from preparation to promotion.

Why Are Audiobooks So Popular?

Audiobooks have soared in popularity in recent years, captivating readers and attracting new audiences. According to Wordsrated, over 23% of Americans listened to at least one audiobook in 2021, which is 15% more than in 2020. Audiobook revenue passed the ebook revenue for the first time in 2019, and the gap has been widening ever since.

So why do readers love audiobooks? If you’re an audiobook-listener yourself, you may already be aware of some of the key reasons that audiobooks have become such a popular format.

  • Multitasking and Accessibility: One of the primary reasons for the rising popularity of audiobooks is their ability to fit seamlessly into our busy lifestyles. With audiobooks, readers can enjoy a captivating story while commuting, exercising, doing household chores, or simply relaxing. Personally, I love to listen to audiobooks while I’m hiking.
  • Enhanced Immersion: Audiobooks provide a unique immersive experience by combining the power of storytelling with professional narration. Skilled narrators bring characters to life through their vocal expressions, accents, and intonations, creating a vivid and engaging narrative.
  • Accessibility for Visual Impairments and Learning Differences: Audiobooks have proven to be a game-changer for individuals with visual impairments, learning differences, or reading difficulties. By offering an auditory alternative to traditional print books, audiobooks make literature accessible to a wider range of readers.
  • Embracing Technology: The widespread availability and ease of access to digital audiobooks have greatly contributed to their popularity. With smartphones, tablets, and dedicated audiobook platforms, listeners can access a vast library of titles. Compared to the old days of purchasing books on tape, streaming services and subscription models have made audiobooks more accessible and affordable.
  • Complementary to Other Formats: Audiobooks complement rather than replace print and ebook formats. They offer an alternative reading experience that appeals to different preferences and situations. Some readers enjoy switching between formats for convenience or to further the experience.

With the popularity of audiobooks growing and the methods of accessing audiobooks expanding, many authors are turning their stories into audiobooks.

Audiobook Publishing: An Overview

Publishing an audiobook requires careful planning and execution to ensure a high-quality final product that captivates listeners. Let’s delve into the details of each step as we explore how to publish an audiobook.

Preparing Your Manuscript

The first step is to write and edit your manuscript. Most authors publish their ebook and/or print book before moving on to audiobook production. However, that’s not necessarily required. Independent authors can publish in whatever order they believe will be best for their marketing plan and their readers. In this article, Karen Williams discusses why she decided to release her audiobook first.

Regardless of the order in which you decided to release your formats, make sure you devote the time and resources to producing the highest quality book possible. Take your time, and work with a professional editor. Like when publishing in other formats, the story needs to come first.

Audiobook Narration Options

Once you have your manuscript ready, you need to decide how to record your audiobook. With recent advances in technology, you have more options than ever for recording a high-quality audiobook. Let’s explore how to publish an audiobook that’s right for your readers.

Recording Your Own Audiobook

Some authors may prefer to narrate their own audiobook. This option can be especially appealing to memoir authors or nonfiction authors who are leveraging their personal platform.

When recording your own audiobook, you can book time in a professional studio, or you can create a home setup. Of course, the former is preferable if you have the budget for it. Recording at home can be challenging, both because of the technical requirements and the skills necessary to narrate your own audiobook.

Recording Equipment

When narrating your audiobook at home, selecting the right equipment is crucial to ensure high-quality audio recordings. Here are some key considerations when choosing equipment for your home recording setup:

  • Microphone: Invest in a good-quality microphone that captures your voice accurately and minimizes background noise. Condenser microphones are commonly used for voice recordings due to their sensitivity and ability to capture subtle nuances. USB microphones offer convenience as they can be directly connected to your computer without the need for additional audio interfaces. Two of the most common choices are the Rode NT and the Blue Yeti.

Tip: Remember to place your microphone correctly. It should be about six inches from your mouth and to the side, so you speak past the mic rather than into it.

  • Pop Filter: A pop filter is an essential accessory that helps reduce plosive sounds, such as the “p” and “b” sounds, that can cause distortion in recordings. It acts as a barrier between your mouth and the microphone, effectively reducing unwanted bursts of air.
pop filter for recording an audiobook
  • Headphones: Choose a pair of closed-back headphones that provide good sound isolation. This prevents audio leakage from the headphones being picked up by the microphone during recording. Closed-back headphones also help you monitor and assess the quality of your recordings accurately.
  • Audio Interface: If you opt for an XLR microphone, you’ll need an audio interface to connect it to your computer. An audio interface converts the analog signal from the microphone into a digital signal that your computer can process. Look for an interface with good preamps and converters to ensure high-quality audio capture.

Tips for Narrating Your Own Audiobook

While investing in quality equipment can enhance the overall audio quality, it’s equally important to focus on factors such as room acoustics, microphone technique, and post-production editing to ensure the best possible audiobook recording. Here are some tips to help you deliver a captivating performance while narrating your own audiobook.

  • Preparation is Key: Before you begin recording, take the time to thoroughly prepare. Read through the book multiple times to familiarize yourself with the content, characters, and tone. Make notes on pronunciation, character voices, and any specific cues or emotions you want to convey.
  • Set Up a Suitable Recording Space: Find a quiet and controlled environment to record in. Ideally, choose a room with minimal background noise and good acoustics. You may consider professional treatments, such as sound-absorbing panels. You can also use soft materials like blankets, carpet, and curtains to absorb sound and reduce echoes. Avoid spaces with hard surfaces; never record in the kitchen.

Tip: One of the best places to record is on your bed, under the comforter.

  • Practice Vocal Techniques: Work on vocal techniques such as enunciation, pacing, and modulation. Practice reading aloud to improve your clarity and diction. Vary your voice to differentiate characters, using specific tones, accents, and inflections. Remember to maintain consistency in character voices throughout the narration. As you practice, seek feedback from trusted sources to refine your performance.
  • Pace Yourself: Pay attention to your pacing and rhythm, and avoid rushing through sentences or chapters. Take breaks when needed to maintain vocal energy and clarity. Remember that audiobook listeners appreciate a comfortable and steady pace.
  • Edit and Polish: Once the recording is complete, review the audio files and edit out any mistakes, long pauses, or background noises. Use audio editing software like Audacity, which is free, to enhance the overall quality, equalize volume levels, and add any necessary effects.

Remember to practice, be patient with yourself, and enjoy the process of bringing your written words to life through spoken storytelling.

how to publish an audiobook author editing audio

Work With a Professional Audiobook Production Company

For the best experience, many authors choose to work with a full-service audiobook production company. At Blue Pen, we partner with a trusted company to support our authors. If you’re interested, contact our team to learn more.

Audiobook production companies typically hold auditions and help authors choose the perfect narrator for their audiobook.

Hiring a Narrator Through ACX

ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) is a prominent platform owned by Audible, which offers authors the opportunity to produce and distribute their audiobooks.

ACX provides access to a large pool of talented narrators. Authors post samples of their work, which narrators use to audition. Then authors review the auditions and send an offer when they find a narrator who is a perfect fit. Check out this breakdown of the process.

Deals between authors and narrators may include up-front payments, royalty-share agreements, or a combination of the two.

AI Narration

With advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) technology, using an AI narrator for your audiobook is becoming a viable option. One such AI narrator is Audie, a voice synthesis system that can generate natural-sounding human voices.

Using an AI narrator like Audie offers several advantages. First and foremost, it provides an efficient and cost-effective solution for audiobook production. It’s way cheaper and faster than hiring a narrator, and it can make audiobook production accessible to authors who would otherwise not be able to afford it.

The primary downside is that AI narration is that it can’t match the warmth and authenticity of a professional human narrator. I’ll be honest: I had extremely low expectations when I first started playing around with Audie. But with the quality of its outputs and the variety of voices available, I have no trouble recommending Audie as an option for authors who find professional narration to be outside their budget.

When making any narration decision, it’s essential to consider the preferences of your target audience. Gauge your audience’s preferences and expectations before opting for an AI narrator.

Findaway Voices for Narration and Distribution

A popular choice for indie authors, Findaway Voices is a comprehensive audiobook production and distribution platform.

Findaway Voices provides access to a vast network of professional narrators and studio professionals, allowing you to find the perfect voice for your audiobook. The narrator casting tool enables you to listen to auditions and select the narrator who best captures the essence of your story.

Once you have chosen a narrator, Findaway Voices facilitates the recording process by handling the production and quality control aspects. They ensure that the audio is edited, mastered, and meets the industry standards for sound quality.

Audiobook Cover Design

Audiobook cover design plays a vital role in attracting potential listeners and conveying the essence of your story. Like other cover formats, the audiobook cover serves as the visual representation of your audiobook and should pique the interest of your ideal listeners.

Audiobook covers have a specific format. Most cover designers will create an audiobook cover for an additional fee. Check out the audiobook cover our team designed for Kings & Queens by Dominic Puglese, compared to the ebook cover we created.

kings and queens ebook cover
Kings & Queens ebook cover

Here are a few considerations your designer will consider when creating your audiobook cover:

  • Eye-Catching Visuals: Your cover should immediately grab attention and stand out in a crowded marketplace.
  • Clear and Legible Typography: Fonts should be easy to read. The title and author’s name should be prominently displayed.
  • Reflect the Genre and Tone: Your cover design should align with the genre and tone of your audiobook to attract the ideal audience.
  • Thumbnail Visibility: Many potential listeners will encounter your cover in thumbnail form, especially when browsing online marketplaces. The audiobook cover should be readable and visually compelling even with smaller dimensions.

Your audiobook cover is often the first impression potential listeners have of your work. A well-designed cover can draw in readers, ignite their curiosity, and encourage them to explore your audiobook further.

Choosing Platforms for Publishing Your Audiobook

When it comes to publishing your audiobook, there are several platforms to consider. Each platform offers unique benefits and reaches different audiences. Here are some popular options to explore:

Audible (ACX)

Audible is one of the largest and most well-known audiobook platforms, reaching millions of listeners worldwide. ACX is Audible’s self-publishing platform, allowing authors and narrators to create and distribute their audiobooks. ACX provides tools for audiobook production, distribution, and marketing, making it a comprehensive platform for independent authors and narrators. If you’re trying to figure out how to get your book on audible, one answer is by using ACX.

Findaway Voices

Findaway Voices is an aggregator that makes it simple for authors to distribute to multiple platforms. As of 2023, Findaway Voices distributes to more than 40 platforms, including Spotify, Amazon, Apple Books, Google Play Books, Audible, B&N Audiobooks, and KOBO.

Of course, Findaway Voices charges a fee for this service, so be prepared to sacrifice a percentage of your royalties.

Direct Distribution

To maintain the highest percentage of your royalties, you can publish your audiobook directly to platforms such as Apple Books, Google Play Books, and Kobo. The downside of this strategy is that it requires time, energy, and technical know-how.

Your Website

Some authors choose to sell their audiobooks directly through their own websites or online stores. This option provides greater control over pricing, distribution, and customer relationships. By driving traffic to your website or promoting your audiobook through social media and email marketing, you can sell directly to your fans and retain a higher percentage of the sales revenue. If you are already familiar with selling ebooks directly through their website, this can be a good route to consider.

Publishing Your Audiobook: Exclusive or Wide

If you’ve published an ebook, you’re familiar with the tradeoffs between publishing exclusively through one platform and going wide. The best option for you depends on factors including your marketing strategy and platform.

Exclusive Distribution

By publishing your audiobook exclusively through ACX, you may also be eligible for additional promotional opportunities and increased royalty rates under their exclusive distribution programs. These programs often require a specific exclusivity period, during which your audiobook cannot be available on any other platform. It’s essential to carefully review the terms and conditions of exclusivity before committing to ensure it aligns with your publishing goals and marketing strategy.

ACX offers exclusive and non-exclusive options, with those who agree to a seven-year period of exclusivity can access more attractive royalty options. Read more about ACX royalties.

Wide Distribution

Choosing wide distribution means making your audiobook available on multiple platforms and retailers, reaching a broader audience. This approach allows you to diversify your distribution channels and potentially tap into different listener demographics. Platforms like Findaway Voices enable wide distribution by connecting you with various audiobook retailers, libraries, and distribution channels such as Apple Books, Google Play, Kobo, and many others.

Wide distribution can increase your discoverability and give you more control over pricing and marketing strategies on each platform. It also allows you to cater to listeners who prefer specific platforms or devices. However, managing distribution across multiple platforms requires diligent management of metadata, pricing, and promotions, as well as monitoring sales and royalties across different channels.

Exclusive vs. Wide: Factors to Consider

When deciding between exclusive and wide distribution, consider the following factors:

  • Marketing Strategy: Evaluate your marketing plan and how it aligns with your distribution options. If you plan to focus on specific marketing initiatives or capitalize on the benefits of a particular platform’s promotional opportunities, exclusive distribution may be a viable choice. On the other hand, wide distribution can give you the flexibility to implement diverse marketing strategies across multiple platforms.
  • Platform Preference: Consider your target audience and their preferred listening platforms. Some listeners may be loyal to specific platforms or devices. If you want to reach a broader range of listeners, wide distribution may be the better option.
  • Royalty Rates and Revenue: Consider the royalty rates offered by each platform for exclusive and non-exclusive distribution. Calculate potential revenue based on expected sales and royalties to assess the financial implications of your distribution choice. Keep in mind that while exclusive distribution may offer higher royalty rates, wide distribution can provide a more significant overall revenue if your audiobook performs well across multiple platforms.
  • Rights and Control: Evaluate the control you have over your audiobook rights and pricing under each distribution option. Exclusive distribution may require a specific exclusivity period, limiting your ability to distribute the audiobook elsewhere during that time. Wide distribution gives you more control over pricing, promotions and the ability to adjust distribution strategies as needed.

Ultimately, the decision to go exclusive or wide depends on your specific goals, target audience, and preferences. Consider your long-term publishing strategy, and weigh the benefits and drawbacks before making a decision.

how to publish an audiobook for reader with headphones on road

Promoting Your Audiobook

You’ll likely use many of the same strategies to promote your audiobook that you use to advertise other formats. Here are a few ideas:

Social Media and Online Presence

Leverage social media platforms, your author website, and your blog to create a buzz around your audiobook. Engage with your audience, share behind-the-scenes content, and consider hosting giveaways. To increase your visibility, collaborate with other authors.

Reviews and Outreach

Positive reviews and endorsements play a crucial role in driving sales. Encourage listeners to leave reviews and ratings on various platforms. Consider reaching out to book bloggers or podcasters to feature or review your audiobook.

Advertising and Marketing Strategies

You can invest in targeted advertising campaigns on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, or Google Ads to reach potential listeners. You can offer limited-time discounts or free promotions to generate interest.

How Much Does It Cost to Produce an Audiobook?

The cost of producing an audiobook can vary depending on several factors, including the length of the book and the production option. Here are some key cost considerations when producing an audiobook:

  1. Narrator Fees: If you decide to work with a professional narrator, their fees will be a significant portion of the production cost. Narrator rates often range from $100–$500 per finished hour (PFH) of audio, depending on their experience and reputation. Of course, AI narration is significantly cheaper.
  2. Studio and Recording Expenses: If you choose to narrate your own audiobook, there will be costs associated with studio rental, sound engineering, and/or recording equipment.
  3. Cover Art and Packaging: You will need an audiobook-specific cover. However, if you are already working with a professional cover designer, the fee for producing an audiobook version of your cover is generally minimal. See Blue Pen’s audiobook cover fee here.
  4. Distribution and Marketing: Once your audiobook is produced, there might be expenses related to distribution platforms, marketing, and promotional activities to reach your target audience. These costs can vary depending on your platforms and marketing strategies.

If you work with a professional audiobook production company, you’ll likely pay a flat or per-word rate that incorporates the entire process, including casting, narration, editing, and distribution.

How to Publish an Audiobook That Impresses Readers

Publishing an audiobook requires careful planning, quality production, and effective promotion. By following the steps outlined in this article, you can navigate the audiobook publishing process with confidence.

Remember to focus on creating a captivating listening experience for your audience and utilize various marketing strategies to maximize the reach of your audiobook.

The growing popularity of audiobooks presents an opportunity for authors to reach a wider audience and bring their stories to life in a whole new way. Audiobooks offer a convenient and immersive reading experience, allowing listeners to multitask and enjoy literature while on the go. With advancements in technology, publishing an audiobook has become more accessible and manageable for indie authors.

Whether you choose to narrate your own story, hire a professional narrator, or explore the possibilities of AI narration, careful preparation and attention to detail are essential for creating a high-quality audiobook.

As the popularity of audiobooks continues to grow, embracing this format can be a game-changer for authors looking to expand their readership and connect with a diverse audience. If you’re interested in learning how our team can help you prepare your manuscript for publication (including audiobook publication) or about connecting with our audiobook production partner, get in touch with us here.

reader listening to audiobook on couch

FAQs About Publishing Audiobooks

Is it necessary to hire a professional narrator for my audiobook?

Hiring a professional narrator can enhance the quality of your audiobook and is a good idea in most cases. However, there are other options. You can book time in a professional studio or set up a home studio to narrate your own audiobook. You can also use an AI narration service like Audie.

How long does it take to produce an audiobook?

The production time varies depending on factors including the length of the audiobook, the choice of narrator, and the complexity of the post-production process. The time necessary to produce an audiobook can range from a few weeks to several months, with the fastest option by far being AI narration.

What is per finished hour on ACX?

Per finished hour (PFH) is the industry standard unit for compensating audiobook narrators. It refers to the duration of the final, edited audio of the completed audiobook. This rate encompasses the time spent on narration, recording, editing, and mastering.

Can I publish my audiobook exclusively on one platform?

Yes, you have the option to publish your audiobook exclusively on a single platform like Audible through their ACX program. This gives you access to certain promotional benefits but limits your ability to distribute through other platforms or through your own website.

How can I track the sales and performance of my audiobook?

Most audiobook platforms provide sales reports and analytics tools that allow you to track the performance of your audiobook. These insights help you make informed decisions regarding pricing, promotion, and future audiobook projects.

What is the ideal length for an audiobook?

The ideal length varies by genre and target audience. However, most successful audiobooks are about six to ten hours, which equates to approximately 60,000 to 100,000 words.

Do you need an ISBN for an audiobook?

Audiobooks are eligible for ISBNs, according to Bowker. However, audiobooks do not need an ISBN. They are similar to ebooks in this way. If you do assign an ISBN to your audiobook, it should be a unique number. You should not use the same ISBN you assigned to another format of your book (e.g. paperback, hardcover, ebook).

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