Audiobooks – Now’s the time!

by: Jennifer Lovett

Do you have a book out? Have you turned it into an audiobook yet? Audiobooks are exploding on the market and now is the time for you to jump in. Do it! Just do it!

Why? Because everybody else is doing it!

  • In March 2018, Pew Research reported a seven-point increase in Americans who listen to audiobooks.
  • Another study found drivers admit to listening to podcasts and audiobooks while sitting in traffic.
  • And yet another study found that Harry Potter was the most listened to book on Alexa in 2017.

Use the commute!

People are admitting to listening to ebooks while working out, cleaning the house and taking a walk. Besides the fact that everyone is doing it, providing an audiobook is also an excellent way to exploit the daily commute. Studies show that in the United States today, the typical commute is 24 minutes long. If you live in Denver, that commute tops 45 minutes–Fill that void baby!

Meet Big Daddy ACX

Before you decide whether you want to read it yourself or pay someone, you need to know about Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX). It’s the dragon in the Amazon, Audible and iTunes’ moats. There are other peeps trying to get in on the distro business but for now, you’re stuck with ACX. Go ahead and just accept it and create your account, then upload your book cover, input your product description, list price and distribution options. Then upload your file. Hit publish and market as usual.

Yes, you could go with Overdrive (the library distributor) or Audiobooks.com or even Downpour but then you’ll lose high royalty rates on ACX. This goes into the big debate about being wide or exclusive to Amazon.

Just how techie are you?

ACX has a pretty stringent set of requirements. If you hire someone, they’ll make sure your file has all the correct technical requirements. If you do it yourself, you’re on your own. Because I don’t want to scare you right off the bat, I put them in the DYI section.

BUT BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING, you have to decide how you want to go about producing these things.

To create an audiobook file, you have several options:

  • Record it yourself
  • Partner with a narrator and pay up front
  • Partner with a narrator and pay in royalties
  • Partner with a narrator and pay by the hour

DYI – If you do it yourself, you need to consider a few things. First, it’s easier for nonfiction authors because they don’t have to be in character. Second, are you comfortable reading your work? Do you have any voice or acting training to help with emotion and character differentiation in your reading? Are you comfortable editing audio? Third, just how techie are you?

 If you answered yes and you’re ready to go, this is what you need:

  • Editing software. I recommend Audacity. It’s free and easy to use.
  • A good dynamic microphone. I recommend ATR2100 rather than the Snowball I use for podcasting. It will pick up less extraneous noise.
  • A very quiet space. Recording at your kitchen table isn’t going to cut it. Pad the walls of a small room in your house with egg crates or set up a tent (seriously) and throw a blanket over the top of it. Now, listen for things like the humming of the air conditioning, traffic on the street, or the dripping water at the sink.
  • Decrease noise on the audio file. Before you start recording yourself reading your book, record the “silence” in the room for five to ten seconds. When you’re done recording, highlight that section, go to the Effects menu and click “Noise Removal,” then click “Get Noise Profile” from the drop-down menu. Then select the entire audio on the track and click Noise Removal. Adjust any settings or go with the default, click OK and you’re done. This should help eliminate any ambient noises you may not have noticed while recording. This step is key because Amazon won’t take an audio file that has extraneous noise.
  • Tech specs. Here’s how your files need to be composed:
    • Be comprised of all mono or all stereo files
    • Include opening and closing credits
    • Include a retail sample between one and five minutes long
    • Section titles must be recorded
    • Be a 192 kbps or higher MP3 file
    • Each file must have a running time of 120 minutes or less
    • Measure between -23dB and -18dB RMS and have -3dB peak values

If you’d prefer to use a narrator, ACX has an exchange of narrators and producers. These folks are professionals and will offer you an “audition” reading of your work. Using professionals who are trained to record audiobooks will ensure your book sounds professional and will increase your credibility. It also cuts down on your learning curve.

There are three ways to pay a narrator: pay by the job up front; pay through a percentage of royalties; or pay by the hour. I do not recommend paying by the hour because it can take upwards of 20 hours of reading to get a normal-sized book read for a file. As a totally broke writer, I like the small percentage of royalties but over time, that could screw you. So, the ideal way if you have investment funds is to pay for the job up front. And let’s be real: audiobooks are NOT cheap! They can range anywhere from $1500-$3000. Are you choking? I did when I found out. BUT, if you can figure out a way to get it done, it’s a pretty big bang for your book over time.

Final word on this from a famous-type guy: Dave Chesson from Kindlepreneur says, “The audiobook market is growing at a rate of 30% per year, which nearly quadruples the growth rate for eBooks.

Don’t you want in????


Jennifer Lovett

Jennifer Lovett Herbranson is the founder of Writer Nation, a podcast and Facebook group dedicated to helping writers market their work. With 17 years communications experience, she regularly writes on social media, internet marketing and face-to-face publicity. She currently lives in South Korea and travels around Asia for fun. You can find her on her WebsiteFacebookTwitter, and Pinterest: @jennylovett