The Advancing Audiobook Market
I’ve mentioned before about the growing audiobook industry and the importance of giving it attention, as well as how to get audio versions of your books created. Today, I wanted to talk about why I’ve banged that drum so hard, as well as dive into the audiobook market as a whole. Seeing as next Thursday the first book in a new Audible Original series drops, 5-Minute Sherlock: The Case of the Damaged Detective, this seems like an especially prescient moment to tackle the topic. Plus, you know, work in an obvious plug.
To start with, let’s briefly touch on why the audio-market is currently exploding, although the factors I can see are likely the same ones you’ve observed. It largely comes down to access and cost, which the last ten years have revolutionized. Think back to what audiobooks used to be, cumbersome and expensive tape/CD sets that had to be brought along and changed out. Even using libraries to mitigate cost, that was the sort of setup where you had to really want audiobooks to listen to them.
And then, the digital age came. Suddenly you could store dozens of audiobooks on the same device you already had for GPS directions, as more and more cars became capable of playing from your phone. Add in that Audible’s credit system flattened out the pricing structure, as well as library borrowing apps, and you have a situation where a lot more people who would enjoy audiobooks are getting easy access to them. With the logistical hurdles gone, it’s turning into a matter of taste, and plenty of folks are finding the things to love about audiobooks.
That’s part of why the audiobook market is expanding so quickly, but let’s shift gears now to what that actually means. Essentially, there is a parallel book market with readers just as hungry, engaged, and involved as the ebook version, only with far fewer authors in it. Not every book becomes an audiobook, especially in the indie world where options are limited, which means the market is inherently smaller, for now. Sooner or later, the process will be smoothed over, allowing more books to become audio, and that will be awesome for the industry as a whole. For the moment though, the smaller market makes it easier to stand out.
Part of that means getting into the audiobook market as soon as you can. Which, truthfully, should likely be a goal anyway. We write our books so that people will read them, it only makes sense to offer those works in as many formats as possible to accommodate the different types of reader out there. While it is true that making audio as an indie can be a bear, it’s a bear worth wrestling. Outside of solid book release policy, readers have good memories, they’ll remember which authors made a point to be available before it was the norm.
If that seems like I’m overstating how big and strong the audiobook audience is, trust me that this is all coming from experience. For the past two years, I’ve sold more audiobooks than digital versions. Now, to be fair, the Audible credit system heavily weights in favor of longer books like mine. If they all cost the same (1 Credit) then quantity becomes a concern up there with quality, so someone might do all of SP even if they only kind of like it just because it fills half a week. But the fact remains that when I say audio is a huge market, I’m very serious and working from hard data. It’s part of why I jumped on the chance to do another Audible Original, and launch a series out of it. I try to always keep my readers in mind, and knowing that many are audio-focused means at the very least there can be one set of books they get first.
So, knowing that the audiobook market is hungry and vital, what should you keep in mind when turning books into audio-versions? First off, no, you can’t narrate it yourself. I mean you can physically, but, outside of a biography where personal voice matters, the odds of you having the talent and skill to do it well are basically null. Voice acting is like regular acting in that people think its easy until they actually try, and you do not want a crappy audiobook narrator under any circumstances. Where a good narrator adds to a book, a bad one will deeply detract. Do the work, keep searching, don’t stop until you find someone you really feel can be the voice of your characters.
If you have a wide range of books and are deciding which to move over first, take a look at what does well on the market. Longer is better as a rule, so maybe start with your epics, although if you’ve got a title with momentum that could make it easier to find a narrator. Genre is also a strong factor, large scale fiction and bio seem to do well currently, but that could easily change by the end of this paragraph. Go check the charts and scroll the categories, you should see pretty quickly where the demand is.
Finally, for today, don’t be afraid to make changes. Not major plot changes, mind you, two people who read different versions of the same book should still be able to talk story without missing a step. By changes I mean format-specific issues that can be tweaked. For example, in Second Hand Curses the print version has dialog tags that are missing in the audio version, because they weren’t needed. The different voices cue you into who is talking, so the extra words would be a waste. Don’t be afraid to look at things that work better based on the version and move them around. The format exists to support the story, whatever makes the story better is an option worth investigating.
Ultimately, only you know what’s right for your work and the formats it fills, but if nothing else I hope you’ll consider the audio-market for new releases. While it does take more time and work than a digital version, the effort is definitely worth it, especially for your audience.