Saturday, September 5, 2015

Audiobooks Market Study: “Authors, I hear what you’re saying.”


Introduction

Today our study’s focus is on audiobooks and the huge reader/listener market that is emerging, how to market to this group, and the problems ahead for indie and middle-tier authors.

Audiobooks is simply someone reading text from a book and recording it for playbook. This practice had been around since the 1930’s. The target market then was helping the blind or sight impaired. The media was a phonograph at first but that had a limited storage capacity. Then multi-cassettes took over the audiobook arena. Cassettes and CDs were the only media for years.

The turning point came in 1997 when Audible.com started producing, marketing and selling digital audiobooks on-line. Now this market has drastically changed along with the target audience. (Audible.com was purchased in 2008 by Amazon, the large on-line marketing giant.)

This post is a summary of answers about audiobooks I have collected from a group of outstanding, award-winning authors interviewed at the HBS Author’s Spotlight. All these authors have experience with audiobooks.

(To date we have conducted over 440 author interview and book showcase posts with over 375,000 views.) 

General question

One of the questions we ask authors during our interviews is about audiobooks. Here is the general idea of the question asked.

Several of your novels have been converted into audio books. What has been the impact on your regular sales? Has the audio books gained a new audience for you? How important has Audio Books been to your success? Do you recommend new authors going this route to get more exposure?   (Click on author’s name to view their complete interview.)

This post was prompted by a recent interview I did with Rhys Bowen, a bestselling author. Her enthusiasm for the new audiobook format made me take a closer look at what my author interviews had been telling me for several years how. Let me share with you what Rhys said.

Rhys Bowen @RhysBowen is the New York Times bestselling writer of the Molly Murphy Mysteries and A Royal Spyness Mystery series.

“My audiobook sales have literally changed my life. Audible has adopted me as one of their top mystery authors and I sell incredible numbers of audio books. My Royal Spyness titles are always on their bestseller lists and this new medium has opened up my writing to a whole different type of reader/listener. Many younger readers are [listening to audio books] on their way to work, or the gym or walking the dog. It's been a brilliant partnership.” 

Readers/Listeners

The target audience for audiobooks has shifted from the sight impaired to a huge on-the-go, time bound audience. The group is getting younger and more mobile with access to audiobooks anytime, anywhere. And, for the most part, they are different from the eBook purchaser. Here is what some of the author revealed about the listeners in their interviews.

Kristen Ashley @KristenAshley68 is the New York Times bestselling author of many series including Magdalene, Fantasyland, Colorado Mountain and the Dream Man Series. 

“In the last year, this might have been the smartest thing I’ve done. I’ve never listened to an audiobook (but have finally downloaded my own and can’t wait to dig in!). Since that was outside my realm of experience, I didn’t think of it. But there is a HUGE audio community out there and they’ve embraced my work in that format.

As for regular sales, I have 45 books published and sales aren’t skyrocketing but a number of titles have been available for years and sales remain steady. Therefore, I can only assume there are a variety of factors that are keeping that good mojo coming and I suspect audio is part of that.
And a big fat yes! to it gaining a new audience. Quite a number of folks comment on audiobooks on my social media sites and through reader mail. So it’s had quite an impact.”

Alison Bruce @Alison_Bruce is the author of the Cambridge series of Gary Goodhew crime novels. 

“I don't actually know the impact on sales but I have had emails from several readers who are only able to enjoy books through audio versions and I've been delighted that the books have been available to them.  I would say to other authors that any opportunity to make your work accessible to a wider market is a good thing.”

Author Catherine Bybee @catherinebybee is a New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal Bestselling Romance Author. 

“There are people who ONLY listen to audio, so yeah, I’ve found new fans. Hey, I’m all over audio if that’s what makes people happy. If I had a long commute, I’d listen. But my commute is from my kitchen to my office. So I’m good!”

Amazon Bestselling Author Diane Capri @DianeCapri is the author of The Hunt for Reacher series. 

“Many readers love audio books because they're so portable these days. You can put them on your iPod or your phone or almost any device and take them to the gym or out to do chores or on long commutes. People who don't have the time to read any other way are especially thrilled with the audio versions. Audiobooks are terrific for authors and for readers. I'm grateful to have them available.”

Elizabeth S. Craig @elizabethscraig is the author of the Myrtle Clover mysteries, the Memphis Barbeque mysteries (as Riley Adams), and the Southern Quilting mysteries. 

“I'm able to explore audio with one of my series--the self-published Myrtle Clover series.  With the two Penguin series I, unfortunately, don't own the rights to take that route.  But I've been very happy with my audio experiment for the Myrtle Clover series. I have an older reader base and many readers have contacted me saying that audio is the only way that they can enjoy my books with their failing eyesight.  Additionally, I've picked up younger readers this way--readers who commute or like to listen to audiobooks when they exercise. I think this is a completely separate platform and may not tie into my regular sales...unless readers decide to try out my other series based on their enjoyment of that one.  I don't have any evidence of this potential crossover, unfortunately.” 

Author Darcia Helle @DarciaHelle writes Suspense Novels which includes the Michael Sykora series. 

“The audiobook market is still very new to me, and it’s been a fun experience. I’ve actually been surprised by how much I enjoyed hearing someone else bring my characters to life. I think audiobook listeners are often an entirely different group from e-book readers, which has been my main market so far. I’m still working on ways to reach this new audience.”

Acclaimed crime writer Libby Fischer Hellmann @libbyhellmann is the author of the Georgia Davis and the Ellie Foreman series. 

“All of my books have been recorded and released on audio – I made sure of that. Audio has definitely expanded my readership. I listen to a lot of books on audio myself. It’s so easy to listen when you’re stuck in traffic, or doing errands, or even cleaning the house. I love it.”

Author Pamela Fagan Hutchins @PamelotH is an award-winning and bestselling romantic mystery/suspense and hilarious nonfiction writer. 

“I love the audiobooks! Yes, they reach a new audience, and the sales from ebooks and audiobooks really seem to help each other. Not only do I have audiobooks, but Saving Grace was read aloud in its entirety on NPR in Arizona. I love that it reached people who would have never been able to read it that way.”

Merry Jones @MerryDDJones is the bestselling author of the Elle Harrison Thrillers, The Zoe Hayes Mysteries  and the Harper Jennings Mystery series.

“I hope so. I love audio books myself, especially on long car trips. And I think they're great for people who are visually impaired. I'm not sure that audio books enhance regular sales; I'd be interested to find out. My instincts say that audio book buyers are an independent market, but I have nothing to back that up.”

International Bestselling Author Tonya Kappes @tonyakappes11 writes Small Town Southern Mysteries. 

“I absolutely LOVE audio books. It has NOT hurt my regular sales at all. In fact, it has opened up a whole new audience. Some readers have bad eyes or can't read for long periods of time and the audio book works great for them. I would tell every author to be on every platform. Why not?”

Author Julie Anne Lindsey @JulieALindsey is the  bestselling author of the Honey Creek Books and The Patience Price Mysteries. 

“Murder by the Seaside is like the little book that could. Carina Press picked it up as a digital book and requested two sequels. Carina Press is a digital imprint of Harlequin, so I was thrilled. The book has since gone on to audio and was selected for the Harlequin book clubs where it was printed into their World Wide Mystery line and shipped to thousands of Harlequin book clubbers. Murder in Real Time will follow suit next year. So far the audio sales have been small, only a tiny portion of digital sales. For this reason, I can’t say audio has necessarily found me a new audience.”

Author David VanDyke @DVanDykeAuthor is the bestselling author of the Plague Wars and Stellar Conquest series. 

“I'm not sure if the audiobooks have gained a new audience but I have to presume they have had some effect. Some people "read" almost exclusively on audiobooks, so to reach that segment you have to have the audiobooks available. That's common sense. There is also a segment that wants to use the Whispersynch function on Kindle (or the Kindle app) to listen as they read, so some copies are being sold to people who also buy the ebook. This is a win-win for both author and reader. Amazon gives a big discount to those who buy both, and the author make a little more money.”

Author George Wier @BillTravisWrite is the author of the The Bill Travis Mystery series. 

“I'll say there's been an impact. The Last Call is my first audiobook. It's just now out there and is gaining some serious recognition. The numbers (sales) are jumping up in leaps and bounds. There is one untapped market out there that I decided to focus on. Here's the big secret: When was the last time you took a road trip from coast to coast? Okay, whether it was twenty years ago or last week, the following question is likely going to have the same answer: how many 18-wheel tractor-trailer rigs did you see on the Interstate? That's the untapped market. Those men and women ply the highways night and day. And guess what they listen to. That's right, audio books.

So, I introduced The Last Call into this new market two weeks ago, and sales have jumped right up there. As far as more exposure, new authors can do all the same old stuff that everyone else is doing (blogs, ezines, etc.) and will see some measure of success. But you have to also learn to think for yourself and find your market—or the BEST possible market—and get those audio books out there, man. Let word-of-mouth go through them like wildfire. That's starting to happen right now for me. My narrator, Frank Clem, an excellent Hollywood actor and voice artist, is busily working on book two of the Bill Travis series, Capitol Offense, and it should be out in about two to three weeks. I'm hoping to get it out there in time to catch the crest of the wave.” 

Award winning author and playwright Traci Tyne Hilton @TraciTyneHilton is the author of the The Mitzy Neuhaus Mysteries and  The Plain Jane Mysteries series. 

“I don’t know that audio books have gained me many new readers (listeners) but I like to have them out there for people who prefer to listen.” 

Marketing

The marketing of audiobooks has changed dramatically in the last decade. Instead of being displayed on retailer’s bookshelves with accompanying displays, they are primarily purchased on-line from several large retailers. The marketing target is different, the distribution is different and the market is smaller than the eBook market. So what marketing approach should we take?

M. Louisa Locke @mlouisalocke is the Author of Maids of Misfortune and Uneasy Spirits, bestselling Victorian San Francisco Mystery Series. 

“The audio book market is definitely expanding, and Amazon’s ACX program lets an indie author find a narrator and put up an audio book for free if they do a royalty split with the narrator, which is how I did Maids of Misfortune. The main obstacle to sales seems to be that no one has figured out how to promote audio books the way we can promote our ebooks. Audible does do discounts and promotions—but as far as I can tell they are promoting traditionally published audio books (which I assume the traditional publishers pay for). This means that most indie audio books are invisible on the audible site itself. So, rather than the audio books driving sales to my print or ebooks, it is the other way around. When I do a promotion of the ebook edition of Maids of Misfortune (free or discounted), my sales of my audio version go up as well, since the audio version is linked on the Amazon site to the ebook. If ACX and Audible developed some marketing tools for indies the way that KDP did with Select, this could change things a good deal.”


Terry Odell @authorterryo is an author of romance, mystery & romantic suspense novels. She is also a publishing industry blogger and hosts the Booklover’s Bench, a website for readers. 

“As I mentioned before, it's impossible to know what triggers a book purchase, so I don't know if there's crossover between audio and other formats. I think for the most part, there's a large portion of audio book purchasers who don't buy the other formats. Overall, though, I think opening any new market is a good thing. Cast a wide net.”

 Occult Thriller Author Lisa M. Lilly @lisamlilly is the author of the The Awakening Series. 

“I have reached some new readers, or listeners, I should say, and so far they have liked the audio version, which makes me happy. I’m planning to focus more on audio marketing when Book 2 is released. Doing this also prompted me to start listening to audiobooks, with the result that sometimes I’m immersed in “reading” three books—one fiction, one non-fiction, and one audio, since I tend to listen to audio while I do things like clean. Which definitely makes cleaning more fun.” 

Narrator

One of the important steps to having a successful audiobook is the narration. Who will read your book to the audience? I can visualize the person setting in a recording booth reading one of my mystery novels. That process hasn’t changed for decades. Is the selection of the narrator the key or is the content of the novel? Here are the opinions of some bestselling authors who have gone through this process.

Bestselling Author Chuck Barrett @Chuck_Barrett is the author of the Award-Winning Jake Pendleton series. 

“Audible approached me last year about turning my novels into audiobooks, something I’d thought about but never took any steps in that direction. Within a few weeks, we (Audible and myself) had reached an agreement and signed a contract for all three Jake Pendleton novels. And to top it off, the narrator Audible used was the incomparable Scott Brick. I have been delighted and honored to have him narrate my books. Audible has been good at promoting my audiobooks, including giving me promotional codes for giveaways. It has helped my ebook and print book sales as well. I think new authors should let their best judgment guide them on audiobooks. Before an investment is made in audiobooks, I think a new author needs to see some success with print and ebook sales first. When the time is right, do it.”

USA Today bestselling Author Rebecca Forster @Rebecca_Forster is the author of the Josie Bates Thriller - The Witness Series. 

“Audio books were way out of my comfort zone, so I partnered with a producer and a professional voiceover to create them. I only had two of the Witness Series converted. That voiceover artist no longer reads novels and it will be hard to find a new voice. Still, I'd like to continue with the Witness Series. I think the audio audience is devoted to that medium so the impact on book sales is minimal. I'm actually planning on doing the Bailey Devlin trilogy in audio. The books are shorter and not as intricate in terms of characterization as the Witness Series novels. I think a voiceover will have a ton of fun with them.”

M.J. Rose @MJRose is the international bestselling author of the Historical Fiction, Mystery & Thrillers Novels and Publishing Industry books. 

“I don’t have any sense of how one has impacted the other but I’m a huge audio book listener and it matters to me a lot that my books are available in audio. I’m especially proud of the quality of the narration – my dream narrator - Phil Gigante has done all of the books – some with the amazing Natalie Ross.”

Author David VanDyke @DVanDykeAuthor is the bestselling author of the Plague Wars and Stellar Conquest series. 

“The advice I would give for anyone turning a book into an audiobook is, choose someone who has done it before, preferably who has a strong track record with ACX and can show you completed work. He or she should be able to point to books that are out and which are rated well on Audible. I haven't seen audiobooks make any discernible impact on ebook sales, but the audiobooks themselves sell around 10% number of the raw copies (e.g., 10 ebook sales means about 1 audiobook sale), not surprising because audiobooks several times as expensive. However, the per-unit royalty is a bit higher, so it is well worth it to make books into audiobooks in my opinion. For authors, any time they can create another version of an existing work and provide it to the customer is good. It's a lot easier to have a book converted into a new medium than it is to write a new book.”

ACX.com

In 2011, as the new audiobook industry immerged, publishers and retailers realized the potential marketplace but also the problems that could accrue from a poor narration. Thus, the Audiobook Creation Exchange was formed. The group is made up of professional narrators that authors, agents and publishers can use to create quality audiobooks. This Amazon platform was created to assist authors produce, publish and promote audiobooks. Some of the authors that I have interviewed weight in on their experiences with ACX.
 
Elizabeth S. Craig @elizabethscraig is the author of the Myrtle Clover mysteries, the Memphis Barbeque mysteries (as Riley Adams), and the Southern Quilting mysteries. 

 “I do recommend this route to new authors simply because it doesn't have to cost you a dime to open up to a potential new market. Although in general I'm wary of royalty-share options, I felt this was the way to go with audio (through ACX).  My narrator and I split the royalties evenly, so I paid nothing to her up front.  The income I make monthly from the audiobooks is pure profit since I invested nothing.”

Niki Danforth @NikiDanforth is the author of Stunner: A Ronnie Lake Mystery. 

“I worked with a terrific narrator/producer whom I found through ACX.com, and the Stunner audio book is now available on Audible, Amazon and iTunes. The book just came out last month, and I'm happy with the early results. What I especially like is that Stunner is part of the Audible platform, which is growing rapidly in users -- a great opportunity to find new listener-readers!”

Bestselling Author Jeff Gunhus @Jeffgunhus is the author of the The Templar Chronicles, Allison McNeil Thrillers and  The Career Series. 

“Yes, I think in today’s market you need to offer your audience whatever experience they want to have when consuming your story. ACX is such an author-friendly platform that they are really revolutionizing the audio book world. I don’t understand why an author wouldn’t be in audio. It just makes sense on every level.”

Author Alan Orloff @alanorloff is an Agatha-nominated mystery writer. 

“The audiobook for FIRST TIME KILLER just came out a few weeks ago, so it’s a little too early to judge its success. I had a fantastic narrator (Bob Dunsworth) and I think it sounds great. So I’m hopeful. I used ACX, which was pretty cool—it’s like a dating site for authors and narrators.”

Creation Process

I thought I would touch on the creation of audiobooks because a couple of my author interviews thought this was important to the overall success of the rendition. First, Audible.com takes care of the whole process. Marketing, production, selection of the narrator, etc. with a royalty split between the author and the narrator. Next, other publishers are starting to tackle the conversion projects but are finding out that it is costly and involved. For an indie author, I would let someone else do the conversion for you. Here is what a couple of the authors had to say.

Author Jami Gray @JamiGrayAuthor writes Science Fiction & Fantasy, Romance, Suspense novels. Jami is the author of The Kyn Kronicles series. 

“Right now, SHADOW’S EDGE is my only book in Audible. My publisher, Black Opal Books, is working diligently to expand that, but the process is fairly involved. I haven’t noticed a correlation between having SHADOW’S EDGE in audio and my print sales, but I would love to have all my titles in audio. I know quite a few readers who prefer audio vs. book. I think if I could expand my audio offerings, I could reach a larger audience.”

Joseph Lallo @jrlallo is a bestselling author of the Science Fiction & Fantasy series: The Book of Deacon Trilogy. 

“It is a little early to tell how the audio book is doing. It has only been out for a month, and it hasn't exactly exploded out of the gate, but I didn't expect it to. Jade is the oddball story in the Book of Deacon series. Frequently readers desperate for me to finish my current book don't even realize that Jade exists as a little additional morsel to the series. The process of making the audio book, though, has been fascinating. I was able to listen to auditions, and eventually make contact with a woman, Fiona Dwyer, who I feel did a phenomenal job. Within days of its release, it seemed to have put me on the radar for the audio book industry, because it led to a pair of emails from a pair of individuals who... well, I don't want to jinx it, but let's just say that I may be working on some new audio books before too long.” 

Author’s Point of View

Most authors like the idea of a new format for their works with a possibility of gaining new readers. Several authors interviewed gave their opinions.

Brett Battles @BrettBattles is the award-winning, bestselling author of the  Jonathan Quinn,  Logan Harper Thriller  and Project Eden Series. 

“All but, I believe, two of my books are available in audio. Audiobooks have been huge for me. I’ve gain a lot of readers through them, and always get many people asking for audio release dates. They’re actually great in another respect, too. For my different series, I will often listen to the audio version of the last book I put out before writing the next one to freshen my memory. Love doing that.”
 
Author Darcia Helle @DarciaHelle writes Suspense Novels which includes the Michael Sykora series. 

“Overall, I think it’s important for an author to have his/her books available in as many formats as possible. Even if I only sell a handful of audiobooks, those are readers I might not have otherwise reached.”

Bestselling Author L.J. Sellers @LJSellers is the author of the Detective Jackson Mystery/Suspense Series. Also, she is an award-winning journalist. 

“I just received author copies of a several more books that are now in audio. I honestly have no idea how well they sell. I’m sure it’s on my royalty statements, but I’m not obsessed with numbers. What I do like is making my stories available to as many readers in as many formats as possible.” 

Sharon Skinner @sharonskinner56 is an award-winning poet and author. She writes Children's Books and Fantasy. 

“I think that having a variety of formats to offer is a great way to increase sales. Right now, my only audio CDs are poetry and short stories from previously published works. However, there are plans in the works for audio books of both The Healer’s Legacy and The Nelig Stones, which is very exciting. I can’t wait to hear my stories read by audio book readers.”

Special Attention

There were several special items authors talked about in their interviews that I thought was worth including in this study. Amazon is selling ebooks and their companion audiobook at a discount which is a win for authors. Also they have introduced Whispersync for Voice which allows listeners to switch seamlessly between the ebook to listening. Again, this is a big advantage for the mobile reader. Some of the bestselling authors discussed this in their interviews.

Award-Winning Author Jinx Schwartz @jinxschwartz is the author of the Hetta Coffey series.
 
“I get a royalty check from Books in Motion, who recorded the audio books, every six months. Not tearing up the world financially, but there is definitely an audience out there. I actually love audio books when on the road. The books cost me nothing to make, so my percentage of sales is small, but hey, it all counts.”

Polly Iyer @PollyIyer is the author of the Diana Racine Psychic Suspense series. 

“Not sure. Collectively, they’ve sold well but not enough, but that’s always the case with writers.
It’s a very time consuming process, and I’m not sure when or if I’ll do the next one. When a book gets into the Whispersync program, anyone who has bought the book can buy the audio for $1.99. So for about $6, you get the book and the audio. Three of my four books are in the Whispersync program. That’s a deal in this day and age.”

Pauline Baird Jones @paulinebjones is the award-winning author of the The Lonesome Lawmen and the Project Enterprise series. 

“While audio listeners are sometimes a different type of “reader,” having the books in audio definitely helps push the digital books. Most of my books are Whispersynched, which means that if someone buys the digital book, they can get a hugely discounted audio book. So some audio listeners will buy the digital book to get the discounted price. And there are readers who like to go back and forth, reading when they can, listening when they are in their car, etc.”

Suspense Author Dale Mayer @DaleMayer is a writer of Romantic Suspense, Thrillers and Paranormal Romance. Dale has written several series including the Design series, By Death Series, Family Blood Ties, and Psychic Visions series. 

“I use the ACX system and I really love it.  I have 32 titles live through it and they sell well.  I think audiobooks is a quickly emerging market.  More and more readers are getting hooked on them.  In the coming months, Cool Gus is preparing a separate web site just to promote our audiobooks.”

New York Times & USA Today Bestseller Author Aleatha Romig @AleathaRomig is the author of the Consequences Series. 

“Currently all six of my Consequences series books are available in audio. My new release Insidious has also been purchased by Audible and will hopefully be available in the next few months. I LOVE the Audible. I feel that the audible has opened my books to a new audience. The Audible and especially the Whisper-sync audience is growing daily.”

Author David VanDyke @DVanDykeAuthor is the bestselling author of the Plague Wars and Stellar Conquest series. 

“I went through ACX to get my books done for audio. The first book, The Eden Plague, was done by a great narrator who unfortunately was not very familiar with ACX processes. He also had a growing career as an actor and that obviously took priority to voicing audiobooks. Because of that we had a rough time with the first book - technical issues related to the production, timeliness, etc. I'm not saying to criticize the narrator - he did a great job as you will hear - but for an author trying to please the fans by getting audiobooks made, I needed a narrator who would complete competently, quickly and accurately, and who was familiar with ACX procedures. I found that man in Artie Sievers, and he's doing a great job for me now.” 

Prolific author of dark fantasy, David Niall Wilson @David_N_Wilson writes Fantasy and Horror novels. We are highlighting his novel: Nevermore, A Novel of Love, Loss & Edgar Allan Poe. 

“There are wonderful programs like Audible's ACX system (we use this for all Crossroad Press audiobooks) that are making it easier for people to get books into audio, but like any other art form – and good audio IS an art form – it takes work, commitment, and usually some money.  If you choose a free narrator, willing to work just for royalty share profits on a new, untested author's book, you are going to get what you paid for.  Experience and sound quality are very important.  It's not a matter of reading – great narrators are voice actors – they don't lose you as they switch from gender to gender, or character to character.

One thing that is in our favor now is the new Whispersync for Voice system on Amazon.  If you buy the eBook of Nevermore from Amazon, you can get the audiobook for only $1.99 – all of that expense being a big savings over the price of the audio on its own.  If you use your Kindle to listen to the book, you will actually be able to sync the eBook and Audiobook, picking up in one where the other left off.  Everything changes. I should mention that I absolutely love the narration of Nevermore, performed by Gigi Shane.”

Future Needs and Problems

Nothing is perfect especially when it starts off. The new digital audiobook industry is no exception. There are needs and problems ahead as the following authors discuss.

Alicia Dean @Alicia_Dean_ is the award-winning, bestselling author of the Reapers of Boon Series, The Isle of Fangs Series and The Northland Crime Chronicles. 

“I can't say that the audio books have noticeably impacted my sales, nor have I become aware of gaining a new audience. I have had a few readers contact me to say they were pleased to find my stories available on audio books.”

Author Tallulah Grace @TallulahSpeaks writes Romantic Suspense Novels with a Paranormal Twist. 

“The audiobook process was a major eye-opener for me. I don’t regret doing it, but I’m not jumping in to do more, anytime soon. From a sales standpoint, the audiobooks are negligible. As far as building an audience, it’s like anything else; you get out of it what you put into it. I’ve not had the time to promote the audiobooks as actively as I would like.”

Author Jenny Hilborne @JFHilborne is the author of the Jackson Mysteries and Thrillers Series. 

“It's difficult to measure the impact of anything on book sales, including audio books. What works one month may not work the next. I do get a number of requests for my books in audio, so I'd like to think it's helped.”

Francine Thomas Howard is the author of historical fiction novels. 

“Yes, I do have audio books but that decision was in the hands of my publisher.  I received a very nice email from the narrator of my two Amazon books, Page and Paris Noire.  She thanked me for allowing her to play such interesting characters--especially the African-American Chanteuse in 1944 Paris--Paris Noire.”

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author and RITA® Finalist Caridad Piñeiro. Caridad is the author of nearly forty published novels and novellas. 

“I have a few audio books out and readers seem to really like them.  I plan on having my indie books done as audio as well.  I would recommend to new authors that they consider doing this as there are very viable avenues for producing an audio book.” 

Author Larissa Reinhart @RisWrites is a Humorous Cozy Mystery writer and the author of the Cherry Tucker Mystery Series.

“Henery Press set up the audio book deal and the audio books are new enough that I’m not sure how they impact my regular sales or if they have a new audience. I hope so! I had a wonderful experience with the voice actress, Erin Clark. If a new author can get an audio deal, I say go for it. I think more mediums are always better for exposure.”

Prolific author of dark fantasy, David Niall Wilson @David_N_Wilson writes Fantasy and Horror novels. We are highlighting his novel: Nevermore, A Novel of Love, Loss & Edgar Allan Poe. 

“I love audiobooks.  I listen to them whenever I'm driving, and for years I had a 2 ½ hour commute from North Carolina up to Virginia, so I've listened a lot.  That said, audiobooks are not a marketing aid.  In fact, it's harder to get listeners for a new audiobook by an unknown author than it is to get readers for your print or eBook, because the market is smaller, and because it takes longer to listen to an audiobook – it's a bigger commitment.

My advice would be to only tackle audio if you have some money, and the time to be very careful.  There are wonderful narrators and sound engineers, such as my buddy Jeffrey Kafer, who does all the audio mastering for our titles.  Professional quality audio, mastered and ready to go, is likely to cost $300 - $400 per finished hour.  You can get it cheaper, and you can pay a lot more if you have a particular voice you love.  It's a big commitment.”

Mystery Author Dave Zeltserman @DaveZeltserman is the award-winning author of the Julius Katz mystery series. 

“I don’t know—Serpent’s Tail arranged for two of them. The one I did, Julius Katz and Archie, I don’t think has had much impact. I’ve sold about 5,000 copies of the eBook, and only a tiny fraction of that in audio sales.” 

Takeaway Questions

Is there a reader vs. listener crossover or will authors have to market to two different audiences?

What do I do when my narrator becomes my voice and they stop reading books?

Do audiobooks have an impact on my book/eBook sales?

Will small publishers take on this additional project or farm it out to Audible.com? Will the same small publisher market your audiobook?

Do audiobooks need a new marketing scheme?

Last. Does the success in selling audiobooks depend on the author’s specific marketing of the audiobook OR the author’s name/brand, a great novel with 5-star reviews, the book’s genre or the publisher’s marketing effort? 

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7 comments:

  1. Great info, James! I learned a lot.

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  2. Thanks much! Lovely to see all the opinions.

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  3. I thought I would add this comment (via email) from an other author who I respect along with his opinion.

    Jake Needham: Your collection of responses is far, far more optimistic and positive about the benefits of audio books to authors than the authors I know would have given you. I personally sell audio books at a rate of about 5-10% of the number of copies that title sells in its print and ebook editions combined, and every author I have ever talked to has had an experience that is about the same. Put those numbers together with the very low royalties paid through ACX and you're left with something that's simply not a meaningful source of revenue for any writer I know...

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