5 Reasons to consider producing your book in audio format

Audio format for books was developed in 1931 by The American Foundation for the Blind and the Library of Congress Book for the Blind Project with their Talking Book Program. Their first test audio recordings in 1932 include a chapter from Helen Keller’s Midstream and Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven.  Fast forward to today’s audiobook business where the primary customer is not limited to the visually impaired, but includes all ages and tastes of readers who have embraced this format.  Below are five reasons to consider producing your works of fiction and nonfiction in audiobook.

  1. Audiobooks are the fastest-growing format in publishing. Over a six-year period (2014 – 2020), sales in audiobooks went from $429 million to 1.35 billion. In that same period, the number of audiobooks published increased from 25,000 to 71,500. The adult market grew by nearly 12% in 2020, as did YA at just over 11%. (Source: audiopub.org

  2. In the past few years, audiobooks have come to the forefront for a good reason: people are busy. It is a versatile option to satisfy your need to read while performing other activities in your day. Finding time to sit with a paperback or eBook version from your favourite authors or genres is a pleasure few have. With an audiobook, you can listen while you commute to and from work, while you exercise, take the dog for a walk, watch your kids play in the park, or while cleaning your house.  

  3. It offers you, the author, an opportunity to share your work in a third burgeoning format to expand your audience.

  4. Adult audiobook listeners will tell you that having a story read to them by a professional narrator is comforting and engaging in a way that eyeball reading is not. Perhaps it harkens back to our childhood when our parents or teachers read stories to us. Although that thought sounds odd to an adult, remember that before the age of the printing press stories were told and retold by voice alone.  This lost art is once again finding its place in modern society through digital means.  I urge you to sign up for free on Audible and charge your earbuds to listen to an audiobook of your preference. 

  5. With the right narrator (and you can audition as many as you want until your heart is content), your story will come to life in a new and exciting way. For me, the first audiobook I produced was a fantastic experience and it had me hooked from that day forward, not only as a listener of other author’s work but of my own. When you hear a voice actor nail your intention, inflection and purpose, it is a powerful feeling.

Now that I have hopefully sold you on the prospect of, at the very least, becoming an audiobook listener I have created a list of audio production basics that will help you understand this format’s intricacies.  I warn you in advance that it is not as simple a process as uploading your manuscript to Amazon.  Independent audio production requires deep pockets and patience unless you possess the ability to read your book in its entirety with a good quality microphone from inside a soundproof room.  The primary cost is in hiring a voice actor to perform your book on your behalf.  Let’s get started.

Ten things to consider before beginning an audiobook project:

  1. Unlike paperback or eBook publishing through Amazon/Kindle, B&N, Nook, or Smashwords (to name only a few platforms for self-publishing), a fair amount of planning is involved in producing an audiobook. ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange), which is owned and operated by Amazon, is the leading platform for audiobook production. When you publish through ACX, you are automatically published on the iTunes platform – a deal Audible forged in 2003. Through the ACX website you can listen to hundreds of narrator’s audition samples, narrowed down by accent, genre, style of voice (male/female), etc. This is a time-consuming process; however, once you have found the right voice actor for your project, you will likely hire them for the next project as well. I have used the same female narrator in all six of my audiobooks.

  2. A budget is paramount before you begin. Audiobook production can be expensive depending on how much the narrator you choose charges for their per finished hour of narration (PFH rate). To calculate the cost of production divide the word count of your novel by 9. The result will be the number of hours it takes to narrate your novel. For example: 70,000 words / 9 = 8 hours (rounded up from 7.8). Now multiply the hours of narration by the PFH rate and you will have your cost to hire the narrator.

  3. The time frame from accepting a narrator’s agreement to read your novel is where you will need to be patient. Some narrators are exceptionally busy; thus, it may take up to two months to have your finished narration in your hands. In addition, some narrators will provide post-production services to ensure that each chapter is consistent in volume and sound quality. Ask them if this is included or if they will charge you extra for this next step. 

  4. You will need to proof the narration against your novel and provide the narrator with any errors that need to be addressed. These are called pickups. The narrator will correct issues they didn’t catch such as misread lines, missing lines, misread words or incorrect annunciation of names and places, etc, before you finalize your project.  Even the most professional voice actors will mess up thus a few pickups are necessary in most cases.  In ACX, each completed chapter is uploaded individually. This process is quick and efficient. If your narrator is producing the audiobook for you they will upload the files to ACX. Once the chapters are uploaded, ACX staff will take ten days to proof your audiobook. If there are errors or corrections to be made, you or your producer will be informed of the issue(s).  After you make the required adjustments you will be back in the 10-day proofing process again. ACX is particular about the quality of the audiobooks on its platform, which is a good thing.

  5. ACX will ask you for a launch date for your project, which is the day you want to make your audiobook available to the public for purchase. They will keep records of how many sales you have, and the number of returns by customers (each listener has 7 days to return a book that they did not like) and provide a monthly report of the sales stats and commission on your audiobook sales in much the same way Amazon does with paperback and eBook sales.

  6. ACX does not get involved in the marketing aspect of your audiobook; therefore once it is launched on the Audible and iTunes platforms, you are responsible for telling the world that your book is available.

  7. Audiobook production is not for the faint of heart and will sap you of a large investment. I recommend that you, as the author, have a solid base of fans before embarking on this option.  If you are a represented author with an agency or publishing house ask them if they are interested in producing your work in audiobook format.

  8. Regarding promotion, your narrator may have fan groups or pages on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter that you can connect with to help promote your project. Often, narrators are happy to share their recent titles with their fanbase.  Don’t be afraid to ask them to post release notices on their social media accounts.  One of the best ways to grab an audiobook fan is to have a five minute or less snippet of your book available to sample.  These are referred to as teasers.  Audible & iTunes will also provide an audio sample for potential buyers to hear on the page your audiobook is listed on their sites.

  9. Options for production:
    • Option 1: My narrator produced my first audiobook, which saved me a lot of time and headache in navigating the ACX process as a first timer.
    • Option 2: Hire an audiobook production service to handle everything for you. Audio production companies hire the narrator(s), keep your audiobook production on schedule, pay the narrator(s), have the audio files professionally produced (mastered) and give you an invoice for the completed, project ready for you to upload to ACX.
    • Option 3: Do the production entirely on your own.  You can hire voice actors directly or narrate your book yourself then upload your finished audiobook to ACX as the producer.  

      I have produced projects on my own, hiring the narrators, and combining their audio clips in post-production (duet and dual narration). I have also hired an audiobook production service to handle everything. Since I have audio production experience, I can master my audiobooks, which lowers my costs. It is a time-consuming prospect to self-master your audiobook files; thus, for you, it may be best to let someone else handle this process especially if this is your first production.

  10. Should you be interested in producing an audiobook, you may want to try a short story first to get your feet wet, which will be less expensive but very much worthwhile for the experience.  You might find you have an entirely new audience for your stories.

As noted above, the audiobook listener world is a burgeoning market and has been for the past nine consecutive years. Fans of audiobooks are a ravenous group, often devouring entire eight to ten hour novels in one or two days then ready to do that again instantly. This is common particularly with the romance and YA audiences.  It can be a bit nerve wracking to keep up with their demand as the average audiobook takes six months to produce from start to finish.  These fans are also narrator driven listeners buying books narrated by specific voice actors via preorder or the minute they are released in Audible.

In my case audiobooks are my best sellers with paperback and eBook sales lagging far behind in comparison.  Every author will have their market space in which their sales excel.  Perhaps yours is in audiobooks as well.    


Sandra A. Sigfusson

Sandra A. Sigfusson has lived in beautiful British Columbia, Canada her entire life. She has two sons and works full time as a romance author. She has written a dozen manuscripts since July 2018, self-publishing nine of her stand-alone novels via Amazon / Kindle. Additionally, her sixth romance audiobook will be available via Audible and iTunes at the end of 2021.

Before becoming a romance novelist, Sandra spent four years co-hosting an internet podcast program called Beavertalk, which covered the subjects of dating and relationships in the modern world.  This experience was more fun and eye-opening than she ever imagined. Her love of romance novels, music, photography, and a good laugh has played an integral part in her penning of steamy, romantic, and sometime erotic tales with happily ever after endings. Follow Sandra on Twitter @SandraSigfusson and visit her website at sandrasigfusson.com.