Are Audio Books Essential to Your Digital Book Strategy?

Oscar Thomas


by Oscar Thomas on Friday, 30 January 2015

. I know how I would do it, using Audacity, an open source audio recording and editing program; but I guess I’d rather spend my time working on new material, given that time is a valuable commodity and there are only so many hours in a day.

For anyone who has ever considered creating an audiobook but lacks the technical expertise to see the project through to fruition on your own, you essentially have two options… hire a professional or just don’t bother. Most independent authors choose the latter, I’m assuming due to monetary limitations. And while it would be nice to have an audio version of your writing, it’s probably not a practical use of time and money until you have the sales to justify the production costs.

For the last 18 months, I’ve seen noticeably more press about the rise in audiobooks and new web-based platforms to make it easier than ever for DIY authors to create professional audiobooks. Almost every article I read leads me to the Amazon, Audible love child called the Audiobook Creation Exchange a.k.a. is like an Elance or freelance marketplace specifically for audiobook creation. If you don’t know how to record or edit audio already, this is not some automated, WYSIWYG platform where you speak into your computer ‘s microphone and they do everything else. No, is about pairing you with an audio technician and/or narrator to negotiate a price to create your audiobook. The book can then be upload for distribution to Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

If you want to narrate your own book for upload to, you can do that, but your audio files must comply with the submission guidelines which you can review by clicking the link below: Submission Guidelines

A mere glance at the submission guidelines will do nothing to ease your fear or concerns about taking on the challenge yourself. If anything, it should scare you away from ever creating an audiobook or help you to realize once and for all you’re going to need some qualified assistance.

What does offer is distribution, and that’s a good thing. Although the audiobook market has seen a resurgence in its business thanks to digital publishing, there are still far fewer audiobooks available compared to digital books, which could represent an additional revenue stream opportunity. Is it possible that readers may find your book more easily in an audio format? I suppose anything is possible, but I don’t believe audiobooks drive digital book sales. That said, a fairly recent WSJ Online article suggests that some authors forgo digital book publishing altogether in favor of an exclusive audiobook sales strategy.

Audio books are no longer viewed as just an ancillary product to print. Some audio publishers are now attempting to rebrand narrated books as a distinct medium from print, labeling them as “audio entertainment.” A handful of such publishers have started dabbling in original audio content, hoping to demonstrate that recorded narratives can hold their own as original works of art.

The real problem with audiobooks is cost—not just in terms of creation, but for consumers as well. Decades ago “books on tape” could cost consumers between $50-$100, depending upon the length of the story narration. If books were extra long, consumers could save a few bucks and purchase an abridged version of the story. And although prices are significantly lower, ranging $1.99 (for a short story) to over $60 (for the Bible), the average cost for a downloadable audiobook is roughly $20 compared to a digital book which is typically less than half the cost.

So when customers ask me if audiobooks are essential to their digital book strategy, I tell them this: Given the average retail price as well as the time and cost to produce, audiobooks are great additions to your overall digital book strategy—once you’ve created a market of interest based on existing digital book sales. If you have a community of readers begging for an audio version and the sales will cover the creation costs and then some, then I’m all for it. On the other hand, if no one is asking for it, don’t worry about it… yet.

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