Why self-published authors should make audiobooks
There’s a whole new audience for audiobooks out there, but quality is key!
The number of people listening to audiobooks is increasing fast, and it’s high time that self-published authors got themselves a bigger slice of this pie. The incredible growth in the audiobook market over the last decade is showing no signs of slowing: 13 million more audiobooks were sold between 2014 and 2015 in the United States, with sales up $300 million. As audiobook uptake increases, it’s important that self-published authors looking to enter this market do so with good quality audiobook offerings.
It’s estimated that 55 million Americans listened to an audiobook in the last year, likely due to the convenience and growth of listening technology. The smartphones we carry in our pockets, and iPods before them, have transformed listening on the go. These ubiquitous devices give audiobooks a level of convenience that even e-readers cannot match – a Kindle may be easily transportable, but it does not stay by our side in the way that our phones do. As if that doesn’t make things simple enough, the next wave of technology finding a place in our everyday lives – smart speakers, such as Amazon’s Alexa – promise to make it even easier to listen to a good book.
Over 80% of audiobooks are downloaded; they are a good fit for today’s on-demand entertainment culture, and a number of online platforms are mounting concerted advertising campaigns to push the medium. Authors will be aware of the significance of Goodreads, and as of last year, users of the Amazon-owned site can listen to audiobook samples without leaving the Goodreads website. This gives those authors with audiobooks an extra chance to capture readers – converting interest into a sale and growing their profile. Additionally, TuneIn Radio now host audiobooks on their site, and it seems likely that companies such as Spotify, already venturing into podcasts, will follow suit. The way in which audiobooks are regarded is shifting: they’re beginning to become mainstream entertainment.
Who’s listening to audiobooks?
The allure of audiobooks for self-publishers isn’t just the potential to sell your work on new platforms and devices, however. Audiobooks also provide a way to reach different people: audiobook listeners are not necessarily the same people as book readers. For example, most book buyers are female, whereas the average audiobook consumer is more likely to be male. Audiobook consumers also tend to be younger, come from more diverse backgrounds, and are more likely to be in full time work than their book buying counterparts. There’s also the potential to attract the similarly burgeoning podcast audience.
The accessibility of audiobooks must also not be overlooked. The format was originally created to provide the blind with a door to the myriad other worlds that literature can offer, and whilst audiobooks have since moved far beyond this stereotype, it is crucially important to those people with limited options that authors continue to make their works available to them. The charity Listening Books provides an audiobook library for anyone who struggles to read print in the usual way, including those with sight problems, as well as those with physical disabilities who may be unable to hold a book, those with learning difficulties such as dyslexia, and those with illnesses that can make them too tired to be able to sustain reading.
Whether because of necessities such as these, or simply because people don’t have the time or inclination, many people do not read. An audiobook is your chance to reach these people with your writing.
Make it good
To really take advantage of the audiobook market though, quality is crucial. With greater availability of audiobooks comes greater competition, and when it comes to standing out from the crowd, the importance of a strong narrator and a good quality, tightly edited recording cannot be understated. If you as an author are to keep your readers coming back for more, listening to your audiobooks should be pleasurable. Your narrator should be disciplined, with an authentic voice, good pacing, and the ability to lift the story off the page, whilst avoiding unsettling noises such as lip smacks and large breaths. A thorough edit can help with those last two factors. A high quality recording and edit will also ensure that the room tone is silent with no extraneous noise or hum, the volume levels are consistent throughout, and your main character doesn’t say one piece of dialogue without their Northern accent! Getting your audiobook professionally produced gives you the best chance of succeeding in finding an audience and improving your profile as an author.
Streaming service BookBeat found that when their users discovered an audiobook they liked, they binge listened: after a new release by an author, the consumption of that authors’ backlist went up by 133%. It’s therefore important to hook your audience from your first audiobook to make sure that they recommend you and keep coming back to you for more – and also so that they’re pleased when they check out your back catalogue!
Audiobooks are becoming mainstream entertainment, and represent a rapidly growing market that more self-published authors could take advantage of. The opportunity is there, and good quality is achievable: some self-published authors have begun to be recognised at major audiobook awards such as the Audies. With so much to be gained, for authors and listeners alike, it’s time to bring that number of successful self-published audiobook authors up.