How to Self-Publish an Audiobook

young man enjoying an audiobook

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

We live in an on-the-go world. I’m sure you can relate to that. Think about your own life for a moment. When was the last time you could simply stop and sit with a good book for an entire afternoon? I hope it was recently, but likely you’re straining to remember the last time you had hours of free time.

You get the point. Life is hectic and even the most devout readers struggle to find enough time to sit and be present with a good book. What a cruel world! Alas, audiobooks are here to save the day.

Audiobook listening has increased by 100 percent over the last 10 years. The audiobook industry has become a beacon in the night for readers like me who simply don’t have as much time as they would like to sit with a book. Beyond this practical benefit, there also are plenty of readers who fundamentally are auditory learners. Whatever the case, the market exists and is rich with opportunities for authors to self-publish an audiobook.

Advantages of audiobooks for authors

As an independent author, you are essentially running a business. Business owners (at least the successful ones) are constantly seeking to take advantage of opportunities in their respective markets. Having an audiobook version of your title available gives you a massive leg up over other authors in your space.

Let’s talk about the advantages of publishing an audiobook.

1. You’ll reach a wider audience

Selling a book is not easy. As an author, you must pitch your story to readers in a way that will convince them to devote something far more precious than their money — their time. Whether it’s Stephen King or an up-and-coming indie author, everyone in the industry faces a similar challenge. When a reader browses the digital or physical bookshelf, they wonder if each book is worth their time.

Someone on the fence is more likely to give your book a shot in audiobook format. Why? Because it is less of a time commitment. For example, I recently grappled with a decision to purchase Breath by James Nestor. I decided to give it a shot in audiobook format. I was not quite ready to devote hours of my precious downtime to the book — but I was interested in the subject matter. So, I downloaded the audiobook and began listening to it while I walked my dogs, mowed the lawn, worked in my garden, and drove my car. Soon, I grew fascinated by Nestor’s book. I listened to the audiobook every possible moment I could and ordered myself a print copy.

The market is filled with readers, or shall I say listeners, like me. If you want to expand your audience, publishing an audiobook is an obvious step. Even if your book exists within a niche genre, you’re competing for readers with many other great authors. Before they value your work, readers will value their own time. An audiobook can be an approachable option for those interested in your work but not quite ready to devote their Sunday afternoon to it.

By gaining audiobook listeners, you’ll greatly expand your audience of readers.

2. You can increase your earnings

Remember, you’re in the publishing business now. Businesses are always pursuing new revenue streams. Audiobook sales can be another way for you to not only increase sales, but also diversify them.

As an author, you want to think about ways you can reach every possible reader. The worst-case scenario is someone being genuinely interested in your book — but being unable to purchase it because of limited formats. Some readers consume only print, some only eBooks, some only audiobooks, and some enjoy all three for different reasons. If you are to earn a positive return on your publishing investment, you cannot limit your audience. Audiobooks fill in the gaps and present a game-changing opportunity to earn bigger royalty checks.

3. You can take advantage of a growing market

The global audiobook market size is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 26 percent from 2023 to 2030. Personally, I think that number might be conservative. Just think about how podcasting has blown up over the last ten years. There are hundreds of millions of podcast listeners in the United States — demonstrating a clear demand for auditory content consumption. Podcasts are obviously much more conversational, but fundamentally, they demonstrate the encouraging future for audiobook listening.

Shockingly, the pandemic impacted the audiobook market growth positively. Despite more employees working from home and less time in the car commuting, audiobook demand increased. What does this mean? Well, in my mind, audiobooks are appealing because they are practical — but their appeal goes far beyond that.

As a reader, I admit that there is something enticing and comforting about listening to a book’s narration. Readers, like all other consumers, are always seeking new ways to enjoy content, and listening to a book is a new form of entertainment that brings stories to life. And we’re still in the early phases of the audiobook revolution. Projected growth demonstrates the untapped potential awaiting authors worldwide.

4. You establish credibility

As an indie author, you’re tasked with advocating for yourself and your book. Without a big publishing house behind you, it’s up to you to build a professional, marketable brand. Sure, you’re competing with other independent authors, but you also are competing with traditionally published authors. Your romance book — even if it is independently published — is listed alongside Colleen Hoover’s bestseller, It Ends with Us. Is it a fair game? Not always. But it’s one you must play, and an audiobook helps you do just that.

Not many independent authors sell audiobooks because, until recently, it was not very practical. Historically, it has been far simpler to publish print and eBook formats — and audiobooks were undertaken by traditionally published authors. Because of that, the audiobook market is far less saturated — and oftentimes appears exclusive to a best-selling club. But technological enhancements and the work we’re doing at BookBaby are changing that.

I will soon touch on how you can self-publish an audiobook with BookBaby. For now, it’s important to understand that publishing an audiobook gives you a competitive advantage. Only a small percentage of indie authors have an audiobook. If you are one of those few authors, you’ll achieve additional credibility amongst readers.

What type of genre performs well as an audiobook?

Format matters when it comes to genre and content. Obviously, an illustrated children’s book does not always make for the best eBook. So, what genres are best fit for audiobook production?

Fiction audiobooks

As of 2021, 65 percent of the market was occupied by fiction audiobooks. The biggest subgenre of best-sellers were science fiction and mystery. Important to note, romance showed the most significant growth year over year. Having a chilling thriller or a heart-pounding mystery dramatically narrated adds an entirely new dimension to a story.

Nonfiction audiobooks

Fiction may be the biggest seller in the audiobook market, but there is a place for nonfiction. Autobiographies and memoirs, historical books, self-help guides, and health and fitness books all can make excellent audiobooks.

How much does it cost to publish an audiobook?

Historically, publishing an audiobook has been an expensive endeavor. For years, it required either recording on your own, hiring a narrator, or using a production agency.

5 Steps to Self-PublishingRecording on your own requires equipment that costs anywhere from $200 to $500. Then, of course, you must invest hours to narrate, record, and edit. There also are additional costs of renting a recording studio to ensure the highest quality sound. The average price of renting a recording studio is $55/hour. Unless you have experience narrating and editing professional recordings, it’s not the best idea to record completely on your own.

If you hire a narrator, you’ll learn that most charge anywhere from $100 to $400 per finished hour. So, you can expect to pay anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000 for hired narration.

The costliest option — hiring a production agency — can be $10,000 or more for a finished audiobook. These agencies fully handle production, editing, and distribution, but the price point is obviously a deal breaker for most independent authors.

AI is making audiobooks more accessible

AI-powered audiobooks present an affordable and accessible option for independent authors. This new AI removes the need for a professional narrator and recording studio. It mimics the intricacies of a human voice and applies it to your manuscript, so your audiobook will sound like a human is narrating it. AI audiobooks are new to the scene. At BookBaby, audiobooks cost between $999 and $1,499.

Getting started with BookBaby’s audiobook platform

Publishing your audiobook with BookBaby is easy and affordable. All you need is a completed manuscript saved as a Microsoft Word document. You just upload the file, choose from our library of professional narrator voices, then review and approve your proofs.

Instead of paying tens of thousands and waiting months for your audiobook production to be complete, you now can have an audiobook produced and for sale in weeks. You also will be able to sell your audiobook on BookBaby Bookshop — which pays a healthy 75 percent royalty rate.

If you need support getting started, call our Publishing Specialists at 877-961-6878. Even if your book is already in distribution with Amazon or another publisher (including a traditional publishing house), you can still release an audiobook with BookBaby and benefit from our audiobook distribution channels.

Frequently asked questions about audiobook publishing

What is the audiobook royalty rate for authors?
Traditional publishers typically pay a 25–40 percent royalty rate for audiobooks. When you sell an audiobook on BookBaby Bookshop, you earn 75 percent.

How long does audiobook production take?
Traditional audiobook production requires an intricate process of recording, editing, and production. On average, it’s a 6–8-week process. BookBaby-produced audiobooks will have a proof ready within 4–6 business days.

Can non-English audiobooks be published?
Yes. Non-English audiobook narrators can be difficult to find and schedule. However, BookBaby offers 75 different languages.

Are there recurring fees to publish an audiobook with BookBaby?
No. Your one-time payment secures permanent distribution and support for your audiobook. There are no recurring fees.

Is publishing audiobooks profitable?
Audiobooks currently make up 20 percent of all book sales, and the number is growing by 40 percent every year. The market is filled with opportunities and independent authors are well-positioned to earn a profit selling their audiobooks.

The importance of investing in yourself

Self-publishing is a business, and audiobooks are certainly an investment worth considering. In a short amount of time, they’ve overtaken eBook sales — and we’re only in the early phases of the industry’s development. Thanks to advancements in technology and artificial intelligence, publishing an audiobook is now a practical option for independent authors.

There is so much opportunity waiting for you. When you fully invest in yourself and your project, you’ll find that building a profitable publishing brand is achievable. Having an audiobook in addition to print and eBook formats makes you a more credible, versatile, and marketable author.

Your path to self-publishing

Related Posts
What Is Your Author Brand?
Audiobooks For Independent Authors Are Here!
What’s the difference between a Memoir vs. Autobiography vs. Biography?
Kickstarter for Authors: How to Crowdfund Your Book
Why Readers And Authors Love Audiobooks

2 COMMENTS

  1. I’m a past & current BookBaby author. From what I’ve researched about audio book production, this is an excellent value and far more affordable than any option I’ve seen. The only questions are, what if you don’t like the Ai voices? AND – is BookBaby Bookshop the ONLY place readers can buy your audiobook? Would it be available on Amazon and other online retailers just like our BookBaby books are?

  2. I still don’t get why so many people think they’re saving time with audio books. I only go for the audio book if I can’t get a hold of a print or ebook (preferably PDF) edition. My inbox is overflowing, mainly due to all the videos and podcasts I don’t have time to listen to. Seriously, I probably get 6-12 hours’ worth of linear content (worse because they often have a bunch of “throat-clearing” and other fluff that would have been edited out if they’d bother to write) that I could easily absorb in less than an hour as written text. Maybe audio books don’t suffer from as much extraneous material, but they still take more than twice as long as reading.

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