The DIY Guide To Turn Your Book Into An Audiobook
Audiobooks are big, and they’re only getting bigger. In 2016, the annual sales of audiobooks were 2.1 billion dollars, and sales increased to 2.6 billion dollars in 2017. (Source) With podcasting also on the rise, it looks like audio is where the market is flooding to right now for content consumption.
At the same time, you may have noticed how competitive the kindle market is. With an estimated 5 million kindle books now published, it’s getting harder to get noticed. Since there’s less competition in the audiobook market, this gives you an advantage if you act now to start getting your books into audio.
The second audiobook I produced has consistently sold over 100 copies each month without doing any extra marketing or promotion. Overall, audiobooks have generated royalties on par with my print and eBooks. In some cases, I end up selling even more audiobook editions than kindle editions. This works for fiction authors as well. A coaching client of mine, Emily Chang, sells over 150 romance audiobooks a month–which she narrated herself.
While producing audiobooks may seem like a no-brainer, many authors are held back because getting audiobooks created can be expensive, time-consuming, and there were limited distribution options for those outside ACX.com based countries (US, UK, Canada, and Ireland).
The good news is, in this article, you will learn:
how to find an audiobook production method that works with any budget
- exactly what equipment you need to record an audiobook yourself
- how to distribute audiobooks from virtually anywhere in the world
Let's dive into why and how to turn your book into an audiobook so you can reach more readers and earn more royalties.
Podcast: When Authors Should Make Audiobooks
Tune in to hear from Derek and Dave about why, when, and how authors should make an audiobook to grow their audience and sales.
3 Non-Sales Perks of Using Audiobooks
While selling audiobooks is a great way to increase your monthly royalties and connect with new readers, there are some other perks to having audiobooks. These include:
- Bounties – Get paid $50 every time someone purchases your audiobook as the first book in their Audible trial. This averages several hundred dollars in extra income for me each month. This means even lower priced audiobooks can help generate more income from bounties.
- Email list opt-in incentive – You can use your audiobook as an incentive for people to sign-up for your email list (if you’re non-exclusive). I often use an audiobook as an offer when going on podcasts because they naturally appeal to those who listen to audio.
- Bonus – Offer your audiobook as a limited time bonus for purchasing your book during a launch or other special promotion.
There are three main options for creating an audiobook. Each will have their pros and cons, so it’s not a matter of one-size-fits-all. Rather, consider your bigger business goals to determine which option is the best fit for you.
Option 1: Hire a Producer
When you hire a producer, they will do all the work of narrating and producing the audiobook. While this saves you the most time, it also costs you the most money.
The first and only book I hired a producer for cost me around $1,300 to narrate a book that’s around 51,000 words. If you shop around, you can find producers who will do it for less. Regardless, you’ll still expect to pay in the hundreds to thousands of dollars for a full-length book or novel.
Narrators can be found on ACX.com. Learn more about their process here. You can also go to freelancing sites like Upwork.com to find a narrator. Finally, you can listen to other audiobooks in your genre and if you hear a narrator you enjoy, you may be able to track them down via a Google search.
- Least time investment for you as the author
- You own all the rights to the book
- The highest cost
- It could potentially take a while to see a return on investment
- There’s a potential wait time of several weeks or more depending on the narrator
- It will take time to proof the audiobook to ensure the narrator didn’t make mistakes, mispronounce names, or do something you're not pleased with
If time is short and you already have a book that’s proven to sell well, going with a narrator would be a good option.
Option 2: Do a Royalty Share With a Producer
A royalty share, which is done through http://ACX.com, is where a narrator will produce your audiobook with no upfront charge. However, they will take 50% of all income and you’ll be locked into an exclusive contract with ACX for seven years.
If you’re a long-term thinker, then you may immediately see why this could be detrimental. You won’t be able to use your audiobook as an incentive to sign-up to an email list or as a bonus. And if you make a lot of money from audiobook sales, it could potentially cost more in the long-run than hiring a narrator outright.
Go here to see a comparison of ACX’s production options.
- No upfront cost
- Low time investment on your end
- You’ll lose half of all income from royalties and bounties
- This is only available through ACX with a seven-year exclusivity contract
- There’s a potential wait time of several weeks or more depending on the narrator
This could be a good option if narrating yourself isn’t an option and you have a severely limited budget. I generally suggest going with option one or three if you can make either of those work.
Option 3: Do It Yourself
My personal favorite method for audiobook production is the do-it-yourself approach. It saves many authors hundreds to thousands of dollars. You can produce an audiobook in a matter of hours for a shorter book. And a home studio can be set up for $100-200 depending on what you’re starting with.
Perhaps the biggest reason for doing it yourself, especially for non-fiction authors, is it will create a deeper bond with the listeners. I’ve gotten several emails from listeners who expressed how much they enjoyed hearing me narrate my own book.
It’s worth noting that in many fiction genres, it’s common for the narrator to be the same sex as the protagonist. This is worth taking into consideration depending on whether or not your sex matches that of the main character.
If tech worries are a concern, I’ve found in teaching hundreds of authors how to produce their own audiobooks, even the most tech-phobic authors are able to learn and master the process fairly quickly.Don't let lack of experience or money hold you back. The DIY Guide to Making an Audiobook can help any author get an audiobook on the market. #SelfPub #BookMarketClick To Tweet
If you’re wondering about the time investment involved, once the process is refined, I can produce an hour of audiobook content in about three hours of production time. A short novella or book can be produced in an afternoon. Longer books could take several days.
Also consider that you’re likely going to read through your book anyway, even when you hire an editor, to make sure it flows properly. After receiving my latest book back from my editor, I read through it out loud to record the audiobook and caught several mistakes my editor missed. You can do both the final proofreading and audiobook narration at the same time–taking care of two birds with one stone!
- This can save you hundreds to thousands of dollars
- You own all the rights
- You can create a deeper connection with the audience
- You can have the book done on your own schedule, even before it launches
- There’s a bit more time invested to learn and apply the process
- This may not work for those with an accent that is hard to understand
This is my personal favorite option for those who want to save the most money, create the deepest connection, and have the most flexibility on what you do with the book.
The Do It Yourself Setup
If you’re open to recording audiobooks yourself and are wondering what kind of investment you’ll need to make, here’s the exact equipment I recommend that will allow you to record professional quality audiobooks from home.
- Microphone – Audio Technica ATR2100 or Samson Q2U – $59-65
- Pop Filter – $6
- Microphone Stand – $13 for Neewer desk stand
- Or Pop Filter + Stand Combo
- Monitor headphones – $40
- Music stand (optional) – $15
- Blanket, pillows, thick clothes from around house to put up behind you
While mics like the Blue Yeti can work, a condenser microphone like the Yeti can be very sensitive to background noise. Using a dynamic microphone like the ATR2100 or Samson Q2U will pick up less noise and create a better audiobook style recording.
As you can see, you can have a home studio for approximately $150 with the bonus of being able to use this for podcasts, video recordings, and any other type of audio production you do.
The ideal room to record in is a small room. Walk-in closets work great if you have the space and can take your laptop. Below is a picture of a closet I recorded in while visiting my parents’ house.
However, for many people, the ideal situation would be recording at a computer desk. When I lived in a large loft, the reverb made it a poor recording environment. A simple workaround was to use a patio umbrella with a blanket thrown over the top. This only takes a couple minutes to set up and put away between recording sessions.
While there are many great recording programs out there, and I’ve used quite a few with my background as a musician, I recommend Audacity. It’s free, runs on Mac and PC, and has a few effects that you’ll want to use to master the audiobook. The learning curve is also fairly easy.
The Production Process
You can see ACX’s audio requirements at: https://www.acx.com/help/acx-audio-submission-requirements/201456300.
- Have room tone at the head and at the tail and be free of extraneous sounds
- Measure between -23dB and -18dB RMS and have -3dB peak values and a maximum -60dB noise floor
- Be a 192kbps or higher MP3, Constant Bit Rate (CBR) at 44.1 kHz
Seeing this initially freaked me out. Even though I have a background in audio editing, I found myself worried that I might screw something up. I spent months exploring how to produce audiobooks and after a lot of trial and error, I found it’s pretty simple to meet all the requirements if you know what you’re doing.
It does take a couple hours of training with over the shoulder type of teaching to get this down. So if you’re interested in the do-it-yourself approach, you can explore the step-by-step course on audiobook creation called Audiobooks Made Easy that covers everything I discovered on how to create your own audiobooks. Even experienced audiobook producers have taken the course and discovered new tips that sped up and improved their process significantly.
Build Your Audiobook Yourself Video
The Mikkelsen Twins are excellent at audiobook creations and makes some of the most educational and fun YouTube videos on the subject. Below is an example of this where they step you through each step of the process:
To get your audiobook on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes, you’ll need a distributor. The main distributor for those in the US, UK, Canada, and Ireland is ACX.com. If you’re outside of any of those countries, you can use a distributor like AuthorsRepublic.com
FAQs about Audiobooks
Should I go exclusive or non-exclusive?
Going exclusive with ACX means you’re locked into a 7-year contract, and they’ll give you a 40% royalty rate as opposed to 25%. (Source) Each author must decide for him/herself what makes the most sense based on their goals. I personally am non-exclusive for most of my books in order to have greater flexibility of what I can do with the audiobooks.
How do I price my audiobook?
The price is set for you automatically when going through ACX. There’s a standard pricing model based on the length of the book you can see here.
Can I add music and sound effects to my audiobook?
While you can, it won’t be Whispersync enabled if you do. Whispersync connects your audiobook and kindle book so when a reader reaches a particular point in either edition, it will pick up where they left off in the other edition. For instance, if they stop at chapter three in the kindle book, the audiobook edition will start at chapter three. This encourages multiple sales. I’ve found books that are Whispersync-enabled tend to sell better. Therefore, I don’t recommend adding sound effects and music unless you’re OK losing out on Whispersync.
What if I want to record myself and am not sure if people would enjoy hearing me?
First, it’s important to recognize that many people are somewhat self-conscious of their voice on recording simply because it doesn’t sound the way they’re used to hearing it inside their heads. It’s possible others would love hearing you narrate your book. The best way to answer that though is to record a sample and get feedback. An important piece of feedback to get is whether or not it's easy to understand you.
How do I market audiobooks?
Right now, there aren’t a lot of audiobook-specific marketing platforms. Fortunately, many audiobook sales can come organically when people see the audiobook edition next to a kindle, softcover, or hardcover edition on Amazon or Playster. This means best practice for driving traffic to your Amazon book sales page, such as building an email list and using Amazon Marketing Services ads, can lead to audiobook sales. There are hundreds of sales of my audiobooks each month without doing any specific “audiobook marketing.”Could an audiobook be what you need to connect with more readers and sell more books? #BookMarketClick To Tweet
For a more in-depth look at publishing audiobooks on ACX, check this post out.
If I could go back in time, I would have started producing audiobooks from day one of my author journey. While that’s not possible, what I can do is hope to inspire you to create your own audiobooks now – whether that’s through hiring a narrator or doing it yourself. There’s a world of new fans waiting to discover your work when you put it out on audio.
Share in the comments below which approach you’re going to use along with any questions and comments.
About the Author
Derek Doepker is a seven-time #1 bestselling author who’s sold over 50,000 copies of his self-published books. He helps authors through workshops, courses, and retreats to turn their passion for writing into a thriving business. You can learn more about his work and download a free copy of Why Authors Fail at http://derekdoepker.com/authorship/. You can learn more about his audiobook course here.
Hey Guys, I’m Dave and when I am not sipping tea with princesses or chasing the Boogey man out of closets, I’m a Kindlepreneur and digital marketing nut – it’s my career, hobby, and passion.