In the last five years, audiobooks have grown in popularity, which is understandable when you consider the changes in people’s lifestyles, the limited time available to sit down and read, and differing consumer habits such as listening to podcasts. So, it’s no surprise that services such as Amazon’s Audible are proving lucrative for some authors and publishers. The question is whether authors should consider creating an audiobook, and if so, should they do it themselves?
If you have a traditional publishing deal and the publisher feels that it’s worth doing (i.e. it will offer a good return on their investment), then they may suggest creating an audiobook. As with the other aspects of the production process, big publishers will front the costs for audiobook creation and pay the author royalties when it starts making sales. In these situations, the author may have little choice over whether an audiobook version is made or not.
If you’re self-publishing, then the situation is very different. Self-publishing authors are responsible for all of the book’s production, including editing, design, marketing, and creating an audiobook. As there is no guarantee of making any sales, the author may not make their money back. In fact, self-publishing authors often do not cover their production costs. Given that the cost of creating an audiobook can be high (extending into the thousands), it may not be worth creating one. But if you’re considering it, it’s often worth waiting to see how well the print and e-book versions sell. If you make a reasonable amount of money, you can invest this into the audio version.
If you do decide to create an audiobook, you might wonder whether to narrate it yourself. On the upside, this hugely reduces production costs as you’re not paying a voiceover artist. On the downside, being an amazing writer doesn’t necessarily translate into being a compelling narrator. You have to be a master of pacing, tone, pronunciation, and emphasis; have a clear and pleasing voice, without a strong accent; keep readers interested by varying your style but also be consistent. Realistically, most authors don’t have those skills and would have to spend a lot of time practising to become skilled at it, which may not be the best use of their time.
Again, producing the book in-house will reduce overall costs as you won’t need to hire somebody to do this for you. But not everybody has sound editing skills—in fact, most people don’t. Like narration, it may not be the best use of your time trying to master sound editing software and getting the audio up to a professional level. Remember that you’re competing against big publishing companies with huge budgets and that poor-quality audio will be off-putting to potential listeners.
Having an audiobook is another way for readers to access your content, especially those who are visually impaired or prefer listening, and it is a nice-to-have. However, unless you’ve got a publisher that is covering the costs of producing an audiobook, it can be very expensive and offer little to no return on investment or require significant skills on your part. If you do decide to create an audiobook yourself, you should seriously consider whether you’re the right person to narrate it and produce it. Often, writing another book on your area of expertise is a far better use of your time while you leave the narration and sound editing to experts in their field.
Finally, it’s worth considering that creating an audiobook isn’t the only way to present content in a different format. If you want to increase the value you’re offering to readers, you could create a series of short videos on the content or a podcast where you share your insights, both of which may require less skills and investment than an audiobook.
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