One of the questions authors often ask is whether they should do an audio edition of their book. With the popularity of that format and the rising number of people who prefer listening over reading, authors may find they are getting more requests for audio from their followers. Creating an audiobook has a high price tag, so many authors have their fingers on the pause button. Let’s take a look at the factors and opportunities you may not have considered so you can make the best decision about audio for your publishing projects.
It is helpful to understand a few key things about audiobook fans. Increasingly, listeners are tuned in at home and often use it as a break from screen time. In fact, 67% of consumers cited this as one reason they choose to listen. Considering the significant rise in screen time since the pandemic, both for work and entertainment, this is understandable.
Another trend that will help set the stage is that fiction continues to dominate sales. This tells us both that most people are listening for entertainment and that there is great opportunity for growth in nonfiction titles.
What Are Your Goals?
Clear goals for your publishing projects help guide all your decisions. When it comes to audio, what are you aiming to achieve?
- Increase discoverability?
- Engage your audience in a new way?
- Earn more royalties?
- Sell more of your other titles or products or services?
- Gain more leverage?
If your only goal is to earn more royalties, then unless you have a robust following, you may find it difficult to get a positive return on your investment. If you want to gain leverage with your audio, then opportunities abound.
It’s All About Leverage: Top Tips
Here are some of the top ways to maximize your leverage potential while also marketing your audiobook from the inside out. All of the tips in this section need to be planned during pre-production (before recording).
- About the Author: I’m amazed at how many audiobooks omit this valuable content. If your listener has gotten to the end of your audiobook, it is most likely they enjoyed it and would like to learn more about you and what else you’ve got for them. Instead of making them go search, share your website address.
- Sneak Preview (Sample): If you have more than one title for the same target audience, include a sample from another one or two of your books—yes, even if they are not yet in audio. If the book is in a series, you should definitely include a sample from the next in the series, even if it isn’t complete or published yet. Whet the appetite for the next one, and make sure (if not published) that you invite them to sign up on your website for notification when it launches.
- Visuals (images, charts, photos, diagrams, maps, etc.): Most audiobook producers omit visuals, bypassing a huge opportunity. Fill your listener in on what the visual intends to communicate, and then invite them to your website so they can see or download it. Create a webpage for your audiobook resources. If you prefer to keep that page hidden from those who haven’t purchase the audio, you can choose to not have a link to it in the main menu. But be sure to have the links to the rest of your website on that audio page, thus inviting exploration and further engagement.
- Back Matter: Appendices, resources, etc. are generally omitted from narration, unless one or more are written in a narrative-friendly style. But be nice to your listeners and invite them to your website to see them.
- Worksheets, Exercises, Lists: Anytime you have materials that may be best experienced visually or with time to write or reflect, you are doing your audience—and yourself—a favor by offering those on your site.
- Meditations: If you have meditations in your book, you should definitely consider doing an audiobook. What better way to experience a meditation than with your eyes closed? Not only can you enhance your listener’s experience, you can offer those same meditations either as freebies or for sale to other visitors to your site.
- Interview with the Author: Ask someone to interview you, or you and your narrator can interview each other as a conversation. Include just part of that as a bonus track, and invite your listener to your website to hear (or view if you choose to do it as video) the full interview. If you already have an existing interview that would be appropriate, you can use that same technique. The important thing to keep in mind here is setting yourself up to have the best audio quality possible.
By inviting listeners to your website, you are offering to engage with them further. If you have a lead magnet (free offer) in exchange for signing up for your email list, this can help keep the engagement going.
A Word of Caution
If you have a lot of opportunities to invite listeners to your website, you’ll need to find a balanced approach. Do not turn your audiobook into a sales pitch. Crafting an exceptional listener experience should be your highest priority. Your website invitations should feel more like party invitations than like the slick car salesman nudging you into his office. The spirit behind each one should be to add value for the listener.
Leveraging the Completed Audiobook
Once the audio is recorded, you have more than just another format; you have a huge marketing asset. Any clip from your audiobook can be assembled with an image, such as your cover image, to create short videos. These audiograms are excellent for social media. And if you discuss this with your audiobook producer in advance, and indicate the text that you’d like in these short clips, then it can be an efficient process to deliver them.
Podcast Your Audiobook
You can also turn your audiobook into a podcast. There are many benefits to this approach. If you are publishing multiple titles that are all for the same target audience, then you might want to consider having an episodic podcast in which each audiobook is treated as a season. Alternatively, a single audiobook can be a serial podcast with a fixed number of episodes.
If the idea of playing host on a podcast excites you, you can still use clips from your audio as a part of the podcast. The rest can be you on mic solo or interviewing guests. Guests can be an excellent way to expand your reach, since they tend to share podcast episodes they are featured in with their own audiences. You can make that easier for them by creating suggested social media posts with the link to the episode.
The cost for podcast hosting can be negligible, and the additional marketing reach significant. As part of each episode, you can include an ad for your full audiobook or any of your other books or services. Podcast listeners expect ads, and over 80% say they don’t even mind them. This is a great way to take the audio content already created to maximize leverage.
(Note: It’s best to avoid free services for podcast hosting unless you can verify that they have a solid business plan for revenue generation. Otherwise, they tend to disappear. Libsyn.com is an excellent podcast hosting option.)
A Note on Distribution
Distribution decisions make a difference in your return on investment. Limiting yourself to ACX (Audible and iTunes only) means not only limiting where you show up but also your royalties. There are several other digital distributors that will give you a much wider distribution. I use AuthorsRepublic.com, but there are others that can also help you distribute to a wide network of retailers and libraries.
Pause or Play
To make your decision about whether to do an audiobook or not, start with your goals. If you want to leverage your audiobook so it is an investment and part of your marketing plan, instead of just an additional expense, then look through the manuscript for leverage point opportunities. Planning out your strategy during pre-production is one of the smartest things you can do. Work with your audiobook producer to create an exceptional listening experience while also leveraging it for further engagement and expanded reach. With this approach, you can confidently take your finger off the pause button. It’s time to play!
Becky Parker Geist is founder and CEO of Pro Audio Voices Inc., offering audiobook production and podcasting services, as well as several marketing options. She serves as president of the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association and is the host of the podcast “Audiobook Connection – Behind the Scenes with the Creative Teams.”