Sun. Jul 21st, 2019

The Ins and Outs of Audible for Authors by Jill Hedgecock

4 min read

Founded in 1995, Audible is the world’s most prolific producer of audiobooks. For authors, Audible could be a way to reach a broader audience. ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) which is typically used to record a work lists the books on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes.

Timing and costs and benefits should be considered though. For example, upfront costs for indie authors can vary from $1,000 to $2,500. Given the financial investment, indie authors may want to wait until they have established steady book sales and a fanbase before creating an audiobook. 

Allan Misner, the host of the 40+ Fitness Podcast, learned a few things about Audible when converting his book, The Wellness Roadmap (http://www.wellnessroadmapbook.com/), into audio form. He generously offered insights about the financial and logistical aspects of the Audible format. 

Have you found audiobooks earn out the cost to produce them?

This is a tough one. There are a few costs to consider: narration, production, cover art. Each of these can vary quite a bit. 

Narration – Through the publishing branch of Audible, you can hire a professional narrator through a revenue share. You put up a sample and advertise for a narrator. Once you select one and publish the audiobook, Audible will send them their 50% of each sale. You don’t have an upfront cost. Or you can hire a narrator directly and agree to a fixed price. From what I’ve heard, and my own experience, the narrator can spend up to 5 hours per hour of length the audiobook. Or you can narrate the book yourself (I did this). I used Garage Band on my MacBook Air (free) and I used an ATR 2100 ($75).

Production – Audible has very specific audio quality requirements. To have an unabridged version of a book on Audible, it has to match the text of the eBook 97% of the time (this allows you say “audiobook” where you have “book” in the written version). Because I have a podcast, I know a few producers. I hired one that has experience with Audible and audiobook production. I paid him about $300. 

Cover Art – Audible also has very specific quality requirements for the cover art. It has to be square and not just a stretched or overlaid version of your book cover. So, the audiobook cover was an add-on to the artist that did my regular cover art. That added on $300 for me. Some authors may have graphic skills and can do their own cover art.

So, depending on your skills, the total cost to produce an eBook can be very low, or you can hire other people and/or give up 50% of the sales. Since I only hired out the cover art and audio production, I was able to recover the cost. The more you do yourself, the more likely you’ll recover your costs.

Is there a sweet spot cost for an audiobook? 

The author doesn’t get to decide the price. Audible prices the book based on the length. 

What is an Audible credit? 

With Audible, you can either buy an audiobook directly or you can subscribe and receive credit(s) each month. Being a subscriber can make it a little cheaper to buy audiobook when the cost of the credit is less than the cost of buying the audiobook directly.

How does an author get paid if an audible credit is used?

When you have an audiobook available on Audible, they can look on their ACX dashboard and see the number of sales for each way someone can buy the audiobook. I am not completely familiar with how each way is paid, but generally, the author gets around 70% of the sales price. 

Do audiobooks take away from eBook sales? 

In a general sense, I don’t think audiobooks take away from sales. It is really just a “readers” choice of how they want to read the book. My book (The Wellness Roadmap) is available in hardbound, paperback, eBook, and audiobook. I prefer audiobooks, so when I see a book that is available as an audiobook, I buy the audiobook version. The payout on each version is roughly equal, so I don’t think you are hurt having an audiobook available. 

How do you find a narrator?

There are professional narrators available through ACX. You request reads on a sample of the book allowing you to find the best fit for your audiobook. You then share 50% of the revenue. You can go to a service like Upwork.com and find a narrator if you want to pay up front and not share revenue. You can record it yourself, but it is critical to meet Audible’s quality standards. 


Jill Hedgecock is the award-winning author of Rhino in the Room . She is also the Program Coordinator for the Mount Diablo branch of the California Writers Club. Website: www.jillhedgecock.com | Rhino in the Room – https://amzn.to/31Er7WC

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