Author Topic: Audio Books - Do they sell?  (Read 1139 times)  

Offline David Blake

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Audio Books - Do they sell?
« on: February 22, 2018, 01:20:56 PM »
I've been asked when I'm going to get audio books done, but I've no idea if they're profitable.

Does anyone know if they sell, and if they do, what's the approx percentage of sales in relation to normal downloads?
« Last Edit: February 22, 2018, 01:26:58 PM by David Blake »

Offline Annie B

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Re: Audio Books - Do they sell?
« Reply #1 on: February 22, 2018, 02:48:56 PM »
It varies and totally depends, alas. Nobody can predict what you will or won't sell in audio just like nobody can tell you what you will or won't sell in ebooks.

That said, if you are selling more than 500-1000 copies of a book a month, I think audio would be a good choice. It also depends on genre, on length (longer books do better in audio etc), and other factors like how good/popular your narrator is etc.

Offline thevoiceofone

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Re: Audio Books - Do they sell?
« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2018, 03:01:54 PM »
I've been asked when I'm going to get audio books done, but I've no idea if they're profitable.

Does anyone know if they sell, and if they do, what's the approx percentage of sales in relation to normal downloads?

They are worth it IF you have books that sell. 

If you don't do audio. ( even if it's a split with a narrator) you are leaving money on the table.

Offline David VanDyke

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Re: Audio Books - Do they sell?
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2018, 03:25:58 PM »
I had all my own audiobooks done via ACX. They are done to a good standard, but because they were not done by Audible Studios or any other well-known studio, they don't ever seem to get any internal push or free publicity.

They sell about (in the aggregate) 1 audiobook for every ebook sold. They used to do better, until Amazon raised the whispersync prices so drastically. I ended up with more money per audiobook sold, but fewer sold overall.

My permafrees used to drive audiobook sales very well, especially with a BookBub on a permafree, as they in effect gave people an audiobook for $1.99 or so, and they could use Audible credits or retail for the later books.

The whispersync changes altered my expected pay-back for my investment (I paid for all my books up front) from 2-4 years to probably 4-6 years to break even. That's still a good ROI, but because things might change drastically in the next 4-6 years, I'm not so sure I'd have invested so heavily. Fortunately, I'm close to breaking even on all my investments in audiobooks, and from then on everything is gravy.

I think that today, though, I'd consider trying harder to find a decent narrator willing to do royalty split, even if I had to sweeten the deal with a completion bonus of a few hundred bucks or so, the purpose being to spread my risk. In other words, give a narrator, say, $300 on the side, plus the usual ACX royalty split, in order to not have to invest the $3000+ I'd normally need to get an audiobook completed.

Another good choice might be getting an agent for audio rights and let them negotiate a deal that gets you advance, though your royalty rate will be much lower. That would depend on you showing a good track record for your ebook sales, I suspect.

Or, of you are flush with cash, go ahead and roll the dice. Odds are still good that your investment will break even within (conservatively) 5-10 years.


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Offline KevinH

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Re: Audio Books - Do they sell?
« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2018, 04:16:15 PM »
I've found audiobooks to be immensely profitable, and I consider myself blessed to be well into the black since my first audio release.  (I also realize that I'm probably an outlier in that regard.)  That said, I agree with the prior statements that how the ebook is selling is probably a good indicator of what you can expect with audio.  Also, I took a chance early on and decided to pay my narrator upfront, but doing the royalty split is probably a cost-effective way of getting it done without taking on as much risk.

In short, I concur that you may be leaving money on the table if you don't do audio, but as David pointed out, you might need a long time horizon to earn back any outlay of cash. (Fortunately, your book can stay out there and continue to sell forever.)

Offline CJArcher

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Re: Audio Books - Do they sell?
« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2018, 05:48:59 PM »
I had all my own audiobooks done via ACX. They are done to a good standard, but because they were not done by Audible Studios or any other well-known studio, they don't ever seem to get any internal push or free publicity.

Mine are in a 1st-in-series promotion to Audible members right now and they were done by me through ACX, not by Audible Studios. I'm sure I'm not the first or only author who's had an Audible push and not had audiobooks produced Audible Studios.

I think audios are worth doing if your ebooks sell well. I like Annie's figure of 500-1000 sales per month as a guide. Every author is different, and even series by the same author behave differently. I produce two series through ACX, and one series is more popular than the other. Each book in the popular series pays its cost in less than 2 months, while the other series takes several months to earn back out. One book in that series took 11 months.

I do think audio is becoming more popular. Here in Australia, I see Audible's ads everywhere. They're doing a big push to get more members.
 
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Offline Dennis E. Taylor

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Re: Audio Books - Do they sell?
« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2018, 10:14:56 PM »
80% of my sales are audio (by unit count) and 2/3 of my revenue is audio. Partly the skewed ratio is because my Amazon revenue is direct sales rather than through a publisher so I get the full 70% (less agent commission in both cases, but that's a wash).

Audio is still an under-saturated (or non-saturated? unsaturated?) market, especially compared to e-books. It's also much more popular amongst younger readers.

I will be the first to admit, though, that part of the success of the audio books is because I have a well-known, popular narrator. On Audible, many people follow specific narrators as much as specific authors, so you can get a lot of exposure just by picking the right narrator (if you can get them).

Offline VonC

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Re: Audio Books - Do they sell?
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2018, 11:04:04 AM »
I was approached by someone who wanted to sell their KDP business, and they allowed me to review their sales figures as part of my due diligence.  From what I could tell, the audiobooks were breakeven for them after factoring in the royalty they were paying to the reader for each sale.

Offline Joshua Dalzelle

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Re: Audio Books - Do they sell?
« Reply #8 on: April 16, 2018, 12:13:20 PM »
I sold my audio rights to publishers and let them deal with production and marketing... in that regard it's been extremely profitable since I didn't have to do anything or spend any money. I did see on a recent royalty statement that one publisher has made 7 figures in sales off of one series, obviously my cut is much smaller, but it does make me wonder if it would have been wiser to put them out on my own or if the reason they're making so much is because of the work put in by the publisher. Right now I have an "if it ain't broke..." attitude about it.


-I do know that audiobook customers aren't always the same as your eBook customers and vice versa.
-My audio fans are MUCH more vocal about asking when audio editions are coming out and what's coming up next than the readers are.
-I also don't see much correlation between the eBook and audio versions vis-a-vis one driving sales of the other. The eBooks tend to follow their own normal arc after release and a few months later the audio versions also do their own thing.
-According to every article I've read on the subject audiobooks are one of the fastest growing segments of the market.


Just my own point of view from my experience but if you have people asking about audio I'd definitely look into it.

Offline NathanBurrows

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Re: Audio Books - Do they sell?
« Reply #9 on: April 16, 2018, 12:21:49 PM »
-According to every article I've read on the subject audiobooks are one of the fastest growing segments of the market.

I've been looking into this as well, and there is a raft of articles on the Internet going back several years that say the same thing, but as yet there doesn't seem to have been the predicted explosion in the market. I'm considering narrating my book myself, and yes I have read all the warnings against this, but ultimately the up-front cost of production is a big thing. My own time doesn't cost me any money, and I think the experience would be interesting. Plus I have unlimited access to a very high quality studio through work.

I have read that royalty share arrangements have all but died - what's other people's experience?

Offline gilesxbecker

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Re: Audio Books - Do they sell?
« Reply #10 on: April 16, 2018, 02:59:18 PM »
80% of my sales are audio (by unit count) and 2/3 of my revenue is audio. Partly the skewed ratio is because my Amazon revenue is direct sales rather than through a publisher so I get the full 70% (less agent commission in both cases, but that's a wash).

Audio is still an under-saturated (or non-saturated? unsaturated?) market, especially compared to e-books. It's also much more popular amongst younger readers.

I will be the first to admit, though, that part of the success of the audio books is because I have a well-known, popular narrator. On Audible, many people follow specific narrators as much as specific authors, so you can get a lot of exposure just by picking the right narrator (if you can get them).

Can anybody give me any narrator's names? Where do I look for one? Am thinking audio myself.

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Offline The Bass Bagwhan

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Re: Audio Books - Do they sell?
« Reply #11 on: April 16, 2018, 05:31:10 PM »
I produce and narrate my own audiobooks, so everything is profit and my costs are zero. Just time... David VanDyke talks of sweetening any deal with a narrator with a completion fee (or something) and this makes sense to me. I've never narrated anyone else's books, but probably won't because of my Australian accent, but given the opportunity and a royalty split I'd be concerned all my work would be for nothing, if the book didn't sell. However, on the understanding my time-frame for producing the book was flexible (so, in my "spare" time, but within reason) and I was going to get say $500 on completion regardless (much less than the $2000-3000 long books might be worth) then a royalty share deal isn't a complete risk.
Bottom line, if a narrator suspects their work will never be paid for, you've got Buckley's. But risky projects might be taken on if you're guaranteed something.
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Offline Crystal_

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Re: Audio Books - Do they sell?
« Reply #12 on: April 16, 2018, 06:16:49 PM »
Yes but you want to get your audio book out as soon after the ebook as possible.

Offline cadle-sparks

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Re: Audio Books - Do they sell?
« Reply #13 on: April 17, 2018, 06:56:21 AM »
I can only answer for audiobooks done by established audio companies, as I haven't dipped my toe into self-publishing with ACX (but probably should). In the past six months, audio is 2/3 of my income, and my investment in that was an hour or two of paperwork. That the ebooks sold is what attracted those companies. They're pretty on top of it right now, it seems. When a book soars in ranking, the author gets contacted by one or two audio companies within a week or two.

It is probably, like so much in this biz, genre-dependent as well. I know another post-apocalyptic writer (not a kboard member) who has run at 2:1 audio:ebook income for a few years now. My guess is that mystery/crime would do really well in audio, but I'm sure a study of the top sellers at audible would give you a hint of whether or not your own books would sell in that format.

If your books are not highly ranked and you do ACX, you'll have to pay narrator and engineer up front. It's possible to never recoup that money.

Offline daniel88888

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Re: Audio Books - Do they sell?
« Reply #14 on: April 17, 2018, 07:31:52 AM »
It varies and totally depends, alas. Nobody can predict what you will or won't sell in audio just like nobody can tell you what you will or won't sell in ebooks.

That said, if you are selling more than 500-1000 copies of a book a month, I think audio would be a good choice. It also depends on genre, on length (longer books do better in audio etc), and other factors like how good/popular your narrator is etc.
absolutely agree, noone can say for sure, it is unpredictable

Offline munboy

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Re: Audio Books - Do they sell?
« Reply #15 on: April 17, 2018, 08:03:06 AM »
I have my first audio book in production right now. With ACX, you can profit share the sales, so there's no up front cost, but the narrator gets half of the scraps Amazon tosses your way....and of course, it also means Amazon owns you, your work, your first born, your dog, and the rights to your DNA sequence, but hey...if it sells, it's a profit, right? Plus, there are ways to buy out of the contract with the narrator and Amazon later on if you choose.

Offline jb1111

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Re: Audio Books - Do they sell?
« Reply #16 on: April 17, 2018, 08:09:37 AM »
If you are small potatoes, it might not be worth the expense hiring a company to do audiobooks. Just my opinion.

If you are selling a lot of books, perhaps it would be worth the expense.

One thing to keep in mind is that there may be some e-readers that have automatic reading capability, the text-to-speech thing. How that fits into this issue I really don't know. I sell a small number of books so the audiobook thing is something I am not considering. In my case, it would not be worth the time or the expense.

Offline tired1680

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Re: Audio Books - Do they sell?
« Reply #17 on: April 17, 2018, 12:30:02 PM »
Sales of Audiobooks for me have been at the 100 to 1 ratio. So for every 100 ebooks I sell, I sell a single Audiobook.  That being said, I've covered my cost for the audiobooks so I can't complain. Most books have covered themselves in 2 months, some in 3, others 1. Those that cover faster have been partially because I had a much more popular narrator working on them. So, there is that.

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Offline The Wyoming Kid

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Re: Audio Books - Do they sell?
« Reply #18 on: April 17, 2018, 03:48:46 PM »
I have read that royalty share arrangements have all but died - what's other people's experience?

I would guess the reason they have died is that good narrators have pretty much quit taking royalty share deals. Often times, an author will want to do an RS deal "to get a free audiobook done", and then whatever few measly dollars roll in, well, it's all gravy to him. The narrator, meanwhile, is taking all the risk, putting in many, many hours of his time and effort for an audiobook that will probably never sell more than fifty copies, if that.

It's really a conundrum. The author has a novel that doesn't sell, so it's not feasible for him to pay upfront production costs. He wants an RS arrangement "to get a free audiobook done". The narrator, on the other hand (good narrators, anyway), won't do an RS if the book is low-ranked. So the audio version never gets done. OTOH, if the book is selling, the author will be happy to pay production costs because he knows his ROI will be worth it. The narrator, of course, would prefer to do those books as royalty share deals, but the author generally holds firm on his upfront cash offer. Result: the death of RS.