Why every self-published author needs to make an audiobook

A decade ago we knew audiobooks as “books on tape” or “books on CD.” While you could listen to them in the car or in your walkman (remember those) they were significantly more expensive than actual books.

There also weren’t many titles to choose from because, back then, they cost a lot to make.  Many of the early audiobooks were recorded in professional studios using expensive equipment that required the help of an audio engineer.

Do you remember Borders Bookstores or Barnes and Noble back in the day?  There was usually one small row of shelves way in the back of the store that contained ten to fifteen audiobook titles in the form of tapes or CD’s.

Things are a lot different today.  The global audiobook industry is now worth a whopping $2.8 billion and audiobooks have become the fastest growing form of digital media in the world. Many mainstream publishers are looking for ways to boost audiobook production and self-published audiobooks are now a real possibility for many authors.



Let’s take a quick look at the audiobook production trend over the past six years:

In 2010, there were 6,000 audiobooks produced for the entire year. That number increased slightly, to 7,000 in 2011.

Then, everything started going digital.

Mobile apps were being developed in record numbers. People started relying on their phones and other mobile devices to listen to music. And look what happened to the number of audiobooks that were produced: It more than doubled to over 16,000 in 2012!

Then, from 2012 to 2016, that number has tripled again with over 43,000 audiobooks being produced in 2015.

But that’s not the only astonishing statistic about audiobooks. Last year, the number of audiobook downloads actually surpassed the number of ebook downloads by more than 1.4 million downloads.

When you consider that there are more than 4.4 million Kindle books on Amazon, but only 180,000 audiobook titles on Audible, you can see that there is a huge untapped opportunity here for those who make the leap into the audiobook industry right now.

The Kindle market saw similar growth from 2010 to 2012. There were people outsourcing Kindle books and uploading them to the Kindle store as fast as they could because the demand was so high. And for a while, those people made out like bandits with the royalties that they earned.

But, once people started to find out how easy it was to create a Kindle book and sell it on Amazon, the ebook market turned into a gold rush and became highly saturated over the next few years.

But that hasn’t happened in the Audiobook market yet.

The truth is that there aren’t enough narrators and audiobook producers to keep up with the demand, especially now that self-published authors also have access to the audiobook market through Amazon’s “Audiobook Creation Exchange” platform.



Let’s take a closer look at what I’m talking about. As you probably know, the top three most popular book topics are: 1) weight loss, 2) making money, and 3) love/relationships.

So let’s imagine that you wrote a book on “weight loss” and uploaded it to Amazon. How many other books do you think you would have to compete with to be found organically?

Let’s take a look (go ahead and try this yourself).

If I go into the Amazon Kindle store and search for “how to lose weight,” I get more than 3,350 book results. Since most people don’t look beyond the first page or two of results, you’re going to have a hard time selling your book organically, or without doing a lot of your own marketing and promotions.

If I do the same search on Audible, there are currently less than 85 results. That means that it is 42 times easier for you to be found on Audible right now than on Amazon.

And if you’re sitting here saying, “Well I don’t have a book so how does this help me?” I’ve got some good news for you. You can take advantage of the current market by narrating someone else’s book and keeping 50% of the royalties from each book that they sell on Audible.

Not a bad deal, right?



After spending a lot of time in audiobook and publishing forums I noticed that one of the biggest complaints that I hear from authors is that they just aren’t getting enough auditions for their books. If you are someone who knows how to narrate and produce audiobooks, that is money that is literally sitting on the table waiting for you to come pick it up.

I know that I’ve been throwing a lot of numbers and statistics at you, but I’m really trying to show you something that the rest of the digital media world hasn’t really caught onto yet. This is a booming industry with tons of room for growth and there will be massive opportunities for financial and professional growth for those who get on board early.  



Next, let’s take a look at why audiobooks have suddenly become so popular and where the industry is headed. Audiobooks are just like digital music now. Anyone can listen at any time, from any location, by simply installing an app on their smartphone.

Unlike ebooks, you don’t have to sit down and focus on reading. You can listen to a book while driving, working out, cleaning the house, shopping at the grocery store, walking the dog, you name it, you can do it.  Additionally, many listeners reported that they found the audio version of a book to be more entertaining and enjoyable than the written version.

Here are some other ways that audio is being integrated into our daily lives:


In the last year or two, a number of newspapers and major publications have started offering audio versions of their stories to readers. Industry experts are predicting that many content providers will start relying heavily on apps to deliver their content and that audio will be an added feature aimed at increasing newspaper and magazine subscriptions.


Vehicle integration

Most new vehicles that are sold in 2016 and beyond will come with either Apple’s “Carplay” or Google’s “Android Auto” technology. These software integrations sync up with your smartphone and allow you to access your music, audiobooks, and other apps right from your car’s built-in dash display. With this innovation, audiobooks and podcasts will become more accessible to drivers and present an attractive alternative to standard radio.

Honda has taken the integration of audiobook technology one step further by introducing the “Road Readers” program to their drivers. Car owners who sign up for the program are offered a selection of free children’s audiobooks that stream through the vehicle’s “Road Reader’s” app. The idea behind this initiative is that families can turn idle time riding in the car into entertaining and educational experiences.



The outlook for the audiobook industry over the next few years is excellent. The demand for audiobooks is growing at an exponential rate. Major publishers and publications are taking notice and adding more audiobooks to their catalogues each year.

New technologies are being integrated into our smartphones and vehicles to make audiobooks and audio media more accessible to us all. Self published authors now have the ability to narrate their own books or hire a narrator through Amazon’s “Audiobook Creation Exchange.” 
With the rising demand for audio by consumers, traditional publishers, news outlets and self-published authors, we can expect the demand for narrators and audiobook producers to rise rapidly as well.  

Krystal Wascher