How I Accidentally Started an Audiobook Recording Business

A few years ago I saw a posting online for someone who was looking for a narrator to record an audio version of their book to sell on Audible. On a whim, I decided to audition.

I didn’t have any voice training. I’m honestly not that great with technology and I wasn’t even sure if my voice was “good” enough (especially since I have an odd Midwestern accent.) But I thought it would be a really fun experience, so I thought, “what the heck,” and gave it a try.

What happened next literally changed my life.

I received an email a few days later from the book’s publisher that read:

Thank you for submitting your audition. We would like to make you an offer to produce this book. We also have ten similar short titles that we want to have narrated if everything goes well with the first book. Would you be interested?

“Um, Yes!!”

And just like that, my little whim of an audition turned into an offer to produce an entire series of short books.

There was just one tinsie little problem….

I had never done this before.

I’m not going to lie. It was intimidating at first. I wasn’t sure if I was doing it the “right way” or not. I wasn’t sure if my old laptop and the cheap microphone I was using were good enough. But within a few weeks, I had more than ten books selling on Audible generating royalties.  

I was hooked.

All I had to do was record myself reading a book out loud and I got 50% of each audiobook sale. It seemed crazy to me. Authors spend months, sometimes years writing books, and all I had to do was spend a couple of hours reading it out loud to get paid half of each sale?

Not only that, but some publishers were offering $100+ per finished hour for audiobooks and some of the more seasoned narrators were making $250 or more per hour.

For a while, anytime I needed extra money, I would just go to ACX and audition for a few audiobooks. Since most publishers give you over a month to complete a book, I could narrate in my free time.

Fast forward a few years.

I found myself stuck in a job that wasn’t going anywhere. I had to work long hours and the pay wasn’t that great. In fact, I was barely making enough each month to cover my bills and was scraping by. To make matters worse, I had just found out that I had thyroid cancer. It was treatable, but it would require surgery, recovery time, and radiation treatments.

Medical bills started flooding in and I was struggling to keep up at work. I was barely making enough to get by before. Now I had additional expenses to contend with and the math just didn’t add up. I wasn’t making enough to cover everything.

Bill collectors started calling...

Those were days were tough.

I was having panic attacks at work and would burst into tears almost daily because the situation was so stressful. I wasn’t making enough to cover the medical expenses, but if I didn’t get the treatments, my health condition would continue to decline.

I had to do something.

I sat down and brainstormed all of the ways that I could make extra money. I could look for a new job? I could try to find an extra part time job? But I was already working close to 50 hours a week and while I was trying to recover from multiple surgeries and radiation treatments, I knew that wasn’t realistic.

Then I remembered the audiobooks.

In the past I had made a couple hundred dollars here and there by picking up narration projects once in awhile and I knew other people who were working full time as freelance audiobook narrators and they seemed to be doing pretty well with it.

I started auditioning like my life depended on it, because, to be honest, it did.

Within a few weeks I had received so many book deals through ACX that it was hard to keep up. Some of them paid a flat “per hour” rate for the completed book, and others paid 50% of all sales.

This let me earn money up front while also building a healthy passive income stream.

Building a passive income source was so important to me because I really worried about what I would do for money if I ever became so sick that I couldn’t work. And there were a few times during my recovery when that was true. But since I had royalties coming in, I didn’t have to worry quite as much.

Eventually, I was making more with audiobook narration than I was at my day job and decided to make the leap to making audiobook narration my full time business.

Now I spend my days reading and recording interesting stories. I’ve created a system that allows me to fill up my calendar months in advance with flat rate projects, so I don’t have to worry about not having work to do. I also do several royalty share books each month to continue growing my passive income stream.

My life is so much better today because of audiobooks and I’m on a mission to tell as many people as I can that this opportunity exists.

I know that there people out there that feel stuck in dead end jobs or could really use some extra money to make ends meet.

Maybe that’s you?

If you like the idea of getting free access to new books AND getting paid to record yourself reading them, then I would like to invite you to join my free, “5-Day Audiobook Audition Challenge.”

During the challenge I’ll walk you through the process of creating a narrator profile on ACX, creating audio samples, and submitting your first audition for a paid audiobook project. You’ll get an email from me each day of the challenge with a short video lesson and assignment that will help you make steady progress toward becoming an audiobook narrator.