Authors, Got Your Ears On? Publishing Audiobooks
Research Notes: I’m just getting going on this myself, so this post has been in beta while I did my testing.
When we last left this subject, I was recommending Author’s Republic as the main scene, with CD Baby as a way to get into wide distribution via CD’s and downloads.
Author’s Republic is exclusive, but goes so many places, it hasn’t mattered.
Until Findaway came along. They are the ones who now take this banner for authors. Because they simply aggregate all the places your audiobook can possibly go and then they put it there for you. They take their small slice if/when it sells and pay you the lion’s share. That includes getting it into Audible if you don’t already have it there. If you start your own audiobook, you may wind up paying about a $50 fee to set it the project.
With Direct2Digital.com, their arrangement with Findaway enables them to waive that fee. Findaway Voices enables you to find talent much like ACX. Or you can record it yourself, which is more authentic. This is the absolute easiest way to get your self-recorded audiobook up for sale. (Original work only, no public domain.)
CD Baby gets your book into music stores as CD’s, and also enables single-track downloads. Meaning people can listen to just a few tracks. There is a startup fee for each album (typically under $50, but they run specials.) You also have to buy a UPC code, at $20 per album or $5 single track. Your fees are 4% of sales after that. (See https://support.cdbaby.com/hc/en-us/articles/213125406-What-are-the-costs-to-sell-on-CD-Baby- ) The costs above have to be compared to Createspace below. The trick here is that in exchange for the upfront costs, you get your audiobook onto Amazon as both digital downloads and as a CD. Plus, they get your audio onto dozens of other places like iTunes and Spotify where they can be sold.
Kunaki has to be mentioned. They are the absolute least expensive if you want to sell direct and/or dropship your CD anywhere. They do not check quality. They actually ask to be considered as a machine. (Garbage in = garbage out.) However, they will give you a free IPC code that you can then include on your cover art. You’ll need to ensure that at least one copy gets bought every month to keep them on sale with Kunaki. With prices just above a dollar for each CD (plus shipping) you really can’t beat them. But, like Gumroad below, they go nowhere else.
BitTorrent Bundles has evolved somewhat, but this is still a needful place to put your bundle of digital work. Again, a different audience to get in front of. Readers can get your ebooks and the audio all bundled together. This is a great way to get ahead of the pirates, since your stuff will already be up there. Of course, you make a free sample for just an email (which you then have to manually download and upload to your email/autoresponder client.) The paid version is a bundle they sell for you – and you can pitch from your own site.
Gumroad.com is your own personal way to sell anything digital (although they’ll also sell physical stuff as well, but we aren’t going there with print books. Not now, anyway.) You can set up singles for low cost or free on Gumroad, any number of tracks with your ebook, particularly where you want to split it up into parts. No overhead costs, other than sweat equity (time spent) and upload to their site. I did quite a comparison years ago between several digital-sales services, and Gumroad was the cheapest. 8.5% + $0.30 fee. The rest take much higher percentages. When you start making consistent income, then you can pay them $10/month and drop it to 3.5% + $0.30 fee.
Createspace is something to check into, but not seriously. Like their books, you will give up a certain amount of royalty for their production fees (and profit.) But unfortunately, they don’t check out. Mainly because they deduct a whopping 45% from your royalty on top of the $4.95 cost of production (that comes from your royalty, not theirs.) (https://www.createspace.com/Products/CD/) While there is no upfront cost, you are paying the devil over the long term. Their example showed that out of a $25 CD, you’d receive $8.80… As well, that free UPC is probably only eligible for Amazon distribution, like their ISBN’s. (Since they’ve already disqualified themselves with that outrageous royalty rip-off, I’m not going to research these any further.) Like their books, they are really only useful for distributing inside the Amazon eco-sphere. With that UPC code, your audio CD’s might face the same blowback as indie bookstores, not wanting to carry anything with an Amazon label. Audible is Amazon-owned, but with only a 25% royalty, you’ll make far more income going wide than exclusive.
Rolling Your Own Audiobook
The one place to go for all author data needed in getting started is still (IMHO) Author’s Republic on this page.
In emails with them, they recommended this page and to simply set my Audacity “amplify” setting to -3db and that solved all sorts of over-amplification problems I was having. (I later upgraded to a Blue Yeti mic, which has it’s own volume control. That makes it simpler to cut out background noise – just listen with a headset plugged into the mic itself. The Blue Snowball is perfectly good, and recommended by Author’s Republic on that page, but doesn’t have options that the Yeti has, so you’ll be fixing more things in post edit that you maybe shouldn’t be touching.) That said, their suggestions on how to record and how to use Audacity in post-production editing is simple to understand.
For a minimum viable product, you’d probably want to do this:
- For a complete novel, set up on CD Baby and upload your files, then do any needed quality corrections. Either get the free UPC by uploading to Kunaki, or simply shell out for it via CD Baby. That UPC will tell who manufactured it, similar to getting free ISBN’s from Createspace or Lulu. Like publisher-of-record. So choose wisely (but don’t feel you have to pay $175 for dozens of these just to get you name in lights through a checkout scanner.)
- Your ebook is probably already on Draft2Digital, so you’d upload your audiobook files through them to Findaway. Note: D2D allows you to upload a single audio recording for a single short story (you’d still have to have the title and summary files, making a total of three audio files.) It is simply not worth the cost to create single audiobooks on CD Baby (nearly $10 per track plus UPC on each, a total of just under $15) so it would be more penny-wise to compile major collections of these books as they approach novelette or novel size.
- Set up your own website for sales with Gumroad.
- Start promoting everywhere you can. (This is where BitTorrent comes in…)