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Attention spans are not what they used to be. 

As we crave more convenience and quick fixes, audiobooks will continue to increase in popularity.

If you’re an author, this is good news. Audiobooks present one more opportunity for you to connect with your readers and share the audio version of your work in a medium they’ll appreciate.

The landscape of the audiobook industry is different from print or e-book publishing. Having the right resources and knowing what customers look for will be the difference between high and low book sales.

In this article, we’ll go over how consumers choose their next audiobook, how much they spend monthly, where they spend it, and why they love audiobooks so much. 

After that, we’ll go over how to sell audiobooks on Amazon, and share some Amazon alternatives for audiobook publishers. 

We’ve got a full docket, so let’s get started! 👇

Here’s a quick navigation list for the article:

Research insight: Can you make money selling your audiobooks online?

The audiobook market is booming.

But you’re probably still wondering if it’s worth it for you as an independent author to explore self-publishing your audiobooks online.

Some believe audiobooks are a poor substitute for books, and definitely don’t count as reading. But the idea of audiobooks being “lesser books” is unfounded. Reading a book isn’t any less than listening to it.

To discover why many people turn to audiobooks, we polled 100 American audiobook consumers. When asked why they listen to audiobooks, 93% of Americans listen to audiobooks because they can do something else while listening. 

Poll results for question, "Why do you listen to audiobooks?"

When it comes to audiobooks and the way they facilitate multi-tasking, here are a few of the comments:

  • “…it allowed me to multi-task and do other things. So it helps a lot with convenience.”
  • “Normally, I listen to audiobooks as a way of multi-tasking.”
  • “I listen to audiobooks to have background noise or a way of consuming literature when multitasking.”
Comments from poll results for question, "Why do you listen to audiobooks?"

Understanding why consumers choose audiobooks is just a tiny piece of the puzzle. After all, you’re here to learn how to sell your audiobooks on Amazon.

When we ran another poll asking 100 American consumers how much they spend on audiobooks each month, 79% said they spend less than $20/month.

This percentage and the dollar amount will be significant when we move on to discuss pricing. But more on that later.

Poll results for typical monthly spend on audiobooks

As a follow-up, we asked another 100 consumers where they usually purchase audiobooks online to get more insight. 

Unsurprisingly, Amazon dominates in this area. 62% of consumers said Audible.com — an Amazon brand — is where they go first for Audiobooks. Apple’s iTunes was second with 19%, and Google Play came in at third with 10%.

Poll results for question, "Where do you most frequently buy audiobooks online?

Based on the comments from respondents, it seems convenience is one of the biggest reasons for Audible audiobooks being so popular: 

  • “I use Audible the most, because I have an account there, and I find it extremely convenient.”
  • “I have had an Audible subscription on and off a few times throughout the years. I find the platform to be the easiest to use. I like their app. I have also tried Google, but the Audible app is far superior.”
  • “I mostly purchase audiobooks on Audible online because it is convenient and easy to access.”

We wanted to take the research a little further to determine what factors respondents consider when purchasing an audiobook.

51% of respondents polled said genre is the most critical factor they consider. Book description is a close second with 49%.

Poll results for question. "What factors do you consider when purchasing an audiobook?"

Here’s some insight into why the genre of an audiobook is important to respondents:

  • “The book would have to be in a genre I like to read, with a description that catches my attention, with possibly an excerpt. I am not too worried about reviews and the author.”
  • “What is most important to me is the genre and the book description; once the two are okay by me, others factors can follow.”
  • “I usually start by looking through the genre that I am interested in reading; then I look at what others have to say about the options.”

Only 26% of respondents said they consider the author important when deciding to buy an audiobook, while the remaining 20% consider reviews.  

If you’re a lesser-known author, this is good news. It means you can write your way into the right genre with a compelling book description – though interestingly, the audio excerpt might not matter much at all.

Indeed, no matter how compelling the plot, only 5% of respondents listed the excerpt as important. 

To sum up:

  • People mostly listen to audiobooks for the convenience of being able to multitask.
  • Amazon remains the giant in the audiobook space, with most listeners purchasing audiobooks from Audible.
  • Genre and book description are the most critical factors listeners consider when browsing for books. 
  • Audiobook listeners spend less than $20 per month on audiobooks. 

Now, let’s get into the fun part: actually selling audiobooks on Amazon. 

How to sell your audiobook on Amazon with ACX

Audible — an Amazon company — and iTunes were the most popular audiobook stores based on our poll findings. This is why we’ll be focusing most of this article on how to sell your audiobooks on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes with ACX.

Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) is an Amazon-owned distribution platform that distributes audiobooks to Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

ACX home page above the fold

ACX says it simplifies the audiobook production process for authors by connecting authors with narrators in one place.

Since ACX is an Amazon brand, you can use single sign-on with your Amazon account if you’re an existing Amazon user. If you don’t have an Amazon account, you will be prompted to create one at sign-up.

If you decide to publish your audiobook with ACX you will need to prove you have the rights to your book. (If your print book is self-published, you will likely hold the rights.)

Producing your audiobook

The “audio” part of your audiobook is arguably the most essential piece.

This is why excellent narration is so important. Audiobooks are an auditory experience, so using the wrong voice can be the difference between success and failure.

Do it yourself

If you think you have what it takes to narrate your audiobook, it’s worth a shot.

Indie authors in the nonfiction genre tend to find success narrating their own books.

But don’t go grabbing your cellphone just yet.

Recording an audiobook isn’t like recording a podcast on your phone, or recording a quick tutorial video for YouTube. It’s also different from creating a Kindle book and releasing it on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP).

If you plan to sell your audiobook on Amazon, it must be recorded to very exact standards. Here are some tips to get you going:

Choose the right microphone

USB microphones are usually your best option if you record at home using a microphone and laptop setup.

The Blue Yeti USB microphone is popular among podcasters, YouTubers, and other online creators. Its range of features includes:

  • Headphone output
  • Wide frequency response 20 Hz–20 kHz
  • Direct monitoring with volume control — for plugging in headphones directly to the mic
  • Microphone gain control — to adjust the volume going from the mic into the computer
Blue yeti mic

Another option is the Samson Q2U — a dynamic mic that’s great at picking up sounds in front of it while rejecting background noise. It’s a good option if you’re recording in a space where you don’t have full control over external noises.

The mic includes:

  • Headphone jack
  • USB and XLR output
  • Mic clip
  • Desktop stand
Samson mic
Clean your final audio file

Beyond a microphone for your recording, the formatting of your final audio files is also an important part of your audiobook production. 

After you’ve recorded your audio, you will need to ensure your recording is clean and free of mic pops, mouse clicks, outtakes, and all other external noise.

While editing software like Accetize and Izotope are great options, this is something you will want to outsource if you’re not confident in your ability to do it.

You don’t want to skimp on preparing the final audio file since this is super important to getting your audiobook accepted by ACX.

Outsource narration

If the thought of doing it yourself makes your palms sweaty and your throat dry, take heart. There’s an easier solution available.

Hiring a professional narrator is the safer path. 

A professional narrator is trained and has experience narrating audiobooks. Hiring a professional also tends to save you time. There’s no need to record 10 files to find “the right pitch” or spend hours Youtubing how to download and edit the final audio file.

Outsourcing this part of your audiobook means you will have more time to focus on distributing and promoting it.

Since your goal is to sell your audiobook on Amazon, it’s a good idea to consider going with one of the narrators on ACX (they refer to their narrators as producers throughout the site).

These narrators have all been vetted and approved by ACX so you can be confident that they’re competent. Not all narrators are suited for all projects, so you will still need to do your due diligence.

ACX allows you to choose from two options to find a producer:

  1. Listen to sample narrations from potential producers
  2. Post your book so producers can audition

Whichever option you choose, it’s important to choose a narrator who:

  • Is a great articulator
  • Uses intuitive pacing
  • Differentiates characters
  • Has a consistent narrative voice

A great narrator can help the reader lose themselves in a story, because, thanks to the power of their voice and acting talents they are able to conjure a mood, create a sense of place, evoke laughter, and bring the whole thing to life.”— Voice Crafters

If you decide to look outside of ACX for a narrator, ensure you choose a reputable platform. Gig sites like Fiverr and Upwork have no enrollment requirements, making it difficult to validate a contractor’s experience and competence.

Instead, opt for sites like Bodalgo, Voiceovers.com, and Voices.com — where trained and experienced voice actors go to find work.

Paying for production

If you go the route of using a producer from ACX, you will need to consider the upfront cost associated with this.

The estimated cost for producing an audiobook on ACX is $200-$400 per finished hour. That means your audiobook project that is 5 hours long will cost somewhere between $1,000 and $2,000.

ACX has a program that allows you to bypass that upfront cost and pay your narrator from your royalty share. 

A breakdown of ACX earnings

This would be a 50/50 split of the 40% royalty on exclusive distribution. The narrator gets 20% of the royalties, and you get 20%.

This option is only available if you agree to exclusive ACX distribution, and it’ll be an important consideration for the next step in selling your audiobook – pricing it.

Decide on a price for your audiobook

Different elements will go into pricing your audiobook, but market averages will be a significant factor, especially if you decide to distribute through one of the established platforms.

If you’re selling through ACX, you won’t have much control over your audiobook price. They have some benchmarks for pricing, based on audiobook length:

  • under 1 hour: under $7
  • 1 – 3 hours: $7-$10
  • 3 – 5 hours: $10-$20
  • 5 – 10 hours: $15-$25
  • 10 – 20 hours: $20-$30
  • over 20 hours: $25-$35

Remember, 79% of our respondents spend less than $20/month on audiobooks.

Audible premium plus membership costs $14.95/month and includes 1 title (and all the perks of audible plus). With this monthly subscription, the average audiobook on Audible costs $14.95.

Audible pricing table

Google’s audiobook pricing varies widely by title and genre. A review of their new releases and best sellers shows most audiobooks are priced between $20 and $30. 

However, all titles are discounted — most to an average of $14.95. I doubt this is a coincidence given Audible’s pricing, but I’ll leave you to decide.

Basically, as you try to decide on a price for your audiobook, you won’t have much flexibility when selling on Amazon through ACX. Prices are typically set by the platform based on its own standards.

Royalties

ACX will pay 40% royalty share if you agree to an exclusive distribution arrangement. If you choose a non-exclusive agreement and decide to start selling your audiobook elsewhere, the royalty share drops down to 25%.

This is where ACX pales in comparison to other audiobook distributors.

While getting your book on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes may be considered a major accomplishment by some, the royalty rate leaves a lot to be desired.

The table below provides a comparison of the different royalty rates and conditions available on ACX.

Table showing ACX royalty rates and conditions

Pros and cons of ACX

ACX is great if you’re looking to reach an expanded audience and want to manage production and distribution in one place. The option to bypass upfront production costs is also great if budget is a major concern. 

However, the low royalties cause some authors to think twice about working with them. Plus, the 7-year renewable distribution contract may feel too restricting for some.

ACX may be worthwhile if you can find a way to generate more audiobook sales on the platform so you can make more money. Selling more volume with lower royalties can still be profitable. But as an indie author, getting discovered on larger sites can be difficult. 

It’s a tough call that, ultimately, only you can make.

Alternatives to selling your audiobook on Amazon

While Amazon remains the most significant player in the audiobook space, they’re not your only option.

Here are three alternatives to Amazon for selling your audiobook online:

Sell your audiobook on Findaway Voices

Findaway Voices is another popular platform that combines resources for published authors to create and sell audiobooks.

Their website says they’re “the world’s largest audiobook distributor.” And they have the logos to prove it.

Logos for audiobook retailers and library partners that Findaway Voices distributes to.

Findaway Voices is similar to ACX in that both platforms connect you with narrators and provide distribution, but the similarities stop there.

While ACX requires an exclusive 7-year contract to pay you 40% royalty, Findaway Voices will pay you 80% — and you can still sell your audiobook on your website or elsewhere. 

Unlike ACX, which only distributes to Audible, Amazon, and iTunes, Findaway Voices will distribute your title to a growing list of 40+ audiobook retailers. And yes, the list includes Audible, Amazon, and iTunes.

Sell your audiobook on Authors Direct from Findaway Voices

Authors Direct is a solution from Findaway Voices that gives you more control as an indie author.

Features of Authors Direct

The platform provides a storefront that’s easy to manage and share with your audience. Some perks of Authors Direct are as follows:

  • 70% in royalties based on the price you set
  • Mobile app for your listeners to enjoy their titles
  • Customer service and app support for your listeners

If you’ve ever wanted your own online store to sell your audiobooks without the hassle of building one — or paying to have one built — this will work for you.

Sell your audiobook on your website

If you have an online presence and an engaged community of readers, selling your audiobook on your website is an option worth considering. All it takes is a little marketing know-how and the right resources.

And no, you don’t have to go struggling with an e-commerce platform and build out a store to get it done. Just stick with me — I’ll take you places.

Use Podia to deliver your audiobook

Podia is a platform for selling online courses, webinars, digital downloads, and building online communities. Since your audiobook is a digital download, it’s the perfect platform to sell your audiobook.

If you don’t have a website, you can use Podia as an all-in-one solution. All their plans include a custom website — yourname.podia.com. Or you can connect your own domain name.

Podia pricing information

Podia includes many features, but what makes it great as a stand-alone solution is payment integration and the drag-and-drop tools that simplify the process of creating your audiobook listing.

Once you connect everything inside Podia, you don’t have to worry about how to collect payments or deliver the final audiobook file after a listener pays.

Podia also works if you have a personal website. You can create a link (button or text) on your website that directs your audience to your audiobook on Podia for them to complete payment.

Pros and cons of selling on your website

Choosing to sell your audiobook on your website means you get to keep all the revenue from those sales. However, if you don’t have a large audience and don’t engage in any marketing, you may find that 100% of this total revenue is lower than you could earn by using a distribution platform.

That’s not to say distribution platforms are the only way. 

The chart below provides a breakdown of the different channels through which you can sell your audiobook online as well as some of the major pros and cons of each.

Table showing pros and cons of audiobook distribution platforms

Armed with this information, you’ll be ready to make a final decision of where’s the best place to sell your audiobook.

TL;DR: Compare your options to decide where to sell your audiobook online.

You can produce and sell your audiobook on Amazon without spending a fortune. Here are three steps to consider when going through the process:

  1. Decide how you want to produce your audiobook. DIY could save you some money but outsourcing will likely save time. Decide what trade-off is best for you.
  2. Choose a price for your audiobook. ACX doesn’t give you much control here, but they provide guidelines.
  3. Consider alternatives to Amazon for selling your audiobook online. With a wealth of options available, it’s worth assessing the pros and cons of each online option to decide where to sell your audiobook.

Good luck, and if you’re ever in the market for testing your book cover, PickFu can help. 

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Anna Edwards

Anna is a copywriter at PickFu. When she's not obsessing over words, she enjoys travel and binging Shondaland classics.