Diving into the audiobook world was something I’d held off doing after an initial attempt six years ago was underwhelming and expensive. However, as more and more of my readers asked for audio versions of my books, I decided it was time to take a second look at the now rapidly evolving industry.
Several factors had changed since my first audiobook attempt:
- The rapidly growing audiobook market.
- The number of books I had in my writer bookshelf.
- The amount of disposable income I had to reinvest into my company.
So it was time to decide whether to dip my toes or dive into the audio market in 2019.
My goal was to invest in this new format to generate long-term, sustainable revenue and hook new readers (and listeners!) no matter their format preferences. In this post, I’ll discuss how I’ve already boosted my author earnings from audiobooks and created a brand-new revenue stream for myself that will continue generating revenue for years to come.
Deciding which audiobooks to produce
I’m someone who tends to do research and make a plan, then dive in headfirst. So I decided to produce over 50 audiobooks in 2019, and have another 30 scheduled for 2020!
My first step was to create a solid audiobook production and marketing plan. Part of this plan was to determine which series/books to turn into audio and why each made the cut. I chose to focus on both new releases and backlist books, with a heavier focus on backlist, starting with the series which had new releases coming in 2020. That way in 2020 I’d be able to release all formats of these new books simultaneously, and listeners would be able to catch up on the earlier audiobooks in the series right away.
However, not all of my series could be turned into audiobooks. Some have contracts with ACX, and I have several more years to go before I get the rights back. Eventually I’ll get through my other 60+ backlist books.
How I produced the audiobooks
Starting with such an aggressive plan was daunting, but I chose the audiobook distribution service Findaway Voices as the company to partner with me on this journey, and thankfully their expert assistance made navigating the first few books easy.
I learned what voices I liked, the amount of acting I liked (I found I didn’t like much at all), and the pacing of the books I preferred. I chose the narrators solely based on voice, but getting each person to fit the ideal narrator for my books took time and patience. As I made my way through the process, we managed to streamline it to be faster and easier for all of us involved. It helped that I used several of the same narrators, which gave them a chance to learn what I liked after each of them recorded their first book with me. For anyone starting out, it’s imperative you listen attentively to the samples from each narrator to make sure they can give you the performance you want from them. And once you’re happy, lock them in for more books!
I was lucky with my cozy series, Lovely Lethal Gardens, as I loved the narrator from the first audition, and she was dynamite all the way through. She’s done six books in that series so far and I hope she’ll complete the 26 planned to the end. In my military books, as they have a different male in each book, I chose five male narrators to do multiple books in the series.
Now that I have a group of narrators I like and can work with, the next audiobooks will be that much easier to complete! Producing these audiobooks was the first major eye-opener on this new business expansion, but understanding how to launch a new format was a different story altogether.
How I launched each audiobook
Originally, I distributed all my audiobooks through Findaway Voices. Now I distribute to most vendors through Findaway Voices and upload to Kobo directly. Kobo offers excellent promotional opportunities for authors who have audiobooks through them.
In order to determine pricing, I went with Findaway Voices’ suggested pricing, which is based on the length of the audiobook, and have since used their suggestions as a baseline for promotions.
When most authors think about launching a new audiobook, they have anywhere from four to a dozen books being released that year. However, I was releasing 60 audiobooks in one year! That meant releasing multiple audiobooks simultaneously. As these books were from my backlist, they were the easiest to plan — I could launch them whenever they were ready. Going forward for new releases, however, when the audiobook is timed to release with the ebook, I’ll have the audiobook live on all vendors the week prior to the ebook, just to make sure they are both live in time for the marketing push. Audiobooks take longer to go live than print or ebooks do, and since I’m dealing with more vendors with audiobooks, that extra lead time helps ease any technical glitches that can arise.
How I promote each audiobook
Keep in mind that my marketing pushes are not all the same for all books. Why? Because I don’t write in the same genres all the time. I write in many genres and it’s important for the audiobooks to be marketed to the right target audience. Audiobook listeners can be different than ebook and print book consumers.
Still, here are the promotional tactics I use fairly consistently for each audiobook release:
1. Update my author website
For each audiobook I release, the book is added to my Authors Direct audiobook store. This site is automated by Findaway Voices so the books show up here quickly, allowing fans to get the audiobook faster here than from other vendors.
I link to my Authors Direct store on my website’s top navigation and on the top section of my homepage, so it’s easy for readers to find. I also added audiobook links to the individual book pages on my website.
2. Discount and promote with Chirp
When BookBub decided to enter the audiobook world with Chirp, I was thrilled. I’ve long been a fan of their ebook platform, and now Chirp offers listeners a selection of audiobook deals on a daily basis. This was perfect timing for me.
I wanted to promote the first book in one of my audiobook series in the hopes of hooking new listeners at a low price who would then go on to listen to the rest of my series and buy my full-priced audiobooks. One first-in-series audiobook I promoted was Arsenic in the Azaleas. I discounted this book to $0.99, and it ran to Chirp’s Mysteries & Thrillers category, generating more than 3,300 audiobook sales!
The results were excellent as I was finally seeing movement in sales, follow-through sales, and reviews showing up. I’ve done several promotions through Chirp now and have always been delighted with the results.
I also sometimes stagger pricing for the next books in the series. This allows the listener to buy the first book at a deep discount and the second book at a very nice discount with the hope of hooking them into buying more books in the series.
3. Run display ads
When I run a Chirp deal, I also run a BookBub Ads campaign to promote the deep price discount on the audiobook. Here’s one ad I ran targeting readers specifically interested in audiobooks, the Cozy Mysteries category, and a few comparable cozy mystery authors.
I also run ads for full-priced audiobooks on Facebook. It’s all about discoverability, and advertising helps people find my series. I use three different targeting strategies on Facebook:
- Target similar authors, then narrow that audience by people who like Facebook pages related to audiobooks.
- Use look-alike audiences from my own mailing list and further narrow that down by audiobook interest.
- Target my own followers.
4. Send a newsletter to subscribers
When I run an audiobook price promotion, I always send a newsletter to my subscribers so they can take advantage of the sale. Here’s a screenshot of one of my promotional emails I sent to my subscribers.
5. Promote on social media
Along with promotional posts on Facebook and Instagram, it’s also important to have non-promotional posts to help build organic growth of my name, brand, and products. To that end, I have a series of subjects that are dear to my heart that I post about between promotional posts, but are also geared toward readers and listeners to let them know I’m a reader and listener, too. I’m in the process of reevaluating my process with Instagram but am looking to add more human-interest stories and even less promotion going forward. While I don’t have proof that some of my organic growth comes from posting on social media, I believe it does — and I know it can’t hurt!
My results so far
Branching into audiobooks gave me another income stream for products that were already doing well. The visibility of a new release — though only in a new format — helped the ebooks gain more visibility as well. Using the Chirp promotions brought my audiobooks into the mainstream as I wasn’t known for audiobooks before. Now I have listeners looking for more of my audiobooks!
I haven’t had my audiobooks out long enough to know what the ROI is going to be for each book. I also have 60 of them, so netting a positive ROI could take a while. But this isn’t a short-term strategy — this is a long game to have as many products available to interest a wide variety of fans with different book format preferences. But the early results are promising, and I’ll be reinvesting my profits to produce more audiobooks in the future!
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