Anyone “tuned in” to publishing will tell you the audiobook market is growing by a whole heckofalot. A survey in July 2019 by the Audio Publishers Association demonstrated how audiobooks are continuing to lead the book/publishing market in growth, with $940 million in sales during 2018, and unit sales increasing 27.3% over 2017. In summary: The audiobook business is booming. (At this point I should warn you, all puns are intended.)
As an independent author writing for a niche market, finding and reaching new readers is one of my main goals. It also happens to be my highest hurdle. My marketing approach has always been to cast as wide a net as possible. Ignoring audiobook listeners and not investing in audiobooks is like leaving a gaping hole in your net. There may be plenty of fish in the sea, but — in my experience — no population of readers is as consistently engaged, invested, and passionate as audiobook listeners.
I produced and published my first audiobook in 2014, more than one year after the ebook and POD (print on demand) version of that book were published. Since 2014, I’ve sold over 150,000 audiobooks across all my titles (not including downloads from Audible credits, Audible Escape, or library borrows).
In 2014, audiobooks accounted for 2% of my gross yearly income and the percentage has increased every year, with 2019 being the largest in terms of growth (30% growth year over year, presently 20% of my gross income). 2019 was also the year I decided to distribute all my titles wide through Findaway Voices, which definitely contributed to the increase in readership and royalty figures.
I hope this article will give you a road map for how to best market your audiobooks, not just during release week, but also over the lifetime of your title.
Announce when an audiobook is available for preorder
First and foremost, you should create audio-specific marketing materials, graphics, and posts for audiobooks. A simple and quick example would be to have a book rendering with headphones bracketing the cover. This is an easy way to catch the attention of audiobook listeners, letting them know that this book is available in audio format and is being marketed directly to them.
Even before the release date, you can begin marketing your audiobook to your audience. If your audiobook has been produced and is 100% ready to go one month or more prior to your release day, contact your distributor(s) about setting up a preorder. (Contact your representative or customer service team at Findaway, ACX, or Kobo and ask for an audiobook preorder; explain that the files are final and ready to upload.)
Here are some strategies for promoting the audiobook preorder:
1. Newsletter. Announce the preorder via your newsletter (more on this later), reader group (if applicable), and social media pages, but also in audio-centric social media groups. Many of these groups are genre-specific (like Aural Fixation and Audio Loves on Facebook for the romance genre), so do a quick search for groups or pages that focus on audiobooks in your genre.
2. Goodreads author “review.” Without leaving a star rating, leave a review (as the author) for your book and include links to your audiobook preorder. Everyone who follows you will see your review in their feed. Also, if your blog on your website automatically links to Goodreads, make a blog post.
3. Bloggers. Approach audio-centric bloggers (e.g. AudioGals), genre-specific bloggers, and review podcasts. Offer an Advance Listener Copy (ALC) or ask about partnering on a giveaway for an ALC to one of their subscribers/listeners.
4. Podcasts. Review podcasts also tend to have promotional spots/opportunities for advertisers, where authors pay a fee to share a sneak peek of their audiobook on the podcast. Empirical data suggests podcast listeners are also audiobook listeners.
5. Facebook Live. Leading up to the release or even after the audiobook is out, ask your narrators if they’d be willing to do a Facebook Live video with you in your author group or on your business page. Prepare questions ahead of time for your narrator and share short snippets of the book live. Make sure you post the link to your audiobook in all social media and special event posts.
6. Repeat! Once your book is released, you can do items 1–5 all over again to announce your book is live! Take advantage of both announcing the preorder and announcing the book’s publication date. Both are events worthy of sharing.
Announce when an audiobook launches
Once the audiobook is available for sale, here are some strategies for promoting the launch:
1. Giveaways. Run audiobook giveaways on your social media pages! Most retailers will give you audiobook codes (for free) for giveaways. Use them! They’re a great way to spread the word among audio listeners that your book is now available.
2. Boost retailer pages. Post screenshots of your audiobook available on retailers and tag that retailer in your post/social media announcement. Some retailers might even share your post to their audience, especially if you consistently share their purchase links (even library distributors, like Hoopla and OverDrive!).
3. Affiliate links. Always remember to use affiliate links on your website, directing all traffic (social media, podcasts, bloggers, newsletter, etc.) through your affiliate links.
4. Author website. Make the best use of your website by having pages dedicated to audiobooks. It’s easy to drop a link in a social media post, in the back matter of your ebooks/print books/audiobooks, or at the end of a podcast interview, to a single page that you control rather than sending interested readers to one retailer. Your website is one of the only places (other than your newsletter) where you have complete control over the content shared with your readers, so make the most of it!
Under the books page on your author website, have an entire page dedicated to showcasing all of your audiobooks. It’s a quick, one-stop shop for potential listeners where they can quickly see all the books available in audio format as well as series reading order. If you can, add quick purchase links to your preferred retailers.
5. Audiobook samples. Also create a page on your website of audiobook excerpts where potential listeners can quickly sample each of your titles. I host my audio sneak peeks on SoundCloud; it’s free and WordPress (if that’s your preferred website builder) has a plug-in to easily display audio samples.
Again, make sure that all your retailer links are affiliate links where applicable!
Discount the audiobook and promote it on Chirp
The ability to control the price of an audiobook on retailers is an extremely valuable marketing tool. One (meaning me) might even argue it’s absolutely essential to maximizing reach. If you distribute wide through Findaway Voices (to Chirp, Apple Books, Google Play, Authors Direct, Audiobooks.com, Hoopla for libraries, etc.) then you have full control over the price of your audiobooks on those retailers. Ultimately, you’ll have the ability to offer discounts and sales on your terms and your schedule rather than having the price (or discount) dictated to you.
This opens up the world of loss-leaders and first-in-series (or even second-in-series) free. Advertising a discounted ebook via BookBub is still dollar for dollar the best way to reach as wide of an audience of interested readers as possible. The same can absolutely be said for Chirp and audiobooks.
Back in September 2019, I ran a promotion on Chirp for the second book in my Winston Brothers series, Grin and Beard It, discounting the title from $14.99 to $1.99. The read-through for my audiobooks was 15 times the read-through for the ebooks — and that means audiobook listeners were 15 times more likely to purchase the next book in my series than someone who downloaded that same ebook for free! From this I can extrapolate that either A) audiobook listeners are more likely to actually consume (listen to) the books they download than book owners are to consume (read) ebooks (and are therefore 15 times more engaged), or B) my audiobook narrators did such a stellar job narrating my books, they make the content 15 times better.
Plug audiobooks in your newsletter
I won’t go into best newsletter practices (that’s a whole different article) but make sure you’re highlighting at least one audiobook as the first or second item in every single one of your newsletters.
As above for new releases, ensure the graphics and marketing materials make it clear that the book is available in audiobook format.
I use this primary audiobook space in each newsletter to highlight an upcoming audiobook or the most recently released audiobook. Always include a link to your website for a sneak peek — and include the audio sample and purchase links on that page.
Additionally, at the end of my newsletter I always have a graphic highlighting the availability of my backlist audio, so new subscribers can easily see that audiobooks are available to them.
Give away bonus scenes on Authors Direct
If you have an exceptionally good relationship with your audiobook narrators, ask them to record additional bonus scenes or deleted scenes you’ve already written. Here are a few tips:
- Release one bonus scene a month (for free) via Authors Direct, an app powered by Findaway.
- Publicize and promote the free audio snippet on all social media, your newsletter, and perhaps in your Goodreads review for the relevant book (so all your followers will see).
- You will find that some of your most dedicated readers who have never downloaded an audiobook before will happily listen to a free bonus scene, and then download their first audiobook!
Create audiobook box sets
Bundling audiobooks (as either a long-term or short-term offering) is a fantastic way to create an event and build excitement about a backlist title. It can help bring more attention to a book or series that might be plateauing in sales. Readers will share what is essentially a “buy one, get one free” sale.
Promote an upcoming audio project on Patreon
For those unfamiliar, Patreon lets content creators get funding directly from fans (aka patrons) as a recurring subscription or per piece of content. Consistently providing new content to patrons is one of the reasons many creators are hesitant to create a Patreon page. One of the many ways we make our account special for our patrons is by sharing super, super, SUPER early sneak peeks (listens) of an upcoming audio title. If you try this strategy, here are a couple of tips:
- When you choose a narrator, ask them to send you their first chapter as soon as it’s finished
- Share that chapter with your patrons, even if the book isn’t released yet! Not only does this build excitement for the new release, but it also encourages non–audio listeners to give audio (as a format) a try.
I have a cookbook planned for my Winston Brothers series world from the same narrator as the books. It’s been a great way to introduce the concept to our patrons and build interest, while also offering them something special and unique.
As an independent author, no one else is lobbying for me and my books. No one else is leveraging relationships, reaching out to similar authors for blurb requests, or working to secure prime shelving real estate in traditional brick-and-mortar stores. That’s never going to happen. This means I must constantly be on the cutting edge of new approaches for reaching potential readers. With audiobook listeners 15 times more engaged than ebook readers (according to my data), audiobooks represent a unique opportunity to reach a new, avid readership and maximize the bang for my advertising buck.
The views and opinions expressed in this guest post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of BookBub.
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This post was last updated on June 29, 2023.