Marketing Your Self-Published Audiobook: What You Need to Know
Book marketing is difficult for most self-published authors. Many (I would say the majority) are not marketing professionals by trade. And when it comes to audiobooks, the marketing picture gets even more complicated.
Here are some of the things you need to know when marketing your own audiobooks.
How Readers Buy and Listen to Audiobooks
As with podcasts, readers need to have access to an app or program to listen to audiobooks. When authors self-publish their audiobooks on ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange)—the audiobook publishing platform owned by Audible and Amazon—they get the opportunity to tap into three primary retail channels for audiobooks: Audible.com, Amazon, and iTunes.
One of the dominant and pioneer platforms for listening to audiobooks is Audible.com, which began in 1995 and has been owned by Amazon since 2008. As of this writing, the Audible mobile app has received the following numbers of ratings: Apple iTunes App Store, 1.14 million; Google Play Store for Android, 577,000; and Microsoft Windows device app, 2,000. Since a very small percentage (like even single-digit percentages) of people actually do ratings for apps and products, the existing user base for Audible is, no doubt, well into the millions.
This doesn't even take into account the massive user base for iTunes and Apple, which is in the hundreds of millions by most accounts. While not all of them are audiobook listeners, all of them have the potential to purchase audiobooks as they do music.
Multi-Format Reader Listeners
Readers these days are flexible in their book reading formats. Sometimes they want print. Other times, eBooks provide convenient enjoyment. When they’re doing other things such as driving or working out, they want audiobooks. So don’t be surprised if some readers tell you that they bought your audio edition, even though they may have already purchased your print or eBook edition.
Audiobooks provide a great opportunity to repurpose and gain revenues from existing content. And because of today’s multi-format listeners, don’t just chase new customers. Market your audio editions to your existing reader buyers, too. It may have been a while since they read one of your books, and getting a refresher or rerun in a new format could be attractive.
Your Voice Is a Selling Point
One of Audible’s commercials some time back featured a reader saying how she loved that Elizabeth Gilbert narrated Eat, Pray, Love. So Audible recognizes the value that author-narrators offer to readers. If you’re an author-narrator, this can be a selling point for you, too.
Do Readers Have to Have an Audible Membership?
No. Audible.com only requires that readers have some version of the Audible app installed that is compatible with their preferred device. Or they can listen on Audible's website. However, the costs differ for members and non-members.
Audible Members. Audible members pay a monthly fee and get credits each month to purchase audiobooks. If they want to purchase audiobooks over and above that allotment, they can purchase them separately at a discount. This program makes sense for those who are listening to multiple audiobooks a month since it can save them money.
Audible Non-Members. Contrary to popular belief, listeners don't have to have an Audible membership to purchase and listen to audiobooks, although, of course, membership is strongly encouraged on the Amazon and Audible sites. According to the Audible support documentation, listeners do not have to have a membership, and can listen through the Audible app or on the Audible website. Listeners just need an Amazon account to purchase. This is very similar to Amazon's Kindle eBooks, where readers can purchase individual eBooks and just need the Kindle Reader App to access.
Plus, publishing an audiobook on ACX also offers sales and distribution on Apple's iTunes platform. Another win for authors on a dominant platform in the audio content space. iTunes users can listen via iTunes. These books can be purchased as one-off purchases, similar to buying songs on iTunes, and no monthly subscription is required.
Tip: Because Amazon and Audible so strongly steer listeners to sign up for the monthly subscription programs, some potential readers may be hesitant to buy your audiobook because they feel they'll be roped into paying a continuing monthly expense. (Even I hesitated for this reason!) You might want to reassure them that they can purchase your audiobook and listen to it without a subscription.
Sales and Distribution Tips for Amazon, Audible, and iTunes
Because of the connection between Amazon and Audible, marketing audiobooks on these sites is very similar to that for print books and eBooks. Just because your audiobook is distributed on these popular platforms doesn't mean that sales will automatically come to you. This is no different than for print books and eBooks. Building an author platform through efforts such as email marketing, social media, etc. is needed for audiobooks, too.
Amazon Author Central. Add your audiobook to your Amazon Author Central profile so that it appears on your Amazon author page. FYI: On your Amazon author page, there are now tabs for your print, audio, and Kindle eBook editions. This is helpful for customers—and for your sales.
Leveraging Your Podcast. If you have a podcast, it can be a prime marketing tool for your audiobooks. Think about it; these people are already taking the time to listen to you and your show. Your audiobook can provide them with even higher value content.
Special Issues for Audio Editions of Existing Books
If your audiobook is the audio edition of an existing print book or Kindle eBook, there are a few issues you should be aware of.
Book Description. If you're producing the audio edition of an existing book or eBook on Amazon, the book description for your audiobook will be the same as for your print book and/or Kindle eBook, unless you change it during the ACX setup process.
Linking to Existing Editions. Even though the system should link your audio edition to existing print books or Kindle eBooks on Amazon, double-check to make sure all editions are linked and appear on one product page. Readers are often interested in getting books in multiple formats. So having all editions showing on the product page can mean additional add-on sales. Wait at least a week after you get the ACX approval email to give them time to make all the connections on Amazon. If it still isn't linked after that time, contact ACX support to resolve.
WhisperSync eBook Narration. Audiobooks published on ACX may be eligible for the WhisperSync eBook narration program. With this program, readers can pick up where they left off on a Kindle eBook in the audio edition, and vice versa. Your audiobook and eBook text must closely match to make this possible. Also, be aware that it can take some time for the system to sync up the two editions. When I contacted the ACX support team about my book, they said it can take up to 30 days. If, after a month or so, eBook narration is still not showing as available, contact ACX support to help resolve.
You Can’t Control Your Audiobook Price
Though there may be exceptions, on Audible/Amazon, audiobooks are priced based on their length in time. So authors typically don’t set prices for their books as they do with print or Kindle eBooks.
Audible subscription members also get a 30 percent discount on audiobooks they purchase over and above their book credit allotments. Royalties are assessed on this discounted price, not retail, for these additional sales.
This could be unsettling for many authors who want more control. But it’s just the nature of this marketplace and channel.
The Audible Subscription Bounty
Even though Audible will sell individual audiobooks to Amazon customers on-demand, their goal is to get readers to sign up for continuing monthly subscriptions. No surprise there, and it's appropriate for them to aim for that. And for readers who listen to a lot of audiobooks, it's a cost-effective option.
To encourage people to sign up for the subscriptions, they offer a bounty to Audible self-published author-narrators if readers use a special affiliate link to one of your audiobooks, and your book is the first one they acquire in the program. The bounty is a one-time bonus (as of this writing around $50 per subscription).
This should be considered for what it is: A bonus. With a significant existing Audible subscriber base, it might not be a huge revenue generator since many readers are already subscribers. But it's nice that they offer a reward.
Setting the goal of your marketing on getting the bonus could be different than just getting readers to buy and listen to your book. When focusing on getting the bonus for subscriptions, you'll be more likely to push the subscription as opposed to your book. Some readers may also feel forced into the subscription and may be turned off from both the subscription and your book.
Remember what you're selling is your book and that your ultimate goal is building an audience of engaged and loyal readers of YOUR work, not just a bonus commission.
What About Non-Audible, Non-Amazon, and Non-iTunes Channels?
Even though Audible, Amazon, and iTunes are dominant players in this market space, there are other audio booksellers, apps, and services out there. You could also sell your audiobook on your own, though I wouldn't recommend it since it could be a huge hassle in terms of technology, logistics, accounting, customer service, and marketing.
While these alternative platforms may offer attractive benefits or improved royalties not available through ACX, Audible, Amazon, and iTunes, consider the alternatives thoughtfully and carefully since it can affect your marketing and income.
Be careful not to create obstacles and confusion for customers by making them sign up on a variety of platforms. For me personally, I’ve resisted buying courses, eBooks, etc. if they required me to sign up or subscribe for yet another website or app I would rarely use. Remember, too, that many people will default to looking for your audiobook on the likes of Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. Sell where people buy!
If you are adamant about not publishing on these popular channels, your marketing messages must be very clear about where and how your book can be purchased and accessed, and the value it provides that makes any inconvenience worth it.
Non-Exclusive Selling and Royalty Issues
If you want to sell through another channel in addition to Audible, Amazon, and iTunes, you can strike a non-exclusive deal on ACX. This means that if you self-publish your audiobook on ACX, you can get distribution on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes, plus you can also publish and distribute on other platforms, including directly through your own site.
But your royalty via ACX will drop from the 40 percent exclusive rate to 25 percent for non-exclusive. So you have to evaluate potential royalties and costs with these non-ACX channels to determine if it's worth the effort.
See the ACX documentation for additional rules and restrictions for non-exclusive deals.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
© 2018 Heidi Thorne