When Audible launched its Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) back in 2011, my initial reaction was to ignore it. I wish I could tell you that this decision was rooted in sound logic, but if I’m being totally honest, the very idea of producing an audiobook just seemed overwhelming. This was at a time when I’d finally gotten the whole MOBI vs. EPUB thing straight and the thought of learning a new vernacular threatened to make my head explode. After all, how many times have we writers been promised that something is going to be easy only to learn the hard truth?
I can’t pinpoint exactly when the shift occurred, but it seems like the digital publishing conversation changed from e-books to audiobooks overnight. Suddenly people were calling it “the next frontier in digital publishing” and it quickly became impossible to ignore this rapidly growing market segment, which, according to IBISWorld, currently represents about $1.6 billion (up from $480 million in 1997). I spent a lot of time thinking about my goals as a writer, one of which is reaching more readers, and I finally decided to take a serious look at audio.
Even though “talking books” have been available since the 1930s (they were originally intended for people with visual impairments), the confluence of digital audio formats, mobile devices, and our “on the go” lifestyle has made audiobooks more affordable, portable, and accessible to a wider audience than ever before, an audience who is embracing the format as a way to multitask. Last year The New York Times cited a Bowker survey that revealed that “among people who have recently bought audiobooks, 47% listen while commuting in a car, 25% while working around the house and 23% while exercising.” Though the audiobook market is smaller than that of print and e-books, if you consider that only a fraction of books make the transition to audio, you could argue that the audiobook market might be an easier place to get discovered. Add to that the fact that audiobook listeners have the most diverse reading habits—”84% of audiobook listeners also read a print book in the past year, and 56% also read an e-book,” according to Pew Research Internet Project—and you can see how offering your work as an audiobook could translate to e-book and print sales of other titles.
With all of this in mind, I decided that I couldn’t ignore audio anymore; it was time to embrace digital publishing’s newest technology, vernacular and all. At the beginning of this year, rather than setting my usual resolutions about losing weight and saving money, I set just one: to turn my novel, Empty Arms, into an audiobook. It was a long road and it wasn’t always easy, but my head didn’t explode and I find myself here, in the beginning of July, with a newly approved audiobook to launch and a number of lessons to share with anyone who’s thinking of making a similar journey. [Read more…]