As A Self-Published Author, Should I Even Bother With Audiobooks?

Short answer: FUCK YES!!!

But for those of you not yet convinced, I'll attempt to make my case more eloquently. Below are six reasons I believe it behooves any self-published author to have audio versions of their books produced.

1. Why the fuck not?

This is first on the list for a reason. It's an obvious one that I'm getting out of the way early. It applies to any format. I don't sell a whole lot of paperback books, but as long as the number of sales remains above 0, I'd be foolish to not have them available. The same goes for audiobooks. If there are people out there who would rather listen to your book than read it, what conceivable reason could you have for not allowing them to give you money? Especially since... 

2. It requires so little effort.

This blog post didn't exist when I first released Critical Failures, because I'm writing it right now. So I didn't have available to me the wisdom that I'm not passing on to you. Consequently, I didn't release an audio version of Critical Failures until about two years after it was published. Paperback formatting was kind of a pain in the ass for a lackluster return (STILL WORTH DOING!). How much more a pain in the ass would having an audiobook produced be? And how much less of a return for my effort could I expect?

I only bothered with it at all because an old friend from high school sent me an email saying that her boyfriend and his friend were interested in producing an audio version of Critical Failures.

"Yeah, fine. Whatever."

"Yeah, fine. Whatever."

As it turned out, getting an audiobook wasn't that hard at all. I just went over to acx.com and followed their straightforward instructions, and all the work of producing the book was on Saturn Five Sound's shoulders.

3. New audience.

The main reason I went so long without bothering with audio is that I didn't think there was all that big a market for it. Turns out I was wrong as shit.

There are some people who just prefer to listen to someone else read a story to them than read it themselves, but I believe that the vast majority of audiobook consumers are people who are looking for a more satisfying way to kill otherwise wasted time.

People with long commutes. People on treadmills. People who work jobs that don't require their complete and undivided attention. People who work jobs that do require their complete and undivided attention, but are shitty employees.

"Oh man, that Cooper cracks me up."

"Oh man, that Cooper cracks me up."

By not having audiobooks available, you're missing out on a shit-ton of people who want to consume your stories, but lack the time to do so the conventional way. 

Perhaps the biggest challenge for a self-published author is discoverability. People can't buy your shit if they don't know your shit exists. And the more places your shit shows up on this vast collection of porn and kitten pictures we call the internet, the more likely it is to be discovered. ACX will put your book on Amazon, iTunes, and of course Audible, but that's only the start.

Consider Amazon category rankings. They have separate lists for audiobooks and ebooks. But they also have lists of just plain old books, in which all formats are thrown in together.

As a random example, let's look at Amazon's Dark Humor subcategory...

As you can see under the individual book titles, this list includes audiobooks, ebooks, paperbacks, and hardcovers. 

A potential customer looking for something to make them darkly laugh might see Critical Failures IV: The Phantom Pinas up there in the #1 spot and wonder what that's all about. They might not want the audio version, and they'll almost certainly want to start with the first book in the series, but all versions of all the books in the series are only a few clicks away. Having audiobooks available can boost sales of your books' other formats as well.

And sometimes, just sometimes, this effect can be amplified. For example...

4. Sometimes Audible pimps your shit.

I've talked at length about running Kindle Countdown promotions for ebooks. Audible doesn't give you any means to run your own promotions like that. But if you've got a book that's doing well, sometimes they'll include it in one of their own special deals. And holy fucking shit does that ever get your ass some exposure.

My finest hour. (This literally lasted about one hour.)

My finest hour. (This literally lasted about one hour.)

Critical Failures has been selected a few times for these sorts of Audible promotions, and each time feels like Christmas, my birthday, and the first time I got to touch a tit all rolled into one.

And the aftereffects carry over much longer than my ebook promotions typically do, which I strongly suspect has a lot to do with...

5. Less competition.

This works in two ways. The first, much like the entry above, has to do with what I just talked about in the entry above. For an example of what I'm talking about, let's take a look at how my most recent audio release, Critical Failures IV: The Phantom Pinas is doing compared to the audiobook for A Game of Thrones, first on Amazon's "Audiobooks" list, and then on the "Books" list.

That's quite a significant difference. If my logic is working properly, that means that (with the exception of that one book between mine and Martin's in the first picture) all of those books between A Game of Thrones and Critical Failures IV: The Phantom Pinas either don't have audio versions available, or that the audio versions they have aren't selling as well as mine for whatever reason.

Okay, I went and clicked on them all just to double-check my logic. Five of those books don't have Audible versions. The point still stands. Get your audiobooks produced and available on Audible, and you'll be more discoverable than those whose books aren't.

I feel like I kinda lost track of what I was saying there. 

Who cares. The other way this works is through "Also Boughts". By that I mean Amazon's recommendations for their customers, based on what books they're browsing.

You get the idea.

You get the idea.

Everyone has Kindle versions of their books available. Fewer people have Audible versions of their books available. It stands to reason that it would be easier for your book to get included among the "also boughts" of more famous (and subsequently more often viewed) audiobooks than it would be to get included among the "also boughts" for ebooks.

"Nice theory, Bevan. But how does it work in practice?"

Good question, voice in my head. Let's have a look, shall we? Ready Player One is a pretty successful book that probably gets a lot of views on Amazon. Take a look at the audiobook...

Flipping through the rest of the "also boughts", I found three more of my titles. I'll spare you another image and just tell you that only one of my books showed up as an "also bought" of the Kindle version of RPO.

6. Contributes to author ranking.

This one's just a bonus. I don't think author rankings contribute much to sales, because who ever looks at author rankings besides narcissistic authors?

But for the sake of your own narcissism, or just for a screenshot to post on a Facebook author page, it can be nice to see your face among the faces of much more successful authors in your genre. And all formats of all of your books contribute toward it.

With the audio release of Critical Failures IV: The Phantom Pinas, I've climbed as high as #56 in the Fantasy Author rankings. Sadly, I missed the opportunity to screen shot it, and I'm currently up to #64.

Rather than give you good people a current #64 screen shot, I'll dig through the past screenshots I have saved on my computer and find the highest ranking I can.

I don't know for certain, but I'd be willing to bet this was taken at around the same time as the image in Entry 4 on this list.

I don't know for certain, but I'd be willing to bet this was taken at around the same time as the image in Entry 4 on this list.

There you have it. Have I made my case? Are you convinced? Honestly, I don't give a shit. The fewer of you who act on this, the less competition I have to deal with. 

Happy writing!


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