A step-by-step guide to publishing audiobooks

Written by David Ciccarelli, CEO of


Over the next several pages you’ll learn the 12 steps for publishing an audiobook: Selecting a Genre and Market Knowing Your Target Audience Locating and Selecting a Manuscript Licensing Considerations Selling Your Vision Budgeting Finding a Narrator Agreeing Upon Terms Mastering Your Audio Creating Artwork Distributing Your Audiobook at Audible and iTunes Promoting Your Audiobook Market Research About About The Author


Audiobooks have a unique and fascinating history. In 1933, anthropologist J.P. Harrington, drove the length of North America to record oral histories of Native American tribes on aluminum discs using a car battery-powered turntable. Now, in the 21st Century, the definition of books and publishing is evolving as technology advances and the consumer demands change. Audiobooks allow avid readers to multi-task in today’s hectic world. Consumers can listen to an audiobook as they commute, exercise, or cook. At the same time, audiobooks preserve the oral tradition of storytelling that J.P. Harrington pursued many years ago. Narration, sound effects, and music can complement the reading experience.

Source: Audio Publishers Association

A historical perspective by Marianne Roney: In January 1952, Barbara Cohen and Marianne Roney, sat down with Dylan Thomas in the bar of the Chelsea Hotel and persuaded him to record some of his poetry. Spoken word records were almost unheard of at the time. Cohen and Roney knew that Thomas’s poetry was shocking, moving and important, and that they wanted to record it to preserve the sounds. With the promise of five hundred dollars, and much coaxing and cajoling, a recording session was arranged. Thomas selected the poems, writing the list in his tiny round letters in Miss Roney’s appointment book for Friday, February 15th, 1952. Caedmon Records was born the next week, named, appropriately enough, for the first poet to write in the native language of Old England. February 15th came and went, without Thomas. It is difficult to imagine how much nervous energy was expended in trying to find the lost poet and rescheduling his recording session. On February 22nd, Peter Bartok, son of the composer Bela Bartok, had set up his equipment in Steinway Hall to do the recording. Thomas began the session with “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.” Bartok had perhaps expected a quavery poet’s voice, but instead he got a French horn. After some consideration, he adjusted the microphone for a symphonic recording to accommodate Thomas’s sonorous voice. To fill the other side of the record Thomas recorded a story he sold to Harper’s Bazaar, A Child’s Christmas in Wales. This recording established A Child’s Christmas in Wales as a Christmas classic. It is Dylan Thomas’s most widely known work and, as a model of translucent prose, stands as an everlasting testament to his greatness as poet and bard.
Source: Audio Publishers Association

1. SELECTING A GENRE How to publish an audiobook

Select a genre and establish the market you want to record for. Genres include themes such as Non-Fiction, Fiction, Business, Health, Science Fiction, Romance and so on. Markets pertain to people groups, for instance Children, Teen, Young Adult, and so on. If you want some ideas for what people are listening to and why, check out sites like or as well as A visit to your local library might also give you an indication of the kind of materials that are consumed by audiobook aficionados. A significant percentage of all audiobook sales are generated by libraries and educational institutions so it would be wise to take a look at what they are offering to their patrons and customers. You might also benefit from visiting stores that sell audiobooks such as Barnes & Noble, Chapters or Find out what's selling and read reviews from people who have purchased or listened to audiobooks.

2. KNOWING YOUR AUDIENCE How to publish an audiobook

Know your target audience. Drill down regarding specific interests particular your selected people group. Knowing your audience ensures that your expectations and sales goals are in line with what the market will support. The more you know about your target audience, the better you will be able to attract them and provide value to them. Factors to consider are who your prospective listeners are, why they listen to audiobooks, where they listen to them, how they listen and the kind of audiobooks they consume most frequently. Does your audience listen to their audiobooks while commuting, jogging, or might they prefer to wind down with an audiobook after a long day at the office or while cleaning house? What purpose does the audiobook serve? Is it a source of entertainment, education, or inspiration? Do the people listening prefer listening to an audiobook over reading a printed copy of the book? All of the details are important when it comes to how you position your audiobook on the market to those you hope become your customers. For more information on this, be sure to look at the market research provided toward the end of this guide.

3. SELECTING A MANUSCRIPT How to publish an audiobook

Find a manuscript that reflects the choices made in steps #1 and #2 that you can record. This is the most critical step in the process to get going. If you've created a detailed description of who your audience is and know what they want to hear, you will have narrowed the manuscript field to a degree and it will be easier to settle on a few titles that will resonate with your target market. If your are an author, this will be easy for you because you already have material and most importantly, own the copyright. For those who aren't authors, once you've chosen a manuscript prepare to have some fun with it! Learn about the author, the story and the characters from the perspective of a producer or director. Start to envision the narrative skill and inherent qualities in a voice that you feel would best represent the author's vision. Jot down any thoughts and ideas that you have. Let the text speak to you and remember that the storyteller's voice is a vehicle for audibly communicating the written word as the author intended. Remember, the story, and not the narrator, is the focal point.

4. LICENSING THE MANUSCRIPT How to publish an audiobook

If the manuscript is in the public domain, you don't need to worry about licensing fees or any other legalities. Public domain works are royalty-free and no one owns or enforces a copyright on them. A few good examples of public domain works are "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" by C.S. Lewis and "Treasure Island" by Robert Louis Stevenson. A good source for Public Domain works is Project Gutenberg ( Should the work be licensed, contact the publisher to inquire about licensing opportunities. Working with an independent book publisher or a self-published author might also be an idea to consider when you're starting out in audio publishing, especially if you want to record something that has newly hit the shelves.

5. SELLING YOUR VISION How to publish an audiobook

Compile a brief fact sheet about the book that details the title, author, publishing house, word count, a summary of the book and also character sketches centric to the main characters and any other "speaking" roles in the book. This information should be shared with a director (if you are working with one), prospective narrators and will also come in handy when promoting your audiobook. A document such as this should be concise and give the reader immediate insight pertinent to their potential involvement or commitment to the audiobook. If characters are few, your discovery document should run no longer than 1 page or 250 to 500 words.

6. BUDGETING How to publish an audiobook

Figure out how many words there are in the book, how long it will take to record and factor in how much it will cost to have the audiobook narrated, edited and produced. Here are some statistics that will help you to determine how much money you may need to budget for: The average audiobook is 100,000 words in length 100,000 words = 11 hours of audio 11 hours of audio = 22 hours of voice in the studio It usually takes 2 hours of recording for every finished hour of audio Another fact to consider is that it takes twice as long, if not longer, to edit a voice over than it does to record it. The time spent editing will vary depending on the audio engineering skills a narrator possesses. If you have editing skills you may wish to do the editing on your end to save some money. How much do narrators charge for recording audiobooks? Some narrators charge $200 per finished hour of recording while others charge as high as (or higher than) $500 per finished hour of audio. As mentioned earlier, some audio editing may be required and should be accounted for in your budget.

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7. FINDING A NARRATOR How to publish an audiobook

Begin a search to audition and hire a professional narrator. Provide narrators with a few paragraphs if not a page of text for them to read from and also give them with a digital copy of the manuscript so that they may review the contents before committing to an audition. By doing so, only the most interested of the qualified narrators will respond. Additionally, provide details pertaining to audio file requirements such as file format, the separating and naming of files and so on. If you are going to be selling the audiobook on CDs, you will want the audio to be of a higher quality such as a WAV file than if you were simply selling the audiobook as a digital MP3 download online. A good rule of thumb is to provide as much information as possible to your narrator ahead of time. This way, they can fully evaluate the project and be sure to impress you with their performance.

HIRING A NARRATOR How to publish an audiobook

By working with a professional voice talent you gain several advantages. First, many voice talent have recorded dozens of audiobooks and know what works, what doesn’t and as a result, they can improve the quality of the recording as well as save you thousands of dollars. Furthermore, professionals have the artistic ability to bring your script to life by interpreting your script, emphasizing certain words and adding subtle touches such as humor, sarcasm and other performance characteristics you may like in the recording. Finally, voice talent work from fully-equipped recording studios so you can be sure that you’ll be publishing a high-quality audio production. Recording studio equipment costs a minimum of $25,000 and well into the millions of dollars for high-end gear. Your audiobook can have the clean, professional sound at a fraction of the cost.

Like most people, a Google search is a good place to start. By doing so, you’ll likely land on, an online marketplace where you can search a global network of thousands of professional audiobook narrators.

The best option is to post your job, which is free of charge at Then you can outline your audiobook requirements and attach your script. Within a few hours, you’ll receive auditions and quotes for getting your audiobook recorded by a pro quickly and cost-effectively.

8. AGREEING UPON TERMS How to publish an audiobook

Once you have found your narrator, settle upon the final price and deadline for completing the recording. It is also recommended that you have the narrator agree to a full-buyout which means that you wholly own the rights to the recording and do not need to pay the narrator any royalties derived from future sales.

9. MASTERING YOUR AUDIO How to publish an audiobook

The narrator will record the manuscript and then deliver the finished audio to you. The audio files will need to be formatted for the final destination, either CD or as an audiobook on Audible and iTunes. This is also the stage where you'll be deciding if the recording as one large file, in chapters that follow the book, or audio chapters every 5 minutes.

10. CREATING ARTWORK How to publish an audiobook

Accompanying your audiobook will be the book cover, which is similar to the album artwork. It's possible that the artwork will be the same art featured on the cover of the book, however, you may run into some licensing fees if you choose to do so. The alternative is to have an image designed and laid out for you by an artist or graphic designer. The audiobook cover is your primary graphical promotional tool and is a vital component for visually enticing potential listeners to preview your audiobook and then to proceed and make the purchase. The artwork can also be used in marketing efforts on your website, blog or Facebook Fan Page. You should also consider issuing a press release that includes the audiobook cover.

11. DISTRIBUTING YOUR BOOK How to publish an audiobook

Audible is a distributor of downloadable audiobooks not a recorder (publisher). The following is from their contact us page where they are soliciting content providers. If you are an audio publisher or producer who has at least five audio programs that will appeal to a wide audience and you would like to offer audio content in Audible's online store, contact us at In your e-mail, please describe the content and length of your audio programs and let us know how many you have now and how many you'll publish over the next six months.

One audiobook publisher partner you should take a look at is They have an audiobook self-publishing program but would probably talk to you about a partnership. The direct link to the audiobook publishing section is

12. PROMOTING YOUR BOOK How to publish an audiobook

There are 3 areas that you'll need to look after to build an online presence and get the word out there about your audiobook. Website: As an audio publisher and will be publishing many audiobooks, you'll want to have an official website for your publishing house that includes listings and pages for individual titles. You may also want to have a separate web presence for each title similar to how a movie production house will create sites on unique domains for their films. Blog: What better way to communicate and keep your listeners informed than to write a blog? You could offer behind the scenes look at the recording of your audiobooks, author or narrator interviews, a sneak peek at titles you're going to release, and so on. Do you have recording sessions going on inhouse? People really like to watch narrators at work and featuring videos will add a different way to engage visitors on your blog. You can install a blog on your primary domain to keep traffic on your website. Social Networking: Connecting with your customer base and introducing your brand to new listeners is easy when you use social networking site such as Facebook, Twitter, and When using Facebook, be sure that you create a Fan Page as this is the best way to personalize your online presence at the site as well as gain support from your customers, fans and supporters. Show your gratitude to fans by running contests and doing giveaways on your Facebook page. Make your company personable and meet your customers where they are.

MARKET GROWTH Audiobook Market Research

The Audio Publishers Association (APA) recently released the results of the 2009 APA Sales Survey, conducted to evaluate trends and measure the growth of the audiobook industry. The independent research firm, LewisClarkBoone Market Intelligence, surveyed audiobook publishers and analyzed consumer sales data from 2008, comparing current statistics against the previous year’s findings. The results show the audio industry experienced only a slight drop in sales in 2008, comparable to those of the trade book industry. For the first time, the APA is releasing the measure of publishers’ revenues, a metric that other publishing industry trade associations use. Revenue reported by 30 member companies is $331 million, down only 6.7% from last year. The APA estimates that the total size of the audiobook industry, based on the dollars spent by consumers and libraries, is close to $1 billion. The audiobook industry has been growing steadily for more than a decade. And while some segments of the audiobook business slowed in 2008, some formats saw significant growth. • CD sales represent 72% of the audio market. • Downloads grew to 21% of the market. • The sales of preloaded devices increased significantly, now making up 3% of the total market. • Cassette sales stayed the same since 2007, accounting for 3% of sales in 2008. • Unabridged audiobooks made up 68% of the units and 85% of the 2008 audiobook market
Source: Audio Publishers Association

Format: Roughly one is five American households listened to an audiobook within the • last year—23 million households. (Audio Publishers 2001 Consumer Survey) MP3-CD Cassette
0.01% 0.03%

Of the main audiobook listeners surveyed, 76% are female and 24% are male. Download
0.21% The average listening age for females is 45 and the average listening age for males is 47. (Audio Publishers 2001 Consumer Survey)

0.03% The average audiobook listener earns 25% than non-listeners, has a higher level of education and is more likely to hold CD a professional and 2managerial 0.72% position than a non-listener. (Audio Publishers 2001 Consumer Survey)


Americans make 51.3 billion trips to and from work in their own vehicles • • Sales of downloadable audiobooks increased in 2008, to 21 percent of sales, up every year.” (“Commuter Consumer,” The Washington Post, April 24,2005) from 17 percent in 2007. One factor driving sales is, literally, driving. “The number-one place people • • Pre-loaded audiobook devices increased from 1 percent in 2007 to 3 percent in listen is in their cars,” says Mary Beth Roche, publisher at Audio Renaissance. 2008, while MP3 CDs stayed the same at 1 avid readers are driven to books that let As commuter times lengthen, she says, percent of sales. them keep their eyes on the road. (“Now Hear This,” American Way, May 15, Sales2005) channel: •
0.09% The Cracker Barrel Old Country Store restaurants have developed a successful Direct to Consumers 0.07% program that lets travelers buy an audiobook at any of their 519 locations in 41 Retailers states. It can be returned at any of their other 0.36% and restaurants, minus a stores 0.16% weekly fee of less than $4. (“Audiobooks Ease Time on Road,” Courier Journal, June 26, 2005) Wholesalers Other

“The best patrons are the best book-buyers. They’re avid readers who use Libraries audiobooks to keep up when their eyes are busy,” says Mary Beth Roche, 0.32% president of the Audio Publishers Association. (The Washington Post, April 24, • Measured by publisher revenue, retail is the audio industry’s strongest channel, 2005) followed closely by the library channel. •

AUDIOBOOK SURVEY RESULTS Audiobook Market Research
MP3-CD Cassette 0.01% 0.03% Download 0.21% Pre-Loaded 0.03% CD 0.72%

• Sales of downloadable audiobooks increased in 2008, to 21 percent of sales, up from 17 percent in 2007. • Pre-loaded audiobook devices increased from 1 percent in 2007 to 3 percent in 2008, while MP3 CDs stayed the same at 1 percent of sales.
Sales channel:

Other 0.09% Direct to Consumers 0.07% Wholesalers 0.16%

Retailers 0.36%

Libraries 0.32%

• Measured by publisher revenue, retail is the audio industry’s strongest channel, followed closely by the library channel.

AUDIOBOOK SURVEY RESULTS Audiobook Market Research
Target Age: Format:
Children/Teen MP3-CD Cassette 17% 0.01% 0.03% Download 0.21%

Pre-Loaded 0.03%
Adult 83%

CD 0.72%

• The majority of audiobooks continue to be targeted at adults, with 83 percent of • Sales of downloadable audiobooks increased inAudiobooks percenttoward up the dollar volume, up from 74 percent in 2007. 2008, to 21 geared of sales, from 17 percent in accounted for 17 percent, down from 25 percent in 2007. children and teens 2007. • Pre-loaded audiobook devices increased from 1 percent in 2007 to 3 percent in 2008, while MP3 CDs stayed the same at 1 percent of sales.
Genre: Sales channel:
Nonfiction 27%

Other 0.09% Direct to Consumers 0.07%
Fiction Wholesalers 0.16% 73%

Retailers 0.36%

• Fiction represented 73 percent of sales in 2008, up from 62 percent in 2007. Nonfiction represented 27 percent of sales in 2008, down from 35 percent in 2007. Libraries

• Measured by publisher revenue, retail is the audio industry’s strongest channel, followed closely by the library channel.

TOP AUDIOBOOK PUBLISHERS Audiobook Market Research
Audiobook Survey Participants:

The following audio publishers participated in this year’s survey:
Apollo Audiobooks, Inc. Audible, Inc. Audio Connoisseur BBC Audiobooks America BetterListen Blackstone Audio, Inc. Brilliance Audio, Inc. Canadian Broadcasting Company Christian Audio CSA Word DogEar Audio Galaxy Press Hachette Audio HarperAudio HighBridge Company L.A. Theatre Works Listen & Live Audio Live Oak Media Macmillan Audio Oasis Audio Penguin Group Random House Audio Recorded Books Simon & Schuster Audio St. Anthony Messenger Press Sue Media Productions Tantor Media Ulverscroft Group, Ltd. Weston Woods Studios Writer’s Audioshop

Source: Audio Publishers Association


As the founder of, David offers management experience as well as a clear vision the company's future. Currently, David oversees infrastructure maintenance, infrastructure development, and web application development. David was nominated for the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award by the Business Development Bank of Canada and has also presented as a New Voices winner at DigiFest, an award recognizing as an industry leader who provides digital media products and innovations that contribute to Canada's economic and cultural future. In 2000, David graduated from the Ontario Institute of Audio Recording Technology with an Honor's Degree in Audio Technology.

Author: David Ciccarelli Address: 999 Collip Circle, London, ON N6G 0J3 Telephone: 519-858-5071 Email address: Website:

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