Audiobook boom

If you are a publisher or an author looking to make an audiobook, you may be wondering if the audiobooks market is viable. Is the audiobook market too saturated or is there still room for you, as a publisher, to find success? On the other hand, how do voice actors stay relevant and compete for audiobook narrator jobs in a market that seems to be oversaturated?

The amount of success you will experience in the audiobook market, depends on many different factors, such as the genre of audiobook you intend to publish as well as how you will market you audiobook to the audience.

If we look at successful audiobook producers, Audible probably comes to the front of mind, and rightfully so. They have a portfolio of over 325,000 audio titles available for purchase and in 2016 they reported that over 2 billion hours of content had been downloaded, up from 1 billion hours just two years earlier. Based on these numbers, it is clear to see that the audiobook industry is not only thriving in its present state, but will also continue to experience growth – a growth that you as an audiobook publisher or producer can help contribute to.

Audiobook Sales: Why the Audiobook Market is Still Valuable

Today, more people than ever are listening to audiobooks. Research from Nielsen’s & Consumers survey shows that 5.5 million people bought or listened to an audiobook in 2016, making audiobooks one of the fastest growing areas of publishing. When looking at the publishing numbers in 2011, audiobook publishers reported publishing almost triple that number in 2016 (a dramatic increase over 5 years).

Additionally, the numbers show that the audiobook industry is evolving. More platforms are recognizing the market potential. For instance, Spotify announced that they will be releasing audiobooks, demonstrating how the industry is constantly evolving. Marketplaces are growing in order to keep up with the demands of consumers, who are seeking more content and genres of books to be available via audiobook format.

How many times have you heard someone express the sentiment (or even noticed yourself thinking) that there’s no time to sit back and get lost in a book, the way that you once were able to? Well, listening to audiobooks is becoming easier due to an increase in availability of audiobooks (more digital outlets are becoming available) and technologies like smart speakers are making audiobooks more widely available and easily accessible.

Laurence Howell, the U.K. Director of Content at Audible says in an interview with WIRED Magazine, “From the early days of Homer, the origins of western literature have their basis in oral storytelling. Over many centuries, we have told stories to each other and we still retain a love of a great performance, whether that is being read to as a child or listening to audiobooks.”

Howell doesn’t believe that audiobooks are ever going to diminish in popularity, saying “Having a voice piped directly into your ear is an incredibly intimate experience.”

Audiobook Publishing Strategy for Publishing Houses and Authors

The key to publishing audiobooks that will be successful and continue to grow, is paying attention to what is already available in the audiobook market and ensuring that you record a quality sounding audiobook. Here are two tips that can help:

  • Look for Popular Genres and Titles with Untapped Potential: Browse titles on popular audiobook sites that seem to be the most downloaded. What genre do these books fall into? Now, going out and publishing an audiobook in the most popular genre is not guaranteed to provide you with instant success. In fact, there can be some merit to publishing books that do not seem to be overly popular – this allows you to dominate the space in that particular subject area.
  • Hire a Great Voice Actor to Narrate your Audiobook: While it may be tempting to have the original author narrate the book (or if you are an author, to narrate it yourself), this is one space where you should really leave it to the pros. A voice actor will use their skills and abilities to transform the words on the page into an entertaining read – this is especially important if you want to have multiple characters with different voices come to life in your audiobook in which the narrator will need to find their voice. The book needs to be engaging and the voice of the narrator plays a huge role in this.

Since hiring a voice actor to narrate your audiobook is a crucial step in the success of audiobooks it is important to take a look at the other side on the audiobook coin – which is voice talent. How can voice talent stay relevant in a competitive market?

What to Look For in an Audiobook Narrator

A crucial step is publishing a successful audiobook, is to ensure that the audiobook narrator you hire is able to tell the story in a way that aligns with the author’s intentions behind creating the story.

Think of audiobooks you’ve listened to that had a great and engaging narrator. What qualities and skills do successful narrators have that you should listen for? Here are four things to think about when searching for the perfect audiobook narrator.

  1. Does the voice actor have experience as an audiobook narrator?

Experience as an audiobook narrator is key. While it may seem like being an audiobook narrator is straight-forward, an experienced audiobook narrator is able to endure the long-form narration while maintaining the same quality throughout. Check a voice actor’s profile for audiobook demos or previous work as an audiobook narrator, so that you know they are up for the challenges that come with narration.

If the voice actor is not experienced, they can practice their skills by reading aloud to children or other audiences. They key part is to be able to withstand reading long-form narration and keep an consistent pace, tone and engagement. 

  1. An Engaging Storyteller

Remember that to be an audiobook narrator, the voice actor has to keep the audience’s attention for long periods at a time (often several hours!). The audiobook narrator you hire should be a great storyteller – in that they are able to keep the author’s intent and original message while delivering a captivating performance that really brings the plot and characters to life for the listeners.

  1. Articulation

An excellent narrator can find the perfect way to articulate the story. When a narrator under-articulates their words, it can make the audiobook sound uninteresting and make it seem as if the narrator does not believe in the words they are reading. On the other hand, when a narrator over-articulates, it can make the story sound unnatural – so hiring a voice actor who can strike a balance in between these two extremes is the way to go. Just think of the voice actor as an actor who rehearses a play until they feel that they truly understand all of the characters and their motivations.

  1. Pace

The perfect audiobook narrator knows when to pause for effect and impact to let the words sink in. Little additions such as pauses or breaths add a human touch to the storytelling. You won’t notice when the narrator is doing their job right because you will be too busy engaged with the story and not distracted by the sound or pacing of their voice.

What Is in Store for the Future of Audiobooks?

At Penguin Random House Audio, Senior VP and Publisher Amanda D’Acierno told Publisher’s Weekly, that although the audiobook industry has seen quite the boom over the past two years, there is still plenty of room for growth. She would like to see audiobooks continue to grow and expand “particularly in children’s and young adult audiobooks.

Children’s and young adult audiobooks are seen as a market that will grow exponentially due to the fact that this is the stage of life in development when children are expanding their vocabularies, and audiobooks can help aid them on that path. For young adults, most whom are busy with either studying or working, audiobooks provide a quick and commute-friendly way to consumer content on the go.

The future of the audiobook industry is a bright one. Whether you are a publisher trying to break into the audiobook industry or a voice actor wanting to expand your portfolio to include audiobook narration, there is plenty of room to carve out your own corner of success in the audiobook market.

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