Voice Acting

Royalties, Distribution, Promotion and More: Answers to Top Audiobook Post-Production Questions

Tara Parachuk | August 15, 2017

A man with blue eyes and gray hair smiles and looks at the camera as he stacks coins in several rows.

You’ve got a great book title (or a few) earmarked for audiobook production, but you want to make sure that you’re tackling the project with the right expectations in mind.

Thinking forward to the post-production phase is always a good idea, helping you anticipate future tasks and mitigate associated costs.

In this article

  1. Q. Do I Have to Pay Audiobook Narrators Royalties?
  2. Q. Do Audiobook Narrators Also Master the Files?
  3. Q. Who Produces Audiobook Cover Art?
  4. Q. Who Are the Top Distributors of Audiobooks?
  5. Additional Notes About Getting Distribution Through Audible
  6. Q. What Are Some Common Promotion Strategies for Audiobooks?
  7. What Other Post-Production Questions Do You Have?

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Whether this is your first time working with a narrator, or simply your first time working with a new voice artist, it helps to know what is considered standard in the industry.

Here are 5 common questions regarding the post-production process.

Q. Do I Have to Pay Audiobook Narrators Royalties?

A. Most Audiobook Narrators Opt for Full-Buyout Over Royalties

Most audiobooks are structured as a ‘full buyout,’ which means that you wholly own the rights to the recording and as such, are not required to pay the narrator royalties derived from future sales.

Actors with experience in recording audiobooks will be familiar with the full-buyout structure, however, it’s important to note that the royalty fee structure is still preferred by some. This preference is very specific to the individual narrator’s experience and visibility within the audiobook industry and popular culture.

If you are unsure about industry payment standards regarding royalties, you can contact SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild and The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) or the Actors’ Equity Association for more information. Specifically, the SAG-AFTRA contracts page has a section just for audiobooks

Q. Do Audiobook Narrators Also Master the Files?

A. Some Narrators Master Audiobook Files, But Most Do Not. Mastering is its Own Unique Skill Set.

The narrator will record the manuscript and then deliver the finished audio to you as per your request, so it’s very important to understand and clearly list your expectations for final file delivery when hiring your chosen voice actor.

At the outset, before any recording begins, is also the time when you’ll be deciding if the recording is presented as one large file, in chapters that follow the book, or audio chapters every 5 minutes. What you decide will impact the way the audiobook is recorded and how the files are delivered from the voice actor.

Mastering is the last creative step in the process of production. Although some voice actors are also highly skilled in audio production, including mastering, these services are not an industry standard for voice actors.

Therefore, most clients also source a mastering engineer to deliver on the technical and artistic techniques. As an expert in their own right, mastering engineers understand audio philosophy and art, specifically sequencing, leveling, processing: how to make a recording audiobook-ready, and mixing as it relates to mastering.

The mastering engineer will provide you with a master recording, as well as the digital files that are formatted for Audible and iTunes.

Q. Who Produces Audiobook Cover Art?

A. The short answer is that most publishers either reuse the cover art from the print edition or hire a graphic designer to produce unique art, just for the audiobook version.

It’s a cliche to say, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but that’s exactly what everyone does. There’s no doubt about it, a great cover is responsible for drawing interest from your target audience. The audiobook cover is your primary graphical promotional tool and is a vital component for visually enticing potential listeners to preview and purchase your audiobook.

Some audiobooks of the same title sell better than others simply because of the album cover. One example is Tom Sawyer, narrated by Pat Fraley. There are many Tom Sawyer audiobooks on the market, but Pat Fraley’s happens to be one of the best-selling, thanks in part to the album cover, which features a photo of a mischievous young boy in a straw hat, farm shirt and coveralls jumping over a whitewashed fence with a paintbrush in his hand – playing up an iconic scene from this well-known story.

If your audiobook has also been produced in print, there are benefits and drawbacks to using the same cover art from the print edition. For instance, while having the same cover makes your book highly recognizable, you also have to consider whether or not the new use for the artwork requires you to pay additional licensing fees.

In most instances, audiobook publishing houses contract a graphic designer to create a well-formatted cover that will look great, not just on its own, but stand out as appealing to your target audience, as they wade through a sea of other choices.

Q. Who Are the Top Distributors of Audiobooks?

A. Here’s the list of the most active, highest volume producers, publishers and distributors of audiobooks:

  • Apollo Audiobooks, Inc.
  • Audible, Inc.
  • Audio Connoisseur
  • BBC Audiobooks America
  • BetterListen
  • Blackstone Audio, Inc.
  • Brilliance Audio, Inc.
  • Canadian Broadcasting Company
  • ChristianAudio
  • CSA Word
  • DogEar Audio
  • Galaxy Press
  • Hachette Audio
  • HarperAudio
  • HighBridge Company
  • L.A. Theatre Works
  • Listen & Live Audio
  • Macmillan Audio
  • Live Oak Media
  • 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

Additional Notes About Getting Distribution Through Audible

Audible is a distributor of downloadable audiobooks, and its associated site, the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), has resources for those who wish to get distribution for their works.

There are a few things to be aware of, namely, to claim a book on ACX, it must be already available in print (ebook, hardcover, paperback) within the Amazon bookstore.

Once approved, you can choose the territories and the terms of your audiobook’s distribution, and you’ll then need to upload the book, chapter-by-chapter.

You can also contact Audible if you have other questions.

Q. What Are Some Common Promotion Strategies for Audiobooks?

There are a lot of different ways to promote audiobooks, and the more original the strategy, the better. However, there is a reason why some promotional strategies are standard – they tend to work!

Given the format of audiobooks, it’s likely not surprising that most promotional efforts tend to occur online.

Here are three of the most common:

1. Launch an Audiobook Website

At a minimum, authors and publishers alike should have an official website that includes listings and pages for individual titles. Don’t worry about the online world being saturated with sites trying to promote their content — the point of having a site is not necessarily to stand out, but to have a ‘home base’ to direct audiences to for more information. For example, if your book earns publicity for the release, the media you’ve earned should be able to direct those interested readers to a site where they can learn more about the title and your business.

It’s also a great way to build a platform that can generate further leads for you, if, say for example, you allow visitors to sign up for an e-newsletter where they can receive story snippets and promotions.

Some publishers and authors even opt for creating unique web pages for each title, similar to how a movie production house creates sites on unique domains for each of their films.

2. Start a Blog Discussing Your Audiobook

Even before your book launches in print or audio versions, starting a blog is a great idea — especially considering that it can be built out on the same web domain as your main site.

Why are blogs great?

For starters, they allow your target audience to get a feel for your writing style and become interested in your story.

While ‘free content’ may seem like a counter-intuitive promotion strategy (how do you earn money when you give items away for free?), by providing small samples of content for free, you’re building a loyal fanbase, the members of which are much more likely to convert to paying customers once you have something — like your audiobook — to sell.

You could also offer a 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. People also really like to watch narrators at work, so featuring videos in your posts can add a different way to engage visitors on your blog.

Another intriguing piece of content you may consider producing is a movie-style trailer to promote your title, which provides a taste of what’s to come.

3. Create a Following on Social Networks

Your social network might follow you as an author, publishing house — or sometimes — even as the title of the book itself.

The most important part is that you pick a channel that is most appropriate for your audience for instance, Twitter or LinkedIn might be a better platform for a non-fiction book for business owners, while Facebook or Instagram might be better for titles focused on entertainment and pop culture.

Social networks are often regarded as promotional tools when really, they’re used more effectively for engagement. So instead of posting relentlessly about your new release, where it’s available, and how the book tour is going – try using the network to share valuable or entertaining snippets of storytelling.

Doing so will not only make the audience feel like they’re getting something of value, but they’ll start to associate your account — and your business — with content that they enjoy consuming, making them yet again, more likely to want to purchase your audiobook.

What Other Post-Production Questions Do You Have?

There’s no shortage of topics to cover when it comes to the post-production wrap-up and promotion of audiobooks.

What other questions do you have about the process?

Have you published an audiobook (or a few)? What did you learn about the industry?

Share your comments, tips, tricks and questions below!

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  • Avatar for Sonja Dewing
    Sonja Dewing
    December 17, 2018, 3:25 pm

    Hello Tanya, I’m curious – I’m working with a new recording company. I’ll be the narrator and they are doing the mastering of the audio. They want to talk about royalties. I’m paying them for their time, so I’m confused as to why they’d want to discuss royalties. Any thoughts on that? Thanks!

    • Avatar for Tanya
      December 26, 2018, 11:15 am

      Hi Sonja,
      Is the audio book your project, which you are also narrating? Or are you being hired by a company to perform role of narrator? Is the company wanting to iron out royalties that you will be paid… or are they hoping to get clarity on royalties they will earn?

  • Avatar for Ivan
    June 30, 2020, 12:41 pm

    i am looking for audiobook narrator that will work for commision. I am having a hard time finding them. Can you point me in the right direction please. Thanks

  • Avatar for Michael Vallimont
    Michael Vallimont
    December 31, 2021, 10:37 pm

    This was a terrific article and I learned a great deal. Thank you!

    I do have a question. I have written and self published a book through Book Baby entitled “Notopia. Where humans say hello to their dreams.” It is currently being narrated into an Audio Book. The narrator is also doing the mastering. It is their first book and they have offered to do this all for free but I don’t feel that is right. I would like to share Royalties with them. My question is where can I find information oh how to write a contract so we can formalize our agreement?

    • Avatar for Niki Clark
      Niki Clark
      January 3, 2022, 8:31 am

      Hi Michael, congratulations! To write and self publish a book is a huge accomplishment, and to pursue the production of an audiobook is such a smart way to bring your book to new audiences.

      How generous of you to offer to share royalties with the voice actor narrating and mastering your audiobook. I believe your question is best directed towards a copyright lawyer. Many offer free consultations.

      Best of luck,