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Should You Publish Your Book as a Paperback, Audiobook, or Both?
Indie authors must make several tough decisions before publishing their books. Two crucial ones involve what platforms to publish on and how to market the book. The most common advice in the industry is to publish your book in as many formats as possible, including but not limited to audiobook and paperback.
While I assume you will be publishing in E-book format, the question arises if you should also do so in paperback and/or audiobook format. If you are a new indie author still trying to establish your name, then the tips below may help you make the right choice for you.
Benefits of Audiobooks
Audiobooks are a rapidly growing industry that has been boosted due to Covid 19. According to a Publishing Perspectives article, the increase in the audiobook market has been in double digits every year. With an established annual revenue of roughly $1.5 bn, it is expected that the revenue may be as high as $4 bn by 2027.
On top of that, the demand for audiobooks is so high in the US that over 50% of people reported listening to an audiobook—a number that is constantly increasing each year. Some other interesting statistics include:
- The overall share of time spent listening to audio for audiobooks has grown 60 percent since 2017.
- Daily audiobook listeners spend more time listening to books than any other form of audio such as radio, podcasts, etc.
- Daily audiobook consumption has grown by 71 percent since 2017.
- Daily audiobook listeners spend over 5 hours listening to audio than the general population—nearly two hours more per day than the general population.
Disadvantages of Audiobooks
Audiobooks are usually published through one of two models: royalty and pay per performance.
The first one means that you outsource the narration and production to a director or producer. This person or company takes your book, narrates it, and then helps publish it as an audiobook in exchange for a royalty share that rises depending on their level of expertise.
As an article from Book Baby blog explains, the narrators you get are typically inexperienced, meaning that the voiceover service would not get the top-notch talent that it requires for it to provide an amazing experience for your audience.
Unfortunately, if the audience doesn’t get a great experience you may get poor reviews and your sales will suffer accordingly.
The other option is the pay per performance, which means that you pay for the narration yourself by hiring an expert freelancer or an already established company. A word counter can help you calculate the relevant cost, which may range from several hundred to several thousand dollars. This makes it hard to cover it through sales unless you’re an established author. This is especially the case since the platform on which you have published your audiobook will also take a cut. For example, Audible takes more than half of the revenue.
We first may have to compare Paperback and E-book editions briefly to understand why Paperback is a good option. David Derrico has broken down the cost of the two versions and found that only 10% of the costs are actually lower in E-books than in Paperbacks. So, you don’t really save too much, considering that people usually think that E-books should be way cheaper than Paperbacks.
According to data from Investopedia, the printed book industry dominates the book sale market. It has roughly half of the sales in this area, with about $4.5 bn in revenue in 2019. Another advantage of publishing as a Paperback is that you can earn a loyal fan following as compared to the online fan following, which often ends up being more fickle and picky. You can also organize events where you distribute your signed Paperbacks and have gatherings with your fans who bought your Paperback books.
Readers are willing to pay higher prices for a good Paperback book to feel the book in hand and flip the pages as compared to audiobooks and E-books, which you can’t enjoy in the same way. Some readers also turn to Paperbacks as a way to avoid eye strain and for staying away from their devices.
Should You Publish in Both Formats?
If you are already an established indie author with a good fan following, publishing in all available formats, including audiobook, E-book, and Paperback, can benefit you.
If, on the other hand, you are a new indie author trying to build your fan following, it may be best to publish your book as an E-book first, followed by a Paperback edition. Leave the Audiobook for when you have established a reader base and have better chances of turning a profit.
Excellent advice, Nicholas. This reflects my experience too. Happy Writing!
Thank you so much, Diana! Happy writing 🙂
I’ve been fortunate to have a publisher who has published my 1st book Bloodstone in audiobook. They have plans to publish book 2 also… Otherwise, I doubt I would have done so.
That is so true – having a publisher helps in many ways!
Very interesting as always, Nicholas. I’m still debating whether to invest in creating an audiobook. I’m currently listening to Lorelei King’s audiobook Storyteller which is a guide for aspiring narrators (highly recommend) Even though I wont be a narrator, like all aspects of self publishing, I believe the more I know about the process and can put myself in the shoes of the person undertaking the task, the better I can approach and select the professionals to work with. By the way I’ve been following your blog since 2013!
Thank you for being a lifelong friend of my blog – and for the the recommendation. You’re so right; the more we know, the better we understand the process and the more informed decisions we make!
Yes, I feel like a Self-publishing and blogging old timer. It all seemed new and cutting edge back then. I even remember the excitement of Friday Flash fiction – sigh, I’m reminiscing! It’s so interesting to see how self-publishing has evolved. I remember when the experts thought readers would want fiction on their kindles which they could read in one sitting. Then it happened that readers wanted ebook novels and then entire series of ebook novels! Luckily the seventh short story I was working on in 2015 expanded into a full length novel. Now I’ve written three sequels in the series. I’ve picked up a lot of new skills on the self pub journey, many of which I would never have imagined. The creative life takes unexpected turns!
Always enjoy your insights and tips.
Thank you! It’s amazing living through such a revolution in publishing, isn’t it? And you’re spot on: the creative life sure does take unexpected turns!
Uh . . . The David Derrico post is nearly 12 years old! Those cost comparisons between E-books and paperbacks sound more than a little bit off. Contrasting current Amazon Kindle and paper prices, along with other options for distribution.
Hadn’t noticed that; thanks for catching it, John! I don’t think there’s much of a difference between ebook and paperback nowadays but audiobook is still quite expensive.
Thank you for pointing this out. The cost is one thing, but a wrong audiobook will create suffering for the new indie author by leaving bad reviews.
Thank you for pointing that out. Costs aside, a bad audiobook will make for a bad experience for a new indie author.
Good tips for authors as always, Nicholas.
Shared on Twitter.
Best wishes, Pete.
Many thanks for that, Pete 🙂
Good information, Nicholas. I’ll settle on eBook and print version only for now. Down to the proofreader/format stage of the book! Getting close to Amazon publishing. 📚🎶Christine
Yay!! I’m looking forward to it!