Audiobook Distribution – Catch the Wave in this $2.5 Billion Business

Audiobook distribution is a great way for speakers and authors to generate a solid income from product sales. An author who can motivate and inspire their audience can make a mint selling audio products back-of-room. Audios have a quality of immediacy that just can’t be found on the printed page, and the numbers don’t lie.

The audiobook industry is now estimated at $2.5 billion, up 22.7% in 2017 (Audio Publishers Association 2017 survey data). Unit sales of audiobooks are up 21.5%, enjoying double digit growth over the last six years. This adds up to a major opportunity for authors who want to amplify book distribution by selling audiobooks. If you want to stand out, record your ideas. In addition to adding revenues to your business, audiobooks are a great tactic to add to your book marketing plan.

Made for Success Publishing has produced thousands of audio recordings from over 300 speakers and authors. These audios are big sellers in dozens of countries, and we’ve been doing this for more than a decade – before the Kindle was… well, Kindle.

By publishing an audiobook, you can make your content available across the globe both as physical CD’s and digital downloads. Top retailers such as iTunes, Audible and other leading distributors have made the bulk of their profits from audios, and they are constantly adding new content to their catalogs. Are you getting your slice of that pie?

We often get the question “But what about physical CD sales of audiobooks?” Sure, the physical CD derivate of audiobooks is on a steep decline. But opportunities exist in library channels and professional speakers generating significant revenues from audios on CD sold at live conferences.

There are several types of spoken word audio programs that you can create and use to boost your book business. The three most common are 1) Audiobooks; 2) Keynote speeches and; 3) Audio lessons.

By definition, an audiobook is a performance of a book. It can be abridged or match the book manuscript word for word. A keynote speech, on the other hand, is a live or studio recording of a presentation on a given topic. Selling audios of your presentations can go a long way to increase your credibility. Lessons are the third most popular form of audio program. These segments are typically a 30- to 60-minutes in length and can be sold individually or in a series. Here are some popular examples of each:


Giftocracy by Michael Tetteh
The Last Apostle by Dennis Brooke
Keynote Speeches by professional speakers:
Whatever it Takes by John Maxwell
Words on Leadership by Les Brown

Audio Lessons are also very popular, such as these lucrative series by leading speakers:

Leadership and Success by Zig Ziglar
The Gentle Art of Persuasion by Tom Hopkins
The Ultimate Success Series by Chris Widener
Motivational Legends with Jim Rohn
To Bootstrap or Not To Bootstrap?

When you create your audiobook, you’ll want to ensure a great listener experience. This means the quality of your material and your production values have to be high. Here are practical tips to get started:

Audio Recording Tip #1: Recorded Calls

Fortunately, recordings of phone conferences and webinars are strictly taboo in retail audiobook channels. I say “fortunately” because the audio quality on those things is inevitably poor. Making good quality audios is easy enough to do; there’s no need to dumb down the process. So live a little! Make it great, and your audios will practically sell themselves.

Audio Recording Tip #2: Author Performance

At the same time, recording your book in your own voice will lend that touch of authenticity to your message. If you have a good speaking voice, you can infuse your text with color and light, adding special significance to your words and their meaning. This is where I’ve seen many speakers really shine.

Audio Recording Tip #3: In-Home Audiobook Studio

Thanks to technology, you can create a perfectly saleable audio in your home. Many turn-key podcast systems are available that include software, headphones, a microphone and a pop filter. This is an inexpensive way to go and it can produce some awesome results. There is some technical savvy required to set it up, as well as a bit of practice to get a solid performance. If you aspire to record more than one product, this option is worth the learning curve and the investment in your career options.

Audio Recording Tip #4: Studio Recording

If you would rather leave the audio engineering to the professionals, you may want to choose the in-studio option. Finding a recording studio in your area and booking studio time should be as easy as a quick Google search. Recording spoken-word audios typically costs $75 to $200 an hour for studio time, plus 2 to 4 hours of engineering time for each 1 hour of recorded audio. You can expect to spend $300 to $800 for an hour of recorded audio, depending on the quality of your performance.

Audio Recording Tip #5: Professional Audiobook Narrator

If public speaking isn’t your thing, using professional voice talent is an option. This will produce the highest quality audio product and it will lend polish to your image. Hiring a audiobook narrator to voice your audiobook may be a more expensive way to go initially, but the investment should pay for itself in quarterly royalties and branding.

Getting the Royal(ty) Treatment

So far you’ve written your material, rehearsed it, honed your performance to a knife edge, and recorded a masterpiece. You’re ready for the sweetest sound of all: ch-ching! Let the royalties begin.

But how do you get the seamless integration into retail catalogs you were hoping for? How do you get around the gotchas at iTunes and Audible? What librarian convention do you attend in order to get your goods into thousands of libraries? And how do you tour around to hundreds bookstore buyers to get shelf space?

If you’re new to the distribution game, the details can seem overwhelming. The best way to go is just to start and then follow the thread, taking it one step at a time.

The technology of audio delivery is advancing rapidly and Made for Success Publishing makes it our business to stay on top of the latest distribution channels like iTunes, Audible and Spotify to the rapidly growing internationally streaming options. If your book or audio distribution is stalled and you want to put it into overdrive, you can get in touch with us for an assessment of your work. There are a variety of tools and insights we can offer you.

Made For Success Publishing has produced and distributed thousands of audio recordings into retail, library and through dozens of corporate licensing contacts. We have extensive experience creating professionally polished audio products designed for distribution, all in the effort to spread a wide net for your work. For the authors who want to get started this week, we can help get you on the right track.

Bryan Heathman is the CEO of Made for Success Publishing. Bryan works with best-selling authors in the role of publisher and marketer, including the late Zig Ziglar, Chris Widener and John C. Maxwell. Bryan is the author of #1 Best Seller: Book Marketing Reinvented, a marketing book that condenses knowledge on book marketing into an actionable plan. Bryan’s Fortune 500 experience includes running high impact marketing campaigns for Microsoft, Eastman Kodak and Xerox.