Want to learn how to sell audiobooks online? We’ve got you covered.
We’re currently in the midst of an audiobook boom. While sales of physical books may be falling, audiobook sales are on the rise.
You can capitalize on the soaring popularity of audiobooks by recording your own and selling it on your website, or through marketplaces like Amazon.
In this post, you’ll find a comprehensive beginner’s guide that will walk you through the entire process of selling audiobooks online step by step, from researching the market to recording the audio, preparing it for sale, and beyond.
Plus, we’ll even share some powerful strategies for promoting your audiobook online that you can use to drive a ton of sales, fast.
Ready? Let’s get started!
Why sell audiobooks online?
Audiobooks are one of the best digital products you can sell online. Here’s why:
- Undersaturated market. The print and ebook market is oversaturated, making it hard for amateur authors to compete. But there’s still plenty of room in the audiobook market, which is why it’s a great choice for new authors trying to make a name for themselves.
- Market longevity. Audiobooks have been gaining popularity over the last few years, and it’s likely that this trend will continue way into the future. And unlike other product categories that may go in and out of fashion, there will likely always be plenty of demand for audiobooks.
- High earning potential. The great thing about selling audiobooks is that the sky really is the limit when it comes to earning potential. Many audiobook sellers are content to make a modest passive income. But you never know. If you end up creating a bestseller that really takes off, you could make millions.
- No manufacturing costs. Unlike physical products, once you’ve created your audiobook, you can sell it an unlimited number of times with no additional manufacturing costs. And you don’t need to hold any physical stock either, which reduces your overheads.
How to create your audiobook
The first step in selling audiobooks is to create the product. If you’ve already recorded your audiobook, feel free to skip this section. But if not, read on and we’ll show you how.
Research the market
Before you invest time and money into recording an audiobook, you need to make sure you have a solid business plan in place. And all good plans start with careful market research.
That might mean browsing the Audible bestsellers list to see what kind of audiobooks sell well or analyzing your competitors to reverse engineer their marketing strategies.
During the research stage, you’re going to want to consider questions like:
- What audiobook genres are the most popular?
- What audiobook genres are the least competitive?
- Is there space in the market for me to make sales?
- How can I differentiate my audiobook from the competition?
- Who are my target readers?
- What do readers in my target genre expect from an audiobook? (e.g. what kind of narration tone/style do they prefer?)
- What factors do audiobook listeners consider when browsing for a book? (e.g. description, cover art, etc.)?
- Where do most people buy audiobooks? (e.g. Amazon, iTunes, Google Play)
- How should I price my audiobook? (And what price do my competitors sell for?)
- How should I market my audiobook?
Once you’ve done your research, you should have a pretty good idea of what kind of audiobook you want to sell, and how you’re going to drive sales.
Choose a book (or write your own)
The next step is to choose the book you want to produce an audiobook from.
You have two options here:
- You can write your own book
- You can use somebody else’s book instead.
If you’re not much of a writer, or you just don’t want to invest months writing a book from scratch, the latter option can work—but there are some things to be aware of.
First off, you can’t just turn any book into an audiobook and start selling it.
You have to obtain the audio rights to the work, which usually means negotiating some sort of royalty agreement and signing a contract with the publisher/author.
One way to do this is to sign up as a Narrator on ACX or a similar platform. Then, search for books you want to turn into audiobooks and submit a few recorded minutes of the manuscript by way of an audition.
If the author/publisher is interested in working with you, they’ll send you an offer and you can negotiate a deal. For example, you might collect 50% of the royalties in exchange for audiobook production.
Another option is to purchase a PLR ebook (Private Label Rights) from an online marketplace like the PLR store. PLR ebook licenses typically include resale rights that give you the right to turn it into an audiobook and sell it through your own store, but always check the small print before you buy to be sure.
The only time you don’t need to obtain audio rights is for books that are already in the public domain. When a book enters the public domain, the copyright expires so anyone is free to creatively reinvent it for free—including by turning it into an audiobook.
As of the time of writing, public domain books include any book published prior to 1927 (but you should probably do your own research to make sure). It’s also worth noting that tons of books enter the public domain every year, so there are constantly new opportunities opening up.
For example, The Great Gatsby entered the public domain in 2021. And there are already a bunch of audio narrations of it on the web.
If you choose to write your own book, bear in mind that some genres are more well-suited to audiobooks than others.
You can’t really turn DIY books or cookbooks into audiobooks, for example. We’d recommend sticking to popular genres like crime, sci-fi, YA fiction, etc.
Another advantage of writing your own book is that you can also sell ebooks online in addition to audiobooks, and in doing so, reach a larger target market.
If you want to go down this route, check out our roundup of the best platforms to sell ebooks.
Note: Please remember that I’m not a lawyer. While we have discussed some issues related to copyright law above, you’ll need to do your own due diligence. I cannot provide legal advice. If you’re unsure, consult a legal professional.
Record your audiobook
Once you’ve chosen the book, you’re ready to start producing your audiobook.
Again, you have two options:
- Record and produce the audiobook yourself
- Hire a professional narrator
There are pros and cons to both methods, which we’ll explore next.
Hiring a professional narrator
The quality of the narration is super important when it comes to audiobooks.
Your narrator’s voice is what captures the listener’s attention so they’re completely immersed in the story. It’s what brings your characters to life, creates a sense of place, and evokes emotions.
So naturally, it’s important to choose the right voice for your book. And most of the time, a professional narrator will do a better job of it than you could do yourself.
If you choose to outsource the task to a professional narrator, your best bet is to use ACX. As long as you have the audio rights to your book, you can sign up as a Rights Holder and invite producers to audition.
Then, when you find a narrator you want to work with, negotiate an agreement with them.
The cost of narration/production will vary from project to project. If you want to pay a flat rate, expect to pay around $200 – $400 per finished hour. That should work out at around $1,000 – $3,000 in total depending on the length of the book.
Alternatively, if you don’t want to invest that much upfront, you can agree to pay your narrator a royalty share instead. In royalty share arrangements, the money is split between audiobook publishers (narrators) and rights holders.
ACX isn’t the only place to find a narrator, either. You can also find narrators on voice actor sites like Bodalgo and Voiceovers.com, and on freelance marketplaces like Upwork or Fiverr. But bear in mind the quality of candidates on these platforms is hit-and-miss.
Recording it yourself
The main advantage of recording your audiobook yourself is that you won’t have to pay or split royalties with anyone else. Plus, you also have more control over the narration and full creative freedom when it comes to pacing, articulation, etc.
The disadvantages are that the finished product might not sound as good as if you were to use a professional.
And there are some pretty hefty startup costs involved, too, as you’ll need to invest in some professional recording equipment (your iPhone mic isn’t going to cut it).
We’d recommend the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 bundle. It’s reasonably priced and comes with everything you need, including an audio interface, good-quality condenser microphone, pop filter, professional headphones, mic stand, cables, and other accessories.
Once you have your equipment, find a nice quiet place to record. Obviously, a professional recording studio would be ideal. But if you’re recording at home, try to find a space with good acoustics to minimize echo and unwanted background noise.
It’s worth reading up on some best practices for audio narration before you get started. You’ll need to think about things like pacing and use your voice creatively to help with characterization and setting the tone.
You should also make sure to position your mouth correctly (it should be around 6-12 inches from the mic), control your breathing, and always do a sound check before you get started.
Don’t try and record everything in one take. Split it up into manageable sections and record it bit by bit. You’ll piece everything together and clean it up during the editing stage.
Note: Bear in mind that to list your audiobook on ACX/Audible, it’ll need to meet some fairly exacting specifications. Make sure you’re familiar with these before you try to produce an audiobook yourself.
Edit your audiobook
Next, you’ll want to edit your recordings.
For this, you’ll need some sort of audio editing software or DAW (digital audio workstation). Ableton Live, Audacity, and Reaper are a few options worth checking out.
Once you have your software, open up your recordings in it to clean it up. There’s a lot that goes into editing, but it might include removing background noise, breathing noises, and mic pops; evening out the volume, adding EQ/vocal filters, adding credits, etc.
Then, save it in an appropriate format. If you plan on selling your audiobooks through Audible/ACX, you’ll need to create a separate file for each chapter.
At this point, you should be nearly ready to start selling. The final thing to do is prepare your cover art, write a description, and get any other supplementary materials you need to list your audiobook for sale ready.
How to sell audiobooks on your website
The best way to sell audiobooks online is through your own website.
That’s because when you sell through your own online audiobook store, you get to keep 100% of your profits.
In comparison, when you sell through a third-party marketplace like Audible or iTunes, the audiobook distributors will usually take a big cut of your sales income in royalties or other fees.
Selling through your own ecommerce store also gives you more control. You can set your own pricing, implement your own sales funnels, and design your site and product pages however you want. Plus, you have the option of monetizing your website in other ways in the future.
And don’t worry, creating your own online store is easy. Here’s how to do it.
Step 1: Sign up for Sellfy
Sellfy is an ecommerce platform designed for creators that sell digital products like audiobooks (that’s you).
It’s super easy to use, affordable, and charges zero transaction fees. Plus, it comes with unlimited storage and bandwidth and offers some neat features like built-in print-on-demand fulfillment.
To sign up, visit Sellfy.com and choose a plan. You can get started with a 14-day free trial and then upgrade to a paid plan when you’re ready (we’d recommend the Starter plan).
Next, sign in and go through the setup wizard. Choose to create a new Sellfy storefront and you’ll be brought to your dashboard.
Step 2: Upload your audiobook
From your dashboard, navigate to the Products section and click Digital product > Add new product, then upload your audiobook.
Next, choose a price (we’d recommend around $10 – $25, but it depends on the length of your book and your business plan), add your synopsis and cover art, and click Save product.
Now, your audiobook will be live on its own product page in your store. But you’ll need to connect a payment processor (like PayPal or Stripe) before you can start accepting payments, which you can do from the Store settings section.
We’d also recommend connecting a custom domain name too. You can purchase a domain from any registrar (e.g. GoDaddy). It’s up to you what domain name you use, but we’d recommend sticking with the title of your book/series or if you’re the author, your name.
Step 3: Customize your storefront
You can change the way your store looks by choosing a theme from Sellfy’s theme library. Again, you can do this through the Store settings tab.
Alternatively, you can create your own unique design from scratch by opening up the Store Customizer.
Aside from the design, you might also want to change some other settings like embed options and email integration.
Once everything is set up the way you want it, you can start driving traffic to your site and making sales. We’ll cover some strategies you can use to drive traffic shortly.
How to sell audiobooks on marketplaces
The only problem with selling audiobooks through your own website is that it’s tough to make sales if you don’t have an existing customer base or audience to sell to.
That’s why most audiobook producers choose to also distribute their books to popular online shopping sites and marketplaces. That way, you can reach more potential customers and diversify your income streams.
The most important marketplaces to sell your audiobooks on are Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. Collectively, these platforms account for the vast majority of all audiobook sales.
The easiest way to list your audiobooks on these platforms is through ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange).
This is basically a distribution service that publishes your work on all the leading audiobook marketplaces for you, and then pays you royalties on your sales each month. In exchange, they take a big chunk of your sales revenue.
The amount you earn in royalties with ACX depends on whether you grant exclusive or non-exclusive distribution rights.
If you grant exclusive distribution rights, you’ll earn 40% royalties for sales on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes—but you won’t be able to sell your audiobook anywhere else (including on your own website).
If you grant non-exclusive distribution rights, you’ll only earn 25% royalties for sales on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes, but you retain the right to distribute elsewhere.
We’d recommend non-exclusive distribution. That way, you can sell through your own site and keep 100% of your profits earned through that channel, while still reaching customers through popular marketplaces. It’s the best of both worlds.
Marketing your audiobooks
You shouldn’t just list your audiobook for sale and expect to make money. It’s also important to put in some work promoting it to drive sales. Here are some marketing strategies you can try:
- Influencer marketing. Share free copies of your audiobook to popular influencers in your space, like YouTube book reviewers, bloggers, etc. If you’re lucky, they might listen and recommend it to their audience, which will help to kickstart your sales.
- Limited time offers. You can use Sellfy’s discount feature to set up limited-time offers and promotional codes. You could even make the first audiobook in a series available for free to help grow your following, then when you’ve hooked audiences in, you can charge for the sequels.
- Share clips on YouTube. Upload the first couple of chapters of your audiobook to YouTube with a nice thumbnail, and optimize it for search. Then, add a CTA and link to your online store in the description that users can click to purchase the full version once they’re hooked.
- Email marketing. Sellfy comes with powerful built-in email marketing tools that you can use to collect leads and nurture them with automated email campaigns. This can help you to convert more website visitors to paying customers. But remember, dedicated email marketing software will offer additional functionality.
- Paid ads. If you’re happy to invest in your success, you could consider running a paid ad campaign through Google Ads, Facebook Ads, etc. In paid ad campaigns, you’ll usually pay per click, so it’s important to optimize your website and audiobook listings for conversions in order to maximize your return on investment (ROI).
That concludes our beginner’s guide on how to sell audiobooks online.
Now, you should have all the knowledge you need to launch your online business.
Remember that the most important factor that will determine whether your audiobook is a success is the quality of the story and the narration. So focus on creating a great product that people will want to listen to, and the rest will be easy.
And if after reading this, you think selling audiobooks is a little too much work, you can always try selling other digital products instead, like PDFs or other audio files. Here are some blog posts that can help you to get started:
- How To Sell PDFs Online: The Complete Guide
- How To Sell Video Content Online: The Beginner’s Guide
- How To Sell Fonts Online: Quick & Easy Profit
- How To Sell Audio Files & Sound Effects Online
- How To Make And Sell Lightroom Presets
- How To Sell Photos Online: Step-By-Step
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