The explosive growth of ebooks, generated largely by self-published authors, has caught the attention of traditional publishers, and they now offer an ebook version with release of every new book. Ebooks are great for the industry, and enables authors to reach readers who would otherwise not be possible.
One aspect of publishing that has been around for some time is the availability of audiobooks. Due to the expense to produce an audiobook, this has ordinarily been the domain of traditional publishers. However, authors have an option to turn their literary masterpiece into an audiobook by using one of many available commercial companies that offer this service. Regrettably, this option is very expensive and time consuming.
An author must find a suitable company, select a narrator who will do the voiceover, agree on the price, proof the end product, and release the audio book to a distributor. Amazon ACX has an audiobook production and distribution arm, and authors can upload their own audiobook files. You can choose an exclusive 7-year contract, or the non-exclusive option, which allows you to distribute elsewhere. Smashwords/Draft2Digital uses the Findaway Voices audiobook creator/distributor, accessible through the Smashwords Dashboard or https://smashwords.com/audiobook, or directly with Findaway Voices, who distribute to the same outlets as ACX, and also to Google Play. You can upload your own audiobook file, and there is no exclusivity or locked contract. You must pick only one of these distributors in order to avoid duplication in outlets. Another choice is Kobo Audiobooks, Nook, Blinkist, Libby/Overdrive, and Scribd.
To produce an audiobook through a company can cost anywhere between $70 to $100+ per thousand words, or $250+ per hour, which generates about 2,000 words of audio. Let’s say you have a novel of 100,000 words. At $70 per 1,000 words, the cost will be $7,000. Despite any desire to release an audiobook version of their book(s) in a growing marketplace, few authors can afford such a service. Note: The stated prices are examples only, and authors should research this for themselves.
Lantern Audio https://lanternaudio.com/ can create and distribute your audiobook. Production cost is determined once an author makes a submission of his/her .docx file. Bound to be expensive.
Another audiobook creator/distributor is Author’s Republic https://www.authorsrepublic.com/ They also allow upload of an author’s prepared audiobook.
PublishDrive https://publishdrive.com/ is an audiobook distributor. This site requires any MP3 file to be 129 kbps or higher.
Authors can also upload their audiobook to Kobo, who will then distribute it.
We have all heard about the rapid growth of AI (Artificial Intelligence) tools, such as ChatGPT. In time, such tools may even be able to write a full novel! What is interesting, authors have an option to turn their novels into audiobooks by taking advantage of AI-based text to speech conversion tools that create an MP3 audio file at a very affordable price! With an MP3 file in hand, an author can upload his/her book to an audiobook distributor.
There are lots of online and downloadable text to speech conversion applications out there, but as with everything, authors need to be wary what they pick. Most tools I looked at have severe limits on the number of characters they can convert to an MP3 file. Some offer very few voices options, or restrict the user to a single male and female voice. Others offer voice choices which can sound mechanical. Better options, such as Natural Readers https://www.naturalreaders.com/ offer a great range of voices, but for commercial use where an author wants to distribute the generated MP3 file to an outlet for sale, a yearly fee of $588 is applied, or the author can choose to pay $99 per month and convert a maximum of 1,000,000 characters per day.
Another great option is Speechgen IO https://www.speechgen.io. For a fee of $49.99, the author can convert several files that in total are not larger than 1,000,000 characters. There are payment plans for smaller files. All options have a choice of natural sounding voices an author can choose from. The generated MP3 file can then be published anywhere. The only drawback to this software is that the system deducts ‘credits’ for every converted character. If you want to convert multiple novels, you must purchase additional credits when you reach the 1,000,000 character limit, but you can choose the number of credits you need without having to buy $49.99 every time. Compared to the cost charged by audiobook creation companies, Natural Readers and Speechgen IO are more effective ways for authors to create an audiobook.
Both software options offer an account deletion if an author no longer wishes to use the service. From a cost perspective, Natural Readers software is a much better option, as the author can convert many files into audiobooks during one month.
Before using any text to speech conversion software, an author must create a Word file that contains the text to be converted.
– Make a copy of your print or ebook file and rename it, eg: Book title – Audiobook.docx
– Remove any references to print or ebook and replace with ‘audiobook’.
– If you have one, remove your ISBN number, or allocate a separate number to this version of your book.
– Update your Copyright year if not the same as current year.
– Remove any Table of Contents.
– Remove all embedded pictures or tables, and anything the conversion software cannot read.
You are now ready to upload your file or copy/paste the text!
Happy audiobook creation…
A major problem with Speechgen and Natural Readers is that they create 64 kbps and 48 kbps MP3 files respectively. Findaway Voices requires a minimum of 129 kbps. Neither offer a change to their output bit rate, which will prevent an author uploading an audiobook to Findaway Voices. I don’t know what bit rate is expected by Amazon ACX.
It is very difficult to get any email response from Speechgen Support. I have been waiting several days for one!
Findaway Voices has exacting MP3 input file requirements that demands creation of separate files for an audiobook: Title, Front Matter, Body of book, Back Matter, Ending Credits, and Sample.
Good websites on audiobook production and distribution:
Good websites on audiobook production and distribution: