In this extract taken from her article for the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2023, Laura Smith of independent audiobook publisher W. F. Howes, offers tips on how to get an audiobook published.
All you need to know is that the audiobook market holds a section of people who don’t read books. Yes! As crazy as it sounds to us book-folk, some people just don’t. But before you write them off, consider the millions of people who listen to podcasts, radio or music for hours each day. Some are migrating to long-form and discovering that they do have time for audiobooks. An audiobook could be their gateway drug into your back catalogue.
There is also a portion of the population who love great storytelling but are unable to read physical books, for a variety of reasons. Making your books accessible to all people can only be a good thing for your readership and your sales.
Before your work can become an audiobook you need to figure out who will publish it; so it is important that you pay attention to your audio rights. Whether you are self-published, represented by a literary agent, or work directly with a publisher – be clear on who owns your rights, for how long and in which territories. Crucially, establish when your audiobook will be published. For most books, the best time to publish an audiobook is at the same time as the ebook and print edition. An audiobook takes several months to plan and produce, so if your publisher doesn’t have a plan for your audiobook six months ahead of the ebook release, you need to start asking questions.
Once you have decided on your route to market, you will be faced with the most important decision for your book: who should read it – or more accurately, who is the best person to perform your work for the listener? Well, the overwhelming majority of audiobook listeners prefer to listen to a professional audiobook narrator or actor, rather than the author. So, unless you are reading your memoir and have broadcasting or acting experience, you probably aren’t the right voice for the job.
You may wonder whether you need a celebrity voice to get audiobook sales. In most cases the answer is no. Some narrators have a fan base among audiobook listeners, so it is worth browsing the reviews to see who is best rated in your category. But it is more important to get the right voice for your character, with a high-quality recording, a thorough edit and a proof-listen.
If you have a compelling story to tell, it might find a home as an audio exclusive. At W.F. Howes we recently launched WFH ORIGINAL, an imprint for audio-first projects which are commissioned, developed and tailored to the audio format. As the audio market evolves, there are more opportunities for writers in this area, whether through publishers, studios or production companies.
This is an abridged version of an article taken from the Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2023, available to order now from Bloomsbury.com
Laura Smith is a Senior Editor at W.F. Howes, the UK’s leading independent audiobook publisher. Over the past 11 years she has worked across commissioning, contracts, casting, marketing and sales of audiobooks. Laura has acquired and published audiobooks across fiction, non-fiction and children’s categories, including books by Marian Keyes, Sally Rooney, Chris Brookmyre, Gregg Hurwitz, Hilary Mantel and LJ Ross. She currently works on the newly launched WFH ORIGINAL imprint, comprising works commissioned and produced exclusively for audiobook format. For more information see www.wfhowes.co.uk.