How to make an audiobook

➡️  Audiobooks are surging in popularity, so it’s a great time for self-published authors to transform their books into audiobooks.

➡️  You can narrate, record and edit your own audiobook to save money. Alternatively, if you have a larger budget, hire a professional narrator and producer to help you create a high quality audiobook.

➡️  ACX, the Audible distribution platform, allows you to upload and sell your audiobook. You’ll receive royalties of between 20%-40% per sale on this platform.

Audiobooks are more popular with readers than ever. In fact, audiobook sales are growing faster than ebook and physical book sales. In 2020, audiobook sales jumped by 37% in a single year - so if you’re thinking of publishing your own audiobook, it’s the perfect time to take the leap and find out how to make an audiobook.

Whether you’re an experienced indie author, or making your first forays into the world of self-publishing, making an audiobook is very different from writing an ebook or printed book. As well as the usual storytelling components you need to write a captivating story, there are technical elements to contend with that can make or break the success of your audiobook.

We’ll assume you’ve got a great book that you’ve already self-published, and are itching to transform your written words into a gripping audiobook. If you’re still looking for tips on how to write your story, check out our author resources - you’ll find tons of useful writing and self-publishing info.

Ready to find out how to make an audiobook? Let’s get started.

Is audiobook publishing profitable?

In a word, yes. It’s a profitable industry which as a double-digit growth every single year for the past nine years! That said, self-publishing audiobook creators need to be mindful of how much they invest, versus how many sales they can expect to make.

If you hire a professional narrator and sound studio, you’ll be spending a lot more than an author who narrates their own audiobook using their own recording equipment. However, you’re also likely to end up with a more professional, polished result, which can lead to more sales.

According to report by the Audio Publishers Association (APA), audiobook sales in the USA in 2019 reached 1.2 billion dollars, up 16% from the previous year.

Deloitte also looked into this last year and found that audiobooks overtook eSports and Podcasting for overall revenue.

Source: Deloitte Insights

To ensure it’s profitable for you to make an audiobook, you’ll need to carefully consider your investment budget, and weigh it up against how much you expect to earn from your audiobook.

How much money can you make selling audiobooks?

It tends to cost a lot more to produce an audiobook than an ebook - which means you can price it higher, too. Audiobooks on Audible cost up to 4 times more than the ebook version.

The more popular your story is, the more you can make selling it as an audiobook - so it’s a good idea to use your ebook sales stats as a guide to how much money you can make from the audiobook version. You should also check out our guide on author salaries.

As a rule of thumb, longer audiobooks also sell for more than shorter ones, so be sure to take this into consideration if you’ve written a short story or novella.

Here are the general guidelines for pricing an audiobook based on its length, as provide by ACX:

  • under 1 hour: under $7
  • 1 - 3 hours: $7 - $10
  • 3 - 5 hours: $10 - $20
  • 5 - 10 hours: $15 - $25
  • 10 - 20 hours: $20 - $30
  • over 20 hours: $25 - 35

What do you need to make an audiobook?

To make an audiobook, you’ll need the following as a minimum:

  • A microphone and sound recorder/computer
  • Sound editing software
  • A narrator - this can be you or a professional narrator

For more high-budget recordings, you can also consider hiring a professional sound studio to minimise background noise and help you procure a high-quality recording. ACX - the self-publishing audiobook platform behind Audible - has a list of technical requirements each recording must meet to be accepted for listing on Audible. If you’re unsure how to meet these requirements, it may be a good idea to invest in some professional assistance.

You may also want to find a voiceover agency which can help find a suitable voice artist for you. Many of them would also be open to recording a short snippet of text for you to see what they sound like.

How to make an audiobook in 5 steps

Follow these 5 steps to see how to make an audiobook version of your story.

  1. Decide on your budget - Work out how much you expect to make from your audiobook. From this, determine how much you can spend to create a compelling, professional audiobook. Split your budget between production and marketing costs.
  2. Plan your recording - Now you know how much you have to spend, decide where your money is best invested. Decide whether to DIY your audiobook, or hire a professional studio, narrator and/or sound engineer.
  3. Record your audiobook - If you’re narrating your own audiobook, make sure to practice as much as possible beforehand. If someone else is narrating it, make sure they have access to your story with plenty of time, so they can become familiar with it. If you’re working with a professional sound engineer, make sure they know the specification you need to work to.
  4. Sign up for an ACX account - This is where you can upload and list your audiobook on Amazon’s Audible platform. There are other audiobook platforms available, but Audible is the most widely used, so it’s your best bet for earning royalties fast.
  5. Market your audiobook - Use social media to let your readers know that the audiobook version of your story is now available! This is also a great time to email your mailing list with the good news.

How long does it take to record an audiobook?

It takes an average of 6.2 hours to create 1 hour of your finished audiobook. That includes narration, recording, and editing. And that’s for a professional producer - so if you’re narrating and producing your own audiobook, you can expect it to take longer than this.

J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone audiobook runs for 9 hours and 33 minutes - so it may have taken almost 60 hours to produce. That’s almost 2 weeks of full-time work!

Making an audiobook is time-consuming - but the payoff can far exceed the earnings from an ebook or physical book. By knowing how to make an audiobook, you can make your work go further.

How much does it cost to make an audiobook?

Luckily, the cost of making an audiobook can largely be tailored to your budget.

If you’re planning to record and narrate your audiobook yourself, you can save a lot of money on production costs. You may need to invest in a decent microphone and sound editing software, if you don’t already have these. Audible will also take a cut of any audiobook sales you make on the platform.

If you’re recording and producing the audiobook yourself, expect to pay between £200 and £850 depending on the equipment you buy.

If you’re looking for higher production value, the costs can quickly ramp up. Hiring a narrator, professional studio time, and a sound engineer will all increase your costs. These optional extras will eat into your budget, but they’re also likely to give you a more polished audiobook, which can add value to the finished product.

When hiring professionals to do the audio production of your book, expect to pay 50% royalties for 7 years (Audible) or anything between £1000 and £4000 if you want to use a voice artist you pick. If you’re going at it on your own, expect to pay for the narrator, the studio, the production and royalties (depending on your contract and negotiation).

How much does it cost to publish a book on Audible?

Listing an audiobook on Audible is free. Like self-publishing an ebook, self-publishing on Audible means you’ll only make money when your audiobook sells - and when that happens, Audible takes a substantial cut.

According to ACX, you can earn royalties from 20%-40% when you sell your books on Audible. For example, if your audiobook sells for £20 and you’re earning a 25% royalty rate, you’ll earn £5 from the sale. Your royalty rate depends on whether you choose exclusive or non-exclusive distribution on Audible. Exclusive distribution earns you higher royalty rates.

An added bonus with Audible is you can get a $75 (or ~£56) bonus if your book is the first audiobook a new Audible member decides to buy.

Also, then users exchange their Audible credit for a book instead of paying full price for it, the author receives $1 (or ~£0.75).

Audible also offers plans that allow you to work with and pay producers and narrators through royalty share schemes. This can be a simplified way to outsource production of your audiobook - but make sure you understand the rules of royalty share schemes before you commit, as this can mean you earn less from each audiobook sale.

More self-publishing tips for authors

Audiobooks are just one way self-published authors can make money with their writing. Find out more about how much writers can make - and how to price your book - in our self-publishing resources for authors.

Advice from a published writer
This article is always evolving and being updated regularly by our expert writers. Information featured in it has been fact-checked and verified.
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