Where Can You Sell Indie Audio Books?

Ahhhh. The sweet smell of success… or almost success.

As some of you may remember, I’ve been diligently working on creating an audio book version of Simply Prayer. I’m happy to say that I’ve finished the recording and editing of it.

Now comes the really hard part: deciding how to get it to the public.

I’ve come across several possibilities, but they each have limitations and restrictions. Here is what I’ve discovered thus far:

CreateSpace

CreateSpace offers the opportunity to sell music, and in a round about way audio books, as both CD’s and mp3’s.

Unfortunately, if you plan to upload your tracks then you need to be able to put them into a .zip file. The only other way is to send them a master CD. Ummm… I thought that’s what I was asking them to do — create a CD.

Also the entire “album” can’t be over 78 minutes long. Most audio books are much longer, so I’m not sure how that would work unless I break it into more than one “album.”

Then there’s the problem of file type. CreateSpace will only accept .aiff or mp3. I can create mp3 files, but according to the FAQ it’s not recommended because you lose quality.

Lulu

Lulu offers the opportunity to sell your music, and as such your audio book, as a CD. The bad  thing is that, unless you already have an account with Lulu, it’s difficult to find any information on exactly what to do to get a CD made.

They accept .wav, .mp3 and .aif files that you upload to their site.

Apparently, there have been some problems with running out of space on audio CD’s, given that they have a forum topic on just that. They suggest the following to keep that from happening:

For MP3

  • Biterate: 192kps
  • 2 channel stereo
  • Sample rate: 44khz.

For WAV

  • 16 bit
  • 2 channel stereo
  • Sample rate: 44khz
  • Audio Format: PCM

Of course, their CD’s only have 70 minutes of play time. Again, gotta figure out what to do with an audio book, which is much longer than the average audio CD play time.

CDBaby

With CDBaby you get mp3’s and they’ll sell copies of your physical CD. Of course, that means if you’re going to sell physical CD’s you’ll have to find someone to create at least one. CDBaby can duplicate and replicate, but apparently can’t create.

The best thing CDBaby offers is digital distribution channels like iTunes, Amazon MP3, eMusic and many more.

If you sell physical CD’s through CDBaby, you can drop ship the CD’s to them, but only the number they request. They won’t warehouse extras.

One last drawback is the $39 fee. It is a one time fee and comes with a lot of extras. Unfortunately, those extras are great for indie musicians (their target market), but not so much for indie authors.

On a side note, CDBaby has a companion site called BookBaby where you can sell your eBooks. I’ll be checking into that one soon.

Kunaki

Perhaps the best option, Kunaki offers 5 disc or fewer manufacturing/assembly with jewel case for about $1. There’s no set-up fee and the UPC bar code is free.

You can use Kunaki to drop ship to other retailers, such as CDBaby or Amazon, or you can sell directly through them. You can also drop ship to individual customers.

One drawback is that you must sell at least one CD every 180 days or your item will be deleted. Another is you have to use a PC in order to use their software.

As for the amount of space available per CD, that’s unknown. I would assume it’s similar to Lulu and CreateSpace with between 70 to 78 minutes.

If you’re looking for something akin to a POD for an audio CD, Kunaki is probably the best bet.

So where do I go from here?

At this point, I’m probably going to use more than one company. I like Kunaki’s deal for CD’s and CDBaby for digital distribution. I may change my mind later, as I have with the Lulu vs. CreateSpace debate (I’m still not entirely happy with either), but for the moment this is what I’ll be trying for my first audio book.

I would love to hear from others out there who have made and sold audio books. Have you used any of these companies? If so, what did you think of them? If not, what/who did you use?

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25 thoughts on “Where Can You Sell Indie Audio Books?

  1. I’m on the same hunt. As an independant author I am persuing having a professional dramatic reading of “The Puppy of Doom”. But with ACX.com thus Audable not accepting independant works, I may try publishing a single short story through Createspace.

    http://www.learnoutloud.com will accept uploads of indie audiobooks with a similar deal as Kindle direct. However, they are so obscure I doubt that one would ever sell many. The only hope is that people will see you book on Amazon and google for an audiobook version.

    • This is true of Kunaki.com, as well. I’ve sold one, thus far. Not exactly something to shout about.

      I’ve heard CDBaby can get mp3s listed on Amazon, but they are outside my budget at this point.

      Just gotta keep looking, asking and learning. 🙂

      For updates on indie things I’ve learned, please check out my new blog virginiaripple.com/blog.

  2. openbookaudio.com also looks promising, they take about 20-30% of your net earnings. I read that your audiobook gets listed in the music section, if you go through sites like cdbaby, createspace etc.

    • Hi Virginia,

      My name is Andrew and I’m one of the founders of Open Book Audio. I ran across your post and wanted to let you know that we’d love to take a look at your book for possible publishing. Unlike CD Baby, we can actually get you listed on the audiobooks section for Audible and iTunes plus get your book into a bunch of other places (including a huge library network through Overdrive). In fact, we do this for a ton of other authors just like you–independent folk who want to sell their audiobook everywhere. And we’re by far the cheapest option.

      If you’re interested, you can send me an email at andrew at openbookaudio.com and we can talk.

      Hope all is well!

  3. Hi Virginia,

    Scott from ACX.com here. ACX is owned by Audible/Amazon and is the best and most direct way for you to get your audiobook for sale on Audible, Amazon and iTunes. There is absolutely no fee, you can keep up to 90% of the royalties from your sales. We have a staff of audio experts (myself included) that can answer your questions, explain our service, and help you upload your audio to our site. We also offer guidance on how to promote yourself and your title to drive your sales and maximize your earnings. Visit http://www.acx.com/help/audiobook-publishers/200679720 or email audio@acx.com for more info 🙂

    • Hi Scott, you maybe all the things you mentioned, but: you only work with the US authors, so us Europeans are out in the cold.

      It’s good to learn that you do accept books into distribution that you didn’t produce yourself—I was under impression that I had to have to pay you to produce. At least this is how it looked when I reached your portal from Amazon.

    • Hey Scott,

      Lies.

      1. You only keep 90% of the royalties once you’ve sold 25000 copies.
      2. Audible and iTunes set the price. This means independent audiobook publishers must compete with bestseller pricing. That’s total BS, and frankly, should be illegal.
      3. You cut the nuts off of independent audiobook producers by disallowing them to put up more than 5 minutes of the book for free, on any contract that is exclusive. The non-exclusive rate is only 25% on the first 500. The Exclusive rate is 50% on the first 500, so it makes it very difficult indeed to do a non-exclusive deal given those numbers. Why would anyone want to sell a product in which the middle man takes 75% of the price they set?

      Think long and hard before you enter into an agreement with ACX, particularly an exclusive one.

      Bif

      • Bif, I really appreciate your bluntness and that was the exact same conclusion i came to. Started reading contracts and my heart about stopped. The answer? I made the audiobook myself, bought the equipment, read it myself, used a $10 program to format it perfectly for iPods with chapters and such—then started selling it from my own site.

        You can see here: http://wantedhero.com/the-store/

        Sell it for $4.97 and I do just fine. I host my own site, so Paypal gets a tiny cut–the rest is mine! The great thing is, my readers LOVE it…and I get to be personal, just for them.

        Think “selling podcasts” and you’ll figure it out. That’s the way I did it, anyway.

        Oh, the ONE mistake I made first time round was NOT buying a pop-filter. No, no, no. Must have one. Bought one…all is daisies now.

        Hope that helps everyone.

        Best luck to you all!!
        -Jaime

  4. Hey Virginia,

    I just wanted to say thank you for posting this article. I have been searching for a couple of years, actually, on where I could sell my Wanted Hero books in audio format. Always hit a dead end, until today.

    Knew about the options you listed, plus a few others, but none of them provided a true POD experience, like I’m having with CreateSpace for print and eBook routes. Luckily, because this is becoming such a hot subject, you attracted Scott from ACX.com.

    I was told repeatedly, that Audible would not take an author/publisher unless they had at least four books ready to make into audiobooks. Not the case with ACX.com. Followed the above link, did a whole evening of reading and that’s definitely the route I’m taking.

    So,…long story short (too late, I know)…THANK YOU SO MUCH!

    And thank you Scott, for responding to this article =).

    Jaime Buckley
    Creator of Wanted Hero
    http://wantedhero.com

    • I’m glad you were able to find something that worked for you. Since writing this article, I’ve written my first fiction novel and decided to use ACX.com to publish it in audio format. I plan on detailing the experience in the near future on the blog that replaced this one. You can find it at virginiaripple.com/blog.

      • Thank you Virginia.

        Got the new site tabbed and look forward to seeing how things work out with ACX.com. I’ll be jumping in soon, after I finish my next book.

        Just as a side note, for you and for any of your readers–there’s another option, which I would personally leave open to yourself, and that’s self-publishing your audio books on your own site. I will be doing that as well–just for more exposure and options.

        It’s always nice to sell directly tot he public and I don’t think audio should be any different. Not that i have done it yet, myself–but it’s what I’m planning.

        I’ll check back in on your new site (lovely design, BTW).

        God Bless.

        Jaime Buckley
        Creator of Wanted Hero
        http://wantedhero.com

  5. I thought I would mention here that while it’s great to get your book into ACX, going that route does limit your choices in where you can sell your book. If you utilize a service like Open Book Audio, you’ll have the option to not only sell your book on Audible (at rates that are just the same as ACX) but you’ll also get your book into the Overdrive network which services 19,000 libraries all over the world as well as Barnes and Noble and Books-a-Million. And, since library titles typically sell at 150-200% of retail, that’s a ton of revenue that you’re missing out on by sticking only with ACX. Plus, with Open Book Audio, you get access to an online reporting system that allows you to track your sales across all retailers–including ACX–giving you a real sense of how your book is selling everywhere. So, don’t discount a service like Open Book Audio or any other group out there that does what we do. You’ve got all sorts of avenues to explore with selling your book so don’t limit yourself!

    • That’s a great point, Andrew, and one that I started to ponder last night before drifting to sleep. I read the contract for ACX yesterday and the only option I would choose would be the non-exclusive agreement. It still locks you into the system for 7 years, but the point you just brought up–‘tracking sales’ is what got to me.

      As defined in their contract, under the Audiobook Royalty Payment Terms and Procedures, it says;

      “Audible will pay Royalties to you only on Audible Net Sales Receipts (as defined below) it receives from sales of the Audiobook. Audible will calculate Royalties using the variable Royalty Rate below.”

      ACX sells on Audible.com, Amazon.com, and iTunes. However, a non-exclusive allows you to sell elsewhere.

      MY question now, is, “Would it be better to sign up and sell a finished product directly?”

      Is it possible? Audible says (I think I remember this correctly, but I could be wrong) that you need 4 books to start…with iTunes, can you pay the $99/yr development fee and upload/sell audio books? The non-exclusive ACX contract allows me to go to Open Book Audio–but does their contract allow me to do the same?

      These are things to consider. Sure appreciate your feedback Andrew!

      Jaime Buckley
      Creator of Wanted Hero
      http://wantedhero.com
      http://jaimebuckley.com

  6. Hi Jaime (and all who are following the conversation),

    Thanks for the kind words on the podcast. To your questions, the reality is with Audible that if you decide to go the ACX route (which definitely has it’s benefits) and go non-exclusive, you can sell your audiobook elsewhere, like through Open Book Audio. The problem with that, as I see it, is that you are locked into the 7 year agreement and, here’s where it gets interesting, you lose out on the marketing push we offer. Not to mention being able to track your sales through our website. As for Audible, they distribute their library, as I think most everyone knows now, to iTunes on an exclusive. So, if you want into iTunes, you have to get into Audible first. If you don’t go the ACX route, you have to have 5 books to get in. As for iTunes/Apple, they accept no audiobook unless it comes through Audible. So, even if you were to pay the development fee of $99, it still gets your book listed as a Spoken Word album or just an app. Either way, it makes it hard for folks to find you.

    Back to the marketing push. At OBA, we have a very specific formula about what books we’ll take and what books we market. The truth is that, as long as the audio quality is good and the subject matter isn’t offensive, we’ll take the book and publish it to all of our retailers. What we then do is see how the book performs over the next few months. If it performs well enough, we put a big marketing push behind the book (reviews, websites, social media, press releases, interviews, podcasts, library journals, etc.) to goose the sales of the book and drive more money. Best of all, it’s free. How can we do that? Well, it’s simple really. If the book has proven that it can sell, it’s kind of a “why wouldn’t we?” mentality. Better yet, we have a specific formula that allows us to determine the precise amount of copies sold over a given period to guarantee a successful book. It’s remarkable how accurate we can be in determining what will be a hit and what won’t, rather than doing like most publishers do and go from their gut.

    All that said, any publisher, like ourselves, won’t take your book if you decide to go direct through Audible and then come to us for the rest. Financially, we can’t make it work without the Audible slice of the pie and that’s the truth. Now, our fees are the lowest in the industry (again, math allows us to do that!) but Audible is still an essential piece of the puzzle.

    So, what I would tell you is that if you’re content with your book just being available and not looking to make a great deal of money on it, ACX might be the way to go. But, if you’re looking to make more money, regardless of whether or not you hit the threshold for the marketing push, OBA is a much better option. After all, with a wider net, you’ll always get more fish.

    Hope that helps. If you want to talk further (if anyone wants to talk further) just email me at andrew at openbookaudio dot com.

  7. Andrew,

    I apologize for not responding for so long after this in-depth conversation, but life decided to take control and when I was above water once more…I could not find the link to get back here!

    Funny thing is, here I am, researching the subject, about ready to make my first audiobook and I come across a conversation and think, “Hey, i might find what i need here…” Then, “waiiiiiit a second, that’s ME in the conversation!”

    Yeah, having 11 children can cripple your brain. Trust me on that.

    I’ll get a hold of you via email. I have watched enough and I’m frustrated enough to see your point and I hate a monopoly. Since 2005 the “pro’s” have told me what I wanted to do couldn’t be done. Well, they were wrong every time. I’ve done public readings of my book and have had wonderful feedback.

    Maybe it’s been the reading to children for 22 years? Lol.

    Anyway, I’ll contact you soon. Thank you for providing all this information, Andrew. For those who have been reading this conversation, after all the mind-numbing reading and research I’ve done personally…I’m inclined to agree with Andrew.

    -Jaime Buckley

  8. This post (and all the discussion it’s generated) is a great starting point for authors who are interested in creating audiobooks.

    I think it’s important to look at indie audiobooks in a larger perspective, too. The broader issue is how indie authors can use *all* of their subsidiary rights to the fullest extent possible. (Subsidiary rights, for anyone who isn’t familiar with the terminology, means the rights to all the different forms that your book can take other than the original, like audiobooks, translations into different languages, film rights, and so on.)

    Money isn’t always the reason we write (I’m an indie author too), but even for authors who have no intention of trying to live on the income from their books, it can be an important factor in making your writing self-supporting. It’s a lot easier to improve the quality of your books, for instance by consulting with an editor or hiring an artist to design a great cover, if you’re actually bringing in some money.

    Traditional publishers always make use of subsidiary rights when they can and in some cases the income they generate from sub rights is more than the income from the original book.

    Putting your sub rights to practical use takes work–as with anything you do yourself–but it’s doable. It’s also getting easier as indie publishing matures and more service providers are created that cater to indie authors who want to go beyond paper books and ebooks. And some authors are using creative solutions, like offering translators a percentage of the profit from a book rather than an up-front fee.

    If anyone’s interested, I wrote a brief outline of sub rights for indie authors on Indie Book Launcher that’s not a bad starting point.

    http://www.indiebooklauncher.com/resources-diy/subsidiary-rights-for-indie-authors.php

    I hope this is helpful for people.

    And to Jaime, you’re absolutely right not to listen to the nay-sayers. Putting your book into an audiobook or other format takes work, but it *can* be done.

    Nas Hedron

  9. Thanks for this post. I have an audio and although I had researched how to distribute it things have got more complicated than I expected so this information is very useful. I’m not sure if it’s my browser but I couldn’t see any share buttons in it…

    • I no longer maintain this blog except to answer comments. That’s why there aren’t any share buttons. I have another blog that I occasionally post to at virginiaripple.com. I have opted to keep my reading audience up to date on my new releases with special prices and sneak peeks with my monthly newsletter. You can sign up here: http://eepurl.com/tFmtT

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