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Should You Publish Your Book as a Paperback, Audiobook, or Both?

Audiobook | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

Indie authors must make several tough decisions before publishing their books. Two crucial ones involve what platforms to publish on and how to market the book. The most common advice in the industry is to publish your book in as many formats as possible, including but not limited to audiobook and paperback.

While I assume you will be publishing in E-book format, the question arises if you should also do so in paperback and/or audiobook format. If you are a new indie author still trying to establish your name, then the tips below may help you make the right choice for you.

Audiobooks

Benefits of Audiobooks

Audiobooks are a rapidly growing industry that has been boosted due to Covid 19. According to a Publishing Perspectives article, the increase in the audiobook market has been in double digits every year. With an established annual revenue of roughly $1.5 bn, it is expected that the revenue may be as high as $4 bn by 2027.

 On top of that, the demand for audiobooks is so high in the US that over 50% of people reported listening to an audiobook—a number that is constantly increasing each year. Some other interesting statistics include:

  • The overall share of time spent listening to audio for audiobooks has grown 60 percent since 2017.
  • Daily audiobook listeners spend more time listening to books than any other form of audio such as radio, podcasts, etc.
  • Daily audiobook consumption has grown by 71 percent since 2017.
  • Daily audiobook listeners spend over 5 hours listening to audio than the general population—nearly two hours more per day than the general population.

Disadvantages of Audiobooks

Audiobooks are usually published through one of two models: royalty and pay per performance.

The first one means that you outsource the narration and production to a director or producer. This person or company takes your book, narrates it, and then helps publish it as an audiobook in exchange for a royalty share that rises depending on their level of expertise.

As an article from Book Baby blog explains, the narrators you get are typically inexperienced, meaning that the voiceover service would not get the top-notch talent that it requires for it to provide an amazing experience for your audience.

Unfortunately, if the audience doesn’t get a great experience you may get poor reviews and your sales will suffer accordingly.

The other option is the pay per performance, which means that you pay for the narration yourself by hiring an expert freelancer or an already established company. A word counter can help you calculate the relevant cost, which may range from several hundred to several thousand dollars. This makes it hard to cover it through sales unless you’re an established author. This is especially the case since the platform on which you have published your audiobook will also take a cut. For example, Audible takes more than half of the revenue.

Paperback

We first may have to compare Paperback and E-book editions briefly to understand why Paperback is a good option. David Derrico has broken down the cost of the two versions and found that only 10% of the costs are actually lower in E-books than in Paperbacks. So, you don’t really save too much, considering that people usually think that E-books should be way cheaper than Paperbacks.

According to data from Investopedia, the printed book industry dominates the book sale market. It has roughly half of the sales in this area, with about $4.5 bn in revenue in 2019. Another advantage of publishing as a Paperback is that you can earn a loyal fan following as compared to the online fan following, which often ends up being more fickle and picky. You can also organize events where you distribute your signed Paperbacks and have gatherings with your fans who bought your Paperback books.

Readers are willing to pay higher prices for a good Paperback book to feel the book in hand and flip the pages as compared to audiobooks and E-books, which you can’t enjoy in the same way. Some readers also turn to Paperbacks as a way to avoid eye strain and for staying away from their devices.

Should You Publish in Both Formats?

If you are already an established indie author with a good fan following, publishing in all available formats, including audiobook, E-book, and Paperback, can benefit you.

If, on the other hand, you are a new indie author trying to build your fan following, it may be best to publish your book as an E-book first, followed by a Paperback edition. Leave the Audiobook for when you have established a reader base and have better chances of turning a profit.