Audio Books: Are They Worth The Fuss?

Audio Books Are They Worth The Fuss

I’m not a big audio book reader and by that I mean I have only bought one audio book and rented three others from the library in the course of my life.

I don’t find listening to a story as entertaining as reading one.

Even though audio books are not my preferred format I acknowledge that it is for other people. For some it’s the only way they can read due to lack of sight , certain disabilities or lack of free time.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about who I would want to narrate Destiny Be Damned. Yes, I’m well aware I am getting ahead of myself in the writing/publishing process. A writer is allowed to daydream!

In the process of that daydream I wondered how a book gets turned into an audio book.

Once I climbed down that rabbit hole I was surprised to find out that not all books/authors get that privilege!

Maybe I’m just too sheltered in my writing cave but it never occurred to me that publishers wouldn’t want all their books available in every format possible.

As usual, in the end, it all comes down to profit.

For traditionally published authors it all depends on:

  • what their contracts state
  • whether the publishing house they went through is capable of publishing audio books
  • whether or not their publishing company feels they will make enough profit off of it.

Read, “How much an Author Makes Off Their Books” by Brian McClellan to get an idea of what a traditionally published author makes on audio books.

If you own the audio rights to your work or are a self-published author then it all boils down to:

  • whether you have the know-how
  • whether you know where to look for help
  • whether you have the time or desire to create, publish and market it on top of what you are already doing for your book.
  • whether you can even afford it.

Read, “Audio Books for Idiots Part 1: What You Should Know About ACX” by Jessi Gage to get an idea of what an indie author’s experience has been.

I started to wonder: Are audio books even worth the fuss?

This is what I’ve learned so far while researching this topic:

Yes & No.

 Literature audio books have been around since the 1950’s. I kid you not! But their increase in popularity didn’t start till the 90’s and even then it was slow growing until the 2000’s. Now with the invention of iPods, tablets, smartphones and eReaders their use has skyrocketed.

Bare with me as I throw some stats your way.

The APA (Audio Publishers Association) estimates that:

  • audio book sales in 2014 totaled more then $1.47 billion even though only 25,787 titles were published that year.
  • unit sales were nearly 5 times more than the overall book trade industry.
  • adult fiction represents the vast majority of audio books sold (77.4% fiction audio vs 22.6% non-fiction) with romance taking 25% of the pie.
  • 49% of audio book readers fall between the ages of 18-34

Audio book recordings are generally listened to while driving/commuting, traveling, running errands, working out, doing housework, or just relaxing.

In terms of just driving, around 100 million Americans drive to work each day with an average commute of 50 minutes. If audio books are read at the rate of 10,000 words per hour a reader can finish around one book per week just while driving in the car. Can you  imagine how many new books and authors an audio reader would discover in the course of one year?!

So YES, having an audio format option for your romance/fiction book is worth the fuss because:

  1. Not everyone likes to read. Some prefer to listen versus read, while other’s only have that option due to health and circumstances. Therefore you reach a wider audience by offering your book in as many formats as possible. 
  2. The sale potential is there. The recorded audio book sales for 2014 show that people are ready and willing to pay to be able to listen to a story while multi-tasking. Why wouldn’t you to take a piece of that pie?
  3. Romance readers want audio books too. The type of literature you write (fiction) and the genre you write in (romance) along with the age of your target audience (18-34) makes up a large chunk of audio book listeners. You WILL find readers there that you wouldn’t have found in print or ebook format alone.

BUT and This is a BIG But….

While the sky is the limit for how many sales you could potentially make in the audio book market the current profit situation is like a pair of concrete boots keeping you shackled to the ground.

Let’s say, for the sake of this argument, that you are a self-published author who owns your own rights to your book and therefore you are free to make an audio book how you see fit.

First, you will need to decide if you are capable of being the narrator and producer of your own audio book.

  • Unless you are already a voice actor, have your own high quality sound gear/studio and know how to produce an audio book, you are not capable of doing this all on your own.
    • Even if that’s the case and yet you still think you can handle this in order to save a few bucks please keep in mind that you’ll have to know how to handle the following:
      • consistencies in audio levels, tones, noise level, spacing and pronunciation in order to give readers a great audio experience
      • how big each upload file is allowed to be
      • what the right peak values, noise floor and room tones are
      • how to get rid of unwanted ambient sounds and outtakes
    • Not to mention the shear amount of time it takes to record a book on audio. Time that you wont be using to publish or market what you already have out there or write new material.
  • Sure, you could still do it all on your own and produce a passable audio book but will it be enjoyable for the listeners? Will it be something you can be proud of?
  • Narrating a book is long, hard work. In my opinion, as a consumer, I’d rather spend 5 hours listening to a book where the author spent money to hire professionals versus one where the author just tried to save a buck. It’s like reading an ebook where the author decided they didn’t need to the services of a proof reader or editor.

Second, when you finally admit you’ll need help accomplishing this then the daunting task of who to go with begins. There are a few options:

Third, it is not cheap to produce an audio book. Whether or not you do it yourself or go with a company that helps you there is a lot of money involved whether in money upfront or in the costs of royalties later on.

  • The Screen Actors Guild states that the fee for each finished hour for union members should be around $225 (but there are narrators that charge much more). A 90,000 word book (350pgs) will consist of about 10 finished audio hours. Once the recording is complete, production costs run about $75hr. A 10hr audio book could take about 60hrs or more to produce meaning you could expect to pay a minimum of $3,000 – $4,000 for the complete product. (This information was found on “How To Self-Publish an Audiobook on

It is possible to create an audio book for much less but that’s when you dip into sharing royalties and such.

This is where the concrete boots come in. There is a lot of untapped potential in the audio book market but unfortunately that also means there is not a lot of options on where to sell it and get the most traffic.

From what I’ve gathered so far, you either sacrifice a lot of profit in order to be attached to websites that get a lot of audio book buying traffic like or you keep more profits for yourself but run the risk of no one even knowing your audio book exists.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of whether audio books are worth it in long run in terms of profits vs expenses/time but I do know that if I am able to, I will have my book in audio format because

Why would I not want to utilize that market?

Stay Tuned

Wednesday @9am “Romance Audio Books and Where To Find Them”

Friday @9am “The Best Body Positive Audio Books to Drown Out Your Inner Critic”

Let's Chat Graphic


  • What is your opinion on this matter? Are audio books worth the fuss for authors?
  • Do you have first hand experience with producing audio books?
  • Would you try to produce an audio book on your own or shell out money for a professional?


Published by Darla G. Denton, Writer

I am a Contemporary Romance Writer for Curvy women and the men who love them.

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