The audiobook industry almost hit $1 billion in the US in 2018 (source). Creating and publishing your own audiobook is fairly easy, but the quality and popularity of the content determines the success when it comes to sales. The way you narrate and deliver your audiobook will also dictate if people will be interested in listening to all your content. With the right techniques, you can make good money selling audiobooks.
How can I become a good audiobook narrator? There are many ways you can improve your narration skills. Some factors that affect narration include your posture, vocal cord exercises, intonation, your interest in the content and what you consume before narrating. With the right posture, healthy diet, and preparation, it is possible to produce high-quality audiobook content.
In this guide, we look at audiobook narration and how you can make money doing it. We also look at a few beginner tips that can help you produce better quality audiobooks to earn an income. Just like any other business, making a successful audiobook takes time, dedication, practice and skill. But once your audiobook becomes popular, you earn income for a long time. You can even turn this into a passive income stream. Let’s begin.
What is an Audiobook?
An audiobook is an audio file of a book, novel, or any piece of writing. Nowadays people listen to audiobooks when they don’t have time to read a hardcover or electronic version. Audiobooks can be based on educational, entertaining, and informative content. The audiobook industry is booming. One in every five adults in the US has listened to an audiobook (source). The US is the largest audiobook market, but more markets are emerging in Europe and Asia. The New York Times releases a bestseller list of audiobooks monthly (source).
What is the Difference Between an Audiobook and a Podcast?
Technically audiobooks and podcasts are similar because they are both audio files. The most striking difference is the pricing and format in which they are available. Audiobooks are generally pricier than podcasts. Moreover, podcasts are mainly broken into periodic episodes, whereas audiobooks are most often singular recordings of a pre-existing text (novel, book, essay, etc). If you are good at narrating audiobooks, you could probably kill it at podcasts too! Making podcasts could be a good way to create another income stream if your goal is to make money using your voice.
How to Make Money From an Audiobook
By now, you are probably wondering how you can start making income from an audiobook. There are two main ways of making money from audiobooks: by narrating your own books or narrating other people’s books. Whichever way you choose, you should be able to speak fluently and have a clear understanding of the language that you intend to use as you narrate your audiobook. Creating an audiobook can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days depending on the content length and complexity.
Narrating Other People’s Books
One way you can earn from an audiobook is by narrating other people’s work. Narrating other people’s books can become a highly passive means of making money because you already have the content ready for you. However, do not just go out there, choose whatever and create an audiobook from it. You may be violating someone’s copyrights. Always be sure to have the author’s authorisation to transform their work into audio content. If you are unsure, always reach out to the author or contact your attorney for advice.
If you are looking for content to narrate, create a gig on sites like Fiverr to offer your services. Authors go to Fiverr looking for people who can narrate their content. Initially, the pay is not much and most clients might pay on an hourly basis or depending on your agreement. You will have to prove yourself as a freelance narrator before you can get more promising returns and create more expensive gigs. If you have experience, show it off! Create a high-ticket gig and demonstrate your authoritativeness and expertise in your listing. Having a well-built blog, podcast or a popular YouTube channel to back your work can really help you boost your pricing.
“If you are a new narrator, you are likely to be paid an hourly salary that ranges from no pay to as much as $50 per hour for small publishers. Medium-sized and large-sized publishers may pay between $100 and $350 per hour.”
Narrating Your eBook
Alternatively, you can decide to narrate your work especially if you have original content and an audience. As a beginner, narrating your book might be more challenging since you will have to actively source for content, compile it and design it to make an eBook. Check out our full guide to learn about how you can make an eBook for free.
Once your eBook is ready, you can go ahead and narrate it into an audiobook. You can then list the product for sale on your website and eCommerce store. The good thing about narrating your books is that your income is recurring and every time your product gets a buyer, the money comes back to you. When narrating your products, it might take longer before your efforts pay due to having to market it, but once it takes off, you can make monthly recurring revenue (or passive income).
Choosing The Right Niche
Whether you narrate your own books or other people’s audiobooks, it is important to identify a niche. Audiobooks can be very diverse and you might find yourself having to choose from genres like fiction, biographies, memoirs, essays, novels, etc. Within those types of content, you should choose a topic you are passionate about or interested in. Otherwise your lack of interest will likely show in your voice and may discourage the audience.
If you are still deciding on a niche, use platforms such as Google trends to compare different topics. It is important for you to find books in niches that people are searching for on sites like Audible, but lack content. If you find zero books on Audible in a certain niche that is very strong on Google trends or Amazon, the potential of this niche is probably big. When making a niche decision, go for something that you find interesting, fun, appealing to you because it eventually makes your task much easier.
Promoting The Content
Let’s talk about marketing your audiobook, because the content and the recording could be awesome, but if there is nobody to listen to it, you will not make any sales or have any success. Before we dive in, watch the video below to learn how you could sell your audiobook on your own website!
Narrating Other People’s Books
When you are narrating other people’s books, there is little need for you to promote the product. That responsibility falls on your client who pays you to do the narration on their behalf. Instead, you should focus on selling yourself by building an extensive portfolio that can make you much more attractive to potential clients. You can use Fiverr, YouTube, and other social media sites to promote yourself, build up your rankings, and grow your clientele.
Narrating Your Book
If you are intending to make your audiobook, promoting your product determines how much and how soon you can start earning. Even before your audiobook is ready, you should start thinking about promoting it. If you already have a large audience for instance from social media, you can ask them to help you build your product, promote it, and buy it. You can promote your product in a variety of ways and we cover some of them in the video below.
How to Make Quality Audiobooks
When narrating an audiobook, there are many things you should consider. Sure equipment can be important, but factors like your posture, environment, and diet are important in determining the quality of the content you make. As long as your voice is clear and your tone is appropriate, you can start narrating audiobooks to earn an income. Let’s have a look at some of these factors.
Posture affects voice quality and clarity during communication. The voice is most clear when you assume an upright posture that opens your diaphragm. If you are recording, it’s best to do so standing up with your shoulders back. Try to have the text you are reading at eye level. This will help open you up, as opposed to sitting slouched with the content at an angle. This small adjustment can have a big impact to help you produce clear-quality audiobooks.
Diet & Beverages
You need to be consistent and clear if you want to create a quality audiobook. It is important to avoid consuming certain foods or drinks before you start reading your content. Water and lemon-honey tea are good voice activators according to this study. However, avoid drinks like coffee, cold water, soft drinks, and alcohol that cause dehydration (source). Also, avoid milk products like cheese that can give you phlegm and make your voice rough, create unintended ‘click’ sounds in the recording, and generally make unattractive content.
To create audiobooks with the best sound quality, it is best to record in a quiet environment e.g. a quiet room. A smaller room is usually better to reduce echo. You can soundproof the room for a very low cost using second-hand towels built into canvas frames. If you have a bit more of a budget, you can get soundproofing mats for the floors and foam blocks for the walls. It’s best to produce a high quality recording, than to have to edit a poor-quality recording in post-production. Having an environment that is sound-proofed can really boost your recording quality.
Tone & Smiles
Make sure your tone is appropriate with the content you are reading. If it is serious content, you probably want to have a more serious tone. If it is fun and light-hearted, you should probably be more upbeat. If you have any doubts, ask your client for the tone they would like if you are working for someone. Also, smile when you read your message if appropriate. I promise you can hear a smile and it will make your message sound much more welcoming 🙂 Of course, only do so if, and when appropriate.
To improve the sound quality of your audiobooks, you will probably have to invest in a mic. We put this last because the other points are even more important than hardware. We use a Marantz Professional Pod Pack with a broadcast boom arm and USB condenser in our recordings and love it. It’s about $70 on Amazon, but you can get a cheaper or more expensive mic. The most important things are sound your posture, your environment, sound-proofing, and your tone.
How Much Money Can You Make from Audiobooks?
You can make a decent income from creating and selling audiobooks or offering audiobook narration services to clients. Whichever way you choose, you need to be patient, consistent and dedicated to start earning an income from audiobooks. With the right strategies, right niche, and quality content, you can make good income. Some people are making up to $2,500/monthly from audiobooks (source). With the right narration skills, you can combine audiobooks narration with podcasting and make more money.
How Passive Is Narrating AudioBooks?
Narrating audiobooks can be highly passive, especially if you don’t have to source for the content yourself. Platforms such as Fiverr allow you to hire ghostwriters who can help create your content to make your earnings much more passive. If you are selling your products, you might find this passive income idea to be very engaging during its initial stages. You might find yourself spending more time on the venture by sourcing for content, compiling, narrating, and promoting your product.
Narrating audiobooks for others depends on your capacity to produce quality content for a client, one-on-one. This greatly lowers its levels of scalability. If you are selling your audiobook and making direct to consumer sales, then you will find your product much more scalable. Ultimately, you can make a lot of money from marketing your product well.
Unlike other passive income ideas that usually require an initial monetary investment, you can start on this business opportunity free. For instance, if your cell phone can record quality sound if you might not want to invest in a mic right away. This makes the venture ideal for beginners or people with little money to invest in their side hustle.
Making money with audiobooks is not as hard as it seems. If you have a great voice and you’ve done this before, it will be super easy for you to earn money from narrating. Moreover, if you are experienced in a niche that is growing fast, you might find it much easier when advertising your audiobook and selling it online.
When narrating your audiobooks you will need to invest some time. To build this as a successful passive income stream, expect to invest months to years building your business to make it passive. However, if you do not mind doing it as a side hustle, you can make income from it quickly on Fiverr.
Narrating audiobooks is one of the passive income ideas with minimal risk. First, the idea does not require a huge sum of money to start. In the event of no business, your financial status may remain relatively unchanged, but you will probably have spent a lot of time. On the bright side, you will probably have learned a lot! You can also start slow and still get an edge over other narrators in the future. This industry is growing super fast, so the need for audiobooks will only continue to increase.
How do I become a narrator? First, you need to decide if you would like to narrate other people’s books or your own. If you would like to narrate books or content for others, you can get started on Fiverr. If you would like to narrate your books, you can get started on ACX. As a narrator, you have to be audible, provide quality content and can maintain the interest of your listener.
How can I make money from audiobooks? You can make good money selling audiobooks by creating them and then selling them online. How much you make will depend on your content, target marketing, your motivation and skill. With the right narration skills, you can combine audiobooks narration with podcasting.