Thursday, June 21, 2012

Audiobooks

One of my fondest memories of my time in legacy publishing was visiting Brilliance Audio in Michigan and playing a character on my first audiobook, Whiskey Sour.

I love audiobooks. And I've always maintained the belief that their popularity was directly proportional to their price--it isn't unusual for audiobooks for be twice the hardcover price of a book. This high barrier to entry has meant a lot of folks who would enjoy audiobooks (while travelling, commuting, exercising, on vacation, etc.) haven't ever purchased one. For many, audiobooks are a library checkout (or a rental--there used to be audiobook rental stores). That's a shame, because, like paper and ebooks, I think audiobooks are worth owning.

When I began self-publishing, Brilliance bought 13 of my ebook titles--an unprecedented move and a strong show of faith in my brand. These titles have done well, but even though they were less expensive than my previous titles, I felt the prices were a bit prohibitive.

I recently released my second Timecaster novel, Timecaster Supersymmetry, with the help of my agent acting as an estributor (more on that in a future blog post, but in a nutshell they did everything I needed them to and I'm pleased.) One of the things I spoke with Brilliance about was releasing Supersymmetry as a download for under five bucks.

They went one step better.

Right now, on audible.com, every Joe Konrath Brilliance Audiobook title is $4.95. http://www.audible.com/mt/konrath

Want to try an audiobook but thought they were too pricey? Now is the time to buy one.

I also encourage readers to buy the ebook version of Timecaster Supersymmetry for $3.99. This book was a true labor of love for me, written completely from the heart and without keeping anything reigned in. I had no legacy editor to tell me, "You can't do that." The result is a science-fiction thriller that I am 100% positive no publishing house would ever release in its current uncut form. Sex, violence, bad jokes, dinosaurs, talking fruit, the multiverse, robots, tons of inside jokes and parodies, insane plot twists, several major WTF moments, and a future Jack Daniels fighting zombies. It is seriously crazy, and was so much fun to write I had to see a surgeon to remove the smile on my face when I finished it.

Timecaster hasn't found its audience yet. Penguin gave it a crappy cover and priced the ebook too high ($7.99), among other mistakes. Supersymmetry is so unlike anything else anyone has ever written it is almost unclassifiable, which will no doubt limit early sales. But ebooks are forever, and forever is a long time to find an audience. Maybe it will take years, and that's okay. I have years. And hopefully I'll have the rights back to Timecaster by then (I have world rights and am releasing it soon on Amazon.co.uk among other places) so I can price it to sell.

Please spread the word on the audiobooks, and on Supersymmetry. I'd love to see a future where all audiobook downloads are priced comparably to ebooks, and where authors are free to truly unleash their creativity on readers without having to kow-tow to the narrow-minded sales-driven biases of legacy publishers.

61 comments:

Anonymous said...

Awesome, will be buying soon.

Jude Hardin said...

From what I can see, your audiobooks are priced at $7.49, even though the tag at the top of the page says they're $4.95 until June 26. Might want to check that out.

Anonymous said...

One can still rent audio books for a decent price at Cracker Barrel Restaurants nationwide: pick one up in Louisville, KY - drive to FL and return it in Miami.

Veronica - Eloheim said...

Just purchased! I really enjoyed Timecaster. SciFi is way more my thing than thrillers and I'm thrilled you have a sequel!!

evilphilip said...

Joe has mentioned this a few times before... I found my story pirated on Demonoid!

http://www.demonoid.me/files/details/2954167/3900512/

Is there really no such thing as bad publicity? I hope a few thousand people get a chance to check it out.

The only shame is that most of my stories are published under my pen name. Doh!

Pale Rambler said...

I would love to see the cost of audiobooks drop. One of our sons is dyslexic and audiobooks have allowed him to advance to more complex books along with the rest of the kids in his grade without worrying about his condition turning reading into an arduous task. We are happy to pay for membership at Audible.com -- and there are deals available from time to time -- but his reading list is dictated by the school curriculum, so we often have to pay the piper regardless of the cost. Thanks for doing your part to make the medium more affordable!

Anonymous said...

"This book was a true labor of love for me, written completely from the heart and without keeping anything reigned in. I had no legacy editor to tell me, "You can't do that." ...

But a legacy editor might have told you it's "reined." Unless you have a royalty fantasy. Oh wait ...

Rob said...

4.95? Wow, that's a pretty good deal. Think I might pick one up. Your books have kinda grown on me. I started with Serial and now have just finished Whiskey Sour. Great work. Hope to read more new titles soon.

Glenn Dixon said...

Can't wait for audiobooks to catch up to ebook pricing models. We've done the Cracker Barrel thing in the past, as well as library check-outs. Hell, I once listened to some insanely long Tom Clancy novel on cassette tape! That's dedication. We've also listened to several free PodioBooks from Sigler and Hutchins and others. Unfortunately, we are now semi-retired and have no commutes, BUT - I just remembered we're about to go across Mexico by bus! Sounds like an excellent reason to sign up with Audible, no?

Donovan Starr said...

Great stuff, Joe. I'm hoping to get some of my stuff out in audio soon, too.

antares said...

My take on audiobooks (from my review of Nathan Lowell, Quarter Share):

"I sampled Quarter Share first by podcast . . .. I learned two things: 1) I don't like having books read to me, and 2) I liked as much of Quarter Share as I heard."

Different strokes for different folks.

So I passed on the audiobook version of Timecaster. Went to Amazon and 'look[ed] inside'. Read the first line and laughed.

I bought the book.

Jill James said...

I would love audiobooks if they weren't so darn expensive. The Mist by Stephen was done as a teleplay. Sound effects and all. Very cool and only audiobook I've listened to.

Rich Van Gaasbeck said...

For some, it's not the cost of audio books, it's that we're visual learners. I much prefer reading over listening. My wife will sometimes read stuff off to me, like a pizza menu, and I'm all "OMG, give me that thing so I can read it."

One of my sons is just the opposite, he consumes more audio books than read books.

Rich Van Gaasbeck said...

@evilphilip Is your pen name the same as you use on your game site?

J.T. said...

Does anyone know why Amazon Advantage doesn't allow Audio Book MP3 for download? I have a pro reader lined up to narrate my release Big Chicken and my son is an award-winning music producer, so it'd be easy to create. However there doesn't seem to be a simple way like KDP to market it. Any ideas?

Tim Barger said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J.T. said...

Sorry, I should have written why doesn't CreateSpace allow mp3 audio books? It allows mp3 music but not audio book. What gives?

Alan / Falcon said...

J.T., you're looking for ACX: http://www.acx.com/

It's an Audible company, which means it's an Amazon company.

outdoor bean bag said...

Hi. I love reading a book while listening to an audio book. You can really picture out the scenes from the story. Imagination is at its best.

J.T. said...

Alan, Thanks for the link. ACX is exactly what I'm looking for. Coming up soon one live Big Chicken.

Lillian Archer said...

Sorry, Joe. Annoying orange has spoiled me on talking fruit, but I could be convinced to listen to it- I can fast-forward thru the fruit parts:)

Sasha said...

For some authors, I actually prefer the audiobook to having my voice droning on in my head. It all depends on the reader. I have most of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series as Audible downloads, read by the brilliant Nigel Planer or Stephen Briggs. Good actors can do different voices for different characters and really bring the whole thing alive. But the wrong choice of actor can kill a thing.

Audible lets you sample, which is why I haven't downloaded any of Lee Child's books. That guy just doesn't sound like my idea of Jack Reacher.

Joe, did you have any say in who read your books?

Merrill Heath said...

When I worked as a Regional Manager for Books-A-Million I listened to a ton of audio books. That was the easiest way for me to keep up with what was current. I could listen to the book (cassette tape back in those days) while I traveled from one store to the next.

I really liked the James Lee Burke books narrated by Will Patton. He had the Louisiana accent down pat and it added a lot to the story. They were also condensed and that helped since I find Burke to be a bit wordy.

Tracy Sharp said...

Well Joe, not much into Sci-Fi but I'm giving it a whirl. Just because you're so damned ultra cool.

Jason said...

Super excited that I just purchased Supersymmetry on B&N.com for my Nook. 40 pages left in Crouch & Crouch's Eerie book, then I'll dive in. But first I may need to read the last few chapters of Timecaster again!

Audiobooks rock. I listened to a couple Potter books in the car since I was on the road a lot for my previous job - checked out from the library of course. Too cost prohibitive otherwise. Joe is very smart to push for cheaper audiobook pricing. That will = more quantities sold, which will = more profit all around.

Todd Trumpet said...

Like a couple others above have commented, I absorb information best via the visual, not the verbal, so I'm not personally a fan of audiobooks.

That said, I sometimes wish I could see/hear a vlog version of some of the dialogues Joe has conducted here...

...minus the obvious cutaways to biologically-incompatible animals.

Todd
www.ToddTrumpet.com

Cathy Titus Neumueller said...

June is Audiobook Month. I adore listening to audiobooks during my 2+ hours a day commute as a librarian in a public library. I frequently recommend audio books for my library to purchase. I was a little hesitant to listen to Timecaster since I’m not a fan of SciFi but I’ve really enjoyed listening to all of the Jack Daniels books. The quirky fast paced humor and a Harry McGlade grandson made it a great listen. I can’t wait to listen to Supersymmetry. I’m lucky that I have access to so many audiobook titles through the library. I wish that they were priced more reasonably. I added a “laugh out loud funny” tag to Timecaster in Amazon.

Sasha said...

I used to get audiobooks from the library on CD but they used to be scratched and covered in crud. I have no idea what people were doing with them.

There were often so badly damaged that they'd skip content and I once listened to seven discs of a particular book only to find the eight and final had a great hole gouged out of it.

Digital files beat this hands down. An Audible sub is only £7.99 a month which gets you one book that would cost about £20 as an audio CD. But for sure, I'd buy more if they were cheaper, which they should be, given there are no distribution costs.

Darlene Underdahl said...

Bought the ebook... will enjoy it.

David L. Shutter said...

Sometime in junior high I got Hunt for Red October in paperback. first book I ever read in one sitting. Was a Tom Clancy Junkie after that for a few years and when I couldn't find Clear and Present Danger in the library I tried out an audio version for the first time ever. We're talking cassette tapes 1 & 2 in the Walkman people. Was narrated by David Ogden Stiers (he was Major Winchester on MASH) and he did different voices for all the characters; men, women, American, Hispanic.

While he's definitely a talented narrator (he's still working today) there was just something about the "one-man-show"ness of it that turned me off. Never touched another audio-book since.

Now that I'm finally part of the Kindle club with my new Touch (been reading on my phone and ipad and had no clue what I was missing) I think I'll give audio another chance. Might as well try with Timecaster 2.

Sasha said...

@David L. Shutter - I wonder if you'd get on better with a first-person narrative (I see what you mean about the "one-man-showness").

I'm saving up for a Kindle and am going to go for the one that has the experimental feature of being able to have a book read to you. You can choose a man's or a woman's voice, speed it up, slow it down.

Some publishers are preventing their books being read this way to protect their audiobook rights. A pity, if you've already bought the damn book once. I can see both sides of that argument while the price of audiobooks is high and there's a revenue stream to be lost, but not so much if audiobook prices fall to meet the ebook price.

Anonymous said...

I love audiobooks but cannot understand why they are so highly priced. It takes less time to record an audiobook than it takes to write one. I suppose they charge so much simply because they can.

Audible do a subscription scheme that enables you to buy them more cheaply. Good if you are a regular audiobook user. Though the non-subscription prices on their site often seem over inflated, presumably to make the subscription look like an even better deal.

Memoirs read by the author are often interesting. Memoirs read by an actor can sometimes be badly cast.

Worst book I ever bought was one of my favorite authors. But unfortunately he wasn't a good reader. Shame as he has written dozens of excellent books.

J.M. Ney-Grimm said...

Cool! I hope to release my books in audio next winter.

Linsey Lanier said...

Oooh! I love audiobooks. Only way I stay sane during my commute from hell. :) I listened to Rusty Nail on audio, read by the talented Dick Hill and Susie Breck and it was fabulous. Funny and scary. Great book.

My other favorite readers are Susan Ericksen, who does the J.D. Robb In Death series, and Lorelei King, who does Evanovich's books. Her Gramma Mazur and her Lula can have me running off the road, I'm laughing so hard.

Thanks so much for pioneering this, Joe!

Anonymous said...

I'm an author, but also an anoouncer and voiceover specialist. I've already voiced four audio books of other authors and I've been wondering how to best leverage audio books of my own works.

Carey Conley

Darren Kirby said...

I've been preaching about audiobooks for all authors for a while now. Why limit your potential audience? Ebooks, print books, and audio books - hit them all, and enjoy the fruits of your labor! Thanks for pushing this forward, Joe.

~Darren
http://darrenkirby.blogspot.com

David L. Shutter said...

Sasha

First person is a good point, I'm actually in the middle of H. Howey's, Halfway Home, which is really good BTW really good, and it's first person.

Which brings me to my second reply for you...I just got the touch, which is the upgraded version of the Kindle 4, and it does audio with the "Text to Speach" feature you're talking about. When they say "experimental" they're talking about the web browser on Kindle's other than the Fire. I love my touch so far, 99$ proved you don't want the mini i-pad version.

I had the text to speach on in my car today, going through my cars input. It's a cool feature but the robo voice gets real annoying after a bit, no tonal variety or inflection, it just drones.

L.J. Downs said...

Hey Joe, what does it cost to make an Audiobook? I've always just assumed that the bulk of the cost was wrapped up in studio and voice actor fees which drive up the price of the Audiobook.

Sasha said...

@David L. Shutter - oh, bummer about the text-to-speech thing - I should just regard that as an option for non-fiction, then! Thanks for that info.

Anonymous said...

I think lower cost audiobooks are a great idea, I hope it catches on like wildfire.

I'm sorting out the cost in my head. If the recording studio is $75-100 an hour and the talent is $300 the first hour & $100 after (I think that's about standard, if it's someone through an agency) and the book is 500 pages (around 15 hours I would guess, but there should be a few hours added for padding), plus the editing -- I think that would all add up to be around 5k for a professional job.

That's probably overshooting, because there are also indie recording people who have sound booths set up in their basements and stuff who'd do it for cheaper...and of course it depends on who reads it too...but it's fun to try and work it out anyway.

wannabuy said...

I loved Timecaster. I'm sure Timecaster Super-symmetry will be even better. Bought. I'll do a review soon.

The only question, is there sex with talking fruit? If not, why not? Or is that for Timecaster III? ;)

Lightsaber

wannabuy said...

Thought on audiobooks.

Could they be like ebooks just waiting for a certain price point to be reached to attain the volume audience? $4.99 seems reasonable.

Neil

Jude Hardin said...

Could they be like ebooks just waiting for a certain price point to be reached to attain the volume audience?

Print books and ebooks are basically the same experience. Audiobooks are a different animal. They might become a little more popular with lower prices, but I think the majority of readers enjoy actually reading (most of the time) rather than listening.

wannabuy said...

@Jude Hardin:"but I think the majority of readers enjoy actually reading (most of the time) rather than listening."

Agreed. But I use the text to speech functions of Kindle to ease my commute. I would be willing to buy more audio books if they were the *same* price as the ebook. But is the market large enough? That I do not know.

Neil

Anne Francis Scott said...

I love audiobooks for when I'm exercising, traveling, or just want to give my eyes a break. But yes, an MP3 download usually costs more than hardcover print. So my "listening shelf" isn't nearly as full as my Kindle.

I do hope the lower cost audiobooks catch on. The sales theory behind e-books of "sell for less, sell more product" could certainly apply. Might be that J.A.'s timing on the low-cost audiobooks is right-on. Percentage wise, sales for digital format (both e-book and audiobook) are up, whereas print editions have gone the way of the dumpster.

I came across those interesting stats here: http://the-active-voice.com/2012/06/18/594/

strangetruther said...

"every Joe Konrath Brilliance Audiobook title is $4.95"

...or $7.49 in UK :-] .

May as well get the ebook. Oh – I found a downloadable free pdf of Whiskey Sour. Wasn't expecting that! :-) .

I'll read yours in preference to the free 40 Shades Of Grey :-) .

Thanks for the great blog.

Jude Hardin said...

Just bought the ebook version of Timecaster Supersymmetry. How could I possibly resist a future Jack Daniels fighting zombies? Fun stuff, bro!

Haku Mele said...

Thanks for breaking down the figures. I was wondering what the initial costs for producing an audio book were.

wannabuy said...

LOVING Timecaster Super-symmetry.

Kids and a cold have kept me from finishing it at my normal pace, but I'll write a review as soon as I'm done.

Warning: It is a twisted sense of humor at parts. What's it say about me? ;)

Neil

Milton said...

The largest audiobook company, Audible, is owned by Amazon. Pricing of audiobooks there still follows patterns that predate Amazon's acquisition of Audible.

Amazon may, at some point, do with Audible what they have done with Kindle, and change the pricing paradigm on downloaded audiobooks, but that day is not here yet.

Meanwhile, the biggest change Amazon has brought to Audible is ACX. Their open source production model has made it possible for unheralded narrators like me to find work, while allowing new writers and authors of titles that are not best sellers to publish their books in audio.

If you are an author with a book, or a series of books, or a backlist not in audio, you can submit your work to ACX for publication. Then narrators audition to read your work. If the narrator works for free, the author splits the proceeds 50/50 with the narrator, after Audible's cut. If the narrator is paid upfront, the author keeps all the proceeds after Audible's cut.

Like Kindle, the program is free and the royalties are generous. If you are already up on Kindle and CreateSpace, you should check out ACX.

Anonymous said...

Bardowl hints at the major change that will be coming to US audiobooks in the hopefully-near future. http://blogs.publishersweekly.com/blogs/ListenUp/?p=2691

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Anonymous said...

joe..this is fantastic..i'm a member in the audible club...and i don't have the time or patience to read now a days..so i put on my handheld device and listen to a good yarn!! i plan a purchasing your books!!

G D Tinnams said...

I have to admit I prefer audio dramtisations to audiobooks. If you've ever heard the BBC versions of 'Childhood's End' or 'The Kraken Wakes', They are very impressive. Admittedly they lack penmanship, but a good story is a good story and audio drama isn't curtailed by bad visuals, just by imagination.

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Anonymous said...

I suppose the relatively low number of comments (given the usually vibrant discussion about other topics) is an indication of the level of interest in audiobooks.

I enjoy audiobooks but admit that they vary so much. If the actor or author reading it is badly cast, then I usually don't get past the opening chapters. On the other hand a well cast reader makes for a really enjoyable listen.

It's also possible that some books are meant to be read while others are meant to be read out loud. Not every book will translate well to the audio format. And publishers are simply trying too hard when they layer on music. If I want to hear music, I'll choose my own.

David L. Shutter said...

Ok, stick a fork in this topic. Can we move on to the new, Jun 25 Authors Guild (anti-Amazon)statement to the DOJ?

Have a simple request for Joe, and Barry, of course:

FISK...FISK...FISK!

Paul McElligott said...

There is a reason that audiobooks can never be as cheap as ebooks, and that's the fact that the guy who reads it has to be paid, as does the guy who edits the recording, and the guy who masters the recording. Self-published authors recording their own books in home studios don't have these expenses, but as soon as you hire out the work, the money starts to add up. Traditional publishes hire well-known narrators (known in the business, anyway), record in professional studio, and employ professionals for post-production, as well. That's why the audiobook of Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals costs $70 to buy.

Anonymous said...

The reason audio books are expensive isn't because the production is expensive. In fact the production of a hardback book is much more expensive than producing an audiobook. So it makes no sense that the digital audio file costs more than a real book.

It usually takes several days to record an audio book and a week to edit if they are doing the job properly. Studio costs have never been cheaper. Same for editing, post production and on and offline distribution.

It all adds up to a couple of weeks work compared to the three months, six months or year that it took the author to write it.

The problem is demand and greed that leads to a chicken and egg situation.

Publishers assume demand for audio books will be low so they charge high prices.

And, of course, the high prices ensure that demand will be low.

There is a probably a middle ground to be reached. I have no doubt some enterprising audio publishers will be able to produce a product at a much cheaper cost but only if they can get the rights. Publishers, used to current deals will be reluctant to offer the books more cheaply. So it will take time and a few entrepreneurs to devise a new financial model. And perhaps a breakthrough book that goes straight from successful ebook to successful budget audio book leaving out the legacy publishers.

One model to watch is Bardowl.com. It is being likened to the Spotify of audio books. A monthly subscription allows you to listen to unlimited content. As yet that content is narrow in range so you're unlikely to find any bestselling fiction there at the moment. But it's a venture to watch.

C. Amethyst Frost said...

I love audio books. I signed up for Audible something like 7 years ago. I have had to upgrade my MP3 player to a 40G Zune just to hold my audio books. I have listened to all of the Harry Potter books so many times, I have them all memorized (uploaded from CD, about 17 CDs per book). I am now at the point where I can't go to sleep at night unless I am listening to an audio book (like a child who needs a story at night). I am now at the point where I have one audio book, one paperback, and a Kindle at the same time. Just goes to show you that it's not the vehicle we are addicted to. It's the stories.

B. Rehder said...

Regarding the ACX comments above---I've used ACX twice now and have been very pleased. Chose to pay the narrators, rather than split royalties. Managed to get one book narrated for $565, and the other for $330 (short YA novel). Both narrators worked for $75/finished hour.