To Audiobook or not to Audiobook?

by | May 7, 2024 | Behind The Scenes | 0 comments


I thought I would get into the nitty gritty of how making an audiobook works. No, not about how the voice actors record the books, but about the cost and procedure of it all. To start off with, let’s look at how you can make an audiobook. I’ve chosen the most known options for this blog post but I’m sure there are probably other ways to go about it.

Option one is to go through Amazon ACX (aka Audible). Option Two is to go through Findaway Voices. The third option is luck. Or, you know, getting picked up by an audiobook publisher like Tantor. Option four is to go directly to the voice actors.


If we assume you’re in one of the three countries that allows access to ACX, that is (what’s up with that Amazon?). Amazon has two options for making audiobooks: pay-per-finished-hour or royalty split (that’s splitting the royalties you earn on sales with the narrator).

Amazon Audible ACX Logo

Pay-per-finished-hour is the norm and will be what you’ll see the most throughout this blog post. But what is it? Let’s say you’re having your 200-page book made into an audiobook. That would probably turn out to be somewhere around 6 hours of listening time aka finished hours. That is what you’ll pay for.

Royalty split is a way for those who can’t afford to pay per finished hour to still get an audiobook made. Though you will mostly see very new voice actors go for this option because they’ll only be paid for their work through sales of the audiobook. The author gets half the royalties, and the voice actor gets the other half of the royalties (after Amazon has taken their cut, of course). You can also pay some up front combined with the royalty split which might attract more voice actors compared to the original royalty split option.

AXC has an exclusivity clause, too. If you use royalty split, you’re stuck with it. If you use pay-per-finished-hour you can exit the exclusivity clause after 90 days at which your royalties will drop from 40% to 25% though you can then sell it everywhere.

Findaway Voices by Spotify logo


Option Two is Findaway Voices and until recently when they were bought by Spotify, they were a reputable company and one many went with because they wanted their audiobook in all available markets (Findaway Voices distributes to almost every online audiobook seller/store out there whereas AXC is only on Amazon).

Then Spotify swooped in and made a disgusting rights-grab with their new TOS (Terms of Service) that had authors pulling their books instantly. The rights-grab included the use of the authors’ audiobooks to train their AI (without the consent of the voice actors who still holds copyright. Hmm.. how does that work Spotify?), and the right to create derivative works from the authors’ audiobooks (aka using the characters, worlds, and so on for new books, and making ebooks and paperbacks of the original works as well).

To not get too into this, let’s just say: Findaway Voices is no longer a viable option unless you don’t want to own the rights to your own copyrighted work. Also, did I forget to mention the clause they hid in their new TOS that says they still pertain all these new rights if you pull your audiobook from their catalogue/site? That’s pretty sus if you ask me.


Option three. Well, like I said, good luck! If you’re offered a deal from an audiobook publisher, that’s awesome! Just remember to get a lawyer to look over the contract because, not unlike FV/Spotify, they might hide a rights-grab in the legalese somewhere you won’t even think to look. Also, they came to you, so make your demands! You and your work are worth making sure you’re covered!

The fourth option is to go directly to the voice actors. In this day and age, I believe this is probably the safest way to go. You get to work directly with your chosen VAs and you’re also paying them directly so both parties actually get what they deserve out of it. You have full control of your audiobook and the production of it. Simply speaking, you’re cutting out the middleman that is obsolete anyway in the sense where the benefits far outweighs the risks.


Now, you might be wondering, but Ana, isn’t there a fifth option?

There is.

It’s AI-narrated audiobooks. I believe you can even get it done for free through Google and quite cheap in other places. The main question here is whether AI aligns with your principles because most of them have been trained with the stolen work of authors and artists. At the moment, AI-narration seems to work fine for non-fiction. Not so much for fiction. Most people want some emotion from their audiobook narration, after all.

Now, if AI-narration evolves and gets significantly better for fiction books and, most importantly, is an ethically created and trained AI, then I would consider using it to make temporary audiobooks for my catalog. Yes, only temporary, because I want to support human voice actors and their amazing craft and skills. I would then replace these audiobooks with the real thing once I could afford to.

Are there more options than the ones I’ve listed here? Yes. There are several. Most are distributors for already made audiobooks while some also offer creation. What I’m seeing a lot is authors putting their audiobooks wide (on all available retailers) and selling them direct on their own sites as well.

Book with the pages shaped to spell out 'Audio'


The simplest answer to that is that they are expensive. I would only ever use PPFH and the price for, let’s say my book Saint, would be around 3000 USD and that’s without editing. That’s not money I just have lying around. Unfortunately!

I’ve considered it many times because I know there are so many readers/listeners out there who love audiobooks. I think, aside from the price, what’s holding me back is the fact that I’m not one of those people that love audiobooks and I want to love my work, my boys, and my stories. If you’re interested in my books and the action-packed romance stories I tell, here’s a link to my shop.

I hope this gave you a little insight into what goes into choosing how to make an audiobook and why some might choose not to take that route. Thank you for reading and see you next time!

Book with the pages shaped to spell 'Audio'


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