Tuesday, February 18, 2014

You may have thought self-publishing ebooks was bad - try audiobooks...

(photocredit: Brett Jordan)

The problem with audiobooks is Amazon - exactly why anti-trust laws were created.

Amazon bought Audible. And got exclusive contracts with iTunes and others, such that they essentially are the only on-ramp to major distributors.(That's called a monopoly.)

Not so bad, perhaps. Quality assurance and all that. Reason I bring this up was I was found by a company called Archangelink and they wanted to do one of my Kindle books which was zooming up the ranks (finally.)

Problem is - it's based on public domain content. ACX (which is owned by Amazon and is the sole entry point to Audible) doesn't like public domain works. (Neither does Amazon.) Perhaps that's what they think LibriVox is for...

[Update: All is good. See longer note below.]

Meanwhile, I had some curious questions about how this system worked - and whether it was as open as ebook publishing (wasn't, but I'm getting ahead of myself.)

Some research started showing flaws in this system, as there simply aren't alternatives such as GooglePlay (although there are rumors this will be starting) or Kobo (although their ereaders will play MP3 files) and Lulu quit this area years ago.

I did find OverDrive.com, but you apparently need to be a "real" publisher, not an indie in order to use them (link is their publisher application form.) These guys would get you into Barnes & Noble, at least - but would mean probably that you publish your own stuff - physically and also other big box retailers, colleges, and libraries.

Another alternative was Amazon's CreateSpace, but they are limited to 79 minutes - hardly room for any decent-sized audiobook - but would be a good solution to some shorter ebooks. [Update: that's about 11,000 words.]

One simple way to go about this is to master your own work on Kunaki.com - and then make sure someone (like you) orders at least one copy every 180 days. You have to upload via a Windows PC, though.

Again, if you only write your own original works, this is no problem. Hire someone to convert them to audio and upload away.

My business plan has considerable work in finding and re-publishing classics which have gone out of print for one reason or another and are now in the public domain - but are great resources which simply need to be marketed newly.

Plus, I'm more than used to publishing to 5 distributors at once swoop for ebooks (6 if it's my own original work - that Amazon bias again.)

One option is Podiobooks.com - which allows you to make a serialized version of your book. Their tips and submission guidelines are on that page.

So this means the audiobook environment is simply the 1920's, with one major trust holding all the major input lines to audio books - and everything else (like producing and selling your own Kunaki CD's) is the wild west of marketing.

The other option looks to be something like getting disk.com to take on your project, and then you open it up to JV affiliates to push. That will take having everything ready to begin with.

So, there is a plan here:
1) Start serializing your book on your own. Get your mic and pop guard, as well as a
sound-leveller like Auphonic - and slot out some time.
2) Submit to Podiobooks and get these approved - rinse and repeat until you have your book done.
3) Collect up all the original files, burn them to an audio CD file, and then upload that to Kunaki. You'll have to have an intermediate sales point, as Kunaki's prices just cover their operation cost - which is less than $2 per disk.
4) Contact disk.com and get their estimate on what it would take to produce your book as a binder set with the ebook, CD, and print version - or maybe a course based on your non-fiction book - would cost you.
5) Create a Product Launch site and so forth, so Affiliates can send people to it. Maybe a membership site to give them additional options.
6) Set this up with affiliate JV's so they start promoting this to their lists.

An alternative for 4) would be to publish a bunch of these and either ship them to Amazon Advantage or OverDrive. Kunaki can always do another batch for you - but you become the middleman.

Yes, that's a lot more work than editing up a file, a cover, and a description.

But it takes you up to the big time, reaching additional customers you never had before.

Lots and lots of work. Best to try this out with your bestsellers first, since they should be able to cover your cost with all this.

That's the point of indie publishing, afterall. A lot more work, but a lot more profit.

Otherwise, get a contract and have the traditional publishing house help you with  this (just keep the ebook end for yourself, and make sure you keep intellectual property rights on the audio book, so you can do the above anytime you feel like you need extra excitement in your life.

PS. One additional resource I found in this is Leanpub - which can take your blog and create an ebook for you out of your RSS feed. This might give me a 7th distributor to use, particularly if their epub is standard enough for republishing to iTunes/Nook (via Lulu.) The best part is that they enable you to do bundles with your books - another reason so go with them, as none of the others do. (Means you can have a place to sell your books in bundles and send your rabid fans there. I'm checking them out - look for a later blog post...)

PSS. - This Just In: Distribly - looks like they do everything digital. And they have an affiliate program (that doesn't suck like Amazon's.) And they give you an SEO-friendly sales page, so they say. Something additional to check out now (sigh.) Which brings up the point of setting your stuff up on some of the Clickbank alternatives for digital sales. (Now I've really got some research to do...)

[Update:  Turns out ACX problem is that they also make their money by farming out jobs to people who provide services to those who want books converted to audiobooks. Since mine is a DIY job, as long as I'm not advertising for my PD book, then they're OK with it - that and there's some substantial re-editing I did to get that book into shape, so it's not your regular commodity (and has a different title and cover.) So their neighborhood is safe...]

[Update 2: Longer review of alternatives shows more options. Above lays out the production line you could use to efficiently produce in multiple formats, adding value and so earning extra income.]
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