Audio Book Production & Choices

As promised, here is a post on audio books. Have you ever priced audio books in comparison to printed versions? Mass market=$8-10, Trade Paperback=$15-20, Hardback=$22-30, Abridged audio=$26-40, and Unabridged audio=$35-60. Why are audio books on CDs so much more expensive? Production costs.

First, there is the different cover and packaging. Then comes the cost of the pressed CDs (analogous to printing). Finally, there are the costs of recording, which consist of: using a professional recording studio with all its expensive equipment, its talented engineers and producers, talented reader(s) capable of smooth readings and producing different character voices consistently.

All this is very expensive! Having been a studio musician and been involved in recorded book-like projects as far back as 1966, I’ve had the opportunity to personally experience both the music and the reader sides of the process. For these reasons, I decided to go with Hudson Audio, an internationally based company out of Australia. They charge a very reasonable setup fee of $285, which is taken out of earned royalties. Their site is and they take the pain out of much of the process. Technology has gotten to the point where CDs are not absolutely necessary. Newer model cars have plugins in their dashes to accommodate ipods. Ipods and similar devices are to the audio world as e-book readers are to the e-book world. Both can download electronic files to play at their leisure. Doing away with CDs is like doing away with printing books. That makes the production process much cheaper.

Not for Everybody

I’ll be up front with you, although they allow folks to produce their own electronic files, you have to either be able to pay for their production or do it yourself. If you choose the latter, they will listen to a sample first to determine if it’s up to their standards. Despite my experience, when I recorded on my iMac’s internal mike, unwanted background noises were introduced, which made for a poor quality recording. Back to the drawing board I went and solved the problem by buying a $60 studio quality mike and using my PC instead of my iMac. Although I initially tried freeware digital recording software such as Audacity, I eventually decided to spend $30-$40 on AVS Audio Editor. This gave me better control over the audio editing. If I muff a line or hiccup, I can see and find the offending area, erase it, and seamlessly record the proper material over it. A reader must do character voices, so that gave me a leg up to reading my books myself. Hudson Audio has a list of professional readers and studios that are reasonably priced if you can’t do it yourself. They also have certain technical parameter requirements you’ll need to use when recording. You’ll need to record each chapter as a separate MP3 file. What I just described sounds easy and it is; however, if you don’t know your way around a sound studio, you might find all this rather daunting—it’s not for everybody.


A good reading is not easy. There is a reason why seasoned actors are often the ones picked to read audios. They must be able to create excitement or interest with their voices. Different characters often require unique voices and accents. Fortunately, I have been a professional storyteller since 1997 and had musical and community theater experience prior to that. Storytellers do characters all the time, so I felt comfortable doing all this. Again, it’s not for everybody.


Now comes the important part—getting your creative efforts out there for people to buy and download. Hudson Audio sells through Amazon, iTunes, and with a 5-year commitment to them, which also means they need a con commitment from you. They are doing the hard part of distributing to the most likely markets. You keep your CD version rights; they are only interested in the download rights. So, what sacrifices will you have to make and what will you get for them?

You will get 70% and they will keep 30% of any royalties due to them through their sales to the above mentioned companies. The normal royalty they receive on a sale through these major companies is 20%. Let’s consider an example: Let’s say you place a retail price on your work of $10. For every time it is sold by iTunes, Amazon, or, Hudson will receive 20% or $2. Your share of that $2 will be $1.40. Their share will be $.60. They pay out royalties every 90 days. At this time, they’re not going to make you wealthy; however, I think that’s going to change once more people become comfortable with downloading audio books like they do e-books.

Your Responsibility

Like everything else in this business, you must do the marketing. That involves time and funds, but will have to wait for another post on how to go about getting the word out.

This is a cross-posting from Bob Spear‘s Book Trends blog.

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