Preparing Your Novel for the Audiobook Revolution, Part 2.

Are you a writer who’s enjoyed success with the audiobook format? I’d love to hear from you! Share this post with your friends, and your thoughts in the comments section below.

When I worked for St. Martin’s Press, there was a publicist I really looked up to.

On one particular coffee run, we were chatting about past jobs when she mentioned getting her start at Macmillan Audio. At the time, she was thrilled to have moved on to working with print books, which felt like the big leagues.

Nowadays, though, audio is feeling more and more like the big leagues.

The global audiobook industry is currently valued at $3.5 billion (source), and the Wall Street Journal called audio “the fastest growing format in publishing.” 

Here are four tips to help you succeed in 2017 publishing's big leagues. As with my first Audiobook Revolution article, these observations are culled from an informal survey on what readers expect and enjoy as they read audiobooks.

1. Explore promotional opportunities for print/audio crossover audiences.

Audiobook readers are avid readers.

In fact, some that I spoke with listen to one book while driving, and curl up with the print edition of a separate book when they’re winding down at night.

If you’ve published or are in the process of publishing multiple titles, you may consider using this to your promotional advantage. You could mention your other titles in a quick note at the end of an audiobook, and/or in the back matter of your print/digital formats. 

There will of course be those readers that stick with print over audio or vice versa, but for any potential cross-sells, a quick plug could be worth it.

The Takeaway:
Double the books, double the opportunities. Consider adding a plug for your audiobook to the backmatter of your print book, and for your print book at the end of an audio recording.

2. Segment your advertising to find your ideal reader. 

Audiobooks appear to be the comfort food of literature. A distraction from the annoying morning commute. A nostalgic reminder of childhood bedtime stories.

When I started my poll, I figured most audiobook readers would only be interested in fiction. As it turned out, genre interests ran the gamut for a variety of reasons.

However, the one constant was that readers gravitated to genres they enjoy.

An entrepreneur I know loved listening to business books but preferred reading fiction in print. An MFA graduate in fiction writing I know listens to fiction but reads nonfiction in print.

The Takeaway:
While genre possibilities for audiobooks are wide open, do your research when it comes to marketing. People devote their audiobook downloads to those subject areas they’re passionate about, so the possibility of getting a romance enthusiast to read your business book is unlikely.

Find out where your ideal reader is, online and off, and grab their attention where they “live.”

3. The Empathy Factor: Why You Need Strong, Compelling Characters

Consider the intimacy of the audiobook experience.

A reader hears a voice reading your words out loud, and it feels as though the narrator is in the room with them. In the case of earbud-wearing audiobook readers, your words may even be in the listener's ear!

Because of experiences like this, your audiobook audience may feel even closer to your characters and plot than your print audience does. 

As one audiobook reader told me, “I always feel like I get to know the characters personally. Something about hearing ‘their’ voices ups the empathy factor.”

The Takeaway:
Remember my point about character motivation? The "empathy factor" makes this editorial concern all the more crucial to keep in mind as you revise.

4. Provide your audiobook reader with ample (purposeful) description and immersive sequences.

Hearing a book gives the speed reader no choice.

They must slow down and enjoy intense scenes, emotional, dramatic, or otherwise, at the narrator's pace.

This may explain why readers of period romances, like the popular Outlander series, are such big audio fans.

It could also mean great things for New Adult novels, which have to compete with their audiences' other favorite media: streaming TV and film subscriptions. (A writing tip on this topic coming soon!)

The Takeaway:
Even if you write sci-fi detective novels (i.e. the farthest thing I could think of from period romances), audiobooks prove that it's important to show, not tell.

Audiobooks have been around for a while, waxing and waning on the outskirts of publishing. But if the current revolution has turned the tide as it seems, then this time, they're here to stay.

I hope the tips I've shared with you over these two articles have helped you build a to-do list for your own audiobook endeavors.

If so, I can't wait to hear about them! Tell me how it goes in the comments below.