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Audio publishing: Common misconceptions

Louise Newton is an Audio Assistant at Little, Brown Book Group, and works across all imprints at Little, Brown on fiction and non-fiction titles. Louise is London Chair for the Society of Young Publishers (SYP) and assists the Royal Society of Literature at their events.

Earlier this year the Publishers Association announced that one in ten now listen to audiobooks and that the value of audiobook downloads to UK publishers has increased by a staggering 28%. As a public awareness of audio publishing builds, audiobooks have shown to be a popular, and even politically aware, medium. Yet while the industry is growing, there are a few misconceptions surrounding audio publishing that should be dispelled.

Audiobooks and podcasts

Podcasts are often lumped together in equal consideration to audiobooks, however it is worth remembering that they are different mediums. While both are highly accessible, and are increasing in popularity due to that digital accessibility, podcasts are essentially radio downloads and as such are dissimilar in that they are free to download. While the audience demographic of podcasts and audiobooks are similar (55% of audiobook listeners are male) their overall differences should be considered when it comes to publishing.

The trade CD market is a small part of the overall business

While the CD library market is buoyant, unless you’re in Germany or the USA you won’t see many trade titles on CD. Most of trade publishing is made up of unabridged audio downloads.

Audiobook PR

Audiobooks have been known to perform better than other formats of the same title, however it’s key to tie audio into the main book campaign as this will enable a far wider and more impactful reach.

Popular genres

Crime fiction and thrillers are frequently named as the most successful genres in audio publishing, however non-fiction and particularly business titles are also performing very well in audio.

Not everything works as an audiobook

Publishers are often convinced that books on podcasts will work as an audiobook however this is not always the case. For example, the book of the popular podcast My Dad Wrote a Porno was not published in audio and was geared more towards the gift market, giving the podcast the opportunity to reach a new audience.

Audiobook readers

While many have been drawn to audio by the allure of Stephen Fry, there are a huge number of readers well-known within the industry to be exceptional. For instance, Rachel Atkins’ reading of I See You by Clare Mackintosh is truly fantastic and well-deserving of the Audible Sounds of Crime Award 2017.

Audiobooks are a powerful medium; the experience of having a story read to you is one that is deeply personal, emotive and age-old. As the snobbery surrounding audiobooks dissipates, and as technology advances, I don’t doubt that audiobooks will continue to be increasingly impactful on a listening audience, as new ways of storytelling are explored.

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