Consider the Audio-book Alternative

How often do you read books? How often do you listen to ’em? Do you prefer one communication method over the other?

These are some of the questions Marshall Davis of Davis Sound, LLC, addressed in his presentation to the Twin Cities Sisters in Crime monthly meeting at St Peder’s Evangelical Lutheran Church Tuesday evening (June 5, 2018). Previously an engineering manager for Seagate Technology, Davis launched his audio recording, video production, and editing services company in April, 2012. Since then he and the rest of the country have experienced exponential growth in the production of audio books, roughly 20-30 percent per year over the last five years, to become “the fastest growing part of the publishing industry.”

Despite his personal involvement in the business, his presentation provided a reasoned, cost-benefit approach to authors considering whether or not to market their books in audio format. Besides weighing the pros and cons of the flat-rate (potentially larger return) versus the royalty approach (no upfront costs) investment approach, he discussed the benefits of hiring a professional reader and, most significantly, provided an estimated cost analysis for a professional company like his to produce a completed audio book based on the number of words needed to be read.

While many in the audience, myself included, calculated in their heads or on scratch sheets whether such a production outlet might prove feasible for their latest opus, Davis added that the ultimate success or failure of such a venture depended upon a variety factors. Among these he included genre (memoirs provide the smallest percentage of overall sales; thrillers the highest), distributor arrangements (Amazon-owned Audible is the largest distributor by far, but there are others), high and low volume/revenue percentages based on hard cover/paperback sales, and series/bundling potential. Based on an Amazon exclusive agreement, Davis stated “In general, you would need to sell about 300-400 audiobooks to pay for the production cost(s).”

Despite appearing a lucrative revenue source for authors, Davis cautioned that audio book sales represent only three per cent of all titles sold in this country. However, people more than ever (millennials in particular) are “interested in [the] telling of a story.” With decreasing time and patience for involving leisure activities, audio books offer a viable format for authors, producers, and readers alike.

What do you think?

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