Everybody Listen Up: Smashwords Is Entering the AudioBook Market

listening to audiobooks girl-1990347_960_720Audiobooks. My first thought when I hear the term are questions like Why? Or what’s the point? The thought that “those aren’t real books” might float through my head. I feel pretty damn full of myself unless I stop to think for half a second, maybe get a bit introspective. Then I realize how much I sound like the paper sniffers. You know, the people who say an eBook isn’t a real book. They love the smell of paper and apparently the reading experience isn’t the same without it. I don’t want to be one of those people. Then I’ll admit to myself that if my commute involved driving an hour or two every day instead of the 30-foot stroll in my slippers and work pajamas from bed to office that I might see more of a need. Then I’ll remember that I’ve actually listened to audiobooks a time or two when an ex and I would take road trips. (If you’ve driven I-80 across Wyoming, you’ll understand the need for entertainment beyond the “scenery.”)

All of this is just a big buildup to make the point that, as an indie author you’re a business person. You have product and customers. Some of your potential customers like a product, in this case your books, in different formats than others. You have your book available as an eBook (possibly in different eBook formats available from multiple vendors) and paper. Is it also available as an audiobook? Should it be? Audiobook sales have seen a big increase in the last few years. Until recently the only viable option an indie author had for publishing an audiobook was Audible, an audiobook company now owned by Amazon. Now there is another option. Indie eBook distributor Smashwords has started what they’re calling a “collaboration” with Findaway Voices, an audiobook production and distribution company. This is another option to consider to produce and/or distribute an audiobook version of your works.

The page discussing this collaboration and taking an author through the first steps of signing up for an account, hopefully as the first step in producing an audiobook, can be found here. The reason they give for why using them might be preferable comes down to one of control. You’re in charge and are “in control every step of the way.” The downside is that you’re on the hook to pay for this. I know that Audible has different options that have been evolving over time, with many of them resulting in the indie author not having to invest money to create an audiobook, but also giving up much of the potential profit if the audiobook sells well.

At first glance, a second potential issue is that signing up from the Smashwords page assumes that the book in question is available as an eBook through Smashwords. However, that page directs indie authors directly to Findaway Voices’ website  in a couple of different situations, one of them being if the book isn’t available on Smashwords.

I’m not in a position to recommend for or against this vendor. If this seems like something you’d be interested in, dig in and decide for yourself. That it appears to be another viable option that might make sense for some authors is a positive though. If you decide to produce an audiobook through using Findaway Voices, let us know how it goes.

Author: Big Al

Big Al (who insists he only has one name, like Cher, Sting, and Madonna) spends his days writing computer programs that are full of typos, homonym errors, and incorrect verb usage. During his evenings, he writes reviews of indie books for BigAl’s Books and Pals and has recently taken over The IndieView, a website founded by indie author Simon Royle as a resource for indie authors, indie reviewers, and those who read either.

19 thoughts on “Everybody Listen Up: Smashwords Is Entering the AudioBook Market”

  1. I’ve been tossing around the idea of doing an audiobook. It sounds like a large project, but I suppose I could plunk away at it. Thanks for a new idea and a nudge 🙂

    1. Thanks for pointing that out, Bob. I’m pondering whether there is any advantage in going through whichever distributor you use for ebooks (Smashwords or D2D) or if there would be a reason to not do so. It isn’t clear to me that there is an advantage using Smashwords versus signing up directly with FindAway. But more choices can’t be bad.

  2. Hey Big Al,

    I’m Canadian. Don’t hold it against me. Hey, we’ve got maple syrup, and our beer has attitude.

    However, because I am Canadian it means that Audible wouldn’t talk to me for a lot of years. I kept on waiting for them to get over whatever it was that they had against Canadians. I realized that these things took time.

    Then back in September last year – just a half a dozen months ago – Audible threw the doors open for us Canadians.

    I guess that they finally got around to trying our beer.

    So I jumped in feet first and I released over two dozen audiobooks through Audible.

    I didn’t spend a dime doing it, either.

    In that half a year or so, I have met and spoken to an awful lot of narrators and/or producers. Several of them spoke highly about Findaway – but they all stressed that if you go through Findaway or some of the other audiobook distributors – you are going to need a pocket full of money.

    Well, I am cheap. So, even though Findaway has a better distribution network and offers a little better royalty rate, I remain loyal to Audible.

    Audible is kind of like that rusted-up old beater that some folks drive, because they can’t afford a new car. After a while you come to love that rusted-up old beater. You grow fond of the smell of old car, and you like that you can spot it in a crowded parking lot simply by backtracking the footsteps of all of those would-be car thieves who have walked up to your beater and then shook their head hard enough to give themselves a case of whiplash before walking away in a mixture of pity and disgust.

    All right, maybe I am being a little too hard upon myself. Let’s just say that Audible is the Hyundai Accent for us poor cousin. With Audible you can climb right in and drive away without having to sell your first, second and third-born children.

    Hey, I’m not cheap. I am frugal. I’m from Nova Scotia, which means Scotland, which means that I can squeeze a nickel so hard that the Queen is going to blush.

    Thanks to my Audible audiobooks, I see money in my bank account every morning. I’m not worried about how quickly I can pay off that arm-and-leg that Findaway or other such companies charge.

    Let me see if I can wrap this up fast. I really ought to be writing right now, but every now and then my keyboard kind of grows a mind of its own and refuses to stop typing.

    IF – you have a solid fan base and you make monthy four-to-six digit royalties with your e-books, then you ought to look into Findaway and other such high end audiobook companies. You will make your investment back and be able to distribute to a lot more options than I can.

    BUT – if you are like me and you sometimes shop at thrift shops and you buy your cars from guys in sleazy leisure suits and sunglasses and maybe you live in a second-hand shed in behind a foreclosed trailer park, then maybe you might be better off settling with a quick-and-dirty royalty share deal at Audible.

    Either way – audiobooks are a huge freaking market and any writer worth his salt and pepper really ought to start thinking about taking advantage of them. They are indeed “real books” (I know that you were just kidding, Big Al, because I used to say the same thing), and more important than that, there are an awful lot of folks out there who have grown accustomed to listening to their stories instead of reading them. Whatever you want to call those folks – readers or listeners – there is a whole entire shit storm of those folks out there and whether they read or listen they are ALL freaking potential customers.

    So, if a writer wants to hear a little more of those silver carousels of money jingling in his pocket, you really ought to get your work into audiobook format.

    Hardcover, paperback, e-book or audiobook – they are ALL books!!!

    ‘Nuff said.

    1. Great comment, Steve, with a lot of good information. I think for a lot of authors (maybe most?) that Audible probably is the best choice. We just wanted to make sure everyone was aware that there is a choice.

      As for Canada …

      Some of my best friends are Canadian and I love to visit (but not in winter). Even Canadians from Nova Scotia are okay. Newfies, meh, but that’s a small percentage of Canadians. 🙂

  3. I used Findaway Voices for an audiobook last year. I found their customer service top notch and it is true, you have complete control of the project from start to finish. I knew going in that I would have to pony-up for the narrator but that is what I wanted so I can have control of distribution and the rights do do and sell it as I want. Findaway Voices did all the background work and I chose my narrator from a large list of candidates. Their prices ranged from high to some that were more affordable. Bottom line is I was and am pleased with FV and they have a great system for invoices and tracking of sales.

  4. With Findaway Voices going direct you retain 100% rights. I don’t know how it would work going through Smashwords.

    1. It works the same way. Your contract is with Findaway Voices. Smashwords just facilitates to save you some steps, i.e., your metadata (book description, etc.) copies over to Findaway Voices from Smashwords without your having to do anything. Findaway Voices also waives their $49 project management fee if you go through Smashwords.

  5. I’m in the process of having my novel produced as an audiobook and I couldn’t be happier! Like all authors, I’ve read my book over and over until my eyes bled, but hearing someone actually read and perform these characters is a completely different experience and changes the story entirely for me. It really is like I’m seeing it brand new. I have friends who have vision problems or commute to work or go on long road trips, so reading a book or an e-book isn’t an option for them, but audiobooks open up a whole other way of spreading your story.

    Thank you for this article!

  6. Al, thanks for the article. I write for No Shelf Required with a focus on indie authors in libraries. Do you know of any indies that have successfully gotten their audiobooks into library collections, and conversely of any libraries that have added indie audio?

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