How to self-publish an audiobook

Publish your books and take the audiobook market by storm

  • Audiobooks have revolutionized the literary industry, allowing more people to enjoy literary works on the go.
  • Self-publishing an audiobook can seem challenging, but this decision also reaps several benefits, primarily related to minimizing third-party involvement.
  • If you plan on self-publishing an audiobook, this article will guide you through all the steps necessary to turn your vision into reality.

The importance of audiobooks in the literary market

Audiobooks have revolutionized the way people consume literary content. Due to the fast-paced nature of modern-day life, reading books took a backseat on the list of popular hobbies, especially among teens and young adults.

With less time and energy to spend on reading, people began to rely on visual stimuli such as TV, Netflix, and video games for relaxation purposes. However, the birth of the audiobook, followed by natural text-to-speech narrations, helped reinstate reading to its rightful place on the list of common interests.

Audiobooks allow readers and literary enthusiasts to enjoy their favorite novels and non-fiction publications on the go, including during daily commutes, as an accompaniment to house chores, or simply for relaxation.

With so many careers now being computer-based, our eyes aren't as focused as they once were and require some downtime of their own. Thankfully, audiobooks have provided a solution to this problem.

Regardless of the genre, author, or style of book you prefer, you can find an audiobook version of almost any novel or literary work.

The benefits of self-publishing an audiobook

Whether you've just finished your first literary work or want to turn your prized novel into an audiobook, now is the perfect time to appeal to audiobook listeners across the web.

However, relying on a publisher to take care of the details can often leave writers frustrated or not in control of the process. If you're someone who likes to oversee the whole process, consider self-publishing your audiobook instead of relying on a third party to do it for you.

That said, let's explore some of the benefits of self-production and publishing:

Gain creative control 

It's no secret that authors often have to compromise on several aspects when it comes to working with a publisher. In other words, there might be clashes between your artistic vision and the preferences of your publishing agency.

On the contrary, self-publishing allows you to have the final say regarding all aspects of your audiobook, from content to narration to cover design. 

Earn higher royalties

Working with publishers also means that they receive a percentage of your net sales. In traditional publishing, authors can receive anywhere between 5% to 25% of net sales. However, depending on the platform and distribution options you select, self-publishing allows you to earn up to 70% of the sales profits.

Experience shorter waiting times

As touched upon in earlier sections, working with traditional publishers often means a slower book release deadline. From manuscript review to publishing, it may take up to a year (or more) for your audiobook to be published and ready to download. Self-publishing allows you to bypass time delays by giving you complete control over the publishing process, from audiobook production to editing to release.

Go global

From ACX to Findaway Voices, self-publishing platforms allow you to make the most of wide distribution networks to reach audiences worldwide and in multiple languages. Moreover, such platforms enable your book to be released on major audiobook retailers, including Audible, Google Play Books, and Spotify, to name a few.

Experience flexibility

Self-publishing gives you the freedom to experiment with various aspects of your audiobook promotion journey, including pricing strategies and marketing tactics.

Having no one to answer to but yourself is great, especially when you have complete creative control to run promotions or discounts, experiment with dynamic pricing, and organize personalized marketing campaigns. Maybe you're also a marketing whizz, ready to discover your talents.

Establish ownership

Working with traditional publishers may seem like the easy route, but it's certainly not the case regarding ownership. On the contrary, self-publishing your audiobook allows you to retain full ownership of your work and associated rites.

This gives you the freedom to pick and choose where and how you allow your intellectual property to be used, including film, television, or stage adaptations of your audiobooks, the creation of derivative works, and foreign translation rights. Likewise, you also benefit from the monetization potential of your audiobook, which is a win-win.

Build a solid brand

Alongside creative control of your audiobook, self-publishing also allows you to build a brand surrounding your vision, personality, and target audience.

You have all the freedom to establish a relationship with your audience, consider their wants and needs, and cultivate a loyal fanbase of audiobook listeners and readers. This is great for your personal author brand but can also help you turn a single audiobook into a series if that's what your listeners want.

Conduct revisions and alterations

Last but not least, self-publishing allows you to make changes and revisions to your audiobook over time. By paying attention to feedback and reviews, you can refine your audiobook for a better listening experience without consulting your publisher before any minor tweak.

The audiobook publishing process

Now that we've explored the benefits of producing and publishing your own audiobooks, it's time to review the steps necessary to achieve that. First-time audiobook publishers may rest assured that the steps below will provide them with the necessary framework to produce, publish, and promote their work, leading to high audiobook sales and authority in the industry.

Without further ado, let's go through five simple steps required to publish an audiobook in 2024.

Review your manuscript

Prior to recording your audiobook, ensure you've meticulously edited and proofread your manuscript. Whether you plan on narrating the book yourself or hiring a narrator or voice actor to do it for you, it's essential to review the written version of your book to ensure the recording process runs smoothly.

Start by reading your manuscript aloud to identify any word choices, phrases, or sentences that sound awkward during narration. Likewise, pay attention to the pacing and rhythm of your book to identify any areas of improvement.

Include narration instructions wherever necessary to ensure that you or the narrator you hire gain a better understanding of the events described and how to bring the book to life.

Additionally, don't hesitate to use grammar and spell-checking tools like Grammarly to fix any typos, paraphrase sentences, and edit out grammatical errors.

Record your audiobook

If you plan on hiring a voice actor or professional narrator to record your book, make sure to contact them in advance and identify their availability, rates, qualifications, and skills. Platforms like Fiverr, Upwork, and Freelancer are excellent for finding freelance voice artists who can help you record a professionally narrated audiobook.

Likewise, if you possess the skills and experience required to narrate your book, set up a home recording studio. Your studio should include headphones, a quality microphone, a computer/laptop for editing your audio files, and recording software (e.g., Audacity, GarageBand). Ensure your recording space is sound-proof to avoid annoying background noise like traffic or extreme weather conditions.

If you want the narration recorded in your own voice but lack the time to record the whole book yourself, consider AI-based text to speech, voice generation, and voice cloning platforms like ElevenLabs. Simply upload your voice to the VoiceLab or pick a voice from the Voice Library and allow AI to narrate your whole audiobook in just a few minutes.

After each chapter, conduct proof-listening sessions and edit out any mistakes using your audio recording software. Re-record any chapters that don't sound up to par. Pay attention to essential speech subtleties like emphasis, tone, inflections, pauses, and natural rhythm. Consider taking vocal lessons or looking up vocal training sessions on video or course-sharing platforms to boost your narration skills.

Edit and produce your finished audiobook

Once your initial recording is ready, it's time to focus on audiobook production and editing.

If you're happy with the final narration, start editing the audio files using professional editing software. Organize all audio files chronologically (by chapter) and listen to each file to remove any mistakes, background noise, and pauses using editing software like Audacity, Adobe Audition, or GarageBand.

Use equalization tools to enhance clarity, compression to even out volume levels, and overall volume adjustment to provide a consistent auditory experience to your listeners. Likewise, include an intro, outro, and opening and closing credits if you wish to do so.

Once you're happy with the result, master your audio format and quality for multiple devices, and play the final audio back again to ensure everything is up to par. Export your files in WAV or MP3 format (depending on the distribution platform you select), and add tags and cover art as a final touch.

If you're concerned about your editing capabilities, consider hiring a professional editor to finalize the process for you.

Choose an audiobook distribution platform

Once your audiobook is ready for release, it's time to research audiobook distributors and publishing platforms. Although this step may require extensive searching (depending on your needs), we've compiled a list of major audiobook platforms and their pros and cons.

Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) by Amazon

Amazon's ACX is a popular platform for self-publishing audiobooks. Connecting authors, publishers, and narrators worldwide, ACX is a leading platform for producing and distributing audiobooks. Pros include a broad reach, including audiobook distribution to Audible, Amazon, and iTunes, several royalty-sharing options, and control over pricing and rights. 

However, ACX requires exclusive distribution to Audible, which can limit distribution options and varying royalty rates (depending on distribution options and exclusivity).

Findaway Voices

Another industry leader in audiobook production and distribution, Findaway Voices, provides essential services to independent authors and publishers. Pros include a vast distribution network of 40+ major retailers (Audible, Apple, and Google Play, to name a few), flexible pricing and rights management, and no exclusivity requirements. 

On the downside, Findaway Voices has limited promotional and marketing opportunities compared to similar platforms and requires higher upfront production costs.

Kobo Writing Life

Kobo is a popular Canadian ebook, audiobook, e-reader, and tablet retailer. The company also has an ebook and audiobook platform called Kobo Writing Life, which is excellent for self-publishers and independent authors. Pros include direct access to Kobo's audience of millions of readers, complete control over pricing and rights, and no exclusivity requirements.

However, Kobo Writing Life has a smaller market share than companies like Audible, and distribution opportunities are limited.

Google Play Books

Alongside thousands of other services, Google also offers self-publishing options for ebooks and audiobooks via Google Play Books. Pros include direct access to Google's global reach and extensive user base, complete control over pricing and rights, and no exclusivity requirements.

The drawbacks are few, but they can include a more modest audiobook catalog compared to platforms like Audible and limited marketing and promotional support.

Scribe Media

Formerly known as Book in a Box, Scribe Media is a platform that offers comprehensive audiobook production and distribution services (editing included). Pros include access to inclusive production services with professional editors and narrators, helpful guidance and support through all stages of the publishing process, and a wide distribution network that includes major retailers.

However, keep in mind that Scribe Media has higher upfront costs compared to similar platforms, limited control over pricing and rights, and fewer distribution options than 100% self-publishing services.

Upload and publish your audiobook

Last but certainly not least, it's publishing time!

Once you've decided on the best platform, you can upload your audiobook files and publish your audiobook. Follow the short checklist below to ensure the publishing process runs smoothly:

1. Format your audiobook files to meet the distribution platform's requirements. Save them as .WAV or .MP3 files, depending on the platform's specifications, and upload essential meta-data like the title, author, narrator, and cover art. 

2. Sign in or create an account on your chosen distribution platform and navigate to the uploading/publishing section of the website. Follow the steps required to upload the audiobook files to the platform. 

3. Once the upload is complete, enter the meta-data again and choose your pricing and rights options. Depending on the platform, options may include setting the retail price, selecting distribution regions, and enabling Digital Rights Management (DRM) protection.

4. Double-check all the information you provided to ensure there are no typos, missing data, or setting errors. Some platforms may allow you to publish your audiobook instantly, while others may ask you to submit the files for review.

5. Publish your audiobook.

Monitoring performance

Congratulations! You now have the knowledge to publish your first audiobook under your own name - no third parties necessary.

Although publishing your book is a crucial step in your journey, it's certainly not the last. To ensure your audiobook performs well, you must carefully monitor key performance metrics, like audiobook sales and reviews, and refine marketing and promotional strategies accordingly.

Final thoughts

We hope this article serves its purpose as a foundational how-to guide for audiobook self-publication. Before embarking on your audiobook production and publication endeavors, let's recap the key steps once more:

  1. Review, proofread, and edit your written manuscript. Make sure to add narration instructions wherever necessary.
  2. Record your audiobook, either with the help of an audiobook narrator or your own narration skills. For the best results, ensure you have a complete home recording studio set up.
  3. Edit and produce your finished audiobook using quality editing software. Pay attention to background noise, common mistakes, and unnecessary pauses and cut them out.
  4. Choose an audiobook distribution platform that matches your requirements.
  5. Upload your audiobook to your chosen distribution platform and provide all necessary information. Remember to review all data and audio files before hitting "publish."

Additionally, don't forget about performance tracking, audience feedback, and audiobook promotion strategy - all very helpful in boosting audiobook sales and cultivating a loyal reader/listener base.

Good luck!


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