[This is an excerpt of an article, Giving Them What They Want: Keeping Up With the New Demand for Audiobooks, which was published in the August issue of Publishing Trends. To receive our newsletter in full, find out how to purchase a subscription here.]
Digital audiobook downloads have steadily been increasing, and the latest AAP Sales Report shows that downloaded audiobook sales were up 17% in May. With this rise in digital audiobooks and digital subscription services, they have also been attracting the 18-34 year-old crowd, bringing with it a new generation of tech-savvy and voracious listeners. “…We are heartened to see that nearly one quarter (23%) of listeners are between the ages of 18 and 24.” says Michele Cobb, Audio Publishers Association (APA) President and VP of Sales and Marketing at AudioGo, “What we want to see is these younger listeners remaining lifelong listeners.”
What publishers are facing, however, is how to deal with lower digital price points. “Publishers are sensitive to the fact that price is a major factor in the buying process,” explains Cobb. “From a production standpoint, no publisher wants to compromise the quality of the work. Publishers are exploring new channels like combining audiobooks and e-books, releasing some new titles as ‘download only’ and bringing more titles to market to increase sales opportunities.”
Bringing more titles to market seems to be an especially intriguing prospect considering that audiobooks have long been limited to the popular titles that could justify production costs, and with the avid digital audiobook market, having a variety of product is important in growing and keeping the interest of younger tech-savvy customers.
“More than 40% of our members have never listened before joining Audible,” says a spokesperson from Audible, “but once they become Audible members, they download an average of over 17 books a year.”
In response to the demand, Audible has launched the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), a program that connects audiobook rights holders (authors, agents, publishers) with producers and narrators. “On ACX, rights holders can hire a producer in a market-optimized environment—often a narrator with a professional home studio—or create partnerships with producers in a shared royalty structure to produce audiobooks without upfront costs to the rights holder. ACX pays no advances but offers very generous royalties that escalate as sales increase,” explains an Audible spokesperson. Many ACX projects are already in the works, including ACX-supporter Neil Gaiman’s line of handpicked audiobook titles called Neil Gaiman Presents, which will be launched later this year.