Hear, hear! Why authors are turning to audiobooks

David Hewson’s The Flood will be exclusively audio for a year.

Audiobooks are proving to be popular with authors looking to add channels to build streams of income on their work and now best-selling thriller writer David Hewson, who wrote the novelisations of Danish TV series The Killing, is to publish his new book The Flood as an audiobook exclusive.

Hewson is a very well established author who has written 13 novels plus an excellent guide, Writing A Novel With Scrivener, which is word processing software with a cult following among writers.

The Flood audiobook is published by audio specialist W F Howes and read by star narrator Saul Reichlein, who has wide experience in audiobooks, with, among others, the audio version of Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played With Fire and Val McDermid’s The Retribution as well as previous novels by Hewson.

The Flood will be available from August 1 as a CD or download and will be exclusively audio for a year before being published in print. Amazon is offering the CD at $23.27 and the download at $22.40.

The book is set in Florence in 1986 and features art student Julia Wellbeloved and semi-retired detective Pino Fratelli, who come together following an attack on a fresco of Adam and Eve. Their investigation into the crime leads them to a secret society and Florence’s great flood of 1966.

W F Howes publishes 50 unabridged audiobooks a month, selling digital and physical formats to retail channels and libraries. It was set up in July 1999 as a subsidiary of Recorded Books.

The growth of mobile devices such as the iPod have seen audiobook sales soar in recent years and some authors believe having an audio version adds to their overall credibility.

The Audio Publishers Association says in 2012:

  • Unit sales were up by 16%

  • CD units held steady at about 8 million, around 33% of the market

  • CD revenue was down by 7% but still around 53% of the market

  • Download units were up by 29%, representing 61% of the market

  • Download revenue was up by 24%, representing 41% of the market

  • Total number of titles published was up by 28% from 5,584 to 7,165

The downsides for writers are the costs involved in paying for narration and production and relatively low royalty rates, although as audiobooks are generally priced at hardback level or above the author can still get a good return.

Amazon’s Audible.com division offers audiobook royalties on escalating scale from 25% for non-exclusive up to 500 sales to 70% on non-exclusive sales over 22,500. For exclusive distribution deals, the royalty rate starts at 50% and goes up to 90% on the same sales terms.