“Audiobooks Are the New eBooks,” read a recent headline. The audiobook market is the fastest growing market in publishing, but at Berrett-Koehler we already knew that. Over two years ago we started producing our own audiobooks, and so far we’ve produced over 200. And this year we reached a big milestone: 100,000 audiobooks sold!
Seeing an Opportunity
Back in the early 2000s we decided to convert all our print books into electronic books, becoming one of the first independent publishers to offer all their publications in print and electronic format. In 2015, we made the decision to follow a similar path with our audiobooks and release all our frontlist titles in audiobook format going forward.
Of course, audiobooks have been around for a very long time. And in the past, many BK titles have been made available to listeners via well-known audiobook publishers, partnerships, and licenses. However, we were not always able to guarantee which books would be made into audios or to extend our partnership model with authors to the making of the audiobook. Making our own audios gave us control.
How It’s Done
To give our books voices, we have partnered with a group of narrators and producers who read our books and deliver audio files to us ready for retail. This way, we retain control of the creative process and are able to guarantee that all our books will be available in this newly popular format. The process takes about three weeks. We have twenty-two regular narrators, twelve men and ten women, who sit on our bench, as well as ongoing relationships with several full-production studios. Our narrators are scattered across the United States, and a couple reside in the UK. Most of them come from a radio or theater background, as you would expect.
And in the same way that our authors participate in the making of their book—weighing in on the title and cover design—they can now pick the voice that will narrate their work. Authors are sent samples of different narrators, and they work with BK’s senior production manager, Courtney Schonfeld, to choose the one that best matches the style of their book and will most effectively reach their audience.
Bestsellers and an award winner!
We sell audiobooks on our own website, and they’re sold by all the major audiobook distributors: Audible, Amazon, Apple, Google Play, Kobo, Audiobooks.com, Downpour, and others. Libraries buy our audiobooks through distributors like Hoopla and Overdrive. And we’re still making audiobooks available on CD through our partner Dreamscape.
In general, books that do well in print do well as audiobooks. We recently released the third edition of our all-time bestselling book, Leadership and Self-Deception by the Arbinger Institute, in audio, narrated by Steve Carlson (who also lent his voice to our other 2018 print bestseller, On the Brink of Everything by Parker J. Palmer). Just ten days after its on-sale date, we watched it quickly rise to the top of our 200+ audiobook titles. Some other bestselling audiobooks are The Outward Mindset, also by the Arbinger Institute; The Body Is Not an Apology by Sonja Renee Taylor; and Change Your Questions, Change Your Life by Marilee Adams.
And in October 2018 we won an Earphones award from AudioFile magazine, the leading publication of the audio book industry, for our audiobook of John Izzo and Jeff Venderwielen’s The Purpose Revolution, narrated by Jeff Hoyt. The award is given “ to truly exceptional titles that excel in narrative voice and style, characterizations, suitability to audio, and enhancement of the text.” We seem to be getting the hang of this audiobook thing!