Publishing Insiders Wrap-Up: The Dos and Don’ts of Distribution Part 3, ebooks and audio books

by | May 4, 2011 | Book Marketing Basics

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We had an informative show about ebook and audio book distribution with three special guests:

* Brian Felsen is president of BookBaby/CD Baby/HostBaby. BookBaby digitally distributes the works of independent authors, poets, memoirists, and publishers, making their ebooks available to digital retailers worldwide (including Apple iBookstore, Barnes &, Sony’s Reader Store, and He also is the president of CD Baby, the world’s largest online distributor of independent music.

* Jeffrey Kafer of SpringBrook Audio is an award-winning voice talent and audio book producer. Having narrated over 30 books for such publishers as Audible, Studio Now, Mountainland Publishing, and Books in Motion, Jeffrey knows exactly what it takes to make a world-class audio book. He handles production for all SpringBrook Audio and Perfect Voices titles and post-production for Crossroad Press titles. Jeffrey works out of his home studio in the Seattle area, serving clients worldwide.

* David Niall Wilson, owner of Crossroads Press, has been writing and publishing horror, dark fantasy, and science fiction since the mid-eighties. His novels include Maelstrom, Sins of the Flash, Vintage Soul, The Mote in Andrea’s Eye, Deep Blue, the Grails Covenant Trilogy, Star Trek Voyager: Chrysalis, Except You Go Through Shadow, This is My Blood, and the Dark Ages Vampire clan novel Lasombra, among others. He has over 150 short stories published in five collections, one of which, Defining Moments, was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award in 2007. He has won the Bram Stoker Award for his poetry, and his short fiction, and has high hopes of someday writing something remembered as great.


Audio books

Image representing Audible as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

If an author has the budget, there are plenty of places they can pay somebody to do the narration for their book, such as SpringBrook, says Jeffrey. Some places do narration but don’t handle distribution. SpringBrook has a partnership with Crossroads Press, which means they can get the book distributed to avenues others don’t have, including Audible, Amazon, iTunes and more.

This is important because authors can’t just go to Audible and tell them to put their book up; they need a distributor to get their audio book onto those major sites.

If money is tight, offers audio book production on your budget. There is a limit on narrators at that level, however.

Narrator needed?

Recording Studio

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Should an author be his or her own narrator? It can be done; offers self-produced, self-narrated audio books at no cost … authors can record, edit and post their books on the site, where they are distributed for free. This is limited distribution, though.

The average audio book listener on Audible expects a professional level of narration. To have a chance to successfully market and sell your audio book, invest in a professional narrator.

It takes 40 hours to record a 10-hour audio book: once the narration is complete it takes a day or two to post the audio book on a site like SpringBrook. Audible, Amazon, iTunes, etc. will take longer; expect four to six weeks.

Release across platforms

Jeffrey recommends authors release their book across all platforms on the same date – just as the major publishing houses do. That does mean factoring in lead times before settling on a release date. Factor in at least 3 months for audio books.

Atlas Shrugged

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Any book length is fine for an audio book. Game of Thrones, for instance, a 700+ page book, was a 36-hour audio book. Atlas Shrugged, a 1,200 page book, is a 62-hour audio book. Any genre typically works, and if the book has charts or graphs the author has the option of having those items described in the audio version.

Expect fewer sales of audio books compared to other versions of your book. Jeffrey says one reason for this is audio books are not as accessible. You can buy the latest trade paperback at Target or Wal-Mart, but audio is only available through a bookstore that has CDs or on sites like

Libraries are another source of audio books and SpringBrook has a partnership with Overdrive and NetLibrary, which distribute audio books to libraries.



There are several options for authors who want to create ebooks. The challenge with ebooks is being discovered – and that’s where distribution plays a role.

A Picture of a eBook

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Any author can convert their book into an ebook – there is plenty of information online on how to format your book for the major devices such as Kindle and Nook and for the major ebook sites like Smashwords. Some authors find the process confusing and do not want to handle it themselves.

A site like BookBaby will accept any type of document to convert into an ebook to distribute to e-stores. The e-tailer will take a percentage of the sale, but not BookBaby, which charges a fee for the conversion process but doesn’t profit from the ebook sales, Brian says.

It can be easier for an author to have someone do the ebook conversion for them because there are several formats required if the goal is to have the ebook available on all the major sites: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Apple and others.

Kindle 2, Kindle 3, and iPad

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David says Crossroads Press specializes in turning backlist titles into ebooks, handling the conversion and cover art, but has also moved into new titles, and audio books.

Are 99 cent ebooks worthwhile?

It’s mostly up to the ebook author to find an audience, handling marketing and otherwise getting the word out about the ebook.

When it comes to the ideal ebook price, opinions vary. Jeffrey believes a 99 cent price point cheapens ebooks and makes consumers think the book isn’t worthwhile.

iPad Display Item

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However, Brian says ebook prices are low because they are not competing against physical books, but with readers’ attention or their wallets. When readers have a choice of a 99 cent video rental or an Angry Birds game purchase versus a more expensive ebook, the lower-priced item may win.

Some of the top loaded children’s books at BookBaby are even free, Brian adds.

At Crossroads Press, which has almost 200 titles, David says he sees no sign that lowering the ebook price to 99 cents from $2.99 makes any difference.

In the end, ebook pricing is a matter of what you’ve got as an author. If you have a book people want to read, they will buy it… although it shouldn’t be $14.99 – that’s where the big publishers are dropping the ball. Price is driven by content. A new author should start with a low price and find an audience. An established author can price ebooks at a sweet spot like $2.99 or above.

Make your ebook available everywhere

The key is to get your ebook everywhere you can – ebook sites like Smashwords, Amazon, Sony, Apple and all of the bulletin boards for ebook users (there are several for Kindle users, for instance). This does mean the author has to handle a lot or all or the marketing but the payback is that the do-it-yourself author makes a much bigger profit compared to authors at major publishing houses.

Image via Wikipedia

Given the scope of Amazon’s Kindle, that’s the place to be. Authors should get reviews on and use tags to describe their book that allow Amazon’s algorithm to recommend the book to those who have read similar titles. If one of their authors gets some good reviews, David said Crossroads will pay to promote that book on Kindle Nation Daily, a site for Kindle lovers that offers freebies and book deals. When they promoted bestselling horror author Chet Williamson’s ebook on Kindle Nation Daily it sold 2-300 copies in less than a day.

You can download the entire show at–part-3.


Please join us Tuesday, May 17 at 4 p.m. Pacific for Literary Agents and Their Evolving Role in Publishing

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There’s an evolution – or revolution – underway in publishing and literary agents as we know them will have new roles. Savvy agents will reinvent themselves, taking their vast knowledge of the industry and positioning themselves to lead the charge. Join our panel of agents as we discuss their fast-changing world and how agents will adapt their businesses.

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1 Comment

  1. herocious

    This was helpful. It made me realize how much more I need to do for my book. Thanks for being my catfish.



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