SOUND AFFECTS: What You Need to Know About Audiobooks and Audio Samples of Books

Ever wondered how audiobook samples could affect your book marketing campaign and submission review process? I’d like to share a recent experience and discuss how it pertains to publishing industry trends and the way literary works are being consumed.

A New York City author and I recently had a discussion about audiobook technology, self-publishing options, book publicity and marketing. Our conversation focused specifically on ways to open doors, break through the clutter, gain more exposure, generate interest and spark sales of her latest work.

We decided to create a promotional audio version of her new book to be utilized in the publicity pitch and presentation initiatives targeting agents and publishers. After thorough review of her entire book, we chose some select excerpts for recording which best represented the work and complemented her existing marketing plan. The process took three days and the end result was a professionally produced selection of audio samples that have been incorporated into her outreach campaign. Her publicist was ecstatic to receive such a marketing tool and extolled its virtues as part of the DPK (Digital Press Kit). The author is equally excited. “I’m using the audiobook samples in my social media marketing. It’s on my website, Facebook, YouTube and generating hundreds of likes and followers.”

Whether you’re a new author, a novice or accomplished writer, it is time to rethink your approach to the changing landscape and examine the affects of audio as a promotional tool. If you’re an agent or publishing industry professional searching for new material, consider the fact that you can now multitask or simply take a break from reading and continue to review submissions.

Five reasons to produce audio samples:

  1. Audio files can be easily emailed and placed on websites for download or streaming
  2. Key for social media engagement
  3. Cost effective way to provide multimedia samples
  4. Enables agents/publishers to multitask while reviewing submissions
  5. Demonstrates a high level of commitment

Current media substantiates the value of audiobooks and the decline of the ebook format.

From an industry trending standpoint, a December 2013 New York Times article stated, “Sales of e-books, once hailed as the industry’s savior, have also slowed recently. And readers of literary fiction have been shown to be more likely to skip pages or stop reading than readers of genre fiction.”

An Audio Publishers Association 2012 survey of a targeted consumer group revealed that digital ebook readers would welcome additional format layers including audio.

A recent Wall Street Journal article stated, “The digital revolution may have dealt a heavy blow to print, but it is boosting literacy in other unexpected ways by fueling the explosive growth of audio books. Digital innovation isn't just changing the way audio books are created, packaged and sold. It's starting to reshape the way readers consume literature, creating a new breed of literary omnivores who see narrated books and text as interchangeable."

Down the road you may choose to forego traditional print and ebook formats altogether and launch your book exclusively on digital audio. Content is increasingly being created specifically for the digital audiobook format. The Wall Street Journal reported, “British novelist David Hewson released his new mystery, The Flood straight to audio with no print edition.” Mr. Hewson says he hasn't shopped the novel to print publishers yet.  Hewson has discovered that writing for audio requires different techniques from prose writing. Word repetition becomes glaringly obvious. So do unintentional rhymes. Location changes have to be telegraphed at the beginning of the scene, so that listeners aren't confused. “Complex sentences, long subordinate clauses—they don't work, people get bored and confused by them,” he says. “You’re looking for the writing to disappear so that all people hear is the story.”

BEWARE. Dusting off your cassette player, purchasing Radio Shack’s finest microphone (no disrespect intended, I own a Radio Shack mic but only for talkback with narrators!) holing up in your linen closet and patching it through GarageBand is NOT the way to approach audiobook recording. It is a demanding, highly refined process requiring specialized (expensive!) hardware and software. Audiobooks must be recorded in a totally soundproof environment by skilled voice actors and be edited, proofed and mastered professionally or it will immediately be apparent that the effort was lackluster at best.

Statistics show that audiobook mp3 downloads are growing at a dizzying pace and audiobook sales have ballooned into a $1.2 billion dollar industry. It is time to acknowledge industry shifts and seriously examine audiobook self-publishing as a viable alternative to ebook self-publishing. Production costs have plunged, there are no manufacturing or packaging costs incurred and from the end user standpoint anyone with a smartphone, iPod, iPad, tablet or computer (pretty much all of us!) can download and listen to anything with the touch of a finger. It is vital to recognize the impact audiobook samples can have on your early stage marketing and overall success. The demand is rising; you simply need to provide the supply.

by Philip DuBois


Philip DuBois is the owner of a ProTools/FinalCutPro creative media agency specializing in audiobook production. He has hundreds of audiobook credits including four AudioFile Earphone award winners. Philip can be contacted at

Referenced Links:

62 Responses

  1. My interest is getting my 2 children books on audio. I am having trouble assessing the links above.
  2. Smith Publicity
    Hi Mildred thank you for reading! By copying and pasting the links into your browser you should be able to visit those sites. Thanks again.
  3. Thank you for this extremely informative article. It confirmed my suspicions about the growing popularity of audio books. I would also like to thank Smith Publishing for your informative newsletters. I'm a new subscriber and have already benefited.
  4. Smith Publicity
    Thanks for reading Pamela! We are happy we were able to help. Be sure to check out past newsletters and blog posts for even more information.
  5. Bob
    Most interesting...but...production cost and marketing was not discussed
  6. Smith Publicity
    Thanks for reading Bob! For more information about costs feel free to reach out to the author directly at
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