Audio for Small Publishers. Hooray!

In 2014 I founded Kamaria Press, a not-for-profit African and Caribbean publishing house. The original business plan was to publish the works of Black authors using Amazon CreateSpace for the production and distribution of print books. As a student with not much experience in the publishing industry, I assumed that the works that Kamaria Press was to release needed to be in print for the company to be validated/recognised as legitimate. A long history of viewing print as the default book format influenced my early business plan.

It took me a while to realise that as a startup publisher with no external funding, printing with CreateSpace as beneficial as they portrayed it to be would run me into a loss within my first year of business. (Not-for-profit presses need to make surpluses too in order to carry out their mission). I was then introduced to eBook publishing as a viable business model but a lack of tailored expertise on how to produce them in-house meant that I did not pursue this route.

But as we all know digital publishing is not limited to eBooks and a survey I did amongst Black readers in the UK proved that audiobooks would be a popular reading format for them (my target audience). With this knowledge, I am looking to create an audio-only imprint which will be a significant part of Kamaria Press’ offerings going forward. Despite claims of audiobooks being extremely expensive to produce (insert the advice from Kevin Williams, publisher at Talon Books), I believe that small presses such as Kamaria Press can incorporate audio content using certain practical steps.

 Set-Up

According to Dr Hannah McGregor, publishing professionals can use USB or preferably analog microphones to achieve high-quality sound when recording podcasts and audiobooks. They are relatively easy to find and can cost as little as CAD$500 (a small investment when placed in the bigger picture). Here is a list of 25 of the best podcasting microphones, some of them can easily be used to record audiobooks too. I plan to invest in an analog microphone because of the elevated “warm” sound that they produce. I also plan to use built-in recorders such as Garage Band and Hindenburg to save and edit my books. This strategy is, for the most part inexpensive, and I want to start recording multi-page stories before moving on to longer texts.

Public libraries such as the Vancouver Public Library have recording studios and microphones which can be used by members whenever available. Depending on them is not a sustainable business strategy but it is viable start for an up and coming publisher.

Furthermore, if I or one of the Kamaria Press volunteers enrolls into an audio editing course then the knowledge capital of the organisation will increase as well as the ability to edit audiobooks in the long run. Another one-off investment. I, for example, will not have to hire outside help to edit thereby keeping costs low something that is crucial for startups.

Another option would be to use Amazon’s self-publishing audio arm, Audible’s Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) but I am trying to avoid the same problems I had with CreateSpace. Creating as much financial autonomy is a key part of  Kamaria Press’ business strategy.

Final Thoughts

As the fastest growing segment in publishing, it has been reported that “books in every imaginable genre [are selling] better as spoken rather than written word – four times as well” to be exact. It is of utmost importance that digital content particularly audio content be integrated into current business plans even for small publishers. I have attempted to discuss cost-effective ways of incorporating audio content into a small/growing publisher’s business plan. I truly believe that audio is for both the big and the small.

2 Replies to “Audio for Small Publishers. Hooray!”

  1. Wow! I had no idea that that audio books were outselling print books—I’m sure that will lead to some very interesting discussions during tomorrow’s class.

    Thank you for sharing your research on how to produce low cost ebooks. There is a low equipment setup cost, and like you said there is free editing software you can use to edit the recorded stories. What I worry about, however, is the labour that is still required to produce the audiobooks. How long are the stories you will be recording? Will you use your volunteers to record stories, or will you pay them?

    Best of luck on getting your audio-only imprint running! Also, one more question: are there many other audio-only imprints out there yet, or is your main competition podcasts?

  2. Thank you for the feedback, Sarah. I worry about that too and you definitely have a point. I have stated in the past that I want to start remunerating people for their services. As much as I appreciate the aid of volunteers they do dedicate a significant amount of time to the organisation and it would be nice to give them money. Upon further reflection, to start with, it will likely be me recording the books by myself and editing them on my own too until I can come up with an effective way to remunerate volunteers.

    The stories are under 20 minutes – I have been practising and the ones I have test-recorded are under 20. At the moment I have only seen audio-only imprints in big multinationals such as Hachette so I would say that the main competition for us is definitely podcasts.

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