In 2017, I made the decision to take my books out of the Kindle Unlimited program and start offering them on a variety of platforms. Today, you can buy my ebooks on Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and Apple iBooks, and my paperbacks are available on a variety of platforms, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble’s website.
One format my work isn’t available is the audiobook.
Now, don’t take that to mean I’m against audiobooks, because I’m not. I’ve never utilized them myself, but I know they’re popular with a lot of readers — whether because they’re time-strapped, always on the run, or taking in the printed word is difficult for them. In a perfect world, my work would be available for those people as well.
Alas, such a world does not yet exist. In fact, the cost involved in turning a book into an audiobook — the investment, if you choose that word instead — would be prohibitive.
Let’s be frank here: my work is not selling in the formats that are currently available. I’m not swimming in ebook sales, regardless of platform, and the boxes and boxes of paperbacks in my den don’t paint any prettier a picture. I’ve poured a lot of money into those, not to mention marketing efforts overall, and to this point have found limited success.
So I’m already doing this self-published author thing at a loss (and I figure that’s true for most of us). The production costs of converting even one of my books into audio — to say nothing of paying someone to record it — I can’t currently justify that cost.
Sure, I could do the profit-share thing, where whoever records my book as an audiobook gets a cut of my sales as their payment. But a) my sales as they are don’t amount to much, and b) talking to people who have converted their work into audiobooks, selecting that payment method is a good way to guarantee you’re not picking from the best audiobook recorders.
If I’m gonna do it, I wanna do it right (which is also why I won’t be recording them myself… to quote a meme, ain’t nobody got time for that).
This is by no means set in stone. Maybe someday I’ll be in a position where this is an economically feasible option for me. I pride myself in having my work available in as many different formats and as many outlets as possible; I hated being exclusive to Kindle when I was enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, because while the vast majority of my sales are on Kindle, I felt like I was missing something by not being on other platforms.
Even now, I wish my work was available on Google Play.
But I can’t justify the production costs or paying the talent (and I would pay them up front — they deserve to be paid for their work, much like any other artist). Not when the versions that are available are operating at such a loss. With me trying to refocus my efforts in 2020, I can’t justify a distracting side project that would put me even deeper in a financial hole.
But maybe my sales improve some day to the point where I can invest that kind of money. Maybe I’ll find my audience, and then the demand for J.D. Cunegan audiobooks will exist to the point where I can put the time and effort into creating them.
Right now, though, my writing career is very much a case of prioritizing. And right now, my priority is creating new content in the hopes that that entices people to check out the rest of my work. I have to make what I have work before I can go chasing after other things.
Sometimes, it’s best to know what’s not possible to help create what is possible.
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About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books and art, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard, scratching a pencil over a piece of paper, or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.