A Look At Audiobook Solutions and Providers
Turnkey Production Services
While ACX may indeed be an ideal solution for certain publishers—those who aren't bothered by the idea of sorting through pages of service-provider profiles and audio auditions—the slightly bigger fish might be better served elsewhere when it comes time to convert a substantial print or digital backlist into audio. And that's where the audio-only publishers come in. These are companies that deal almost exclusively in all things audio. And while many are now getting into the audio publishing game themselves, they've traditionally made the bulk of their money by acting as one-stop-shops for publishers looking to convert books to audio.
Back when audiobooks were “something you associated with your grandmother in a Winnebago and a shoebox full of cassettes,” as Anderson jokingly refers to the pre-Audible period, independent publishers that dealt exclusively in audio were actually quite plentiful.
But then came the era of consolidation, and today, just a sprinkling of such companies still operate in North America. Do your homework and you'll probably find three names that pop up over and over again: Recorded Books, Tantor Media, and Blackstone Audio, which deals exclusively with the library market. Blackstone also runs an e-commerce arm, Downpour Audio.
Largely in response to the fact that “everybody is producing more and more and more, and trying to get it out there simultaneously,” as the APA's Cobb explains, the most prolific of the audio-only publishers began offering turnkey services about three years ago. It was in early 2011, for instance, when Tantor introduced to the public its Tantor Studios division, which offers a full suite of production and distribution services, including top-flight audio engineering and best-of-breed narrators like Bronson Pinchot. Tantor even utilizes its own proprietary software that was developed specifically for use with audiobooks.
While the studio works with many of the top publishers in the U.S., it also works with independent publishers, as well as the occasional self-published author, according to Tantor's director of operations, John Nesco. An audio title can be produced in as little as seven days, says Nesco, although standard schedules tend to call for a month or more. And like many of its competitors, Blackstone among them, Tantor has since added both print and e-book capabilities to its menu of services.
Related story: Audiobook Boom Provides Big Opportunities for Publishers
Dan Eldridge is a journalist and guidebook author based in Philadelphia's historic Old City district, where he and his partner own and operate Kaya Aerial Yoga, the city's only aerial yoga studio. A longtime cultural reporter, Eldridge also writes about small business and entrepreneurship, travel, and the publishing industry. Follow him on Twitter at @YoungPioneers.