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AUDIOBOOK NARRATION
What Do Your Audiobook Narration Sales
Numbers Tell You About Your Career? 

By Tom Jordan
Voice Actor & Audiobook Narrator

I recently made a post in the ACX Narrators Facebook Group showing a milestone for my ACX Royalty Share and Royalty Share Plus sales: 13,000 as of March 25th, 2021.

Within the post, I also shared some numbers that illustrated how long it took to reach milestones along the way – something I kept track of, thinking someday I'd find it useful.

Turns out, plenty of people in that group found those numbers useful, as well. So I thought I'd share them with you here and talk a little bit more about my journey.

The 13K sales number, to me, isn't really brag-worthy. I know several narrators, who, after being at this for about four years as I have been, have sold twice that – even more.

I remember talking to a narrator in his 20s at the 2019 VO Atlanta Conference who hit the 50K mark after only three years.

But, for me – someone who has a day job and narrates "in the margins" - I felt the number was, at least, worth sharing and sparking conversations, which it certainly did.

The ACX Narrators group is great, by the way, and filled with quite a few people who are just starting out in their narration and who eagerly absorb information and ask a lot of good questions. Check it out and join if you'd like.

MY MILESTONE NUMBERS

So, as promised, here are the numbers that show the milestone timeline and my path to that 13K number.

I have about 50 titles up in Audible and the numbers below represent RS and RS+ titles. I have only done about seven Per Finished Hour titles, and I don't have sales numbers from those. None of those were blockbusters, from what I can tell, so these numbers won't  be skewed too far from where they are.

  • It took from June 1, 2017 until Oct 28, 2018 to sell 1,000 audiobooks (17 months)  
  • It took from Oct 29, 2018 until April 6, 2019 to hit 2,000 (6 months)  
  • It took from April 7, 2019 until July 18, 2019 to hit 3,000 (3 months) 
  • It took from July 19, 2019 until Sept 19, 2019 to hit 4,000 (2 months)*  
  • It took from September 20, 2019 until November 22, 2019 to hit 5,000 (2 months)*  
  • It took from November 23, 2019 until May 31, 2020 to sell another 5,000 to hit the 10,000 mark (6 months)*  
  • It took from June 1, 2020 until March 25, 2021 to sell another 3,000 - for a total of 13,000 (9 months)**  
*The golden era of ACX promo code giveaways had a lot impact on these numbers.
** Have audiobook sales slowed during the pandemic? It seems so to me, but we'll wait and see what the numbers tell us when officially reported by the Audiobook Publishers Association.  
WHAT TO LEARN FROM THIS?

What do these numbers tell me? What could you learn from them?

I see a lot of time and effort spent reaching that first 1K mark; and am glad that I stuck with it.

Loving audiobook narration as I do, though, the idea of giving up simply didn't enter my mind. If you're in your first year of narration and are disappointed with your sales to the point where you're considering giving up, then you might ask yourself if you really love narration, because this is truly a labor of love.

That answer you come up with, combined with whatever financial considerations you have to make, may be your best indicators as to whether narration is right for you.

But I'm coming from a place where my day job pays my mortgage, so keep this in mind. If narration was my sole source of income, well… let's just say that I'm glad that's not the case.

THE NUMBERS GAME

Although this phrase is overused, it certainly is true: Audiobook sales is a numbers game.

Sure, the more audiobooks I narrated, the more audiobooks sold, so the milestones are a little misleading in the sense that that variable in the equation continued to change throughout time.

Still, sales ramped up, generally, and continued doing so, especially during the halcyon days of massive ACX promo code redemptions, which is a subject for another article.  

If you are conidering getting into audiobook narration and are reading this thinking, "There seems to be very little chance I could make a living in the first few years of narration," then, in general, you'd be correct, unless you get very lucky.

As I stated in my previous articles in VoiceOverXtra, audiobook narration isn't for everyone, and it certainly isn't a get-rich-quick path. It's a slow burn, a marathon.

Read my articles and also visit Karen Commins' excellent "Narrators Roadmap" to learn more about what it takes to make it as an audiobook narrator.

Wherever you are in your narration journey, remember that innate skill, hard work, coaching, and the ability to choose the right projects are the four most important elements to success.

I wish you much luck, and if you have questions or would like to chat more about what it takes to succeed as an audiobook narrator, please reach out. If I don't have the answers, I have a list of experts whom I can recommend who can certainly help you find your path and stay on it.  
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ABOUT TOM
Tom Jordan is an award-winning audiobook narrator and Audible Approved Producer who entered the world of professional voice acting in 1994. He has worked for hundreds of clients in a broad variety of voice over genres from commercials to E-learning, and everything in between. A few years back, Tom steered his talents toward audiobook narration and has found his true calling with this creative and infinitely-rewarding endeavor. Tom is a 2018 RONE Audiobook Award Finalist, a 2019 Independent Audiobook Award winner, and a 2021 Independent Audiobook Award finalist. He will also be a presenter at the VO Atlanta 2021 Conference this April where he will talk about transitioning between VO and audiobook narration.


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Comments (2)
Gene
4/6/2021 at 10:50 AM
Nice article Tom, thanks for sharing your insight.
Jack de Golia
4/6/2021 at 10:43 AM

While it's good to understand sales figures, also key to success is performance--learning voice acting, audiobook performance, and constantly improving your craft.

Plus, in the case of ACX, making your post production work more accurate and more efficient--or choosing a good editor to outsource that part of the ACX "producer" role.

Make sure you not only sell a lot, but sell quality. Be looking for new publishers, beyond ACX. Your sales numbers won't impress the mainline publishers, but your skill and quality will.
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