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How to promote your audiobook

Today’s article is an epic, 2,000-word conversation with Karen Commins, a professional audiobook narrator and Audible Approved Producer in Atlanta who has given voice to more than 50 audiobooks, including ROAD TO TARA: THE LIFE OF MARGARET MITCHELL by Anne Edwards. Karen has completed extensive specialized training in voiceover and audiobook narration technique, as well as in digital audio production. She has written numerous articles that educate authors about audiobook production and promotion for Digital Book World, InD’tale Magazine, and the Audiobook Creation Exchange blog. Learn more about Karen, listen to audio narration samples, and watch her helpful videos for authors on her website.

Karen loaded our conversation with plenty of links to more helpful information and resources, so be sure to click through on them so you don’t miss anything.

How to promote your audiobook

Pour a cup of coffee . . . make a cup of tea . . . and prepare to learn about how to promote your audiobook. The questions are mine; the answers are Karen Commins’s.

What makes promoting audiobooks different from promoting books in other formats?

promote your audiobook 2
Karen Commins

In my view, the biggest obstacle to audiobook promotion is the fact that the majority of people still haven’t actually listened to one!

Persuading someone to try a new format can be a tough sell because a recent Pew Research Center study revealed:

  • The typical American reads only four books of any format in the past year.
  • While audiobook consumption has increased significantly in recent years, only 18 percent of American adults say they listened to an audiobook in the past 12 months.

Active readers and even authors commonly list one or more of these three reasons for not listening to books:

  1. They fear the narrator might be boring, like a droning teacher in school.
  2. They think they need a special player for listening.
  3. Listening to books is perceived as being lazy or cheating.

I offer these points to counter those objections:

Regarding narrators: You can listen to the narrator sample before you commit to listening to the whole book. With several hundred thousand audiobooks available in all genres, you’re sure to find someone whom you want to tell you a story. 

About playback devices: Gone are the days of special players! Audiobooks now can be played on any smart phone, tablet, or computer. As a result, audiobooks have become mainstream entertainment enjoyed by millions of people.

Cheating concerns: Clinical psychologist Daniel Willingham concluded that your brain processes information the same way regardless whether you read or heard it. Rather than being a negative experience like cheating, hearing the oral version of the story adds enormous value to the text because:

  • The listener enjoys the musicality and emotion in the language.
  • One’s listening and concentration skills improve.
  • A person absorbs the author’s words and message while doing something else – audiobooks are a multi-tasker’s best friend!
  • Language skills and/or subject retention can be strengthened by listening while reading along with the print book.

What’s the first step you take when you start to promote an audiobook? 

I look up the book on Amazon to see if the audiobook edition is listed on the book’s page. I’ll explain why shortly.

If I find the audiobook is shown on an orphaned page (it’s not included with the other book’s formats), I send an email to KDP-support@amazon.com to request that the editions be combined. I include the links to the Amazon pages for both the audiobook and the Kindle and other editions.

promote your audiobook 3
Note how all three editions are listed together — including the audiobook.

The audiobook must be paired with the other editions on Amazon for three inter-related reasons.

First, some people buy audiobooks exclusively. If they are looking for the book, they will see the audio edition is available on the same page.

Second, the editions need to be connected before the audiobook can be a candidate for the Whispersync technology created by Audible and Amazon. Whispersync synchronizes between the Audible audiobook and the Kindle e-book so that you can effortlessly switch between them. You could read the e-book in your house and then listen to the audiobook in the car starting right where you left the story! I created this 3:04 video to demonstrate how Whispersync works.

Finally, once Whispersync is enabled on your audiobook, people can purchase the audiobook for a reduced price once they buy the Kindle e-book. If you run an e-book sale, and especially if BookBub lists your book as a Featured Deal, you could see a major uptick in related audiobook sales!

I listed additional preliminary marketing steps that I take in my Evernote Publicity Template. If you’re an Evernote user, you can save this note to your notebooks.

Which social networks are best for audiobook promotion, and why?

Authors are inundated with a blizzard of advice, information, and courses about the latest and greatest social media site. I’ve read about authors having great success with Pinterest. Others swear by Instagram. Still others will tell you that they sell tons of books through Facebook. Of course, you can’t discount Goodreads. Since you want to promote an audiobook, maybe you need to be on SoundCloud.

A new site pops up every week, with an “expert” teaching a class on it soon thereafter.

Frankly, if one site clearly offered a repeatable level of return on investment from audiobook marketing, we’d all be on it! As it is, I think an author should concentrate on having a presence on one or two sites and really learn how to use each to connect with the audience. Otherwise, it’s like throwing spaghetti on the wall to see what sticks. I’m reminded of the saying, “Scattered thinking leads to scattered results.”

Each site has its pros and cons, including external tools and training available for it. If I were consulting with an author, I’d ask these questions to help narrow the choices:

  • Which site(s) do you enjoy using the most?
  • Have you done any research to learn which site(s) your fans use and prefer?
  • Are you planning to run ads?
  • How much time will you make available for social media?
  • Are you planning to schedule your posts?

By engaging in self-reflection with these and other questions, authors gravitate toward one or more platforms where they might experience the most success.

What does an audiobook author need in an audiobook marketing and promotion “toolkit?”

In addition to graphics and other tools used for promoting other editions, an author promoting her audiobook absolutely needs sound clips. You can share the retail sample from Audible on your web site and social media. If you don’t have the sample, you can use this free, handy utility from narrator Steven Jay Cohen to extract it.

In addition, you can create and share reusable audio clips from the audiobook using the Audible app. This tweet is an example of a clip I created this way.

promote your audiobook 4
An example of how Karen Commins promotes an audiobook on Twitter with an audio clip.

You’re not limited to using the audio from the book only, though. You might pay your narrator to record a short story like this one that was a prequel in a series. You can offer the recording for free on your site and on social media, or as a bonus to people joining your mailing list.

Perhaps you write a blog post that would lend itself well to audio. One day, I read one by Barbara Silkstone in which her character Wendy Darlin (voiced by Nicole Coburn in the audiobooks) interviewed Sasha McCandless, who is the main character in the series of books I’ve narrated for Melissa Miller. Nicole and I recorded our character’s lines, and I produced an audio file of that blog installment that sounds like a radio show. The resulting recording was fun to create, thrilled our authors, and was a unique addition to the publicity arsenals for both authors and narrators.

What’s the most common mistake (or two) that you see audiobook authors making when promoting their audiobook?

Too many authors fall in the dual traps of A) thinking the narrator will help promote the audiobook, and B) doing little to no promotion of it themselves.

A narrator has a different promotional mindset and wants a different outcome than an author. We generally publicize new releases, reviews, and awards in order to advertise our work and attract the interest of other people who might hire us. It’s the author’s and/or publisher’s responsibility to increase sales.

Narrators usually are paid outright for performances. If we aren’t earning royalties, we have no incentive to promote a title. Even in cases where we agreed to a royalty share contract with the author or publisher, our promotional efforts would still pale compared to those of the author.

The author has far, far greater reach and influence than the narrator in selling audiobooks. The author is the story’s creator. The narrator interprets the author’s words and presents the author’s ideas. As a result, an author develops the larger fan base.

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This is Karen Commins’s state-of-the-art, soundproof recording studio.

Fellow narrator Derrick McClain included a case study in this article that showed the tremendous disparity in Facebook likes between a star author (actually, four of them) and a star narrator.

As the author also requires more time to develop new content, narrators are more prolific than authors. Some narrators in are such demand that they record a new book every week or so. It would be impossible for us to promote all of our titles beyond minimal social media announcements.

What tactics work the best for audiobook promotion? 

I list and categorize a wide variety of audiobook promotion and marketing tactics in my Audiobook Marketing Cheat Sheet. We don’t have time to discuss each one individually, so I’ll point out 3 effective ways to move the sales needle.

BookBub Featured Deals

promote your audiobook 5Authors have told me that getting a BookBub Featured Deal might be as easy as finding the end of a rainbow. However, you could get a pot o’ gold – well, lots of royalties, anyway – from your audiobook sales if your free e-book appears on BookBub!

If your e-book and audiobook are Whispersynced, you can expect to see an immediate ripple effect of sales of your audiobook edition. For instance, one Kindle free ad on BookBub I know of resulted in more than 300 audiobook units sold the same day. The royalties from the audiobook sales alone might easily exceed the cost of the BookBub listing.

Audiobook Boom

The popular AudiobookBoom.com site is the brainchild of fellow audiobook narrator Jeffrey Kafer. It’s kind of like BookBub in that it is a paid service where authors and publishers highlight certain titles. However, Audiobook Boom is only for audiobook promotion, and the weekly email newsletters are sent to subscribers who are audiobook listeners.

You pay $10 per title for a Listen & Review ad. If you used ACX to create your audiobook, ACX will send you 25 Audible promo codes with download instructions so you can give copies of your audiobook to eager listeners. With a Listen & Review ad, you’ll quickly receive a number of requests for your book from people who are willing to review it.


With the proliferation of smartphones, podcasts are enjoying increased visibility and popularity. They are already delivering stories to a listening audience, so they are a perfect platform for audiobook promotion.

You can buy ads on podcasts, but a much more interesting and potentially lucrative approach would be to do guest interviews. The ACX blog published this case study from author Glen Tate about his success in and tips for snaring guest spots. This guide contains additional excellent advice about finding and approaching suitable podcast hosts.

If an audiobook author only had enough time to focus on one thing to promote the audiobook, what do you think that one thing should be?

Promote the book. On every piece of communications – newsletters, website, social media, postcards, bookmarks – include the link or a QR code for the audio edition. The audiobook is only one edition of the book. No matter how someone searches for your book, they should see that an audiobook is available.

What’s the secret to audiobook promotion success?

The “secrets” to success for almost anything worth doing in life are creativity, consistency, persistence, and perseverance. Audiobook marketing and promotion tactics definitely utilize these attributes. Instead of viewing each activity as an isolated action, I encourage authors to plan an on-going sequence of promotional activities well past the release date.

Got a question? Get rewarded for it!

In closing, I appreciate the opportunity to talk about audiobook marketing with the BuildBookBuzz.com audience! I welcome your comments and questions below. In fact, I will give the first 10 people to comment below a free download of your choice of my audiobooks!

By the way, did you notice what I did in terms of audiobook promotion? I linked to my audiobooks on Audible and offered an unexpected giveaway. When you look for any chance to promote your audiobooks, inspired ideas will come to you!

Have a question about audiobook promotion for Karen? Please ask it in a comment. 

Note from Sandra: Interested in learning more about the business of audiobook production? I interviewed top audiobook narrator Julia Whelan (Gone Girl, The Wife Between Us); the audio recording for “The Beginner’s Guide to Audiobooks” is available from ASJA for $19.

Subscribe to the free Build Book Buzz newsletter and get the free special report, “Top 5 Free Book Promotion Resources,” immediately!

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  1. I’ve always gone wide with my ebooks and print books. They’re not exclusive to Amazon or any other outlet. Is it different for audio books? Do you recommend an exclusive contract with Audible or is non-exclusive more beneficial in the long run?

    1. Hi, Victoria! Thanks for the good question! In general, I prefer a non-exclusive contract.

      When I published the audiobook of ROAD TO TARA: THE LIFE OF MARGARET MITCHELL by Anne Edwards, I chose to use ACX as my distributor rather than Findaway Voices or Spoken Realms.

      My sales numbers probably will be the highest in the first year, so I’ll maximize the royalties paid from Audible.com. As the world’s largest audiobook distributor, Audible pays 40% in royalties on ACX exclusive contracts.

      In year 2, I’ll exercise the option to convert the title to non-exclusive distribution. At that point, I’ll get a second distributor who can get the audiobook on other sites, including Overdrive and Google Play.

      I hope these thoughts are helpful. If you’d like one of my audiobooks, please look over my catalog on Audible (http://j.mp/KarenComminsOnAudible) and send an email to Karen@KarenCommins.com to let me know the one you’d like to hear.

      Karen Commins

  2. My first audio book should be released in the next month or so. Thank you for the promotion tips! It’s an entirely new world for me and I plan to do the other books in my series as audio books as well. From what you said, I assume that the linking on Amazon will be automatic if we use ACX. Is that correct? Thanks again!

    1. Hello, Marcha! Congratulations on producing your first audiobook!

      I’m glad to know you’re planning to create audiobooks for the other books in your series. If the characters repeat from book to book, I hope you’ll use the same narrator for the subsequent audiobooks. Listeners get used to a narrator’s interpretations and voicings, and they can become quite unhappy if the narrator changes!

      When you claim the book on ACX, your audiobook *should* be paired with your other editions on the Amazon page. However, I’ve had a few that somehow still were orphaned, so I always check the Amazon listing when the audiobook is released.

      Since you’re planning to do a series, you’ll want to ensure that you have a series link on Audible as well as Amazon. You’ll find more info about the Audible series link under item 1 in this article: https://blog.acx.com/2014/05/20/guest-post-karen-commins-on-marketing-audiobooks-part-two/

      I hope these thoughts are helpful. If you’d like one of my audiobooks, please look over my catalog on Audible (http://j.mp/KarenComminsOnAudible) and send an email to Karen@KarenCommins.com to let me know the one you’d like to hear.

      Karen Commins

    1. Greetings, Christine! Thanks so much for the kind words!

      Don’t be hard on yourself. Even as much as I love marketing, it’s easy for me to think of things I haven’t done rather than celebrate all that I HAVE done.

      In addition, I think the single best thing that any author or narrator can do to market our work is to be prolific with our work! Keep writing — or, in my case, narrating — that next book. By always moving forward, we’re improving our skills and increasing our fan bases. We always have something new to talk about, and those sales will come!

      I hope these thoughts are helpful. If you’d like one of my audiobooks, please look over my catalog on Audible (http://j.mp/KarenComminsOnAudible) and send an email to Karen@KarenCommins.com to let me know the one you’d like to hear.

      Karen Commins

  3. This is a great article – I love how indepth you go and the information is great. I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of following all the links.

  4. Marvelous post and resources! I’ll be sharing this to be sure.

    I agree on bookmarks, too. I have placed them in health food stores and community centers, for a client. You need a great jacket, though, so the art is eye catching.

    1. Greetings, Nancy! I appreciate your kind words and am delighted that you want to share this article!

      I love the idea of putting bookmarks in health food stores and community centers! It’s a creative and low-cost way to promote your book where people might see it.

      I published a companion article about marketing on my blog today and suggested that authors could add QR codes to their promo pieces. You could create a QR code to go to the audiobook page with the sample and place the QR code on the bookmark. Here’s that article for your reference: http://www.karencommins.com/2018/04/6-low-cost-avenues-for-greater-audiobook-sales.html

      Thanks again for the note. If you’d like one of my audiobooks, please look over my catalog on Audible (http://j.mp/KarenComminsOnAudible) and send an email to Karen@KarenCommins.com to let me know the one you’d like to hear.

      Karen Commins

  5. Thanks for this! I just had my second audio book released, and the third in review as we speak. I used AudiobookBoom on my latest release, just this week, and the results were good, but not great. I had only three UK requests, but 25 from the US, but a few of them didn’t show any reviews posted, so I skipped them … for now.

    I’ll read through more of your links for the upcoming releases!

    1. Hi, Paul! Congrats on getting your work into audio!

      If you’re hoping to target UK listeners, you’ll be interested to know that author Dawn Chapman recently created this Facebook group specifically to give away review copies in the UK:


      It’s open to everyone at the moment and might be a good outlet for you.

      Thanks again for the note. If you’d like one of my audiobooks, please look over my catalog on Audible (http://j.mp/KarenComminsOnAudible) and send an email to Karen@KarenCommins.com to let me know the one you’d like to hear.

      Karen Commins

  6. I find it almost impossible to sit down and read an actual book these days. I’m surprised that only 18% of people consume books via audio. I find borrowing books via OverDrive extremely useful. Through my library, I can get up to 30 book for free at one time. By downloading the MP3 files onto my iPod, I do not even have to worry about the expiration date, so that I can return the books immediately and make them available to other listeners.

    Since, I do not have time to read, and only listen to books, I did notice that my spelling is suffering. Someone would ask me to spell a word, and I have to pause and write it down.

    I’ve been thinking about creating my own audiobook version via podcast, because Audible appears like too much trouble, and I find Amazon’s prices rather extreme as a listener, especially when there are Library services that provide books for free.

  7. Nice article – some great ideas in here. I’m about to finish my second author-narrated audiobook and I’ve been pleased, though not overwhelmed, with sales of the first one so far. Do you have any special tips about how to co-promote two or more audiobooks in a series?

  8. Interesting article and found the comments about pinterest sound. Might have a fresh look at pinterest. Other ways I’ve tried include twitter,facebook and audiobook boom.

  9. Hard to say because I don’t always keep close tabs on it, but it has resulted in some sales.

  10. Hi there,
    Thank you for the article! Question – I want to give a free audiobook to everyone who buys my book on my special launch day and registers on my website with their receipt number. Once registered they’ll receive an automatic email with my bonus gifts, including the free audiobook. How would you suggest is the best way to do this? I’m producing it through ACX and am planning on choosing the non-exclusive agreement.
    How would you suggest the best way to do this, in case there are 100’s or hopefully 1,000’s sold?
    Thanks in advance,

    1. Hi, Wayne! Thanks for the good question.

      You would do better to offer only the first X number of readers a free copy of your audiobook.

      The only ways you can guarantee that all those redeeming your offer would get a free copy of the audiobook are:

      1) After using all of your free download codes, you could buy a gift copy on Audible for recipients.
      2) You can use the Audible Send Book feature. However, if people have already received a free book this way from someone else, they wouldn’t be able to get your book for fee.
      3) You create a download link on your own web site that points to a zip file of the audiobook’s MP3 files.

      I advise against using option 3 above. Your listeners would expect to download the complete book from Audible or another service and immediately start playing the audiobook in an app. They may not know how to unzip the file or load the MP3s. Also, this approach could open up more possibilities for piracy of your audiobook.

      ACX offers 25 free promo codes for books with EXCLUSIVE distribution. Once you’ve used 10 of those codes, you can request more, up to a maximum of 100 codes per marketplace. The US and UK marketplaces are different and use different codes.

      In order to get up to 100 US and 100 UK Audible promo codes, you could always choose to post your book on ACX with an exclusive contract for the first year and ask Audible to make it non-exclusive in year 2, assuming that you have paid your narrator up-front.

      Since you want a non-exclusive contract, another option would be to upload your audiobook to Findaway Voices, which will give you 30 download codes on Authors Direct, or 100 codes if you enroll in their Voices Share program.

      Royalty rates and other considerations affect your distribution choices. If you’d like to discuss all of these factors, I’m available for 30- and 60-minute paid private consultations through the “Rent My Brain” link on my Shop page: http://www.KarenCommins.com/Shop

      I hope this info is helpful. Best wishes for a launch day that exceeds your wildest expectations!

      Karen Commins

  11. I don’t mean to belittle, or outsmart, our host here, when I note: The only important hint ANY young author, poet, storyteller, musician, and artist needs: A finished product does not mean money starts rolling in. Promotion and marketing need persistence, and repeating, the numb, monotone repetitions.

    Otherwise, all I have left to note: Kudos, for being that detailed, and helpful-manyfold, on the topic of promoting our audiobooks!

    Thank you!

    1. You’re preaching to the choir, Andre. Karen and I know that better than anyone — and we don’t direct that advice to just “young” writers. It applies to authors of all ages. It’s not an “if you build it, they will come” situation. And, you need more than constant marketing — you need an excellent product, too. You want to create a book that’s so good that others will recommend it to their friends.


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