Some people enjoy reading then some do it merely out of necessity and finally some can barely stand it. I think it is fair to say that the written word is not a popular means of consuming information or entertainment. These people who are not big fans of books present a potentially lucrative market for audiobook producers and publishers. For those who don’t know, an audiobook is simply a recording of a book or any other similarly written material being read out aloud.

You can start a company that produces or publishes audiobooks from the original or already available literature. Some of you who are familiar with screen readers might wish to point out that some applications can simply read out e-books for you. This may be technically true but audiobook recordings sound more natural and their quality usually far surpasses any that can be achieved with most of the currently used text-to-speech technologies.

How to generate revenue

There are many ways in which you can make money from the audiobooks you produce. The most straightforward of these is to simply sell the recordings. There was a time when there existed a market for material recorded on CDs but nowadays the internet is the best and most popular distribution channel. If your audiobooks are of high enough quality and can meet their standards, you can submit them to be sold through Audible, an Amazon subsidiary. Audible is the best option if your work is targeted at an international audience.

You can also make money from your recordings by submitting them to music marketplaces like iTunes and Spotify. If you prefer to maintain greater control over how your work is sold and distributed and/or would like to make it more accessible to Zimbabweans, you can sell your audiobooks through your website.

Simply offering your audiobook production services to local publishing companies is yet another way in which your business can generate revenue. In this kind of arrangement, publishers are charged a once-off fee for the production of an audiobook version of any of their books. After the audiobook is produced, it is handed over to the contracting publisher. The same service can be offered to self-published authors.

You can also set up your operation as a non-profit and look for organisations to fund your work. You are only likely to get donations if your work is meant to benefit disadvantaged groups and communities. For instance, if you produce audiobooks meant to benefit visually impaired people or the illiterate then you are more likely to find an organisation which sympathises with what you are trying to achieve and get funding.

Genres with potential in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is a fairly literate country where any literary genre that is already popular outside the country is also likely to find some success within. There is however some topics and genres which Zimbabweans are more likely to find compelling enough to fork out money for. These include, but are not limited to Christian material (you can even produce narrations of entire Bible sections), vernacular novels, motivational and self-help material in addition to nonfiction on topics like personal finance, agriculture, business and mining.

What you need to start producing audiobooks

How big you start your audiobook production business will depend on how much initial capital you can put together. Your startup budget will not only determine things like what kind of production equipment you can afford but also if you will be able to get permission from traditional print publishers to produce audiobook versions of their books. It will be harder to negotiate with these established companies if your business looks small and cash strapped and has an uncertain future. Please note that it is important that you don’t infringe on other people’s copyright when producing audiobooks.

Recording equipment

At a bare minimum, you need a high-quality desk mountable microphone and perhaps some headphones for your narrators to use. Remember that a narrator has to be reading from a book so a microphone that one has to hold would impede the process. Recording sessions usually take hours so all reasonable steps must be taken to ensure that the narrators are as comfortable as possible during it all.

Location

Recording needs to take place in a quiet, distraction-free environment with as little background noise as possible. If you can’t afford to build and outfit a recording studio, you can try renting one for your sessions. If you consider that also to be an expensive proposal, then a quiet office or room will have to do.

Recording/editing software

After capturing audio, editing is almost always necessary. Sound editing computer programs are used for this. These are used to cut and trim sound files, add effects, add background music, remove background noise etc.

Narrator

Not everyone makes a good narrator; the ideal narrator of any of your audiobooks should not only possess a great speaking voice and accent but also the ability to convey emotion in his/her voice whenever the material being read calls for it.

Titles

Most audiobooks are narrations of existing books. Most books are protected by copyright laws so you cannot just pick any book and start making an audiobook out of it. The explicit permission of the original author, publisher or any other copyright owner is almost always necessary before you can start making your audiobook. An agreement must also be reached about how you will compensate or pay the copyright owner. There are also many books which are already in the public domain which you can freely modify, translate or narrate.

Acquiring titles

You can obtain the books to make into audiobooks by either approaching local publishing houses or authors. These people must be compensated for these “audio rights”. This compensation is usually in the form of royalties from your sale of the audiobook copies. Talented writers can also be contracted to produce a variety of content which will be released as audiobooks instead of first going to print.