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Virtual Voice Audible audiobooks: A complete guide for authors

11 min

I’m a big audiobook fan.

Whether commuting to work, working out at the gym, or doing an evening walk around the neighborhood, I always listen to audiobooks.

But while Audible’s catalog is impressive, it (sadly) falls short of the millions of books offered on Amazon – Audible’s parent company. 

But Virtual Voice, Amazon’s computer-generated speech technology, is changing that. As of this writing, there are over 30,000 “virtual voice” results on Audible.

In this post, we’ll explore Virtual Voice, how to create an audiobook with it, alternatives, and more. You’ll also learn its benefits and how it can increase your book royalties. First, let’s review the audiobook market to understand its revenue-generating potential.

What I'm listening to on Audible
What I’m listening to on Audible

The audiobook market

The audiobook market is experiencing a boom. It’s a multi-billion-dollar industry with sales expected to continue surging in the coming years. 

Here’s a quick breakdown:

Market growth: Industry analysts predict a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 24.4% to 26.3% between now and 2030. This means the market is on track to double in size within a decade.

Sales: While specific global figures vary slightly depending on the source, the audiobook market was valued at over $5 billion in 2022 and is expected to reach nearly $15 billion by 2028. In the US alone, audiobook sales hit $1.8 billion in 2022.

Publishers can capitalize on the massive demand for audiobooks by offering diverse selections. Also, audiobooks’ convenience and accessibility are vital drivers, which many book apps support. People can listen while commuting, exercising, or doing chores, making them a perfect fit for busy lifestyles.

The audiobook market is a thriving industry with a bright future. Factors like convenience, content variety, and improved production quality fuel its growth, which presents exciting prospects for all participants.

Global audiobooks market size predictions.
Global audiobooks market size predictions. Source:

Audible: The #1 audiobook retailer

Audible is the world’s leading provider of audiobooks and spoken-word entertainment. Its vast library and innovative features make it the go-to retailer for millions of audiobook enthusiasts. 

Audible is a subsidiary of Amazon that operates as a separate entity with its own app, platform, and subscription service. This allows Audible to focus more on the audiobook market and member experience. Its core business model centers around monthly subscriptions, which provide members with access to a set number of monthly credits that can be exchanged for audiobooks.

Audible offers an extensive library of audiobooks from traditional publishers and invests heavily in creating Audible Originals. These exclusive productions include audiobooks, podcasts, and other spoken-word content unavailable elsewhere.

Audible offers a vast library, producing around 10,000 new titles annually. It doesn’t just distribute audiobooks; it invests heavily in high-quality productions featuring renowned narrators and sound effects that enhance the listening experience.

Audible homepage.

Audible’s success is reflected in its revenue. While it contributes around 4.2% to Amazon’s overall book publishing revenue, its audiobook sales generate significant income. The company’s market share and sales figures have steadily grown over the past few years. As of 2022, it had a market share of over 63% in the United States. This translates to a significant portion–over $1 billion–of the US audiobook market revenue.

Audible isn’t just a US giant; it’s a global operation serving members in over 180 countries. This extensive reach is supported by a content library available in roughly 50 languages. Amazon recognizes the potential of the audiobook market and Audible. Furthermore, only a paltry 4% of titles self-published through KDP have an audiobook available, hence the need for a solution to boost production (Virtual Voice).

What is Virtual Voice on Audible?

Virtual Voice is a computer-generated speech technology designed explicitly to create Audible audiobooks. You may have seen it in search results as “Narrated by: Virtual Voice” on Audible or “Virtual Voice (Narrator)” on Amazon.

I’ve listened to a few samples, and the quality is excellent.

Examples of audiobooks narrated by Virtual Voice
Examples of audiobooks narrated by Virtual Voice

Author and book eligibility 

Virtual Voice is available through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), Amazon’s self-publishing platform for authors and publishers. In 2023, KDP invited a select group of U.S. authors to beta test Virtual Voice, and it still needs to be made available to everyone. However, the results look positive, with authors and customers embracing virtual voices. 

Books must meet specific criteria to use Virtual Voice, and only Kindle ebooks can become Virtual Voice audiobooks, not paperbacks or hardcovers. Secondly, KDP’s internal review systems determine which books are eligible, alongside these vital factors:

  • The book must have a live status (pre-orders are not eligible).
  • The book must have been live for at least seven days.
  • The book must have a table of contents.
  • The book cannot be in a publishing state/status.
  • English must be the book’s primary language.
  • The book must be suitable for an audiobook conversion; for example, most coloring books and cookbooks are unsuitable.
  • The book must not have an existing audiobook.
  • The book must be less than approximately 240k words or 26 hours of narration. Audible uses 9,300 words per hour as a baseline.
  • The book must have a cover.
  • The book cannot be in the public domain, e.g., Think and Grow Rich or How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Note: KDP accepts corporate users/accounts. Using a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or other business structure might qualify you to use Virtual Voice and other features available to U.S.-based authors.

How to create a virtual voice audiobook

Creating an audiobook with Virtual Voice is fast, efficient, and can be completed in five steps.

1. Ebook Selection: Click “Add audiobook with virtual voice.”

Ebook Selection: Click “Add audiobook with virtual voice.”

2. Voice Selection: Listen to voice samples and select a voice to narrate your book.

Voice Selection: Listen to voice samples and select a voice to narrate your book.

3. Pricing: Enter your audiobook list price between $3.99 and $14.99.

3. Pricing: Enter your audiobook list price between $3.99 and $14.99.

4. Listen to your book (Optional): Open the Virtual Voice Studio to preview and modify your audiobook.

5. Click “Publish”: Your audiobook will undergo a review process, and if there are no issues, it will become available on Audible and the Kindle Store within 72 hours.

Virtual Voice features

Virtual Voice is in beta status, and more features are constantly being added. The first publicly available version could be a few weeks or months away. Still, let’s review the features and benefits available to authors.

  • Creating audiobooks with Virtual Voice is free, and your ebook covers will be used for Audible listing pages. 
  • Making an audiobook is simple and takes five steps, reducing friction, barriers, and time to market.
  • You can select from various male and female American and British AI voices aged 30 to 40, and Amazon may add more voices, accents, and ages in the future.
  • Once you have chosen a voice, you can open the Virtual Voice Studio (VVS) to make additional adjustments. With VVS, you can add pauses, adjust pronunciation, and increase the speed of words.
  • Authors can set prices between $3.99 and $14.99 and receive a 40% royalty.
  • You can preview and listen to your audiobook before publishing it. You can modify the audio or list price without updating your ebook if you want to make changes.

Virtual Voice drawbacks

The following drawbacks may disappear when Virtual Voice is released to everyone. However, the following are the current disadvantages of using it:

  • KDP has outlined the eligibility criteria for the Virtual Voice service, but some ebooks may still be excluded due to unspecified internal system reasons, even if they meet the guidelines. This lack of transparency in the exclusion process can be frustrating for authors seeking clarity on why their work may not qualify. Furthermore, customer service may not be able to provide specific insights into the decision-making process, as responses often follow general guidelines.
  • Virtual Voice is currently designed to read English books, which may make it challenging to pronounce non-English words. However, the Virtual Voice Studio pronunciation tool can fix such errors.
  • Authors are limited to using American and British voices, which may impact their ability to accurately represent characters, settings, or narratives that require linguistic nuances outside the American and British English realms.
  • Only one voice can be chosen to read the text, which may pose a creative challenge for fiction authors seeking to bring their narratives to life through diverse character voices. While the singular voice can effectively convey the overall narrative and tone, the absence of the option for multiple voices limits the ability to differentiate characters, hindering the nuanced portrayal of dialogues and interactions within the story.
  • Virtual Voice may unintentionally skip words or paragraphs, as it is imperfect. Secondly, while computed-generated speech technology has made remarkable strides, it still faces limitations in replicating the full spectrum of human emotion and nuanced delivery. By contrast, human narrators often excel in capturing the intricacies of characters, injecting personality into dialogues, and conveying emotional depth that resonates with listeners on a profound level.
  • Authors must update their ebooks to include content changes so the audiobook remains unabridged. However, if an update is made, the audiobook will go offline, and the author must republish it.
  • Authors cannot choose the virtual voice sample. Instead, the retail sample represents whatever content comes after the table of contents. 
  • Authors are limited to selling their work within a predetermined price range, which may restrict their ability to experiment with different pricing models or promotional strategies to enhance visibility and sales.
  • Virtual Voice may exclude text it deems promotional or useless to the listener.

Overall, Virtual Voice’s benefits outweigh its drawbacks, and producing audiobooks requires a few quick steps. However, only some can access it, and only some books will be eligible. So, let’s review another way to create audiobooks.

Virtual Voice alternative: Audiobook Creation Exchange

The Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX) is a marketplace designed to connect those who own the rights to create audiobooks (rights holders) with the people who can produce them (producers). Owned and operated by Audible, ACX is an intermediary for authors, publishers, agents, narrators, and voice actors to collaborate and bring audiobooks to life.

How to create an ACX Audiobook

Here’s a breakdown of the steps involved in creating an audiobook on ACX:

  1. Go to ACX and create a free account. This will allow you to access the platform’s features and functionalities.
  2. Ensure you have the right to create an audiobook version of your book. If you’re the author, this is usually straightforward. If you’re a publisher or agent, ensure the rights are included in your agreement.
  3. Claim and submit details about your book, including its title, author information, genre, and a brief synopsis. This will help potential narrators understand the project.
ACX step 3.
  1. ACX offers two compensation options: Royalty Share and Per Finished Hour (PFH). With Royalty Share, you and the narrator split royalties from audiobook sales. With Per Finished Hour, you pay the narrator a set fee upfront for their work. Consider factors like budget and desired level of control when making this choice. For example, a 30,000-word book will have a recording time of roughly 3.2 hours (30,000 words divided by 9,300 words per hour, the baseline ACX uses). The narrator you hire charges $100 PFH. So, it will cost about $325 to produce your audiobook.
  2. Once you decide on your production method and set your royalty or payment terms, you can officially post your project on ACX. This makes it visible to narrators on the platform.
  3. Interested narrators will submit auditions, typically short audio samples showcasing their voice and interpretation of your book. Carefully listen to these auditions and select a narrator whose voice and style best suit your audiobook. Alternatively, narrate your book yourself if you have the skills, software, time, and equipment to produce high-quality and enjoyable audio recordings.
ACX step 6.
  1. Once you’ve chosen a narrator, collaborate with them on recording and production. ACX provides tools for communication and project management. This could involve script preparation, character discussions, and recording scheduling.
  2. The narrator will record the audiobook, following any specific instructions or preferences you’ve provided. They may also handle basic editing to remove background noise or mistakes.
A screenshot of a computer

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  1. ACX has specific technical requirements to ensure a professional listening experience. The completed audiobook is quality-checked to ensure it meets these standards. In some cases, additional mastering might be needed to optimize the audio quality.
  2. Upon approval, ACX distributes your audiobook to major retailers like Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. You can also distribute it on other platforms with a non-exclusive distribution option.

When your book is approved for Audible, you can track your sales and get promo codes through your ACX dashboard.

Note: ACX is currently open to residents of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Ireland who have a mailing address, valid local Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN), and banking details for one of these countries. U.S. business structures like LLCs may be eligible to use ACX.

Conclusion: Sell audiobooks, increase your royalties

Audiobook sales are on fire, and authors not offering this format are losing out on a significant revenue stream and the opportunity to reach a broader audience.

As the demand for convenient and immersive storytelling experiences grows, embracing audiobooks becomes essential for authors to stay relevant in today’s evolving publishing landscape.

By tapping into this booming market, authors can enhance their visibility, engage with audiences in new ways, and capitalize on the growing trend of on-the-go consumption.

Audible and Amazon KDP offer authors two ways to create audiobooks: Virtual Voice and ACX. Both processes are uncomplicated and cost-efficient.

So, the only question remains: What book will you convert to an audiobook for your followers and fans to enjoy?

Michal Leszczynski
Michal Leszczynski
Meet Michal Leszczynski, Head of Content Marketing and Partnerships at GetResponse. With 10+ years of experience, Michal is a seasoned expert in all things online marketing. He’s a prolific writer, skilled webinar host, and engaging public speaker. Outside of business hours, Michal shares his wealth of knowledge as an Email Marketing lecturer at Kozminski University in Warsaw. You can reach out and connect with Michal on LinkedIn.