Audiobook Clinic: Do you have a good retail audio sample in your book?



Think about how a reader decides to buy a book.

Almost everyone does it the same way.

We pick up a book, physically or digitally, read the first few paragraphs.

If the writing doesn’t grab us in those first few seconds, we lay it aside and look for another.

How does this work in the world of audiobooks?

Enter what Audiobook Creation Exchange (“ACX”) calls the retail audio sample.

That sample provides the audio equivalent of the first few paragraphs or pages of the book.

Sort of.

It doesn’t have to come from the beginning of the book.  For that matter it could be a combination of snippets from various chapters.

What ACX requires is that the retail audio sample be a selection from the book that runs between one minute and five minutes in length.

Last One Chosen by Stephen Woodfin on Audible
Last One Chosen by Stephen Woodfin on Audible


If you click on the cover of Last One Chosen, you will find yourself on the book’s home page on Audible. Below the cover you will see the word “sample” in green with an arrow next to it.  When you hit the arrow, Audible will play the retail audio sample of the book for you.

In the case of Last One Chosen, I chose the first chapter as the sample.

That decision was relatively easy because the first chapter is short enough to narrate in less than five  minutes, and it sets up the book better than random samples taken from here and there would.

However, what I find as a narrator is that many, if not most, books have first chapters that run longer than five minutes.

Therein lies the problem when it comes to selecting a sample.

Usually what I have to do, with the rights holder’s permission, is truncate the first chapter at a logical break point to make it fit the requirement of a maximum five minute length.

Think about that for a  minute.

Let’s assume an author has poured her soul into a book.  She has written a killer first chapter, slaving over every word to get the tempo and drive of it just right.

But the chapter runs ten minutes of reading time without a break point in the narrative that retains the power of the chapter as a whole.

See the issue?

Either the producer must chop the chapter off before the author “gets to the good part,” or he must cut and paste sections from the beginning, middle or ending of the chapter to create a sample that presents the essence of it in such a way as to gain a listener’s confidence.

Because audiobooks are something of the new kids on the digital block, I believe many authors have yet to catch the vision of writing their first chapters so that a narrator can read them in five minutes or less.

I suggest that authors re-think this strategy if they intend for their books to appear in audiobook format.

Really there is  nothing revolutionary about this suggestion.  Already authors should have a grabber right up front. So making it a self-contained chapter should require little re-packaging.

And a middle way is available.  If an author wants chapter one to be longer than a five  minute read, all she has to do is load a grabber up front, but provide a clean break point in the chapter short of the five  minute mark.

Try this.  Take any book you have written, turn to chapter one, read and time yourself.

Where were you in the story when you reached the five minute mark?

See what I mean?


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