Dreamscape Media was founded in 2010 in Holland, Ohio, as the publishing arm of the library distribution service Midwest Tape, with the intention of producing audiobooks for the library market. Recently, an increased focus on retail channels and partners at the company resulted in $30 million in revenue in 2023—a spike of 39% over the $23.5 million revenue in 2022.

This change has been led by Sean McManus, who joined the company as president and publisher in 2021, from Spotify, where he served as head of audiobooks. McManus had previously worked at HarperCollins, Scholastic, and Audible, where he was the company's U.K.-based senior director of business affairs and content strategy.

Helping fuel this growth in revenue, McManus said, has been an aggressive push to publish more titles: "In 2024, we plan to publish 1,000 new titles and at the end of the year, we'll have surpassed 10,000 titles in our catalog. Approximately 85% of our list is from independent authors, with the remainder from deals with Big Five publishers and elsewhere."

To wit, earlier this month, Dreamscape announced exclusive deals for the audio rights to John le Carré's books and for five titles from 2023 Nobel Prize laureate Jon Fosse. Earlier this year, the company worked with actress Tiffany Haddish on her audiobook I Curse You With Joy, which is forthcoming from Dreamscape in May.

McManus hopes those authors will join the ranks of Dreamscape's bestselling authors to date, including Jeneva Rose, whose suspense novel The Perfect Marriage has sold more than 300,000 copies, and Lisa Jewell, who has 15 titles with the company, and whose books have sold a total of 1.8 million copies. He added that Dreamscape "recently signed a first-look deal with Bloodhound Books in the U.K., and have a partnership with Canongate to bring their titles to the U.S. market."

In addition, the company offers a program called Dreamscape Select, which offers distribution, marketing, and sales support for independent authors and publishers, and McManus said the company aims to "do another 500 to 700 titles" through that program this year. Select clients include such authors as Freida McFadden, Marie Force, and Ilona Andrews, and publishers including Zando, Realm, and Storm Publishing in the U.K., among others.

McManus sees a significant opportunity in bringing even more independent authors into the audiobook fold. "In 2023, over 55% of e-book units sold were from indie authors, but only 13% of audiobooks came from indies," he said. His goal, he added, is not just to publish massive names—he offered Michael Connelly as an example, though admitted "that would be nice"—but to publish "hundreds, if not thousands, of titles that are similar or better, so that the algorithms and AI machine learning can say 'you know, if you like this, you will like all these Dreamscape titles.' "

This strategy, McManus believes, will work best with such current all-you-can-consume-within-reason audiobook business models as Kindle Unlimited and library-based platforms as Overdrive and Hoopla. "The largest amount of our growth is actually coming from libraries right now, and we don't see any cannibalization," McManus said. "The Spotify launch has given us great opportunities. Scribd has been great for us, and Chirp is a really big partner of ours," he added, citing Nordic-based streaming services BookBeat, Nexstory, and Storytel as strong sales partners as well. Another key partner, McManus noted, is Libro.fm, which offers audiobook sales through independent bookstores. "We saw a 100% increase in revenue through Libro last year," McManus said, noting that Dreamscape has supported Independent Bookstore Day and other promotions.

"Going wide"—meaning not giving in to demands for exclusive distribution arrangements—has been fundamental to the company's success and growth. "This goes back to when Dreamscape signed its first contract with Audible 13 years ago" McManus said. "Since we primarily served libraries, we couldn't offer them exclusivity. It has remained that way ever since, and as a result, this has ensured that not one sales channel accounts for more than 40% of our total revenue."

One hard-to-imitate advantage Dreamscape may have is its physical proximity to so many other related companies, including fellow Midwest Tape subsidiary Hoopla, the Cleveland-based Overdrive, and Findaway, which, prior to being sold to Spotify, was based in Solon, Ohio. This, McManus said, results in a nexus of audiobook and digital publishing talent in the area: "Over 10% of our productions in the previous year were recorded in Ohio, and we aim to increase this number to 120 local productions in 2024."

With its recent hockey-stick revenue growth, McManus is optimistic about the future. "I believe the entry of major tech players like Spotify, and potentially Apple and Google, will play a crucial role in transforming audiobooks into a truly mass-market product," he said. "As these tech giants invest in the audiobook space and introduce new features and innovations, I anticipate that the demand for diverse, high-quality content will continue to grow, creating even more opportunities for independent authors and publishers to thrive."