Friday, April 5, 2013

Say it ain't so, ACX!


I have a dilemma, and maybe readers and other authors can help me resolve it. Maybe I'm just not looking at the situation from the broader perspective.

As you know, if you follow this blog or some of the other social media venues where I hang out, I spend a lot of time and energy -- and money -- on adding audio books to my considerable backlist. By the end of this year, I’ll have spent something over $20,000 commissioning audio books through ACX and Audible.com. I'll have a total of 15 audio books, 12 of which I've personally commissioned. I  think it’s obvious I believe in audio books and that I think they’re a worthwhile investment for an author or a publishing house. The response from readers has been everything I could have hoped for.

 
I'm not sure I would have ventured into commissioning audio books had I not discovered ACX. Which is to say, I always planned to have the Adrien English books made into audio, but that's as far as my thinking went. Anyway, ACX is a division of Audible.com (which is owned by – surprise! – Amazon.com). ACX is something new and innovative in audio book production. It's a creation exchange, a sort of go between for rights holders (that would be authors) and audio book producers (narrators/production companies). The finished books are either sold exclusively through Audible, Amazon and iTunes for a 50% royalty rate OR the rights holder declines the exclusive deal and gets a significantly lower royalty rate and has to go through the hassle of listing their work on Amazon and iTunes and other vendors all by their lonesome. You can pay for production outright – which is what I’ve done in all but one case – or you can try to find a producer/narrator to take a royalty share with you (in which case you have no choice but to make your audio book exclusive to ACX/Audible for seven years).
 

Now for the good news. Despite some growing pains, ACX does exactly what it promises – exactly what you would hope! It’s simple to use and a great way to find and contract quality narrators and producers – especially if you’re paying for production and not asking someone to gamble their time and talent. The books get listed within a few weeks of completing production and royalties are paid monthly. Plus there are “bonuses” for authors who lure new customers to Audible (based on someone signing up for Audible’s subscription service and buying your book as one of their first three purchases). You can also earn a dollar an audio book if you sign up to be an Audible Author -- and now I understand why Audible pays that dollar incentive a book - because the way things are going, most authors won't be earning much beyond that dollar.
 

Now lest it sound like my problem is audio book sales, no. Not at all. I saw my first two titles earn out within a couple of months of going live, and that was what decided me that ACX and Audible looked like a pretty solid investment. I have every faith that the audio book market is just going to get bigger and better. Accordingly, I committed another ten projects exclusively to ACX and Audible. Like I said, by the end of this year, I’ll have a total of 12 audio books available to readers.
 

But, alas, I forgot to include Amazon’s quest for world domination into my calculations, and this is where everything gets complicated. Or at least it feels complicated to me, but maybe I'm just not looking at the big picture. 
 

Amazon devised this little thing called “whispersync.” It’s sorta cool, actually.
 

According to Audible’s website: 

Whispersync for Voice is a breakthrough technology that allows you to switch back and forth between reading a Kindle book and listening to the companion Audible audiobook without losing your place.
 
That means you can keep the story going on the books you love, and enjoy more of them. In addition to remembering position, Whispersync for Voice keeps your notes and bookmarks across devices as well. 

With Whispersync for Voice you can read on any Kindle or Kindle app and then switch to listening on the Audible app for iPhone or Android and any Kindle Tablet (Kindle Fire HD 8.9", Kindle Fire HD 7", Kindle Fire 2nd Generation, and Kindle Fire 1st Generation) or Kindle E-reader (Kindle Touch and Kindle Keyboard).

 

So…yeah. Cool. Not essential, but a fun little gimmick. I really never gave it a thought because whispersync is not something I particularly need or want or care about.
 

I should have given it a thought, though, because it creates a problem for ACX customers, and by ACX's customers, I mean authors and narrators. I mean me. Amazon, in its perennial quest to crush all competition through loss leading, came up with the idea of encouraging readers to try out these whispersynced audio books by knocking the price of audio books down to $1.99 if the (current version) kindle ebook is also purchased.

Now that’s a terrific incentive, no question. Here’s the catch. The author has zero control over the pricing. Although it's communicated as though Audible is doing us a huge favor with this bedrock pricing, they don't  allow us to opt in or out. That pricing isn’t isolated to first books in a series or a certain percentage of an author’s backlist. As far as I could ascertain speaking to ACX, it isn’t time limited. It isn’t optional.

And the plan is to make the entire Audible catalog (those books linked to kindle editions, anyway) available through whispersync.
 

Now, it’s obviously not whispersync, I have an issue with. I’m all for technological advancement – I’m even for pricing incentives. And I guess if my publishers were footing the bill for my audio book production, I wouldn’t mind only making…say, thirty to fifty cents an audio book. I wouldn’t be thrilled, but it wouldn’t be a bad investment. It wouldn’t be costing me money that could have – apparently should have -- been invested elsewhere.
 

Yes. Costing me money. Let’s say I’m paying $2000. to produce an audio book, and the first month I sell maybe 100 copies netting around $10.00 each – of which I receive my 50%…so $500. I don’t earn back my production costs. And within the following month or so, the book is whispersynced and now kindle readers can buy the audio book for $1.99. My cut would be half of that.

Oh! And if I'm doing a royalty share with a production company, we're each splitting that .99 cents. It's hard to imagine many production companies opting for royalty shares under those terms. And, given those terms, it's hard to see many authors continuing to pay for productions up front when the chances are so slim for the productions earning out in the near future.
 
This is one of the really disappointing bits from my standpoint. If the audio books don’t earn out, I can’t commission more productions.


(Actually, that should probably be the least of my concerns, right?)
 

Now there are workarounds. An obvious one is don’t commission audio productions through ACX, or if you do commission them through ACX, don’t hand over exclusive marketing rights. That whole 50% royalties thing becomes moot if you can’t control the pricing of the audio books you “own.”
 

Audible is a little vague about whether they will change pricing on books they don’t control exclusive rights to: At all times we reserve the right to change the price of content as we see fit whether the work is exclusive or nonexclusive to Audible.


Hmm.
 

I’m guessing they’re still trying to figure that one out.
 

Another workaround is to add music or additional materials to the audio production. ACX discourages this, but maybe one reason they discourage it is because it makes whispersync harder.
 

I could hold back the kindle release until the audio book has earned out. Which is to say, I would still release in kindle format, only I would sell kindle format strictly through Smashwords and other vendors until the audio books had earned out.
 

I could try a kickstarter campaign for particular audio books – Boy With the Painful Tattoo, for example.  That way at least I wouldn’t lose money on the deal. But what would I be offering kickstarter contributors? It's not like I can supply them copies of the audio book they've just paid for.
 

The most obvious workaround is the one I like least, but it's the immediate default position. No more single title works. I’ll only do print collections where there is no corresponding kindle book – as with Armed and Dangerous or In From the Cold. If ACX allowed me the choice of opting into whispersync – or only offered the dirt-cheap pricing for a limited time -- that would be different. I’m not so penny-foolish that I can’t see there aren’t benefits to bundling ebook and audio together, especially on slower selling titles. It’s not having any choice that makes me hostile.
 


I don't like paying for the privilege of building Audible and Amazon's growing catalog. Is it unreasonable of me to want to earn my investment back?

Personally, I think Amazon's math should give all authors considering producing audio titles through ACX serious pause -- as it should give all narrators serious pause about accepting a royalty share deal (even assuming a  stipend is offered, it's unlikely to cover a narrator's production costs). But am I missing something here? Is it worth it to lose money on the front end if I help to build a huge market for audio books and my own significant audio backlist?
 

I’m not forgetting that I still earn the regular (net) fifty percent on sales at Audible and iTunes (yeah, but let’s not even get into how Audible calculates royalties earned on membership credits). The majority of my audio sales come through Amazon, just like the majority of my ebook sales come through Amazon.
 

I should also point out that I have nothing against incentive pricing. I read Joe Konrath's blog! But for me, incentive pricing is marking some of my titles down so that more people will try them and then buy the rest of my backlist at its regular price. That way I could, you know, make money. For Amazon, incentive pricing is making audio books so cheap that no other company can compete. Audible and Amazon are not concerned with the financial success of individual authors, and the fact that I’m slamming on the brakes on future audio projects with them is not going to be a concern for them. ACX had a record year last year, and this year looks to surpass those numbers.

Granted, many if not most of the authors flooding in through ACX's gates are unaware of the whispersync pricing. I certainly had no clue, and it took me a couple of months to work out why, though I was adding titles to my audio catalog, my monthly royalties weren't going up. That's right. I've got SEVEN titles live right now, and this month's royalty check was about what I earned the first month I began this venture.

Would Joe Konrath keep publishing through Amazon if Amazon marked all his titles down to .99 cents without his consent?
 

In fairness, if I was a mega-selling author, this would not be an issue. For one thing, my whispersynced audio books would be priced at $3.95 not $1.99, and I’d be selling thousands of copies the first month, so the audio books would earn out and everything else would be gravy. Tiny spoonfuls of gravy, but gravy nonetheless.
 

Instead -- like the vast majority of ACX clients -- I’m just your average midlist author working in a niche genre, and I don’t sell thousands of copies in the first month. It’s doubtful I’ll sell more than a thousand copies of any audio book title in the first year.
 

That said, I’m still a big fan of audio books, and I know that you, my readers, are loving these audio books and asking for more. I will certainly be commissioning more of them in the future -- but right now whether I commission them from ACX (once the current contracts are filled) is in doubt.

But should it be? Am I missing something here?  If you were me, would you keep making audio books through ACX? And if so, why?

 

 

143 comments:

  1. I'm sorry to hear this. Especially, as I like the audio books very much. What a muddled situation. I've already been wary because of the membership deal (but tbh I'd have never got into the habit of purchasing audio books if it weren't for that).

    Maybe I'm a bit naive here, but how can they even do this? Making the prices without your express permition? How can such a contract even be valid?

    I wonder if publishing companies will take their business elsewhere. They want to make money, too. ;)

    Is there another platform where you can make your audio books available (without having to take it to ACX/audible first), something like Smashwords just for audio books?

    Josh wrote: "I could try a kickstarter campaign for particular audio books – Boy With the Painful Tattoo, for example. That way at least I wouldn’t lose money on the deal. But what would I be offering kickstarter contributors? It's not like I can supply them copies of the audio book they've just paid for.

    I thought that a quite charming idea. What's the reason that you can't supply supporters with a copy of the audio book? Isn't that the reason why they would give the money in the first place? (Maybe I'm misunderstanding the concept of crowdfunding?)

    I hope there will be a solution for this situation that is in your interest! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The problem with gifting the audible book would be -- since I'd be doing this on my own -- I would have to pay outright for the individual copies *as well as* the production costs. (Unless I were to pirate my own work and make CDs of it! Which is probably not the way to go.) ;-)

      Delete
    2. What about commissioning production outside of the ACX marketplace? You could fulfill the audiobooks to your backers *before* you enter into an exclusive arrangement and still get your 50% commissions.

      Delete
    3. Yes, I think there are all kinds of little work arounds like that. :-) They just require imagination.

      Delete
  2. In answer to the specific question, NO! I would not keep going through ACX without having full rights. Sounds like this is the kind of thing that caused major publishers to stumble so badly in the e-marketplace.

    I'd say stick with iTunes, if you promote the audio books and tell people that's where they are, people will go there. When you want something, you go where it is. Then when you've earned out, release it at Amazon.

    Whatever happens, good luck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been experimenting for the last month -- actually running ads promoting whispersync to see if that by encouraging these sales they made a huge and beneficial difference to my overall numbers. Nothing particularly encouraging so far. But I'm trying to keep an open mind.

      Delete
  3. I read this with my heart sinking but with no great surprise that Amazon/Audible/ACX has found yet another way to make money at an author's expense. To answer your question directly of course you should stop making books through ACX - why would you stay when you're not going to recoup your production costs? In fact why are you still with them when your royalty cheques have stayed static despite the fact you're offering more titles? You're giving them your time and energy in the form of your books and audiobooks for diminishing returns.

    I assume that there isn't an audio equivalent to Smashwords? So without a platform you can't give any kickstarters an audio book if I've understood you correctly.

    Like Calathea I hope you find a solution that works.


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In fact why are you still with them when your royalty cheques have stayed static despite the fact you're offering more titles?

      The titles that are contracted are contracted for seven years. And as for the deals already made with narrators, no, I'm not going to cancel those. I've made the commitment.

      Moving forward is the question. And the good thing about free enterprise is even if Acx came up with the idea first, other companies will follow.

      Delete
    2. What do you think of Authors Republic?

      Delete
    3. I think the royalty rate is a problem compounded by the fact that audio earnings are already down due to the torrent (soon-to-be glut) of audio books flooding the market--and by the fact that so many producers have upped their production rates.

      NOT that I blame producers. All artists need to earn a fair wage and a heck of a lot of work goes into producing audio books. But the painful reality is it's increasingly expensive to produce audio books and the earnings are smaller. It takes longer for books to earn out now.

      Having said all that, I'm delighted to see Author's Republic pop up and I might even try them out myself on a couple of projects if only to participate in keeping competition alive in the audio market.

      Delete
  4. I am with the others above. My heart sank when you wrote that your royalties have stay stagnant. I know that I jump up and down every time you have a new one released.

    I hope that you find a solution to your problem, but I would have to agree, I don't know that I would stay with ACX. It just doesn't make sense if you can not make money on the audio version.

    I will say however, that holding back the release of the ebook might work too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've been thinking a lot about this all week, and I do more and more believe the answer will be doing audio on print compilations and/or holding novel ebook releases from Amazon. It will delay the bulk of kindle sales, but I'll pick them up later, and we're only talking a couple of months.

      Delete
  5. So do I as a consumer have a choice over whether to buy the Whispernet audio or not? Let's say I own the kindle version of a book and I want to buy the audio. Can I pay full price for it or does it automatically charge me 1.99? I sure don't mind paying for the things I want. Amazon...pffft. Yeah. A sticky wicket for sure, J. I can't think of a thing you're missing, except royalties.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good question! I think if you've already bought the audio book, you can't go back and buy the kindle book and be reimbursed the difference. So, I guess yes, you could buy the audio book directly from Audible and use your credits or pay directly and still be whispersynced -- but you'd be paying full price.

      Also if you bought an earlier version of a kindle book, the $1.99 offer won't pop up.

      Delete
    2. So the "good" new for you is that I already have the all Kindle versions, so I've paid full price for all the audiobooks on Audible. It's sorta strange that I'm happy about that...but I am. :-)

      Delete
    3. And I certainly do appreciate that, Cynthia! :-)

      Delete
    4. I'm not sure if you can choose the price. I had the e-books but i don't have a kindle that works with whispersync nor would i be interested in that, anyways, it seemed to suggest full as well as reduced price but then asked if it should proceed with full price (yes!) but i can't say if it's because it "recognized" that my kindle is not a sound capable one.
      In any case, itunes only has the full price, so one can always purchase from them.
      Josh, is your commission the same whether it's itunes or audible?

      Delete
    5. KC, the best royalty rate is direct from Audible, but I honestly don't mind readers purchasing wherever it's convenient for them when we're talking relatively little difference.

      The $1.99 is one of the few price points that's significant enough to grab my attention. In fact, I'd have to be blind not to have noticed that one.

      Delete
    6. >>Good question! I think if you've already bought the audio book, you can't go back and buy the kindle book and be reimbursed the difference. So, I guess yes, you could buy the audio book directly from Audible and use your credits or pay directly and still be whispersynced -- but you'd be paying full price.

      >>Also if you bought an earlier version of a kindle book, the $1.99 offer won't pop up.


      I have to disappoint you, if you bought the kindle version through amazon and the audio book is whispersynct then you can buy the audio book for the low price. And yes, I'm sure, because that's the way I got the audiobook of Fair Game, unaware that it is unlimited (I thought it was a special offer) and of such bad conditions... I'm sorry.

      Delete
    7. Right. That's how it's supposed to work. Had you bought the audio FIRST and then later bought the kindle book, you don't get reimbursed for the difference.

      And so long as the kindle version is the current version, I don't think it matters how long ago you bought it, you can still get the audio for the super low price.

      There's no need to feel guilty, by the way! I'm willing to give this thing a chance and see if lots and lots more people try the audio book than would have otherwise. I just think at .99 cents that would have to be one heck of a lot of trial customers. I don't think in my genre I'm going to make up the difference in bulk sales.

      I would love to be wrong!

      Delete
  6. I try my best to buy my ebooks from vendors other than Amazon. I hope you can figure out a way to continue make this venture work. Your audiobooks and the Lord John audiobooks helped me through the flu from Hell. However, seeing the prices I had to wonder if it was worth it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'll definitely keep making audio books. I love them myself! :-)

      Delete
  7. Ugh, as an exclusively Kindle eBook buyer, I don't like the idea of my being the last to be able to purchase. Am no Luddite, but haven't explored buying an eBook elsewhere and shoving it onto my kindle library. Should you move that way to delay the kindle eBook you may want to explain how to bridge that gap via smashwords, etc. Otherwise,two months or so isn't the end of the world but leaves readers like me out of the social media fray around release day to avoid spoilers, etc.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can't beat Amazon for convenience, that's for sure. But Smashwords, All Romance Ebooks, etc. are very easy to use.

      And really I'd only be talking about delaying the occasional novel. I don't put novellas into audio -- or if I do, it'll be in a print collection anyway. So that will keep it simple.

      Delete
  8. Josh, I'm certain that you and other similarly situated authors do not have the bargaining power in a negotiation with Amazon/Audible/ACX...but it certainly seems as though their decision to dramatically cut the price of the audiobook should be borne by them as a cost of their doing business. They are the only ones who currently benefit from such a decision, as it draws more customers to their site. They seem to be willing to have certain books act as loss-leaders to draw customers to their sites, knowing that the customers will most likely buy other higher-priced books as well. I don't suppose that, as between you and Amazon/Audible/ACX, you could set a minimum sale price/royalty amount for your audiobooks and if Amazon/Audible/ACX chose to sell below such price/royalty amount, they are the ones who bear the price difference? I like buying from Amazon because it's convenient to manage my multiple Kindles and listening environments, but would encourage you to only release the ebooks directly through your publisher(s) until you have a chance to recoup your production costs on the audiobooks. (But please keep releasing the audiobooks, as well. I've purchased all of them so far...I'm just very sorry to hear that they haven't been as profitable as you'd hoped.)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm pissed that it COULD be as profitable as you'd hoped but you're caught in the crossfire of Amazon vs. the world, and you're just collateral damage and worth it to their end goal.

      Delete
    2. I guess I could look at it long term and figure that eventually it'll all earn out -- and in the meantime it's a useful tax deduction? ;-D

      Delete
    3. Cynthia, I think pricing the books SO low was unnecessary -- plus it creates an unrealistic idea of how little an audio book should cost. I mean, I LOVE my producers and my narrators and I think the books we've created are brilliant, but I also know that these productions aren't quite like, say, the audio production of The Egyptologist (one of my favorite audio books).

      Delete
  9. It doesn't sound like there is much of any way you can win under this set up. I can't see how moving forward with them is going to benefit you unless your numbers suddenly skyrocket to mega-selling author status. I wonder about holding off on the ebook releases only because I have only once bought an audio book before I read the ebook and it wasn't a good experience. I don't know if a lot of people buy audio books without having read the book first, maybe I'm odd in that, but I only buy audio of books I love so much that I want them in every format available.

    I am increasingly worried about the way Amazon is pushing their business model. Unfortunately I am also fully invested in the Kindle as a reader, I belonged to Audible at one time and I do a ton of on-line buying through them. They have become an insidious part of my life at this point but I'm beginning to think I need to step off that ship entirely.

    I hope you can find a solution that works because I am always ready for more of your books.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's something I wonder about too. Originally I didn't expect so many existing readers to buy the audio books. I sort of thought the audio books would be purchased instead of the other books (because that's my audio book buying pattern -- I don't duplicate books I already own). But it turned out to be a combination of existing readers and audio only readers.

      It's too soon to draw any conclusions there, but it has me wondering.

      Delete
  10. With 14 books at Audible audible (13 I did myself) I have 5 books WhisperSynched. So yeah, I was pretty shocked when the prices dropped. So I asked them. They pointed out that only people who bought the kindle book get the cheap price and they've already invested in your book. They also promote your audio book to the kindle owner and, on Audible, they suggest buying the kindle book to get the cheaper price.

    I had the five books go into WhisperSynch pretty fast. Not all of the prices dropped that fast, though. And my other books show no sign of going in. Keep in mind they can only do it if 98% of the book/audio match.

    So you can tweak your productions and make them ineligible for whispersynch.

    Keep in mind that Amazon's business model is customer focused. When we do business with Amazon, we're not customers. We're business associates. You try to please customers. You set terms with business partners.

    Because I had to do royalty share, the person most hosed by the price is my narrators, but some of those books were in the stipend program, so they did get some upfront money. My investment was some time (working with producers) and writing the book. If Audible pushes more sales of my digital books, then I'll make money on that side. Maybe not as much as an audio book (but my one non-ACX audio book was done traditional and I make crap there and I AM making money with ACX), but I'm pleasing MY customers/readers by making my books available in the formats they want. I had no way to do that until ACX came along. So I see it as a win.

    Going forward, it might be harder for me to find producers for my later books, if they aren't making money. So at some point, ACX will need to address that. I had no problem getting auditions for my books last fall and right now I have two projects sitting there. But...I'm not in hurry with them. I'm hoping they'll either get stipend money or I can afford to produce them myself.

    Note: I have some audio books (I purchased thru Audible) with music and they are whispersynched. A better go around is to have your narrator do a more dramatic type presentation. Maybe not put in all the he said/she said. Stuff like that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You've got some good points there, Pauline.

      And there's no question that having that low price on a slower selling title is useful. Having it on first book in a series is useful too.

      But I do know that if I'd understood when I first signed with ACX that there was ANY question of dropping prices as low as $1.99, I wouldn't have proceeded. And maybe that would have been a mistake -- but in fairness, I think Audible needs to communicate their game plan a little more clearly.

      And even perhaps treat rights holders like partners in the venture -- the success of this game plan does require a LOT of authors to invest time and money in creating a huge library for Amazon and Audible.

      I guess for narrators who aren't charging a lot anyway or who just want to build their credentials, royalty share might still work? I know I wasn't comfortable asking any narrator to take that chance -- although on the regular prices sales, they'd have done fine out of the deal.

      I do think for me the way forward will likely be print compilations. Pair two novellas in print and do an audio book as well. Then there's no question of whispersync.

      Delete
    2. Of course what I would love to hear is reassurance from an author who has been doing this long enough to be able to say that the rock bottom pricing actually worked to sell tons more audio books and ended up being super profitable.

      Delete
    3. "Pair two novellas in print and do an audio book as well. Then there's no question of whispersync."

      I was thinking the other day how awesome it would be to have a (print) book with your short stories and an audiobook to go with it, and then thought that it's not really feasible, but maybe it is? :-)

      But getting back to what you said, pairing novellas in print with audiobook would be such a must have!

      Delete
    4. I've only had mine on sale since Nov and that was just a start. They released gradually until about the middle of January, but yes, my WhisperSynch books have sold more. I have also noticed some of the series books selling one after another. For instance, in one series, only the last book and a short story are WS, but the whole series is selling well. In my other series, two of the books are WS, but its SFromance, and the books are longer. SFR doesn't sell as well as romantic suspense. But, when one book in the series sells, I often see the others follow.

      Everyone sort of assumes that Amazon doesn't think these things through. I think they do. I think they have LONG term plans. When they bought Audible, it positioned them perfectly to be the only ones who could do WS. It was pretty dang brilliant business move (one which any competitor could have done, had they been forward thinking, btw).

      I read last fall, maybe? that 2013 was going to be the year of the audio book. I hoped and so far, I've been pleasantly surprised by how well I've done, since I'm pretty small beans.

      What WS *seems* to be doing is getting more people to try audio books. I was not an audio book listener and now I'm listening more than I ever thought I would. And yes, WS has encouraged me to try audio versions of books I own. I only do it with books I really love and tend to re-read, but all the sudden a lot of dead time (driving for instance) is passing very pleasantly for me with audio books.

      Interesting side note: one of my stipend books is WS and they didn't drop the price as much.

      But, and this is a huge but, that bears repeating. Authors are NOT Amazon's customers. Their whole business model is geared toward making customers happy.

      I am a customer when I buy their products.

      When I do business with them, I'm NOT their customer. I am a business associate. And it's not Amazon's job to level the playing field for their competition or explain contract terms to business partners. Everything they've done, anyone could have done, including B&N.

      I see authors who willing get hosed by publishers hating on Amazon for seizing opportunities that no one else in the business seemed able to see.

      Amazon has been great for my business.

      And they make me happy as a customer.

      Do I love everything they do? No. But it is MY choice to do business with them or not. When I started writing 20 years ago, I had no freedom and very few choices. You want to talk monopoly? Holy freaking cow. I remember what it was like before. And give thanks for Amazon, and Smashwords, and small presses and freedom.

      Sorry. LOL Everywhere I turn, people are hating on Amazon. And about 90% of them are still doing business with them. LOL

      Delete
    5. Believe me, the first half of my publishing career was in mainstream. There is nothing you can tell me about mainstream that I don't already know.
      :-)

      And I agree that Amazon does many things very well. And that we are not Amazon's customers. We are ACX's customers and ACX is owned by Amazon so...oh. Yes, I guess we kind of are Amazon's customers. Certainly they are our publishing partners. And it's great when we are treated like partners and not merely tools for busting the competition.

      Now I agree that my audio sales shot up with the new low pricing, but my sales were already brisk and basically it looks to me like I'm not making any more -- and probably a lot less after the pricing was incentivized because of that whole .99 cents thing.

      I'm grateful to Amazon for a number of things, but I don't kid myself that Amazon does anything out of the goodness of their hearts or their desire to support the arts. If you've read any interviews with Jeff Bezos, you know that he is all about crushing the competition however he can. I understand that perfectly.

      It's not my personal or professional philosophy, but I do understand it. And, like I said, if turn out to be wrong and I end up making more money through this pricing scheme, great. I'll be the first to say I was wrong.

      If I end up with nothing more than a giant tax deduction, and I'm unable to afford more audio books, then I won't be so thrilled.

      I'm not an Amazon hater, but I'm not an Amazon apologist either. They do some things very well and others not so well.

      I went into self-publishing because I like to have control of my business and my product. It's not unreasonable that I'd want a say on how such an expensive investment for me is priced. I don't mind taking a gamble, but I want to decide what I gamble on.

      Delete
  11. If you were wondering what would happen if you put your book elsewhere and not at Amazon at first and only put the audiobook on Audible what your readers would do that were exclusive Kindle purchasers, I'm going to tell you what I would do.

    I would buy the audiobook right away, no questions asked and no time wasted. I don't know if I would buy the ebook right away, as I've never used Smashwords and I don't like my books spread around on different sites. The fact that I can redownload a book is a big deal for me as I am very much into rereading for mood.

    When you have a library of books in one place, that can be accessed with ease over wifi or in my case 4g... It's just easier.

    I do love your books though, so I can't say I wouldn't buy it off the other site, just that I'm less likely to.

    Either way, I would buy the book when it did go to Kindle... I mean it's the easiest way for me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's good to know, Nora. Thank you.

      Thinking about it, as far as being able to re-download books, I think sites like Smashwords are probably the best bet in that you can download multiple times in multiple formats, so if you were to switch from a Kindle to an Ipad, for example, you'd still have all your books in whatever format you needed.

      Delete
    2. Yeah, but all the books I read aren't on Smashwords... but most are on Kindle. I can access Amazon from an Ipad or from my iphone or a android phone... it works for me.

      Delete
    3. I have a kindle and I do a lot of book shopping on Amazon, so I know what you mean.

      Delete
  12. I have recently become an audio book convert due to my long commute. It is wonderful to listen to your books precisely because you take great care producing these for the reader and it shows in the end result.

    I am given a discount as an Audible member, but I have all your books, so I do not take advantage of the ridiculous pricing for Whispersync. My gosh, I wish I had a tax accountant as clever as those that advise Amazon's executive staff on achieving world domination. It hardly seems fair that an author would have invested so much money in production, but not see a return on their investment.

    I wish I knew the answer, but I commit to buying your audio books wherever you decide is best for you to sell them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Janet. And the thing is, by the end of the year I'll have a healthy backlist of audio books, so I can stop at that point and watch to see if Amazon/Audible is right or if I am right.

      Maybe they do understand something I don't. I suspect though that this time they just didn't think it through very clearly.

      Delete
  13. I'm still thinking this through, but it doesn't surprise me. The company I work for in my EDJ selld through Amazon a lot, and we've seen the most ludicrou and erratic pricing, especially in recent months, and they've never asked our agreement first. We now use Amazon Central, which is like Marketplace, where the seller has control over pricing - but of course that's for physical goods rather than audio or e-books. I find their arrogance and high-handedness astonishing.

    Sending all my sympathy *sigh*.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are things about Amazon I continue to love. Their imagination and innovation for one, their customer service for another. Amazon's self-publishing program led the way for authors like me to earn a comfortable income in numbers new to the book biz.

      But this particular plan actually works against one of the main things ACX tries to encourage -- royalty share between author and narrator!

      Delete
  14. I don't have any advice as to what you should do, it is definitely a sticky wicket you're in but I can tell you that I will continue to purchase your audio books at full price. I have since I first heard of your works a few months ago and will continue to do so no matter what you decide. I would even use iTunes even though i have an intense dislike for Apple - iTunes especially.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Holly. That's the thing. I love the way the audio books have turned out, I'm thrilled that readers enjoy them so much -- and I thought the idea behind ACX was a brilliant one, really.

      In fact, I guess I should have realized it was too good to be true! ;-)

      Delete
  15. Hi. From a reader and listener point of view, and as an Audible member, I nearly always buy the ebook first and then, for favourite authors (of course that includes you!) I buy the audio. Not too many, because audio is so expensive. Since becoming an audible member (but have to admit I only shelled out the money cos I won a bet!) I have certainly bought more audio.
    I try to avoid Amazon for ebooks and purchase ebooks from a wide variety of sources: ARe, B&N, Siren, BooksonBoard, Diesel and individual publishers like Riptide, Dreamspinner, Silver, etc etc.
    I want all my ebooks in my control, not reliant on some website that might cease to exist (like Fictionwise - which I still mourn and miss).
    Also, Audible lets me convert to CD format for use in my car (old and keeping my lovely car for at least another 3 years!).
    So, I would love you to stay with Audible, but can fully understand why you might not.
    Interesting the way everyone has different buying habits.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I hear you on that! I am a big enemy of the cloud and all these other cyber holding stations that will ultimately be used to make me pay for using my own merchandise.

      I like the fact that Audible permits burning CDs too -- though I've never actually got around to doing so.

      Delete
  16. I´m from Germany, so, I know my writing is kind of...weird.
    For me back here in Germany, amazon and audible are the only way to get a Josh Lanyon book, kindle book or audiobook. I´m happy to get the audiobooks at all, but what they want to do with the whispersync-thing is not O.K. really not O.K. You do all the (wonderful) work, and you should get a fair deal for it. I´m a big fan of the idea to do more (or only) print collections. I read kindle books too, but i love print-books. Sometimes I read a book and listen to the audiobook simultaneously. (That´s my way to improve my language ability.) Reading is another feeling, with a book in my Hand. So if you can cut the better deal with print and audiobook, go for it. Maybe we have to wait a little longer till we can read your stories in print, but every one of your books is worth it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you're writing is great! Certainly better than my writing in German would be. :-)

      The thing is, I'm all for the low, low pricing if I can control things like the particular title or for how long the low, low pricing might go on. I am all in favor of giving readers/listeners bargains and even freebies now and then. But I am the person best informed as to when and how to do that, especially in the case of having made a large investment in a particular product or process.

      Delete
  17. I hate this! I don't even understand how this can be legal, it's exploitation. I almost never buy from Amazon, I prefer buying directly from the publisher or Smashwords. I buy audibles with credits or $ if the price is much lower then my credit fees. I hope you at least get 50% of the price I pay for my credits...

    I listen to a lot of books that I've never read before and I would love to listen to one of your books before reading it. They don't exist :D After buying the audio I would buy the ebook, naturally.

    Maybe for future books you could write a couple of differences for the audible version. Like bonus additions as an incentive for buying the audio in a way that would make Whispersync impossible >:)

    I wonder if there are many readers who actually use whispersync and whether they would be annoyed if it wasn't available?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, I suspect there are plenty of authors who aren't paying for their own audio books, and for them, this bundling would be inducement to buy more books -- and the royalties from audio would just be icing.

      It's very different when you're the one paying for production.

      Delete
  18. Josh, I have bought all your audiobooks and all your books, mostly on Kindle. I'm in the UK, and we don't have Whispersync here (yet), so I haven't been faced with the problem directly. But I do find it astonishing that ACX/Audible have lured you into doing business with them on one basis, and then subsequently changed the rules. I have to assume that you've taken legal advice, and that they can unilaterally reduce the price of your audiobooks in this way. I fail to see how ACX can continue to run at a profit from now on, though.

    For all sorts of reasons, I much prefer to buy my audiobooks at Audible. For example, books bought at iTunes are not backed up AND can only be downloaded once without their express permission, so that if the device they are on fails the book is lost too (unless they allow you to re-download, and arranging that is a hassle). I also want to be able to download onto CDs.

    Similarly, I read ebooks on my Kindle and want to continue to do so. From laziness, I've bought most of my ebooks from Amazon. But this type of thing (and the right to return ebooks after you've read them even though there is nothing wrong with them) makes me increasingly unhappy with them. I am a reader not an author, but I want authors to be fairly treated - and to be able to afford to continue to write books!

    I can't see an easy solution for you. The only one does seem to be to bring the audiobook out, with the Kindle version available only through other retailers. Are we taking bets on how long it is before Audible/Amazon unilaterally changes their contracts to require authors to sell Kindle ebooks through Amazon where Audible has the audiobook and there is a Kindle version available? And even to require that a Kindle version be made where there is an ebook in any other format, and sold through Amazon? - all in the name of giving customers what they want, of course.

    I do object to Amazon's assumption that all their customers want as much as possible as cheaply as possible. We don't want to penalise authors like that. I do NOT consider I'm in some way entitled to an audio version when I've bought a Kindle version. As a long-time lover of audiobooks I know that their production is an entirely different thing.

    It must be likely that because of this publishers and authors will have no option but to make audiobooks as cheaply as possible, and that the quality will suffer. Your audiobooks are lovely, top quality - because you take care to select the narrator, and employ good ones and monitor what they do. That matters. if all I want is someone reading aloud I can get Librivox books. While some readers are fine, an awful lot of them are just dreadful and I cannot listen to them.

    Market forces. Hate them. Especially when the market isn't truly free, or an even playing field.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for your thoughts, Helena.

      ACX does warn authors in the contracts that you are subject to promotional pricing. The mistake I made -- that I imagine many have made and are making -- is the idea of Amazon pricing audio books *so* low didn't enter my mind.

      For one thing, I buy enough audio books to know that's not typical or sustainable pricing. For another, I know that even though Audible is only doing downloads, there's still a considerable amount of cost on the part of the narrator/producer -- that cost either has to be paid for up front or the narrator has to take one heck of a chance. The stipend offered is a pathetic $150. per *finished* hour. I can't imagine finding really good people for that amount.

      I also can't imagine that some competitor won't be showing up fairly soon to give ACX and Audible a run for their money. In the meantime, I'm still committed to completing the current projects, and if it turns out that I do recoup my costs this year, well, then there's the answer to my question. I'm fretting about nothing.

      I would love that to be the case.

      Delete
  19. This is very upsetting! Is there a way to negotiate with them, for either price or for how long the promotion should be available?
    I'm not sure if making the ebook available later or only through something like Smashwords is a good idea as far as new readers go. Amazon is still the easiest way to find out about and purchase new books. This is how i found most books i liked before Goodreads, and yes, now of course i would get your next book from the place that is best for you, as i also do for writers who have independent publishing houses and so on, but it seems that the initial contact happens mostly thru Amazon whether we like it or not.
    So if they're not willing to negotiate, a solution would be to make it more difficult for them to whispersync it.
    Hopefully other companies will come up with better ideas than ACX and better contracts for writers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As a customer I love a lot of things about Amazon.

      As a customer I also note that many things Amazon originally promised are going away -- anyone notice how lame the movie rental selections are on Prime -- and how the prices keep jumping?

      So I know that this is just Amazon maneuvering in an attempt to dominate the audio book market. These aren't sustainable prices for anyone, including Amazon. But it's going to make life hard for ACX once word spreads (the dirt cheap pricing is still pretty new and a lot of authors and narrators haven't felt the impact yet).

      Delete
  20. I hate that amazon cannot be happy with a balance of benefits for the customer, themselves and their authors.

    I don't personally think corporations are or need to be 'evil.' I worked for amazon briefly in their infancy and met bezos who was super nice. it was a great experience.

    Josh maybe you need to start an author sustainabilty project. Most of your readers are willing to pay to be socialy sustainable. I have all but a few of the sci fi backlist of yours and I was happily contemplating going audible to complement the library. Never at your expense.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The thing that I find so interesting is that legacy publishing is in trouble because of rampant greed. But rampant greed is not exclusive to legacy publishing. Very rarely is success enough. So many business people seem to want ALL the marbles all the time.

      Delete
  21. Argh, I feel so bad for you. And I certainly don't have any better ideas to improve your situation. The things you've been planning to do seem like an only rational solution in a crazy situation like this. :(

    Nevertheless I'm very glad that you wrote this blog post, because we readers obviously haven't had a clue what's going on. On the contrary we've been really excited about these audio books and thrilled that they are selling well and everyone seems to enjoy them tremendously. I know I have. Like others have posted earlier, I, too, am more than happy to pay the full price of each and every one of your audio books. They are definitely worth it.

    If there is anything we can do to help, you'll let us know, right?

    And Amazon! Don't ever underestimate the power of angry mob of Fanyons... ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Johanna. :-D

      I'm certainly giving Amazon's game plan every chance to work. I even ran a couple of Goodread ads promoting whispersync and the $1.99 pricing.

      But I do think that rock bottom pricing does not work across the board -- it depends on genre and the individual work. Some people built riches on the .99 book. Most of us did not.

      Delete
  22. You might not be able to give copies of the audiobook as a reward in a Kickstarter campaign, but you could give copies of ebooks. A short story given exclusively to Kickstarter supporters could be a major draw. Or, for brand new stories, you could send out ebook copies a couple weeks or a month ahead of the general release.

    It's not ideal. Amazon should be selling audiobooks at a price that allows everyone involved to cover their costs and make some money. But if you want to give a Kickstarter campaign a try, I think there are ways you could make it work.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like kickstarter a lot and would pledge for sure!

      Delete
    2. I like kickstarter a lot too -- I've contributed to campaigns there -- and that's a great idea, actually. An exclusive novella or short story or something that I could give to contributors in lieu of an audio book.

      Yeah, I like that idea! Hmmm...

      Delete
  23. Josh, my heart sank in reading this post, especially as it comes upon other events that seem to be smacking authors like you around, and not in a fun, sexy consensual way.

    My gut feeling, from a business perspective, is to be cautious and protect your rights as an author. I don't want you to forego the profits from the audio market, but if it seems like this whispersync approach may significantly detract from that anyway, then perhaps it is better to be cautious or at least do some of the workarounds that you noted.

    I think back to your sage advice to young authors from your own experience of being a pioneer in the ebook business: be very careful about what rights you sign away to publishers. Even though it's a dream to be published, and one wants to be conciliatory to the powers that be, giving away too many rights to make that happen may be detrimental, and there can be a long wait for the rights to revert back. I may be wrong, but I wonder if this is a similar kind of situation, with the now relatively 'new' business of audiobooks.

    If you need muscle...well, I'm not your gal :-) but if I do say so myself, I am a HELL of a letter writer! Just give a shout and I will brandish my quill like a weapon!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, MC! If there's one thing I admire, it's a mighty master of the quill!

      One reason I decided I'd better express some of my concerns in a blog is I've been equally public about my pleasure in the audio book process -- and that's encouraged a lot of authors in our genre to also dabble. I want to balance that enthusiasm with a reality check.

      It's fine to gamble so long as you understand the odds.

      Delete
  24. Wow, ditto on the condolences to you. I am all in for you making $$ and staying in business. I hate it that this is not as profitable as it could be through contractual ambiguity. I HATE that!! Any how-Do what works best for your work habits/schedule.

    One of the comments I found intriguing was the 98% rule. The audio book and the ebook must mach to 98%. As your own publisher you do have the option to change the editions. Now, as the precise writer that you are, this may not work for you. But marketing wise, it's like purchasing that 'Special Edition DVD collection' with previously deleted scenes included.
    I don't know if you can tweak your current contracts that 2.5% to keep them from whyspersync. Or offer them 'Abridged' but it really is the 2.5% tweak. That might save your current contracts from being engulfed by Amazon. {shrugs}

    I've enjoyed all of them so much. I wouldn't be doing Audible otherwise. You staying profitable and healthy is the priority. Good luck!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Reggie.

      It's actually 97% now -- "as long as the Kindle edition has a 97% sync rate with the audio edition, the option will be available to the customer that already paid for the Kindle version."

      But I agree it is doable to change the books that bit.

      There's a part of me that hesitates to make them un-syncable for those three customers who actually care. ;-)

      But adding materials to the ebooks that are not included in the audio -- that's very possible given that I can provide any audio script I choose. I've just taken the books as is, but...it doesn't have to be that way. That's true.


      Delete
  25. I wonder if you recorded your codas at the end of an audiobook... would it make it morem than 2% different to not be elligible for whispersynch.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey! I second this! That's a great idea, Susinok!!!

      Delete
    2. Lovely idea! Could that work?? :-)

      Delete
    3. Yes. That could very well work. I probably don't want the extra materials in the audio books, but that's not an issue. It's just making the two versions different enough.

      Delete
    4. Or maybe you could change how the chapters are devided over the book, merge two or split others. Might throw the recognition off for whispersync?

      Delete
    5. I like the codas at the end of the audiobooks.

      The codas are little lagniappes to people you care about. And, you wrote them some time after the book(s) were produced. So, how could Audible/Amazon complain? Sometimes you have to be more devious than the brain trust at A/A.

      I also like the Kickstarter idea. I went to the site and read about it and I would be willing to invest a few bucks.

      Delete
  26. I really like Becky's idea of how to fund an audiobook through Kickstarter - to offer an ebook of a new short story as a reward. (By definition that would be a different story from the one being recorded, but that would work well because the reward could be given very soon after the funding goal was reached.) You could then sell the ebook later, as well.

    I haven't seen a Kickstarter campaign where the product being funded is not offered as a reward so I'm not sure if their rules allow it. But they generally have different levels of rewards depending on the amount pledged, so it occurred to me that for large pledges you could offer a CD set of the audiobook. That would be desirable for real audiobook fans - I know we can make our own CD sets via Audible but it's time-consuming and not pretty when complete.

    Talking of making it pretty, of course you'd need to factor in costs of making a case, but I've seen several audiobooks in a cardboard case with paper disc-holders (Janet Evanovich's books often come like that), so you don't need the hard plastic case and I should imagine you could adapt the book cover for the cardboard case. In fact, if you need to make a minimum number to cover the costs, you could probably sell the remaining sets at a normal audiobook price later. You could autograph the Kickstarter sets to make them exclusive.

    And in fact I think you might have a market for the digital file of the audiobook, and that's with those fans who live in countries where they can't buy audiobooks through Audible (I think there are some). And here is also a market for people to earn as a reward the download of the book through Audible, and that's those who live in placed where Whispersync isn't available (e.g. the UK). That would keep people like me happy (because it would be in my Audible library).

    Don't forget to add a cost to pledges for international shipping! And of course you could have smaller rewards of autographed thank-you cards, cover posters, etc.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I like this idea a lot. And in fact, the weblord made cover art for the plastic CD shells of the playlists I created for some of the novels (when I was giving away playlists as a gift). So that's do-able -- and a great idea.

      An exclusive short story or maybe novella to everyone who contributes, and for large contributors, an actual CD of the audio book with cover art...hmmm...yes, I like these ideas a lot!

      Delete
  27. See! I knew you would all come up with great ideas and insights.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Helena, I've had several performer friends use Kickstarter to great advantage this way and there's the remarkable Kickstarter program for the Veronica Mars movie going on right now, which encompasses much of what you say about involving international buyers to the extent possible with the rules of their home country (for the movie they're trying to finance, they've already raised close to $5 million dollars).


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love kickstarter! Although I've gotten disgusted as I see so many authors hitting kickstarter up for the costs of simply publishing a book! What the heck is that about? If you can't earn back the cost of your own book, you have no business in publishing, period. You shouldn't be looking to kickstarter to fund your book!

      But I digress...

      There have been some excellent ideas here for funding an audio book, and I think when it comes to doing the audio for Boy With the Painful Tattoo, that just might be the way we go.

      Delete
    2. By the way, that Veronica Mars campaign was incredible. They made their goal before I even had time to contribute. THAT'S what kickstarter is all about!

      Delete
  29. Josh,
    Is there some way a group of like-minded writers could form a consortium of sorts not only to produce the audios, but to shop them to Audible & Amazon? Power in numbers, so to speak.

    I have decided I will not use Amazon for your ebooks in the future, if I can download from Smashwords or some other site.

    I just do not like this way of doing business. I will continue with Audible, but I will not be a part of the $1.99 scam.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's an interesting point, Penelope.

      As for the $1.99 price point on audio, well, as we've heard from a number of listener/readers, they wouldn't have tried the audio without that super duper pricing. So my thought is, for the readers who want to purchase through the venues where I make the most money (and many readers do ask this question) go directly to Audible.

      But for those readers who want to buy through Amazon or wouldn't sample the audio books without that low pricing, that's okay too. The problem isn't YOU. The problem is Amazon not allowing me to control when and on which books I want to do incentive pricing.

      Either way, I'm very happy that readers are buying and enjoying the books so much.

      And I do hope that Amazon will rethink their current practice because I don't believe it's going to be beneficial to creative exchange on ACX.

      Delete
    2. I'm very happy with Audible, but I will purchase the ebooks elsewhere. As I said, I have a problem with their parent Amazon's business practices. I am happy the deal has brought in new listeners/readers and I hope it continues. In your case, I think, in the long run you will benefit.

      You spin a great yarn, so I would think most who try your work will enjoy it.

      Still, my bone to pick with Amazon is the practice of not allowing YOU input on the matter. That is just wrong, IMO.

      I used to sell books on Amazon (yes, I was one of those aftermarket sellers authors don't like), but finally left this year mainly because I was making about 9 cents per book and that was the difference between what they charged the customer and what they paid me for shipping. They started pressuring me to allow them to do the shipping. In my view, they were asking me to virtually give over my stock of books. This may work well with a company like New World Books, because they have several hundred thousand listings on Amazon. I had about 3,000. No longer viable for me.

      I switched over to eBay and I am concentrating mostly on my collectible titles. Not certain what I will do with the paperbacks, but may go with Alibris in the autumn.

      It's a gorgeous day here in S.C. (finally) and I'm going outside to commune with nature on my little mountain top.

      Peace.

      Delete
    3. I'm not a fan of digital pirating, but one thing I've never minded is the sale of used books. As a matter of fact I'm a big collector of vintage mysteries, so I love used bookstores and online sites like the Advanced Book Exchange (another company Amazon bought, now that I think of it).

      It's very beautiful here today -- though we did have frost this morning! Crazy.

      Delete
    4. I don't like digital pirating either (even if I could accomplish it).

      I picked up on some of your admiration of vintage. It's been a long time since I read of "Gladstone" bags.

      I especially like your homage to the old locked room mysteries.

      One day I will tell you about helping John Dickson Carr choose his cemetery plot (No kidding! lol)

      P

      Delete
  30. The problem I run into with other authors is an unwillingness -- or maybe just an inability -- to invest. I can't in good conscience ask a narrator to do a royalty share, and this is what most authors opt for. In fairness, it's based on the fact that most self-published -- most authors in general -- don't sell that much.

    And it's not like I sell in mainstream bestseller numbers, but I certainly do better than the average self-pubbed author. In my genre or any other.

    The thing is, there are production companies and there are smaller sites that do the very kind of creative exchange ACX does. Not as efficiently, granted, and not as on wide a scale. But there are definitely options.

    There are even options with ACX that I didn't see as clearly as I do now having thrown it out to my readers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I understand you position and I admire you for your dedication to your readers and your respect for the problems of your colleagues.

      Good man.

      Please let us know if you decide to use Kickstarter. I think I could "kick in" a hundred or so (or $25 if it's a bad month). lol.

      Delete
  31. So, the idea here is that if I buy the audio book (and for me, if I'm getting the audio book, I usually don't bother with the e-book version at all) I pay the correct, full price. It's very, very rare for me to buy a book other than audio from Amazon. I usually go straight to the publisher and buy my books there, which is a little more difficult with self-pub'd authors. Plus, I read on my i-pad, so I don't search out kindle versions. Does it make a difference if I download e-pub and then buy the audio?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It makes no difference at all.

      This is just about linking the kindle version of the book to the audio version. For those whom that would be a useful thing.

      Really, I don't want everyone feeling guilty and worried about where they are buying the books or the audio books. Basically, if you can buy directly through Audible, that's to my advantage, but if you can't that's okay too!

      Delete
  32. I find Amazon's quest for domination completely offensive, and even more so their fight to be exempt for sales tax. I only purchase ebooks from Amazon when I absolutely can't find them elsewhere. I don't care if I have to pay a few dollars - it's absolutely worth it. People whine and moan about having to pay $X.XX for an ebook, but an ebook is going to cost you less than lunch and a lot of them are less than a cup of coffee.

    If I take the plunge and start purchasing audio books, rest assured it will be through the forum that best benefits the author financially.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Steve.

      Yeah, I have to admit I weary of people jumping to the defense of Amazon's business practices when anyone not newly hatched knows that Amazon doesn't plan on continuing those practices indefinitely. It's just business strategy and the argument that other businesses could have done the same thing is like trying to defend motorists who drive on the shoulder of the road. Yes. Anyone can do that. And if we all do that, it's a flaming pile up.

      Delete
  33. I don't know if it makes any difference to you, but I have bought audible books after having purchased the ebook by you and other authors because of the $1.99 pricing incentive. That said, I only bought because of the $1.99 discounted audio price, to use that audio/ebook combination while traveling. Otherwise, I would have only purchased the ebook, and instead of that extra $1 royalty, you would have only had your 70% royalty on the ebook sale. Sorry if it doesn't make you feel better, but I hope it's some consolation that since I (and I'm sure many others) never buy an audio book instead of an ebook or hardcopy, it's a bonus sale you wouldn't have made otherwise.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for letting me know, Joanie. I have no doubt there are many, many readers like you tempted by that pricing to venture into audio books.

      Again, it's not that I wouldn't ever opt to offer incentive pricing. I just think it's reasonable, since I'm paying up front for the productions, to have a say on the pricing.

      Delete
  34. Ahoy,
    Ouch. As an ACX narrator, & someone who either listens to a book OR reads it, but has little interest in doing both, I just figured, "Wow. That's cool technology." Given this information, though, I find myself needing to find better avenues than ACX for linking up with authors/publishers. What a shame. I've found the ACX people to be affable, helpful, & classy.

    Here's hoping we all find our way around / through / or past this one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. CS, I think so long as you're being paid up front for the production, you won't have any worries. I wasn't ever comfortable asking a narrator to do a royalty share, so I've almost always paid the narrator out of pocket. And I've been very pleased with every one of my productions.

      ACX works pretty much as you would wish it to work. That's been my experience so far. It's having no control over pricing that presents issues. At least for someone like me who doesn't have a boundless budget.

      Delete
  35. If a foreign nation did what Amazon does with their business model to a U.S. 'business partner' it would be called 'dumping' and a suit would be filed before the World Trade Organization in a heartbeat to bar their products from either coming into the country, or whack them with a tariff so large it makes the goods cost the same price as a reasonable competitor. Why do we allow it here? Because Amazon is big business and nobody but the Justice Department has the juice to take them on, same as happened with Microsoft in the 1990's/2000's. People say 'well don't sell to them.' I say ... well ... I don't like Middle Eastern terrorists. Stop buying gasoline. ALL gasoline. And all petroleum products. Stop buying from the terrorist. Not so easy, huh? When one business or collaborative of businesses have sewn up the supply chain. Stop feeding the Zon!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know enough about international business and international business laws, but the drive to destroy ALL competition seems uniquely American. So in that sense, maybe Amazon is fulfilling its biological imperative?

      It just seems like such a stupid way to run a planet.

      Delete
  36. I'm very sorry to hear this. I have 3 books currently on audible with 2 more planned. As a VO professional I voice my own. The information on the acx.com site states:

    "When customers buy your Kindle book, they will be able to purchase your Whispersync for Voice-ready Audible audiobook at a special limited time discounted price."

    Note the "limited time..." language. I'll have to go back and read the contract to see if it contradicts this statement.

    Further, you CAN disqualify your book from whispersync simply by having the narrator read slightly different text--for whispersync to work it must mirror exactly the kindle version. See details here:

    https://www.acx.com/help/learn-about-whispersync-for-voice/201017330

    And note specifically:

    "Do not add audio content that isn't in the Kindle version. Usually a little bit of front matter and back matter will likely pass, but if there is a chapter of audio that isn't in the Kindle book it is often not syncable."

    So it follows that if you do NOT want your audio version syncable, add some reader extras--a "special" chapter only available in the audio (could be a marketing tool, as well).

    I need to think in this a bit more before uploading the next books. Thanks for the great post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amy, I agree the situation calls for consideration. I wonder if the "limited time" language is new. I don't recall seeing that before and it didn't arise in my conversation with ACX.

      Every author's experience is going to be somewhat unique too. But I do think where royalty share is involved, both parties need to understand what's happening.

      Delete
  37. Josh
    Sorry haven't read all the comments so this might be a duplication of some previous thoughts ... I haven't got into the audio books side as I like to read books - but I'm horrified that Amazon can do this to you ... have just looked and here in the UK I can get Fair Game @ £2.70 on my kindle or the audio download is £10.27 or FREE if I go with the Audible free 30 day trial ... so am I right in thinking you get nothing if I do this??????
    I'm going to have to start looking around on these ... I've never really thought about the royalties side except in so far as I always buy e-books and definately don't try and find a freebie somewhere on the Web - you need to make money from this or you can't afford to do it and so in the end I don't get to read your brilliant books!
    I for one now check your site for new works - having now ploughed my way through everything you've written (smile!) and so for me if you stopped releasing e-books via Amazon it would be no big deal as I'd buy them from whoever you wanted to sell them - I'd just follow the links on your page - OK it's so simple via Amazon on my Kindle BUT for authors that I like then I go that extra mile and find the e-book!!
    For info the few audio books I listen to I have on my walkman (MP3) not my Kindle - so maybe this won't be too usefull to you - it's really just a guide that maybe your Kindle readership might survive without Amazon!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Paul. That's lovely to know I'm one of the authors you look for!

      The free-if-you-join-Audible is all part of Audible's promotion, and that's okay by me. I do understand that Audible needs to build its readership. And I do get paid an bonus if one of my titles is in the first three books purchased by a new audible member. So that's pretty cool.

      It's very good to know that you're going through my website when you're looking for the new stories. Thanks for letting me know.

      Delete
  38. Josh, I just wanted to say the $1.99 deal on Fatal Shadows is what drew me in. I already own the whole series, and though I've never really listened to Audiobooks, I decided to give the audible version a try. I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed it so much, I went ahead and bought Fair Game and The Ghost Wore Yellow Socks. Then, last night, I bought an Audible.com Gold Membership, and ordered A Dangerous Thing. I plan to order everything you've released on Audible.com now :)

    What I'm saying is, had I not seen that $1.99 deal, I might have waited (who knows how long) to give the audible versions a try, and missed out on a wonderful experience. Seriously, I was up until 2:30 last night listening to A Dangerous Thing (Chris Patton does an amazing job, btw. Wow!)

    Anyway, I don't agree with what Amazon is doing controlling the prices, but I do think you'll gain a lot of new sales (from people who might be hesitant to purchase the audible versions) within the next few months.

    And hopefully, once Amazon receives enough complaints about the new pricing, you'll regain control. Or, they'll set-up a large fund like they do for prime membership sales, and you'll profit more. *Shrugs* Either way, I hope it works out for you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for letting me know, Alicia.

      By the way, I agree about Chris doing a great job. :-) I think he gets better with every book. I may be looking forward to these productions even more than readers!

      Delete
  39. I'm just starting in audio and already have two books in production with ACX. But I'd love to see what you end up doing and how you get your books into the sellers sites. My husband often downloads books from Audographics... I think it is ... and I've been trying to track down how to get with a company like them.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. M, the thing is, having commissioned so many audio books I now have the contacts. I know narrators and I know production companies, so even if I don't go through ACX it's still pretty much the same process. ACX acts as a broker, but I don't really need that service now. So it would ultimately come down to purchasing the product and then seeing about getting it listed everywhere -- which I know is doable. A pain, but doable.

      But then self-pubbing is a pain too, and that was certainly worth it.

      Delete
  40. Hi Josh,

    I know I am a little late to this conversation but I thought I'd chime in. I own an audio book production company in NYC. We work with both ACX and authors directly. We too used to do a bit of royalty share productions but can no longer afford to do so because of the uncertain pricing.

    There are a few things we learned however, some tricks of the trade. Firstly, in regards to whispersync. A book can only be available for whispersync if it matches up 97% of the time. Meaning, it has to match up perfectly. Sometimes a narrator reads the word "could" instead of "would." If the reader has several of these on-purpose errors, then the ACX quality control department may not sync them for whispersync.

    Second, I had one author write a new chapter of her memoir which was an audio exclusive. She promoted it on her website saying "buying the audio version and get an exclusive chapter." This chapter obviously did not appear in the kindle version and therefor did not match up. Presto, no whispersync. This book in question was a memoir on her trying to make it as an actress. And the bonus chapter was on her acting thru the narration process. Extremely clever work around.

    But to your biggest pain point you are absolutely correct. Publishing houses are shying away from ACX and its royalty share program. And as a professional studio, we can't really afford to produce books for any less than $400 per finished hour. So even us publishers are getting a bit squeezed.

    Gotta leave this post anonymous, sorry.

    CD

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for commenting, CD.

      I understand the logic behind the whispersync pricing. I love audio books -- have done for years -- but a lot of my readers are unconvinced. That's where that super-duper pricing incentive is valuable in the long run.

      But in the short run...people gotta eat.

      Narrators, production companies, authors...we have to be able to make a living. We can't afford to loss lead and we can't afford to be someone else's collateral damage in their loss leading war against the competition.

      Amazon/Audible needs to treat authors and producers as partners, to allow them a say in which titles get incentivized and which don't. I think they would be pleasantly surprised in the number of authors and producers willing to gamble.

      I remain absolutely committed to audio books -- and I want to invest in the very best talent and production that I can afford. But the key word is AFFORD. I can't continue to invest if I'm not making money.

      I'm embarrassed to admit this, but $400 an hour is out of my price range. For now, anyway. Not that I don't think a quality narrator and production are worth it, just that so far, it's not in my budget. And I know I'm paying way more than most indie authors (who generally opt for royalty shares).

      I appreciate your perspective!

      Delete
  41. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  42. 'm an ACX Narrator/Producer whose chances of recovering an investment in a Royalty Share project is laughable. The Audible business model has a been tried many times and has failed (Dove Publishing, MediaBay, etc.) The only difference is the electronic delivery of the product.

    I'm skeptical of the numbers ACX publishes regarding their success as I've been watching the site for many months and find very, very few authors or narrators with any amount of talent. Some titles are just poorly written first drafts and most are badly in need of an editor. Not to mention the horrible sound quality and unprofessional demos of the majority of narrator/producers. Naturally, there are exceptions in both categories.

    I'm not sure that the more serious authors realize the amount of garbage and smut (yes, even titles and covers that suggest child molestation are on the site) that their titles appear along with on the site. When I complain about this, ACX responds that they don't police the site and narrating pornography is a personal choice.

    You asked for my perspective,... a company that doesn't take the moral responsibility of removing veiled child pornography from their site should have no problem cheating you and I out of money.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good heavens. Well, I'm happy to say that I've missed any works that suggest anything like child molestation. While erotica is big business, I can't imagine there's much of a market for pure pornography. But then what do I know? I can't stand to hear my own erotic scenes read aloud.

      I do disagree with you about the level of talent, both in the writing and the narrating. Yes, DIYing being what it is, you're going to get some really embarrassing efforts from non-professionals. But you're also going to get some top notch work from artists who've chosen to go it alone. I see plenty of Big Six authors who've listed their work (often for royalty shares) as well as indies.

      I'll tell you this much, I do absolutely check out the credentials of any narrator or production company I hire. I listen to all their sound clips, I check out their websites, their twitter feeds, their FB pages, their CVs. I'm paying above the going rate, and I expect to be dealing with professionals. I've been pleasantly surprised with how many really excellent narrators are available on ACX. Now someone who really knows what to listen for might hear things that I don't, but by en large one reason my audio books are doing so well is because I'm picky as hell about the narrators.

      Delete
  43. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  44. I ended up at this blog post while doing research for my writer's group on royalties. I really appreciate your view on the subject and will definitely share some of your feelings with my group. I can see how the upfront cost of production and then finding out that your expected royalties are slashed.

    Now my writer hat comes off and my reader hat goes on....

    I love audio books. I am a member of audible and because of the financial investment as a reader I limit myself to 39 books a year (that's the 12 month +1 bonus book X 3). I can easily buy a kindle book for 5.99 (2.99/.99 pick your price point) but the audible edition cost me around $14 and change. I reserve my credits for authors (and narrators) I really love. 39 books isn't very many. I can easily eat up 10 or those with favorite series that have new books published every year. If I find a new author with a series (especially and older series) I can burn through a good dozen in a row. If I don't know the author I'm more likely to get the kindle book for the low cost instead of using my credits (they are like gold to me).

    Now whisper sync has changed that for me. If I find an author that I was going to get the kindle version of their book. I don't hesitate to add on the audible version (as long as the combined kindle/audible transaction is under 14.00).

    Remember I would have only bought your ebook in the past so the royalties would have only been on the ebook. But with WS I can add on the audio and you get a little bit more.

    As a reader this has done two things for me:
    1. I've increased my audiobook purchases. I went from 36 a year to 98 in the last three months (please don't tell my husband...)
    2. I've expanded my reading list to authors I might not have ever picked. My read (eyes on actual pages) is limited, but I have hours where I can listen to audio (in the car, doing dishes, at the gym). So I'm more apt no to look for authors with WS so I can read and listen (at a discounted price)...did I mention the 98 books I've purchased?)

    This whole process makes me a better reader. The type of reader authors want. I will happily consume an entire series in a week (oh, look I just purchased Shayla Black's entire series--seven books--in one week.)

    So, yes I'd say lower royalties sucks, but don't discount readers like me. I love this WC discount program. I've shared my experience with my writing group, my family, contacts on social media. Not b/c I want to screw writers out of royalties, but b/c as a reader I'm thrilled to be able to read more!! I can fit more reading time in b/c of audio books, as oppose to just getting the kindle version.

    This is just my 2 cents. Best of luck to you and your writing!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "I can see how the upfront cost of production and then finding out that your expected royalties are slashed"....
      could really be shocking and make you take a second look at the whole audiobook process.

      WOW I totally forgot to finish that thought!!!

      Delete
    2. Yes, that was the shocker. I will say, Audible/ACX has not slashed prices across the board, so the situation hasn't proved as dire as it initially looked. It would still make sense to allow authors some input on pricing, say something as simple as Opt In to promotional pricing? Yes or No. Not having any control is what led so many of us to abandon traditional publishing in the first place.

      Delete
    3. I do agree with your thoughts on promotional pricing. I regularly run sales and adjust pricing on my work for this very reason. I want to stress that I am completely in favor of incentive pricing and promotions.

      What I struggle with is not having any control or say in the process.

      I do sell a decent amount of audio books across the board, and they are so far managing to earn out. But there are a number of variables. Sometimes production costs are less, sometimes the book is smaller, so even if the production costs are high, the book earns out. I've got one project coming up that will be interesting -- it's a big book and it was expensive to produce. So we'll see if that one earns out quickly or not.

      Mostly I look at audio as a long term investment. The market is still growing.

      Delete
  45. Thank you for writing this blog, Mr. Lanyon. I am a narrator. I have some of the audio books I've narrated on Audible/Amazon/ACX, but at the time, I was working through an employer (since I was just getting started and still learning the ropes) and, therefore, I didn't have an account with ACX myself. After some time, I started getting projects myself and working on other types of voice-over. I recently did start my own account with ACX, but I've been taking my time to explore things first before doing an audition. I heard something, a while back, about the Whispersync deal and the downside of it, but it was very vague, so I appreciate your explanation. I agree with your assessment of it. Also, I think that, although yes, buying incentives can be a positive good, it is very short-sighted of them to do it in the way that they are doing it. You can always find some people who will give away their products or services for little or nothing, but no one can do that for very long, because we all need to make a living, and we all need incentives to keep our morale up and keep going. It is disappointing, because I too thought ACX looked like the best thing since sliced bread, and although Whispersync is neat, no one is going to care much about it if it gets to the point where so few authors, narrators and investors are interested in going through ACX that consumers wind up having not much title selection to choose from. Anyone who has ever visited the free movie streaming websites knows that it is only a short matter of time before you get so bored with the selection, frustrated with never being able to find what you want, and with the lower quality, that, if you have the money in your budget at all, you are going to spring for a membership, or start paying per movie. Everybody knows you get what you pay for. That's elementary... Then again, try saying that to a lot of the people in this Walmart society, and I think it seems to just go over their heads somehow, haha!

    I will probably just continue to keep my eye on ACX for now and see what they do. Producing the narration to an audio book is a much larger undertaking than most people seem to realize. They think you are just reading the book aloud. Not quite. You've easily read the entire thing at least a few times by the time the whole thing is recorded, edited, QC-ed, and mastered. Even when paid a fixed price up front, it's hard to say if it's really a better deal for me than just doing lots of smaller projects. The down-side to that, is not knowing for sure if you'll be able to land enough projects to keep yourself going, but at least you're not chained to the commitment of one really huge project. You can always just put out more job bids... put out two or three times as many as usual if you have to. To be lured into such a big commitment as a full-length novel anymore, I would have to stumble upon something that really gave me reason to think it would be worth the while, and ACX isn't really helping me in that department with this Whispersync business.

    I guess I'll just keep my ear out to hear of any developments or changes to the policy. From what I can tell, it looks like nothing has changed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The idea of loss leaders in order to ultimately monopolize the market is the guiding principle for Amazon and all affiliates. I'm hoping that because in this case they aren't battling bricks and mortar and a publishing industry entrenched in a tradition of bad business practices, they won't be able to sweep in and destroy all the competition for audio.

      But that is certainly the tactic. Loss leading is keystone to amazon's business strategy. It's that simple. Undercut the competition and then wait them out.

      So far it seems to be working, but I live in hope.

      I agree that most people -- distressingly, most authors -- don't seem to understand or value what narrators do. But then let's remember that we're living in a culture where everyone thinks they are equally capable of being "An Author." Without any particular training or education or effort than what they already have! It's pretty damn disconcerting, let me tell you. As someone who has been honing their craft for over 20 years.

      Delete
  46. Gosh, how depressing. I’m slowly catching up with your posts, Josh, and I haven’t checked if you’ve discussed this issue on your Goodreads threads too. When I first read about ACX from you I went to their website and read their terms and conditions out of curiosity, as I only knew they were part of Audible/Amazon, but not what their business model was. The part about granting a 50 percent royalty to the copyright holder selling exclusively thru them and a lower percentage if they decide to sell through other outfits too seemed pretty reasonable to me, and I also liked the fact that it would be possible to split the royalty between author and narrator, depending on the case. I knew you had invested a lot upfront in your audiobooks, also ensuring you chose talented narrators, so I was thinking this line of business thru ACX would be a good way to sell your audiobook, ensuring a decent profit, as you say, which would enable you to have more of your books audio narrated by talented professionals. However, when I started reading about Whispersync I didn’t follow anymore and stopped reading, as I barely knew what they were talking about: since I’ve never owned a Kindle (and never plan to in future, as I can read ebooks on many other platforms, as well as buy ebooks from so many other sources, that I’m happy not to be chained to Amazon for my ebook purchases and ebook reading) and was unfamiliar with some of the technology attached to the Kindle. Now that I’m reading here what Whispersync is about and how it potentially impacts independent writers like you, who though very successful in their genre, cannot expect to sell million copies per title straight away, I feel so depressed. It’s another confirmation Amazon are not interested in fostering a sustainable creative/writing/publishing environment, where everybody gains, including the author, and not at the expense of him/her. I don’t know what else to suggest to you, besides the sensible suggestions from other commenters here, especially about delaying selling your ebooks in Kindle format, or trying to un-sync the audiobook and the ebook so they cannot be Whispersynced. Making some of your titles available that don’t have a corresponding ebook, but a print book, also makes perfect sense. (By the way, I’ve recently bought Armed & Dangerous, and I’m enjoying it very much. Adrian Bisson has perfectly captured Taylor’s voice, IMO)
    You might remember when you kindly awarded me a free audiobook last December from the Amber Kell blog and I chose to download A Dangerous Thing from Audible.com, I’d exchanged a few emails with you about my concerns over the proprietary file format Audible is using, similar to the Kindle format with Amazon, as I’ve always been in favour of open source formats like .epub, and to this day I have never bought any of your ebooks from Amazon. Always from Smashwords, ARE, Fictionwise (before they closed down ~sigh~), and directly from the publishers where available.
    (TBC)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree all this proprietary stuff is not to the advantage of anyone but the proprietor and should be resisted by consumers as much as they're able. Amazon makes their Select program tempting, but so far I've resisted that temptation.

      Delete
  47. I know lots of Kindle readers are happy with the user-friendliness of that reading environment, so perhaps I’m a solitary voice here, but I’ve never found any website/company that imposes its own proprietary format + device onto its customer really “user-friendly”. What’s user-friendly to me is the ability to read something I’ve bought on the widest number of devices and formats possible, not the other way around. I’m still very ignorant about the technicality of audiobooks. Are they even available on a variety of formats, as ebooks are? Is Audible the only webstore selling them, besides iTunes, right now? I hope Audible’s dominance will not mean that one day their proprietary format will become the de facto industry standard for audiobooks. I hope as audiobooks are produced in larger numbers and genres, that the market will open up and more webstores will sell them and offer a fairer deal to authors and narrators, not just loss leaders to draw customers in. Though I agree that promotional pricing for a limited time might be useful, but only if agreed with the copyright holder, and not at the discretion of the seller. Which also makes me wonder about the legality of such discretionary pricing, without the consent of the copyright holder, especially when the copyright holder has already invested in creating the product in the first place and has the recoup the investment and have a reasonable profit, not just to pay the bills, but to be able to produce more quality ebooks/audiobooks in future.

    All the best!
    Paola

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep, Amazon makes it so easy, so convenient. They do so much so well. If only they weren't trying to take over the entire world.

      Audible sells through its own website, through iTunes and through Amazon. That's it. You can listen on your kindle, laptop...and you can copy the files to discs, I believe.

      Delete
    2. Audible is owned by Amazon. Just sayin." I'd go to ww.downpour.com. It's like supporting an independent "audiobook" store.

      Delete
  48. Another way to delay or destroy Whisperstync being added is to have occasional different wording in the narration than the book. If the author and producer were in agreement, I suppose they could undermine and outwit Whisperstync that way. ;) Same meaning, same story, just add or drop words.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. That is one way. Make the two versions significantly different.

      Delete
  49. I found this page after having yet another of my "I'm craving more cheap Audible audiobooks to add to my growing queue" moments and then wondering how much authors get paid from these steep Amazon discounts. Although I absolutely *LOVE* the audiobook discounts and have bought somewhere around 200 audiobooks that I otherwise wouldn't have purchased (ugh, I shouldn't have looked at my Audible library), I was shocked to see that you have no control over the pricing. This doesn't seem right. You should be able to set a minimum price, and then if Amazon wants to discount it more they should eat the discount themselves. Will this stop me from buying discounted audiobook? Yes if I know the author objects to it. Just about all the audiobooks I've purchased have been from authors I hadn't heard of before. It gives me a chance to experience the works of authors I'm not familiar with, without too much of an out-of-pocket expense, so in that regard I think it's a benefit to the author. However, I do think you should be able to limit Amazon's discount pricing and hope eventually Amazon offers that option. Thanks for the education!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I think a lot of anguish could be resolved by allowing rights holders control of their pricing. Even the fury over the reduced royalty rate could be instantly resolved by allowing the rights holders to have some control of their product.

      Delete
  50. You know as a reader audible buyer, I never considered the pricing of items in relationship to authors costs etc. I am a proverbial amazon whispersync user. I did and have used credits to purchase your titles [ i have them all hahah] after reading the ebook I bought the audibles. I didnt get to much credit of the 1.99 altho I purchased the titles as audible gifts at that price for my Bf.
    I wish you great success and revenues too [ it is after all a job and no one works without a paycheck coming in] but my main concern is some of these ebook sand audibles were contingent on the device the buyer uses... So I cannot buuy ebooks from barnes and nobles say becuz I have a kindle [ let's face it those things are affordable compared to IPads ;HEY I'M a working bloke]
    I prefer authors choice to select what serves their needs best , but of course, I hope when doing so it isn't device oriented.
    You go Bro.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The device-specific formats really bother me too. You can download from iTunes or directly to your laptop, so kindle isn't the only option, but I agree.

      Delete
  51. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  52. Dear Josh

    My name is Roger Radford, and I am a former foreign correspondent and fellow author based in London. We are now almost in October, and I think I need a bit of a re-cap of advice from you. One of my thrillers, Schreiber's Secret, has just been awarded a stipend by ACX. While my e-book has almost 300 mainly five-star reviews, this is my first foray into the audiobooks market. The film rights have been sold for my book, but of course this does not necessarily mean that a movie will be made. I have listened to a few auditions from prospective narrators, and most of them do not come up to scratch. There is one that is not too bad, and he has agreed to produce for $1,000. Another is much better, but he wants double. I would prefer to provide my own production so that I can earn 40% from Amazon. Another production company has suggested a deal in which I would have an agreement with them. This would limit their share of the 40% to less than the seven years as stipulated in the ACX contract. An ACX adviser said that because I had been offered a stipend, the company would promote my book more than those who had not. The adviser said that ACX would contact directly all of the 100,000 people who have already downloaded my book, and that sales of the audiobook were almost guaranteed. However, taking into account their control over whispersync pricing, this may not be as good as it sounds. I have two other books that have also garnered many great reviews. I'd just like to ask you which way you think I should go on this, step-by-step. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I am aged sixty-seven, and I'm not as sharp as I used to be. Hence my request. Best regards, Roger Radford www.rogerradford.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Roger, it sounds like you've got the readership to support producing an audio book. It's hard to know though because only a fraction of readers go for audio -- it's still a growing market.

      No one can guarantee sales. Not ACX and not Amazon. They can guarantee that they will do their best to help you achieve those sales, but there are no guarantees in publishing.

      Whatever you decide to do, don't rush picking a narrator. The narrator is as important to the success of your audio book as the book itself. You MUST take time and find the right voice to present your story.

      For a mainstream title expect to pay around $300 - 400 per finished hour. You can find good narrators for less, but it's not easy and you have to be willing to work with narrators who may not have a lot of experience (that doesn't mean you can't find some terrific talent, but it is more challenging).

      It's possible to find a good narrator willing to do a royalty share -- that's where the stipend comes in -- but I'm not in favor of this for a variety of reasons.

      Whichever way you go, take your time, do your research, and don't be rushed into making a decision before you're ready.

      I hope that helps.

      Delete
  53. I'm curious if any authors have tried to "break" Whispersync by modifying the content of either the print version or the audio version, so that the two won't match up. If you're not given a choice to opt out of Whispersync, is there a way to do it on your own? It seems like it could even be a selling point, eg offering additional content in the audio version as a sort of bonus or easter egg for fans.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do think that's the easiest way to get around the problem. Modify content for one version.

      Delete
  54. Very interesting conversation here.

    As both producer / narrator for the audiobooks I work on, I decided to go only for royalty deals. I feel / felt that the per hour rate doesn't come close to compensating me for the blood, sweat, and tears I pour into my production / narration.

    The first book I narrated was per finished hour with sombody else producing and to this day the producer stays silent every time I ask for my money. That experience nudged me hard to become producer myself.

    Back to the WhisperSync topic, I initially thought, I had hurt the author and myself as producer / narrator by tweaking the audiobook version so much to "improve" it. After skimming this conversation, maybe not.

    At any rate, I am very happy with the result of the tweaking. I think it makes it a better experience for the listener. I think I broke WhisperSync in the process. Remains to be seen if that is good or bad.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Thanks to everyone for sharing their stories. I only just started narrating for ACX and was wondering if anyone is getting paid. I audition for a lot of production jobs, and am not selected. I have produced 4 royalty projects and sold over 20 books total. But it is not clear to me that any title will ever "convert" into paying royalties -- or what triggers that conversion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Robin, my Audible royalties for 2014 were $55,902.

      That's gross, not net, and either way it's not a livable income, but for me audio is one of several publishing/writing income streams.

      I rarely do royalty shares -- I pay my narrator/producers outright.

      Delete
  56. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    ReplyDelete
  57. Okay, at first I felt bad for commenting on a years old entry, despite the material still being relevant, but scrolling down I see I'm not alone.

    Anyway, just wanted to say that a method I think would work to avoid Whispersync is including an excerpt or two from other titles at the end of your ebook, which your narrator/producer doesn't read. Whispersync requires 97% word match, so you can calculate how long of an excerpt is required. Plus, bonus points for promoting another title anyway :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! In a case like Dark Horse, White Knight, we're working from print and the issue doesn't arise, but for an ebook collection...either adding or subtracting additional content seems like the best way around it as far as price matching audio to ebooks.

      The big question for me now is whether audio will remain a significant earnings channel.

      With a reduced royalty rate, readers able to "borrow" audio books through KU, and a market now flooded with audio books...it's a lot more competitive out there.

      Because (in most cases) I'm paying for the audio productions, every project *has* to earn out. Or I can't afford to finance new projects. I wish that wasn't the case, because I love the audio books and readers love them too. But it's an economic reality.

      Delete
  58. I am a first time author, and was delighted to produce my audiobook with ACX...not so much when I realized I was not going to earn out the original cost because of Whispersync. I was floored when I found I could not opt out and am now thinking of unpublishing my kindle version simply to get rid of that silly pricing for the audiobook.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's the lack of control that compounds the inherent problem. ACX is essentially a distribution exchange with all responsibility and risk on the part of the author/publisher/producer but ACX having all control and the majority of profits.

      Delete
  59. Can you do two versions like a director's cut and budget edition on a dvd/blu ray? It would work best if you can release separately but could do a trial if have to. This might sound like a lot of work but it's only what you already do on your blog, just gathered together in audio. One version would be the equivalent of a gold edition with codas, audio interview with yourself and narrator about the book,recipes and anything else that would be cool like deleted scenes but professionally narrated and why you didn't include them. If you have time an audio exclusive short is always going to sell it and I mean 500-1000 words interlude sort of thing or as an answer to the type of questions you get on Goodreadsrather than a whole separate story because I In an ideal world you wouldn't release the other book until audio costs meet but then release the budget Whispersync edition, shade the cover black and white and hopefully everyone's happy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I can, and so far that seems to be the best workaround.

      As a matter of fact, I offer a free and exclusive audio short story for people who join my mailing list, so I'm already experimenting beyond the boundaries of ACX.

      Slowly but surely I'm figuring this stuff out... ;-)

      Delete