First of all, can we stop calling our percentage of these sales "royalties"? They are not royalties. We are financing and producing our own books and ACX/Audible/Amazon is our vendor. They are not our publisher and they are not paying advances and they are not fronting any of the costs nor supplying any support or help along the way. They are providing the sales channels for our work -- and establishing their own monopoly at the same time. So that's the first thing.
The second thing is...wow.
I do not understand why there is no viable alternative to ACX/Audible. WHY does no one come up with a viable alternative? ACX/Audible is not that far out in front. They are still vulnerable to a serious challenge. Why does no one challenge them? Audio books are a potential goldmine. This is one of the biggest publishing stories out there, an area of huge potential growth for all of us. But no. Nothing. Not a flicker on the horizon. (Okay, maybe a flicker from B&N, but now I can't even find the article, so it was probably more of a death twitch.)
You have to give Amazon credit because they have the vision and they have the drive to make these things happen -- and to make them happen easily (The Audio Creative Exchange is a BRILLIANT concept).
AND they have the rapacious greed.
ACX says: We are lowering the royalties as we continue our mission to accommodate more audiobook productions. Our royalties still remain well above those offered by traditional audiobook publishers.
I mean, you do have to at least snicker at the outright in-your-face boldness. We're doing it because we now feel comfortable that we own the lion's share of the market. That's pretty much the message there.
As for the comment about traditional audiobook publishers? Traditional audiobook publishers FRONT THE COST OF THE AUDIOBOOK. So yes, it makes sense they don't pay as high "royalties." I mean, it's one thing to rob us at gunpoint. Do you have to giggle maniacally in our face while you're doing it?
So what does this mean? I have readers asking me if it means no more audio books.
No. It doesn't mean that. Because ACX/Audible/Amazon has calculated correctly as usual. I understand that audio is a solid secondary revenue stream for me, and I understand that 40% is better than nothing (and so far nothing is the alternative), I understand that, so far, there is no viable alternative, and I understand that the audio market will continue to grow -- and that many of my readers love and appreciate these audio books.
I get it. So yes, I will continue to produce audio books through ACX/Audible/Amazon while hoping, praying, someone comes along with a real live viable alternative.
Here's the thing I want to communicate to my fellow ACXers though, because it only just occurred to me. When I commissioned my audio books, I did not think of asking all my narrators for copies of my files. The files are uploaded directly to ACX and I am betting that the vast majority of us don't ask for copies and don't give the original files another thought. But in seven years our contract with ACX expires and we are free to take the files elsewhere. Except if we don't have the files...
Now in seven years who knows. Seven years is a long time. Maybe we would want new narrators? Maybe the technology will have changed so much these audio files would be useless. But not having options is never a good thing.
Little update: There is a petition being circulated. It's narrator-centric -- I don't think most of us would agree that the boom in the audiobook industry is solely and strictly due to narrators -- but it gives an opportunity to voice your thoughts and share with ACX/Audible how their actions are perceived by their own customers. Please sign if you can.