Friday, February 28, 2014

Sounding off about ACX (Is there an echo in here?)

This is not the post I planned to write today. I was going to blether on about the pleasures of writing in layers, but I'm distracted by the latest announcement from ACX/Audible/Amazon about cutting "royalties" for the audio books they sell. Basically royalties on any of my forthcoming audio works will drop a minimum of 10 - 11%. You can read the announcement here.

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

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.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Coming in 2014

Wait…that’s NOW!


So 2014 is upon us like the wolf upon the fold, and I have been hemming and hawing about what’s coming up from yours truly. And partly that’s because I hate to commit lest I fail to deliver, and partly it’s because having the illusion of creative freedom keeps me more…creative.

But two projects are contracted and already have release dates. Those would be Stranger on the Shore due out from Carina Press May 5th (yes, you can preorder, it’s already in edits) and Fair Play, the sequel to Fair Game. (I think FP is due out in November -- also through Carina Press.)

So really those are the only two projects absolutely set in stone. That said, there are a couple of things planned for this year that will happen -- I’m just leery about attaching dates to them.

The Boy with the Painful Tattoo (Book 3 in the Holmes & Moriarity series). Much anticipated, I know. I’ve got some 15 queries in my inbox at the moment. The hope (and prayer) is to have this out before the summer. It should have been out before now, but to be honest it’s a tricky place in the series -- a turning point -- and I keep mulling over it and trying to decide what I really want to do here.

Yes, it will be in digital, print, and audio.

Also pretty much for sure this year is Winter Kill (digital, print, audio). That’s the one about the FBI agent and the sheriff’s deputy in the Pacific Northwest (serial killer, environmentalists, Native Americans, etc.)

Then we have all the Very Likely to Happen (maybe even before the Will Happens, and those include Ill Met by Moonlight (sequel to This Rough Magic) and Bite Club (sequel to Mummy Dearest). These are both novellas which means pretty quick and easy to write provided I don’t get distracted and lured away by other projects.

Ill Met By Moonlight will be paired with TRM in a print anthology -- and there will be an audio book. There should also be a general historical print collection with a new short story. I’m sort of tossing that idea around to figure out what would work best -- should I include IMbM and TRM in that? Or should I leave them in their own print collection? Or both? I’m undecided.

I believe I mentioned elsewhere that the last three Adrien English novels have been picked up for Japanese translation by Shinshokan? And we’re continuing to look into more possibilities for translation in other corners of the globe.

Finally we have the stuff that should happen, but I don’t want to think about right now: Haunted Heart: Spring, Dangerous Ground 6, Christmas stories, etc. I am very eager to write the sequel to Snowball in Hell, but the original story I’d planned is now pushed back for a book or two within the series. In the words of Stewie the GPS voice…recalculating. And that long talked about project inspired by The Monument Men seems like maybe its time has come...

The reality is I can only do 4 -5 projects a year without straining -- strain does not produce the best work, so it’s a matter of figuring out the right projects for the right time. And how I do that is to calculate what I am most eager to write with what you are most eager to read. Sometimes I come up with the perfect solution. Sometimes…not so much.

Anyway, that’s where we stand as of this moment. Things could change. They often do. And very often what you have to say plays a part in that. So feel free to speak up now!