Bards Lost in The Metaverse Episode 31 - Audiobook Distribution
This week Sharn and Andy talked all about Audiobook distribution. What it is, the options available to indie authors, and their thoughts on it.
But first, the news.
It’s Monday 24th April 2023, and this is news with Sharn:
In Web3 and tech new this week:
In a series of tweets on April 19th, Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and Twitter, threatened Microsoft with a lawsuit, alleging that the company illegally trained its artificial intelligence on Twitter data. Musk claimed that Microsoft scraped information from the platform to train its AI and sell the data to others. While Microsoft didn't explain why it was winding down Twitter support, Musk further accused the company of "demonetizing" Twitter data by removing advertisements and then selling the data to others. Microsoft's decision means its customers will lose access to their Twitter accounts through its tools. Microsoft has so far declined to comment on Musk’s claims and its decision to scrap Twitter ads support.
Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has announced that it is laying off another 4,000 employees in technical roles as part of its ongoing cost-cutting efforts. The job cuts will impact employees in areas such as user experience, software engineering, graphics programming, and gameplay engineering for the company's virtual reality products. Meta had previously announced plans to cut around 10,000 jobs in total, with the latest round of layoffs focusing on technical roles, while additional cuts are expected to target business groups in late May.
In the world of Publishing:
The Society of Authors has launched a new campaign called Tree to Me, which aims to give authors more control over the environmental impact of physical books. The campaign encourages authors to ask publishers 10 questions about sustainability, covering topics such as materials used in production, packaging and energy consumption. The Society of Authors is a founding partner of the Sustainability Industry Forum, a cross-industry initiative that seeks to reduce the environmental impact of the book business, along with other industry schemes including Publishing Declares and the carbon calculator launched by the Publishers Association for its members in 2022.
Self-published authors are earning more on average than those published by traditional presses, according to a recent survey by the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). The survey found that the median income of primary income self-publishing authors (those who spend over half their working time on writing and publishing activities) was $12,749 in 2022, with the median income for all respondents rising 53% on the previous year. Romance, fantasy/sci-fi/speculative, and crime/thriller/detective were the most popular genres for self-publishers, representing 57% of all respondents.
And that my friends, was news with Sharn.
Firstly what is an Audio book? And what types of audio books are there?
An audiobook is a recording of a book being read aloud. Instead of reading the text on a page or a screen, you can listen to the book being read to you.
Audiobooks have become increasingly popular in recent years, as they offer a convenient way to "read" books while doing other activities such as driving, exercising, or relaxing. They can be a great way to enjoy a book when you don't have the time or energy to read it in print form.
Many audiobooks are narrated by professional voice actors, and some even include sound effects or musical accompaniment. Some books may be abridged or condensed for the audio format, while others are read in their entirety.
Abridged vs unabridged Audio books
An unabridged audiobook is a recording of the entire text of the book, without any abridgment or editing. This means that every word, sentence, and paragraph in the book is included in the audio recording. Unabridged audiobooks are ideal for those who want to experience the complete story or information contained in the original book.
On the other hand, abridged audiobooks have been edited or condensed in some way to make them shorter or more concise. This might involve cutting out entire sections of the book, summarizing parts of the story, or simplifying complex language or language that does not work well for audio.
It's worth noting that some readers prefer unabridged audiobooks because they feel that abridged versions can lose some of the nuance or depth of the original text.
Podcast-style audiobooks: Some audiobooks are structured like podcasts, with multiple voices, interviews, and discussions, often in non-fiction genres.
Original audio dramas: Some audiobooks are created as original audio dramas, with a full cast of voice actors, sound effects, and music, creating a unique listening experience. Andy Mac's Favourite of all!
What is Audio Book Distribution
Audiobook distribution refers to the process of making audiobooks available to the public through various channels. This involves making digital or physical copies of the audiobook and distributing them to retailers, libraries, and other platforms where people can purchase or borrow them.
The distribution process for audiobooks typically involves working with a distributor or aggregator who will handle the logistics of getting the audiobook into the hands of consumers. You can also self publish from your website but back on track. The distributor may work with various retailers and platforms, including online marketplaces such as Amazon and Audible, as well as brick-and-mortar bookstores and libraries.
Audiobook distribution also involves ensuring that the audiobook is available in the appropriate formats, such as MP3 or CD, and that it meets the technical specifications required by each platform.
Overall, audiobook distribution is a crucial part of the audiobook production process, as it helps to ensure that the audiobook reaches the widest possible audience and is available in a variety of formats and channels.
How do I distribute my Audio book?
Looks like we are going to have a similar wide vs exclusive battle once again! So let's get into it.
ACX - the big dogs in town:
ACX (Audiobook Creative Exchange) is Audible’s self-serve production and distribution service. For a long time, it was the only option available to indie authors looking to publish their audiobooks, and it is still one of the most widely used distribution services.
Worth noting you have to have at least an eBook available on Amazon to use the service.
ACX only distributes to three locations:
Apple Books (previously iTunes)
Much like Kindle Direct Publishing, ACX offers authors two options for distribution:
Exclusive to ACX: This option prevents you from distributing or selling your audiobook through any other channel — whether that’s another retailer, a subscription service, directly on your website (why they hate authors so much!), or even in physical CD form (because it's 1995). But in exchange for your ACX exclusivity, they pay you a royalty rate of 40% of the list price. It's worth noting though, that most people use their Audible credits to purchase books which is currently set at $16.45 so even if you list it at $30 you will only get royalties off the $16
Non exclusive to ACX: This allows you to distribute your audiobook elsewhere in any form you want but your royalty rate will only be 25% of the list price on ACX.
Note: If you choose to produce your audiobook under a royalty-share model with the narrator on ACX, you will automatically be enrolled in the exclusivity option — and will not be able to get out of it unless you “buy out” your narrator. The narrator's royalty percentage is determined between you and them as far as I can see. You can also just pay up front or use your own narrator.
ACX’s narrowing exclusivity period
However, the big difference between KDP Select and ACX exclusivity is the length of the exclusivity period. While KDP Select renews every 90 days, ACX/Audible contracts are for 7 years, I say again 7 YEARS!
That said, ACX recently changed its terms and now allows authors who own the full rights to their audiobook to get out of exclusivity after 90 days (similar to KDP Select). Again, this doesn't apply to books produced under a royalty-share agreement. eek!
ACX pricing and royalties
Whether you're exclusive or not, there's one crucial element you won't be able to control on ACX: your audiobook's price.
Each retailer reached by ACX is free to price or discount your audiobook at their sole discretion. Generally, that price is on your audiobook's length, and ACX provides the following ballpark breakdown of the pricing you can expect for your audiobook on Audible.
< 1 hour: under $7
1 - 3 hours: $7 - $10
3 - 5 hours: $10 - $20
5 - 10 hours: $15 - $25
10 - 20 hours: $20 - $30
20+ hours: $25 - 35
So your revenue on audiobook sales will basically depend on two main factors: 1) your audiobook's length; and 2) whether you're exclusive with ACX. But also remember that most people are not paying full price for your Audio Book.
In the past few years, several other audiobook distributors have emerged. Many of them offer authors a strong alternative to Amazon ACX and greater reach into hundreds of audiobook retailers, subscription services, and libraries.
Naturally, this means you can't go exclusive on ACX and can only ever earn the 25% on Audible sales (minus the distributor's) cut. This can be a significant risk if most of your audiobook income comes from Audible — but there are many benefits to going wide.
The benefits of using wide audiobook distributors over ACX:
The first benefit is the increased reach that comes with using these distributors. Findaway Voices, for example, can reach over 40 different outlets, including smaller subscription services and libraries in countries such as Europe and Canada.
Libraries, in particular, can play a big role in audiobook discoverability and revenue, with many authors reporting that they make up over one-third of their audiobook income on platforms such as Findaway Voices.
The second benefit of using wide audiobook distributors is greater price control. Indie authors can run price promotions on their audiobooks, which was not possible with ACX. With wide distributors, authors can choose their own retail price, opening up a world of opportunities for discounted/free first-in-series, limited-time discount promotions, and discounted audio box sets.
Finally, authors who use wide audiobook distributors have access to Chirp, a site for audiobook deals that handpicks selected audiobook deals and promotes them to a growing list of listeners. Unlike BookBub Featured Deals, which can cost several hundred dollars, Chirp featured deals are currently free for authors — and have already proven to work exceptionally well to boost sales. To submit your audiobook for a Chirp deal, you need to make sure that:
It's available for sale on Chirp (which you can only achieve through Findaway Voices); and
The discount price is lower than the audiobook's listed retailer price.
According to Will Dages from Findaway Voices, Chirp is by far their fastest-growing retailer, which is a good enough reason on its own to favor Findaway Voices over other distributors.
Overall, using wide audiobook distributors can help indie authors reach more listeners, increase revenue, and have greater control over pricing and promotions.
Some of the main distributors:
We have mentioned Findaway before as they are the leading non-ACX audiobook distributor, both in terms of titles distributed and the number of outlets reached. Worth noting and we may have mentioned this last year on the podcast but iIn 2022, they were acquired by Spotify.
Findaway Voices network reaches over 170 countries around the world, and they offer seamless integration with Draft2Digital (who we discussed in our book publishing episode) so you can carry over your metadata instead of re-entering it from scratch. Now that they're owned by Spotify, your audiobook will be able to reach Spotify through Findaway. You can also pick-and-choose which outlets you want to distribute to.
Similar to ACX, they also offer audiobook production services, including a hybrid royalty-share option through Voices Share — However you will need to front 50% of the audiobook production costs.
Royalties: Findaway Voices offer authors 80% of the royalties they receive from their distribution partners. The actual royalty can vary greatly depending on the partner's retail model (straight sale vs subscription service, library, etc.). Still, most non-Amazon major retailers pay between 40% and 50% of list price. After Findaway's distribution cut, this represents a net royalty for the author of 32%-40% of list price. For sales through Amazon/Audible, Findaway will receive 25% of the list price. This means authors will earn a net royalty of 80% of the 25% (20%).
Kobo Writing Life
In 2019, the popular eBook site Kobo Writing Life (KWL) began publishing audiobooks. Kobo is part of Rakuten, a Japanese-based e-commerce company, giving it a strong international presence.
Retailer Platforms Reached
KWL distributes only to its network of publishing and library partners, including Walmart, Indigo, Bol, Overdrive, and Rakuten Kobo.
Royalties and Commissions
Kobo offers Authors 70 percent of the list price on books priced $2.99 and higher. For books between 99 cents and $2.98, Authors receive 45 percent royalties.
KWL doesn’t ask for exclusivity, so you can easily pair other distribution methods with a Kobo account.
KWL allows Authors to set their own prices, and they can do so in 16 different currencies. Kobo also has the unique option to let Authors offer their books for free.
Lantern Audiobooks (formally ListenUp Audiobooks)
Lantern/ListenUp audiobooks have been around for longer than Findaway Voices, have a similar distribution reach and royalty model to Findaway's, and also offer audiobook production services, albeit at a slightly higher cost/hour than the average one on Findaway Voices.
ListenUp charges a $149-$199 upfront fee per title for distribution — which they waive for titles produced through ListenUp. This, and the fact you can't get your ListenUp audiobooks into Chirp, make them a slightly less attractive option, unless you use them for production as well.
Royalties: ListenUp's royalty model is identical to Findaway's. They take a 20% cut on royalties received from retail partners, meaning authors will earn:
32%-40% of list price on most non-Amazon store sales
20% of list price on Amazon/Audible sales
Author's Republic is another well-known audiobook distributor. As opposed to Findaway Voices and ListenUp, they don't offer production services directly but instead focus exclusively on distribution.
One thing to note is that Author's Republic accepts submissions from authors/publishers from any country in the world, and thus can be a good option for authors in countries not supported by the other major distributors.
Royalties: Author's Republic takes a large distribution cut (30%), resulting in lower net royalties for the author:
28%-35% of list price on most non-Amazon store sales
17.5% on Amazon/Audible sales
PublishDrive is the only aggregator in this list that also offers ebook and print-on-demand distribution — allowing authors to control all of their different formats' distribution from one place.
PublishDrive leverages Findaway's distribution network by distributing audiobooks to Findaway directly. They also reach CNEP Reading, the leading library content provider in China. It's important to distinguish between the outlets PublishDrive has a direct agreement with, and those reached through their partnership with Findaway, as the royalties will vary. You can view the complete list here.
Royalties: Their business model is entirely different from the above: instead of taking a cut on royalties, PublishDrive charges a monthly subscription fee and pays 100% of net royalties. The monthly fee depends on the number of titles you distribute with them — and each different format (ebook, print, audio) counts as a separate title.
Remember that since PublishDrive goes through Findaway to reach several outlets (like Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Scribd, Bibliotheca, etc.), your royalty on these outlets will be the same as through Findaway. So probably just use Findaway,....
Sounwise’s audience is small but loyal. Many of its customers favor content within the Soundwise system, so distributing here can open your book up to new, dedicated listeners.
Retailer Platforms Reached
Soundwise doesn’t distribute to retailers, Instead, it distributes content through its own app and web interface.
Royalties and Commissions
Like PublishDrive, Soundwise doesn’t take a percentage of your royalties. Instead, they charge a monthly or annual fee, with different tiers of service.
I couldn't find the numbers but a website we looked at listed the “Essentials” plan cost at $59 for lifetime access.
Authors do not pay transaction fees, but the payment company Contract requires a small credit card fee that will be taken from your earnings.
Soundwise is non-exclusive.
Authors may set their own prices, and you can also set up limited-time promotions.
Subscription services and library sales
We've talked about percentages and costs a little. But the reality is that a la carte sales generally only represent a small part of the total audiobook income — the main one comes from subscription services and library sales.
To complicate things further, both subscription services and library distributors can operate under different models, from credit-based subscriptions and revenue pools to cost per checkout. Understanding those is the first step to understanding your audiobook royalty statements, so we'll try to shed some light on each of these models below.
Credit-based subscription: listeners pay a monthly subscription fee to get "credits," which they can redeem against audiobooks. Authors earn the same royalty as an a la carte sale when their audiobook is purchased using credits.
Unlimited subscription: listeners pay a monthly subscription fee to listen to as many audiobooks as they want. Authors earn the same royalty as an a la carte sale when a subscriber listens to 15% or more of their audiobook.
Revenue pool share subscription: listeners pay a monthly subscription fee, contributing to a total "revenue pool." Authors receive a percentage of that revenue pool based on their pro-rata share of total listening time.
A la carte: libraries purchase a license to lend the audiobook to a maximum of one patron at a time. Authors earn a royalty based on their library price, which can often be more expensive than the retail price.
Cost per checkout: libraries are granted a license to lend the audiobook to a maximum of one patron at a time. Authors are remunerated per checkout, i.e., every time a patron borrows the audiobook. The pay per checkout varies based on the library distributor and is either a function of the audiobook's length (Hoopla) or its library price (all other cost-per-checkout distributors).
Audiobook Production options:
AI - tools spoken about last week
Hiring narrator - Upwork, Fiver, professionals through Findaway voices, most likely other options
Self narration - Garage Band, Soundtrap, Adobe Audition, or other tools to enable this
It's either Amazon and ACX or Draft to Digital and Findaway hahaha. That being said, I can say I have never listened to an audio book anywhere except Audible and Youtube.
I’m keen to eventually make an audiobook version of my books, and I’m not sure which way I would want to go right now. As we tell everyone, when the time comes I need to do more research and figure out which one suits me. Currently I’ve only used Audible and Google Books to listen to audiobooks.
It’s now time to enter Andy’s Imagin-asium
Welcome to the Imagin-asium! - Work Out of the week number 5
This week's workout is going to push you longer and harder than ever before because we got a big one!
The track for this week is: Requiem - by Geinoh Yamashirogumi
Your workout is as follows:
Get the music ready on your device.
Get outside and go for a walk, preferably somewhere nice and safe. But if you can't get comfy under your blanket of choice.
Listen to the music and follow the below workout:
This week i want you to imagine that something massive and Evil is brewing under a city of your choosing (cyberpunk, victorian, current, ancient). Your job is to imagine how the evil makes its way to the surface and warning this is a long track.
And finally, hit me up on twitter(@AndyMacCreative) or Bards (@Invokecrations) up on Twitter and let me know what you came up with 🎧
And that's your Imagin-asium workout of the week! Remember to stay hydrated and stretch throughout the day ;)
As always, we have a lot to do and a lot more to learn. Hope you all have fun following along as we improve our understanding and knowledge!
You can find this podcast episode (and all our other episodes) here: https://anchor.fm/invokecreations , or directly on your favourite streaming services.
NOTE: Everything discussed during the podcast is simply our own interpretation of information we come across as we research topics, or is commentary based on our own personal experiences. We highly encourage everyone to conduct their own research into topics of interest as information, especially in the technical space, changes regularly.
Music track featured this week was titled Infinite and can be viewed/listened to here: https://youtu.be/jVNZJ6xZvOA
To check out our latest art and music adventures, make sure you like and subscribe to both our Instagram account https://www.instagram.com/invoke_art/ and Youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPH5KySvBnWgWPXHi_OtTng
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Or if everything is just too confusing and you can’t remember where all our stuff is, head to our website www.invokecreations.com and it will point you in the right direction.
As always, we’re off to put our bums on seats and do some work, so until next time stay dangerous!