Episode 147 – Microsoft, Audio Monopolies, and Indie Print

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Question of the Week: If you were publishing an audiobook on Audible today, given the potential of change in the next 7 years, would you go exclusive for higher royalties, or non-exclusive to take advantage of the potential new channels?

Jim and Bryan are back with news about 2016 author data, audiobook monopolies, Microsoft’s new ebook store, and more! After thanking their patrons Pirates vs. Dragons, A Curse Upon the Saints, and Peaks of Passion, the talented twosome took on tips related to LinkedIn, the pulp mindset, and using Vellum on a PC. News stories included Kobo’s progress with Overdrive, Macmillan’s play with Pronoun, the new Microsoft ebook store, a big potential change in audiobooks going forward, and Data Guy’s 2017 Digital Book World presentation. This week’s Question of the Week: If you were publishing an audiobook on Audible today, given the potential of change in the next 7 years, would you go exclusive for higher royalties, or non-exclusive to take advantage of the potential new channels?
What You’ll Learn:
  • How nonfiction authors can use LinkedIn to promote their books
  • What is preventing authors from being as prolific as pulp writers
  • What easy workaround PC owners can use to access Vellum
  • How Kobo plans to get more indies and small presses into libraries
  • What new changes authors who publish through Pronoun can expect
  • What new online retailer readers can soon turn to for ebooks
  • How an agreement between Audible and Amazon will affect the audiobook market
  • Why Data Guy says comparing print vs. digital book sales is the wrong question
Links:
Question of the Week: If you were publishing an audiobook on Audible today, given the potential of change in the next 7 years, would you go exclusive for higher royalties, or non-exclusive to take advantage of the potential new channels?

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  • Mark Goodwin

    Absolutely. As long as you elect to pay for production rather than the royalty share deal, you can switch from exclusive to non-exclusive with ACX. Now the caveat: You have to wait until after your first year and provide a 60-day notice to go non-exclusive. Here’s the ACX page with all the info: goo.gl/yPsTgw

    At present, Audible is the only game in town, at least the only one that matters. But with their borderline-mahogany-desk pricing and egregious royalty percentage takes, the self-published audiobook market is ripe for disruption. Still, it will take a competitor at least one year, plus your 60-day notification period to get established. So for now, I’m going exclusive and keeping my ear to the tracks by listening to SMBS!

    • Bryan

      Let’s hope for some disruption. Thanks, Mark!

  • Lavie Margolin

    Jane Friedman mentioned Pronoun and DBW Indie. I don’t know about their publishing platform but I am loving their category suggestions and Amazon sales rank tracking. Seems like they are making waves…

    • Bryan

      We’ll have to see, Lavie :).

  • Ethan Jones

    Seven years is like an eternity in the ever-changing indie market. I wouldn’t do an exclusive deal, because that would exclude new channels and platforms, especially considering the amazing developments of artificial intelligence voice capacities. In five years, we may be able to create and publish our own audio books like we do with mobi or epub files.
    Thanks and blessings,
    Ethan

    • Bryan

      Thanks for sharing, Ethan!

  • Timely. My second Audible title posted today. I’ve loved the royalty-split option and avoiding those upfront costs. The royalties are solid, it’s linked to my Amazon titles, and I get several $25 bounties. Hard to beat.

    • Bryan

      Good stuff, Darren. Congrats on the new audiobook!

  • Audio book production is expensive and you can’t choose non-exclusive with a royalty share which means this isn’t going to really be a choice for an author who can’t afford the up front cost.

    • Bryan

      Great point, J. But aren’t all our listeners as rich and famous as you?

      • Umm, yeah. I was making that comment for a friend of mine 🙂

  • Simon Goodson

    I chose non exclusive 18 months ago and am so pleased i did. Having seen audible slash royalty rates i knew i wanted to keep my options open.

    • Bryan

      That’s awesome, Simon. Glad it’s worked for you!

  • Amazon/Audible wants authors to go exclusive. If new competition reduces their business, I expect Amazon will add benefits to sweeten their deal. So today, the answer is go exclusive and hope that tomorrow Amazon still likes making money.

    I’ve done narration with ACX, compensated through royalty splits on exclusive distribution deals. It’s been great; convenient distro to the major retailers, and nice bonuses paid when new users buy your content. When I launch my series this summer, I’ll start recording my own audio. Being the sole rights owner, I’m encouraged to choose exclusivity thanks to the option to opt out after a year. Thanks @MarkGoodman for the useful link to the help page!

    • Bryan

      Cool that you have experience from the other side, M. Thanks!

  • Laura Morelli

    Non-exclusive all the way! My audiobook sales OUTSIDE of ACX are double what they are inside of it.

    • Bryan

      Ooh, good to know, Laura. So where have you been distributing your books aside from Audible?

      • Laura Morelli

        Hey Bryan, outside of ACX I distribute via Author’s Republic. You can see the list of the channels they distribute to at the bottom of their home page: https://www.authorsrepublic.com/.

        • Bryan

          Cool, hadn’t heard of them! Thanks!

  • CE Martin

    Non-exclusive. I think authors really need to think about the ramifications of exclusivity. I know an author who lucked into having a B-list celebrity narrate his audio books. She travels to a lot of fan conventions, and so does he. But since he’s exclusive to Audible, he can’t make copies to take and sell at the shows. Imagine how many he could have with the narrator hawking and signing them in person? Big opportunity missed.

    Seven years of exclusive rights for anything sounds crazy. My enlistment in the military didn’t last that long.

    • Bryan

      I wonder why they settled on 7 years? It’s an odd number to choose.

      • CE Martin

        Maybe because it’s a PRIME number? As in, Amazon Prime…

  • Pronoun seems primarily a competitor to Smashwords and D2D rather than a marketplace. Their wording makes it seem like they have (or will have) programs to help indies produce better books, too. Hard to tell without spending far too much time digging. 😉

    • Bryan

      Same. Maybe Abigail can check it out further for us :).

  • Kirsten Oliphant

    I recorded my first audiobook of my work last year as well as a one for a friend and we did non-exclusive for this reason. Well. In anticipation of something like this. Coming from the indie background, the lack of control in audiobooks STINKS. I really hated that I couldn’t set my price (whaaa???) and that the royalties were so low if you chose not to be exclusive. I’m SUPER excited about this news and will be recording my own audio versions of my books with non-exclusive agreements. Woot!

    • Bryan

      Nice. Do it!!

  • Laura Martone

    Daniel and I live in an RV for at least half the year, so we obviously don’t like to be tied down for long… which means neither of us would eagerly accept an exclusive deal for seven whole years – virtually a lifetime in the indie publishing world. But J. Thorn and Mark Goodwin make valid points. It would be tough for us to pay the upfront costs on a non-exclusive deal; however, being able to opt out of the exclusivity after a year makes me reconsider my Bohemian attitude. Perhaps it would make more sense to go exclusive for a year while awaiting potential new channels – and then spread our audiobook wings.

    • I don’t think you can opt out after a year if you’ve used the revenue share model to produce your book.

      • Laura Martone

        Oh, hmmm… Well, in that case, never mind. 😉 (Thanks for the tip, Roland! Shows you what I know about audiobooks!)

        • Yeah, it’s because your agreement is also with the narrator, who needs 50% of your payment for seven years. It all gets paid via ACX, and if you sold elsewhere they’d have no way to know or get the money to pass along.

    • Bryan

      Gasp! Don’t ever reconsider your Bohemian attitude!! 🙂

  • Count me in the non-exclusive camp. I didn’t go exclusive with my ebooks. It makes no sense to do so when going Audio.

    • Bryan

      Good point, Edwin.