Episode 168 – Findaway Voices, KENP Drops, and One-Click Foreign Rights (with Lindsay Buroker)

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Question of the Week: Would you give up the 40% royalties from going exclusive with ACX to get lower royalties but gain price control from D2D and FV?

Lindsay Buroker joined Bryan this week to talk big news in audio and Kindle Unlimited. After thanking their patrons Gods and Gigs, WordPress Security 101, and Pirates vs. Dragons, Bryan and Lindsay talked tips about time management, email scheduling, and Facebook Messenger Bots. This week’s top stories included Amazon buying Whole Foods, Facebook Page video cover images, translation rights, KU payouts dropping, and Draft2Digital’s new partnership with Findaway Voices. This week’s Question of the Week: Would you give up the 40% royalties from going exclusive with ACX to get lower royalties but gain price control from D2D and FV?
What You’ll Learn:
  • How busy authors can organize projects to make the most of their time
  • How authors can calculate when is the best time to send emails
  • How authors can use Facebook Messenger to reach new readers
  • What Amazon deal is shaking up the grocery industry and how it will affect shoppers
  • What new feature Facebook is testing out and how it will affect authors
  • How a buy button can help increase translation rights sales
  • What one group of KU authors are saying about the payout drop in May
  • How authors can take control of their audiobook sales and promotions

get show updates

  • I’m happy to accept the title of “Time Lord”. I’m off to order new business cards

    • Bryan

      You should order shirts too!

  • QOTW – For my non-fiction I would go non-exclusive. Assuming you an average price of $10 (with all the whispersync, credits, and pricing weirdness of Audible) for the book, the difference is $2.50 per book vs $4.00 exclusive. If I sold even a few at $19.99 on my own site (with bonus content to sweeten the deal) I think I’d be ahead.

    If I wrote fiction, I’d probably take the exclusive 40% 😉

    • Bryan

      I want to read your exercise and health fiction!

      • I’ll get right on it. A novel approach to a diet. 😉

  • Ethan Jones

    Thanks for having Lindsay on the show, Bryan. I’m listening to her newest episode next.
    Alfa Romeo, one of Italy’s best cars (most of the Carabinieri, the Italian police, uses those -:) and the company is trying really hard to enter the North American market.
    Whole Foods is struggling with their supply chain, so Amazon can definitely fix that.
    I would give up the 40% royalties, but there are no real marketing options for audiobooks at this point.

    • Bryan

      Ah, good to know about Alfa Romeo :). Glad she could come on! 🙂

  • Benjamin Douglas

    Great episode! I got all verklempt when you mentioned my tweet. D’aww.

    RE: ACX Exclusivity v. D2D & FV:
    To me, this audiobook debate smacks of the KU exclusivity v. everywhere else ebook debate. By demanding exclusivity for better perks, ACX (and KU) have basically made it an “us v. them” game, where choosing to go with any other vendor is ALSO choosing exclusivity (an exclusivity of everything *but* ACX or KU). Since Amazon is the leading vendor by a longshot, they’ve got the rest of the industry by the short-hairs–and this is yet another example of them milking the cash-cow for all she’s worth (too many idioms? too few?).

    You and Jim have talked about this before, but until somebody starts making moves and garnishing the kind of capital required to really challenge the mighty river, I think exclusivity will continue to be the name of the game.

    Would I take wide over exclusive for audio? I think I’d go for a split. It isn’t as simple as with KU–try it for 90 days, get eyes on your launch, then move to wide (I loved how Lindsay described this as an opportunity to launch all over again). In the case of ACX, the length of the distribution contract is seven years. And if you choose the royalty-share option, you can never move from exclusive to non-exclusive:


    • Bryan

      Thanks for tweeting about us! 🙂

  • I’d stay with Audible as the average listener has been trained on credits. I have three books for sale on Audible but also listen to about three per month. My wishlist ranges from $10 to $40 for the member price. I use my two credits per month and buy the three credits for $35 when offered. In general, I average paying $11 per book. I use credits for the expensive ones pay for the low priced ones. So, I’m not sold on the consumer side of paying anyone more than $11 per book so don’t find the price control that important.

    • Bryan

      Thanks for the input, Darren. I know I’m trained on credits, for sure.

    • The idea between this partnership with D2D and Findaway is to break that credit system. Credits limit both the readers and the authors, when it’s all said and done. Readers tend only to use those limited credits on “long” books, because who wants to lose a credit on something that’s over in ten minutes to half an hour? That means authors can’t benefit from a broad catalog that includes shorter works, unless they bundle them into one volume. Which means a lower margin, since you get only one price (which is set by Audible).

      The idea behind the D2D/FA partnership is to empower authors to price any way that works for their business. Readers benefit from this, because now they can spend the twenty bucks or so that they spend on a couple of Audible credits on several audiobooks, instead. Authors benefit from this because even if their royalty on a cheaper book somehow ends up as less than the royalty they would have gotten from Audible (which will hardly ever be the case), they can make up for that in volume. The lower price point attracts more readers, who won’t limit purchases to just two or three books per month.

      Instead of paying an average of $11 per book, wouldn’t you prefer paying $11 and getting 11 books? That’s why price control is important. Higher royalties and more book sales will help you, while lower prices on audibooks will help the readers.

      • Yes, I would. You’re preaching to the choir. I was just stating the reality of the listenership and how hard it will be to break that credit mode. Audiobooks remain a funny thing. Before digital downloads (such as Audible) I purchased 20 paperbooks per year but borrowed 40 audiobooks from local libraries. No way I was paying $29.99 for an audiobook. So, I applaud this effort by D2D to drive the price of audiobooks to levels equal to eBooks. I realize their expensive to produce, but, like you’re saying, volume can overcome that expense.

        • Exactly! Here’s to greater control and bigger bank accounts.

  • Spider McGee

    80% of 50%? Where do I sign up?

    To be honest (and beware of anyone who says that, because that means they’re only selectively honest), if my royalties are reduced any further, I’ll have to pay people to read my stuff. !Es no bueno!

    • Bryan

      If the math gets complicated enough, we might all have to pay people. That’s basically the improv comedy model here in Chicago. I made -$4,000 doing improv here :).

  • Blaine Moore

    I’d already decided about a year ago to go non-exclusive with ACX for future works anyway. There’s not a huge difference between 25% and 40% so I figured that it would be better to keep my options open instead of locking myself in for 7 years. I had looked into Author’s Republic for distribution, but they also have a 7 year exclusive clause, though it’s less restrictive than ACX’s. I like the idea of being able to control my own pricing just for running promotions and getting attention, even if that doesn’t net a ton of extra sales.

    That said, note that in the press release, and in the Q&A in the comments under it, they’ve basically said that while the 80% is based on retail price at most outlets, for Audible (and presumably iTunes and Amazon though I don’t think they were specifically mentioned) it’s based on the _sale_ price…so I’m not sure if that just means the standard AL/ALOP/ALC pricing from Audible still applies, or whether that means you _can’t_ actually set the price on the Amazon/Audible/iTunes markets and can only provide the MSRP instead of the actual retail price.

    Hopefully the former, but either way it seems like a good deal to me, and will be keeping an eye on how it all actually works as my timeline doesn’t have another audiobook coming out in the near future anyway.

    • Bryan

      That’s a good question to ask D2D about. We’ll have to send this their way.

    • Hi Blaine. I’m happy to answer your question on behalf of D2D.
      Rights owners control their pricing and are paid royalties based on the list price they set for all partners, excluding Audible (which includes Amazon and (for now) iTunes. This means that for all retailers, other than Audible, the author is paid based on the price they set, regardless of what the book sells for. Audible, on the other hand, determines sales price and pays royalties based on this price, consistent with their existing terms.

      Basically, you’re right about it being an MSRP scenario with Audible and any of its partners, though we’re hoping to force a change in that.

  • Laura Martone

    Although I always miss Jim’s voice when he’s gone, I really enjoyed listening to two of my favorite indies chatting about the latest publishing news. So, thanks, Bryan and Lindsay, for your perspective on all things indie! And like both of you, Dan and I will probably turn our first space opera trilogy (when it’s done, of course) into one audiobook to make it more enticing to audiobook listeners. At that time, I’m not sure which path we’ll take, but I think both of us would be willing to give up a higher royalty rate with ACX if it means having price control and no exclusivity with Draft2Digital and Findaway Voices. Dan, especially, is a major control freak! 😉

    • Lindsay Buroker

      Making a bundle definitely seems a good way to go when you’ve got shorter books. Thanks for listening, guys!

    • Bryan

      I love bundling! And kind comments. Thanks, Laura :).

  • I’m confused about the ‘setting your pricing’ thing. If Audible will go ahead and set the price to what they want after you set your ‘list price,’ how is this significantly better? Can you make your book free, $.99, or $1.99 on Audible? Do you get to control whispersync pricing?

    I’m not saying this isn’t a great thing from D2D/FV, but until we see how pricing actually works, I’m not making any victory laps.

    • Lindsay Buroker

      I was wondering that, too, if Audible would override your price so as to be in line with the prices on their other titles. Otherwise, it seems like it would disrupt their store.

    • Bryan

      But Amazon seems to price match. You’d think they’d do that on Audible as well.

    • Like Bryan said, Amazon likes price matching. If your book is $1.99 everywhere else, there’s a good chance Audible will eventually be forced to drop the price as well. That’s part of why we’re doing this deal. D2D and FV together can provide indie authors with more control over their pricing by giving them distribution with full pricing control, everywhere else in the world. Audible will have to follow suite eventually.

      People are so trained to use credits, but the credit system limits readers to a couple of books per month, and limits authors to only being able to move long format books by audio. It’s in the best interest of both readers and authors to break that system. If the reader can pick up a novella for 99-cents, and a full novel for $2.99, then who needs to pay $20+ for credits every month?

      The hangup for a lot of authors will be the overhead of paying for production, but we’re working to lower that cost significantly. Authors are better off paying for production outright, anyway, rather than trading half their royalties for life. Paying for production is better for the narrators, and the increased royalty is better for the authors.

      There’s a calculator on the Findaway site that you can use to determine how many audiobooks you need to sell at a particular price point, before you’ve recouped your investment on production. It’s not usually as many as you might think, and if you have a broader distribution with a price you fully control, it can be a quick return.

  • I’m already on record as being against going exclusive so that I will be in a position to take advantage of any new developments in the publishing arena. This D2D-FV thing counts as a new development with plenty of upside potential. Now to learn more of the operational details.

    • Bryan

      Agreed. Definitely seems like upside. Looking forward to finding out more about all this.

  • Crissy Moss

    If I could afford to pay for audio recordings outright then yes, I would give up the 40% on a few books and try the new system so that I could have some books that I could price control. It wouldn’t be the best option for all books, but having first in series, or stand alones that you can discount now and then, or permanently for lose leaders, would be incredibly helpful. But if you’re doing a royalty split with a narrator that might not be as easy to do.

    Also, whispersync and audible being the biggest audio book retailer really make it hard to turn away from them, so I think it would be better to do a few, but not all books as non-exclusive.

    • Bryan

      Good point, Crissy. I think Whispersync and Audible are still fair game when you go the FV way, but it’s just lower royalties.

    • Whispersync and Audible are still on the table, even if you distribute through Findaway Voices. Audible is one of the distribution channels, and you maintain everything but the option to split royalties with a narrator. We’re working on getting the cost of production down to something reasonable for indies, though, and at that point keeping 100% of your royalty is going to be a very comfortable option. Controlling your price, too, will give you more control over how to market your work. And with wider distribution (the D2D guy said), you have far more opportunities to recoup your costs, much faster.

      We’re stressing that the royalty split isn’t actually the most attractive option for either the author or the narrator. This deal is meant to empower indies to get a lot more for their investment, and to untether from exclusivity, which is really just bad for every author.

  • If I had the money to pay a narrator, I would definitely go non-exclusive. Having control of where and how to sell my audiobooks as well as price control is a reason why I’ve been holding out on getting my audiobooks done in the first place. But now with the FV and D2D partnership… I just might save my pennies and finally get an audiobook done.

    • Bryan

      Save those pennies! 🙂 Thanks for posting, Sheenah.

    • We (D2D) are working on getting the price down on production, so definitely start putting some cash back! It’s totally worth it to own your rights all out, and keep all of your royalty.

      That overhead really is the biggest barrier, but there are ways to pull it together, particularly if you have a mailing list. I’m planning to experiment with Kickstarters etc. to raise production funds, giving free audiobooks and a few other perks to backers. That’s one idea, and I think it will work. But get creative—audiobooks are a tremendous boon to an author’s business strategy!

  • I’ve already made the leap to go non-exclusive on ACX with my new series and this reinforces my decision. 7 years is a long time to be tied to one distribution channel in this changing marketplace and I’m hoping to get exposure on sites like Downpour and others in addition to Audible, Amazon, and ITunes served by ACX. The audiobook tide is rising everywhere. I don’t want to be left tied to the dock.

  • Marksmaster

    Lauren here (from your Sell More Books course, Bryan). I am a millennial, as is my roommate, who is actually a librarian and a library manager. Pretty much everyone I know in my generation who loves reading grew up in the library. I think I’m the only exception I know.

    I think it has more to do with how you were raised, which affects how you currently enjoy consuming books. A lot of my friends who still use the library do so because they can get traditionally published books for free. They also bring their kids to the library for programming and books. A lot of them also don’t really read a lot of indie published books. Some do, but many don’t. That may have something to do with it.

    A lot of people like to poo-poo Millennials. Please don’t become one of them. I didn’t expect that on this podcast and it bothered me a lot to hear the smackings of it on this one.

    • Bryan

      Sorry the Millennial joke didn’t go over well. For what it’s worth, it was written by a Millennial :). Thanks, Lauren!

      • Marksmaster

        It’s very possible I am tone deaf to sarcasm on this topic, as I’ve seen about four different articles this week slamming my generation for one thing or another (usually not having babies, having too many babies, being lazy, having too many side-jobs). I appreciate what you guys do.

        That said, you DO have millennials listening, so there’s that!

        • Bryan

          I have no beef with Millennials :).