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Summary:

The Amazon-owned digital audiobooks site Audible.com is launching a new program, “Audible Author Services,” that pays audiobook authors $1 per sale through Audible.com, Audible.co.uk, and iTunes. The audiobook publishers do not receive any of the funds.

Audible audiobook
photo: Audible.com

The Amazon-owned digital audiobooks site Audible.com is launching a new program, “Audible Author Services,” that pays audiobook authors $1 per sale through Audible.com, Audible.co.uk, and iTunes, out of a $20 million fund. The audiobook publishers do not receive any of the funds.

To sign up, authors must make their titles available as audiobooks through Audible.com. (Audible encourages them to do this via ACX, the audiobook rights marketplace it launched last year.) Once they enroll their books in the program, Audible says, they will:

  • Receive an honorarium of $1 per unit sold at Audible.com, Audible.co.uk, and iTunes, and increase awareness of their book in audio format; [LHO note: Downloads via subscriptions count as sales]
  • Obtain samples and links from Audible for use in social media, blogs, or on their websites – wherever they communicate most easily with their fans – as part of our “quick start” audio awareness plan;
  • Gain direct interaction with Audible marketing and merchandising teams; and
  • Obtain a free copy of their audiobook from Audible.

Authors get an “honorarium,” publishers get nothing

Significantly, the audiobooks’ publishers are cut out of the deal — the $1 per unit payment is an “honorarium,” “a direct payment from us to you, a way for us to reward you for promoting your work. Sharing the payment with your agent is at your discretion.” Audible continues to pay regular royalties on each audiobook sold.

While Audible encourages authors to market their audiobooks, they can get the $1/sale payment without doing any extra marketing at all. The authors get $1 whether the audiobook is sold outright or downloaded as part of a monthly or annual subscription.

The fund runs through December 31, 2012. After that, “If you want the program to continue in 2013, please help us by signing up and raising awareness of your audiobooks.”

“People buy a Neil Gaiman, not a HarperCollins or a Simon & Schuster”

As you may have imagined, Audible is not just doing this out of the good of its heart. CEO Donald Katz tells the Guardian, “The fact is people buy a Neil Gaiman, not a HarperCollins or a Simon & Schuster, so it is for us to connect with the writers and hopefully wake them up to what they can do. If it works it can become a channel of membership and sales.”

The site says “we want to foster direct relationships with more authors…authors whose books are unavailable in audio are disenfranchised from an exponentially growing audience for their work. Through Audible Author Services, we hope to increase awareness among those authors and encourage them to get into the game.”

Or, as Katz tells the Guardian roughly 1 million times more bluntly, “This is an era of self-reliance which is there for the taking. This is the last generation of authors who can think of themselves as Victorian gentlemen living above the marketplace, because publishers and agents don’t have the wherewithal to support them.”

Just as Amazon encourages authors to self-publish through KDP (and pays them extra for making their e-books available exclusively through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library), Audible may hope that authors will self-publish their audiobooks through Audible instead of through a traditional publisher. Audiobook rights in publishing contracts are negotiable, so an author does not have to give away those rights to a traditional publisher.

Ultimately, of course, Amazon and Audible may hope that authors will simply self-publish their books — in all formats — through Amazon.

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  1. “People buy a Neil Gaiman, not a HarperCollins or a Simon & Schuster”

    Yes!!!!

    You could write a book about that.

  2. And is Amazon/Audible demanding an exclusive on content? I’m betting yes.

  3. Miguel Gomez Friday, April 13, 2012

    Feeling the Seth Godin influence here.

  4. Jack W Perry Friday, April 13, 2012

    Amazon has so much money that they can set aside $20-million just for paying on audiobooks! There are probably less than 20 publishers in the entire USA that even have that much annual revenue. Wow.

    1. Christian-Mark David Cawley Jack W Perry Monday, April 16, 2012

      Well of course they have enough money. They’re not paying corporation tax in the UK.

  5. audibleauthors Monday, April 16, 2012

    Just to clarify the requirements for exclusivity, there are none. Plenty of audiobooks available for sale at Audible.com and Audible.co.uk are not exclusive, but are eligible for the Audible Author Services honorarium.

  6. Come on team, as a corporate exercise this is clearly just a marketing spend to, once again create Amazon as a conduit for content to consumers. Audible hasn’t really taken off and, as a bet on making it work, $20M is not that much money (for them). Making authors create good audio book content and/or demand it from their publishers and other deals is something that can really drive growth in the sector and will drive the vast majority of it to Amazon.

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