Friday, February 20, 2015

New books and audio

Now that the news is out about Riyria Chronicle #3 in 2015, and Rhune in the summer of 2016, I want to talk a bit about the audio releases. Two reasons for this. First, the reader/listeners are very curious about the audio versions of these books. Second, it might help some authors as they are navigating their careers.

Let me start by jumping in the way back machine to the time I was moving the Riyria Revelations from self-publishing to traditional.  I was negotiating my first contract and trying to get my agent to withhold the audio rights.  She tried but failed.  My thought was if I didn't control the works, there would be no audio.  They would be "sat" on...and I hate rights that are "tied up" and not doing anything for me.

Well, not long after Riyria started coming out, Recorded Books, the largest independent audio producer approached Orbit and asked to buy the rights.  Because it was a subsidiary deal, I had no say in the decision...not whether it could be done, not who the narrator would be, nothing.

I got VERY lucky.  Tim Gerard Reynolds was picked to be the narrator, and he did an AMAZING job. Without I doubt I credit him with the huge success of my audio books.  If you  haven't heard Tim, I highly recommend you do.  And here is a free way to do so.


Above are two free short stories. Just click on their covers and you'll go to their pages on They are around an hour long, and well worth the listen.

Okay, so back to my story.  The audio books sold amazingly well.  So much so that if you look at my sales for The Riyria Revelations in the first year and a half the break down is...

Yes, I was selling more audio books than print!  That was the good news.  The bad news was that I was getting very little money for this because there were so many fingers in the pie.  For each audio download, I had to split the money I received  50/50 with Orbit.  Why?  Because they held the right and sold it to Recorded Books through a subsidiary arrangement. Ouch!

Okay, so it came time to negotiate the contract for The Riyria Chronicles.  Again, I told my agent, "You have to hold back the audio rights."  I wasn't worried about them being "sat" on, but I had two different concerns.  First I wanted to make sure that Tim Gerard Reynolds continued to be the "Voice of Riyria," and second, I didn't like losing half the money.

Again, we failed at keeping the rights.  Orbit wanted to hold on to them again, but they would move the production to Hachette Audio, which means I wouldn't have to split the income.  From a money perspective that was better for me, but I worried about moving the books away from Recorded Books.  So, when all was said and done we decided it was worth the cut in pay to keep "the winning formula."  I don't regret that decision.

All right, so keeping back the audio rights didn't work, and I had my doubts if I would EVER be able to retain them. So it was time for a new approach...sell them FIRST.  This way, by the time the new books would be negotiated, the right would already be gone.  There was a gamble with this could be that if the publisher couldn't have these rights, they wouldn't make any offer.  But given how valuable the audio market was, I just couldn't afford to continue as I was.

Of course, Recorded Books was interested in signing me directly, and another audio company started calling, then audible jumped into the Fhrey (little First Empire joke). The books weren't even written, so there wasn't even something for them to read, but they didn't care.  They believed in me and my works.

But I had a condition...a very big one. Tim Gerard Reynolds had to be the narrator for the project.  All three said that wouldn't be a problem.  It was a hard decision. Recorded Books was offering me the least amount of money, but promised to enroll the books into their library distribution system. Adding that would significantly increase their exposure...this was huge, as the number of books in that program is very small.  Plus, they had been so good to me in the past.  I felt they really valued me and my work, and that goes a LONG way with me.  The "big cheese" of the company came down for the book launch of Hollow World and wined and dined me. But, later that night they sealed the deal.

Over dinner, I was lamenting how everyone gets rich on audio books but two and Tim. Audiobook narrators are usually part of a union that works hard to increase their pay, but it is still not very much when you consider the millions a successful audio book brings in.  As the Recorded Books people were leaving, the publisher came up to me. "I heard what you said, and you make a good point, I'm going back to the office, and when I get there, I'm going to give Tim a bonus equal to what he was paid for his work to date.  And, if you sign with us, I'll commit to doing the same for The First Empire books...he'll get paid double his usual rate," he said, and I was sold.  Deal done.

So, the First Empire series was sold to Recorded Books.  They will be releasing them the same time Del Rey does; I don't have to split my money with the publisher, and Tim gets double his rate. Hooray!

Now I had to decide what to do with the next Riyria Chronicle book. I mentioned how "good to me" Recorded Books has been, but I also get worried when all my eggs are in one basket. In addition, Audible has also been really good to me.  They have featured my books in a number of big promotions and produced and pushed my "freebie" short story, The Jester. Having this available has also been a huge part of my successful audio presence. In addition, they offered a very attractive advance and presented some fabulous marketing ideas. Having the power of their marketing could raise the level of all my books. So, I signed that book over to them.

That's a rather long story, but I thought some might find some of the "behind the scenes" stuff interesting. For the TL:DR crowd: I found a way to keep my audio rights, ensured Tim Gerard Reynolds would be the narrator, and have two partners I'm really happy about.


  1. You're probably the most open of any author I've seen about how the "sausage gets made," and I appreciate the insights. I also appreciate that loyalty matters with you. Business is business, but with a little creativity and willingness to look at options there are often ways to make things work.

    1. Thanks! I know before I started doing this whole "writing thing" I was completely clueless about the process. I found it really hard to find data, so I try to share what I've discovered with others to solve that problem.

      As to business and loyalty - I'd much rather work with people I love for less money then those I hate for more. Fortunately, so far all the people I've run into "in the business" have been great. Even when things didn't work out (my first publisher was a really small company that ultimately didn't earn me a dime from), the people I've run across were (a) well intentioned and (b) doing the best they could. You really can't ask for more than that.

  2. As a lover of audiobooks I'm glad to hear that you value this version so highly. Tim is indeed an excellent narrator and it would certainly grate to hear a different voice. It makes the journey to and from work so much more enjoyable.
    I normally like to buy the print version of any audiobook I've really enjoyed, to keep pristine on my shelves. Normally that only means a hardback copy but for Riyria I'll make an exception, but only when you come to the UK for a signing. Sure I've missed loads of appearances in the past, but I'm up to speed now...

    1. Thanks for taking the time to drop by and comment. And I'm so glad you agree with me about how excellent Tim is.

      I would LOVE to come to the UK for a signing...we'll see what can be done about that in the future. ;-)

  3. Thank you for this. I love your transparency, your works, and integrity. Also as an HUGE Audible user, and fan of Tim, I'm double thankful!!

    1. You are very welcome. Thank you for the support of mine and Tim's work.

  4. I appreciate all the inside information about how books get produced and sold. Also, I completely agree with you about Tim! I cannot imagine anyone else doing Hadrian and Royce's voices!

    Also, I had a little narrator laugh this week. I listened to Hollow World on audio. Then I finally listened to a book my MIL ( a retired psychologist) has been bugging us to read called "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat". This is a nonfiction book about some very strange neurological disability cases. It's written in a VERY academic and rather dry way, but I must admit the cases are interesting.

    Well, it's also read by Jonathan Davis. Every few sentences I was SURE that Pax or Ellis were going to burst into this rather dry neuroscience treatise and liven things up a bit. Sadly, that did not happen. :-)

  5. Thanks for the update and for introducing me to Tim G. Reynolds!! Amazing narrator. Any chance you could put the maps that accompany the hard copy books on this website for your audiobook fans? Take good care/Thanks again/John


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