Monday, November 18, 2019

The importance of audio rights

So, if you know much about me, you know how much I value audio rights. For instance, It's the reason Del Rey has only 1/2 of the Legends of the First Empire series (they couldn't buy the second 1/2 because audio rights are required and we had already sold the audio rights for the whole series many years ago).

Audio rights are also where I see my biggest advances. Yes, audio producers are willing to pay more for just that one right than the traditional publishers are paying for ebook + print + audio!  When an author signs away these rights, they earn significantly less on each copy sold...and the situation gets worse if the audio right is sold as a subsidiary right by the publisher.

For years, I've mentioned that audio is where all the growth in the publishing industry is. This fact has a lot to do with why publishers are insisting on acquiring that right. But recently I heard a comment from an author who claims 70% of sales are still in the paper format - which I just don't believe, particularly given my physical book sales are about 20% - 25%.

So, I asked Robin to get me some data. She went to Amazon because (a) it's an easy place to get data (b) they sell more books than any other single source. They are really the only place we can see what formats are selling the best. When it comes to having your finger on the pulse of the book-buying business, Amazon is an excellent place to look.

Okay, so let's look at the Top 100 Best-selling Epic Fantasy books. Amazon reports this information hourly, and besides saying which titles are in the top 100, we can also see what formats of each of those books are selling the most.  So a few days ago she looked, and this is what she found.

And this is how it breaks down:

  • No paperback titles are making this list
  • Only 4% of the books are in physical formats (and 75% of those are boxsets)
  • Only one hardcover has made the list
  • 60% of the titles are audiobooks
  • 36% of the titles are ebooks (and 11% of those are boxsets)
  • 80% of the top 10 are audio
  • 76% of the top 25 books are audio

Of course, this is a single snapshot, but my gut tells me this is pretty standard in today's publishing environment. I'll have Robin pull these analyses from time to time, so we can see if this is an outlier or really is indicative of the current ecosystem.

If you are a writer, you should be looking at the audio market. If your books aren't currently there, get them in that format. If they are, you should consider how you can earn well from that format since that is where most of your sales come from. Many of my audio sales net me just 3.5% (because of how they were transferred and how they were produced), other titles earn me more than 5 times that amount. And if I were to self-publish them, I could get as high as 40%.

In any event, I thought this was something that writers should be aware of, and it may be that readers are interested in this kind of data as well.


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