Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Indie authors dominating epic fantasy audiobooks

The indie author community has come such a long way in the 13 years since we started self-publishing in 2009.  What was once looked upon as something to be used only for those who couldn't be picked up by a traditional publisher is now in full swing with authors taking their careers in their own hands.

Anyone who knows anything about publishing today is aware of four things:

  1. Audiobooks are where the money is at. Just as ebooks once dominated sales, it's now audiobooks that rule. We see something like 50% of our income from audio, 30% from the ebook, and 20% from physical book sales.

  2. The big five (four) traditional publishers WILL NOT write a contract unless they can acquire all three formats: printed, ebook, and audio.

  3. Although publishers are requiring the audiobook rights they aren't adjusting their advances to reflect the value of this format. If I were to publish traditionally my likely advance for a new title would be half to one-third for all three rights that I can receive by selling JUST the audiobook rights directly to audio producers such as Audible Studios, Podium Publishing, or Recorded Books.

  4. When a publisher is involved the amount the author makes per sale goes down significantly. If they sell the audiobook as a subsidiary right, the author will split the income with the publisher 50/50. Essentially cutting their income in half. If the publisher produces it themselves then they usually pay 25% to the author and keep 75% for themselves. And since the publisher is receiving only a portion of the TOTAL income (the amount after Audible takes their cut), the income can be as low as 3.5% which is only 23% of the standard 15% when selling to Audible Studios directly.
Given that, it's no wonder that so many savvy authors have decided to forgo traditional publishing and sell their audio rights in a smarter way.  My wife has helped broker a number of audiobook deals directly with Audible Studios (something she does for free - as she doesn't mind picking up the phone to match-make an author with a partner).   

But as they say on Shark Tank 80% of a watermelon is better than 100% of a grape. The implication being that you should take the route that increases your overall sales the most.  Logic would dictate that going with a traditional publisher would produce higher overall sales.  And yet . . . 

Let's look at the top-selling Epic Fantasy titles.


Three authors are represented and each of them is independently published for their ebook and print copies, and they sold their audio rights directly to an audiobook producer rather than involving a big traditional publisher. So not only are they making more for each sale, but they are selling more than titles released by the biggest publishers in the world.

What point am I making? Am I saying that traditional publishers are evil and should never be used? No. I've published with four different traditional publishers and there were valid reasons for each contract I signed, and we both benefited from the relationship.  But times change and authors have to keep abreast of what's going on in the industry, so I'm trying to do what I can to educate others. As far as I'm concerned, the two most important entities when it comes to storytelling is the one who creates the tale (the authors) and the ones who consume the tale (the readers), and I think it's best for both of these parties when there are fewer middlemen in between the two.


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