• Colleen Cross

Audiblegate: Audible Financially Abuses Authors

Updated: Apr 30

Abuse is abuse. Whether it is physical, psychological, or financial, the effects are the

same. Abuse takes many forms, but a common thread is that it is done in secret. Victims are afraid to speak out, for fear they will be punished or publicly shamed. Sometimes victims are even blamed by the perpetrators, that somehow they are responsible for the harm they have experienced. Anyone who has experienced abuse knows that it is invisible to almost anyone else. Victims are scapegoats. They are disbelieved or discounted, even blamed for the abuser's bad deeds. Financial abuse follows exactly the same patterns as other types of abuse.


Financial Exploiters take advantage of you, their victim, by:

  • Trying to access money you have earned or saved

  • Using your assets for their personal benefit without asking

  • Taking money without permission

  • Feeling entitled to your money or assets

  • Expecting you to pay for their bills or their obligations

  • Using offers to help with your budget or financial decisions as a cover for gaining control over your finances

  • Requiring you to bail them out of difficult financial situations​

  • Confiscating your paycheck or other sources of income

Any one of these are considered financial abuse, and anyone can fall victim to financial abuse. Often, but not always, it is perpetrated by people closest to you. Those whom you trust, whether in your personal or business affairs. Sometimes, that even includes big tech corporations.


AUDIBLEGATE IS FINANCIAL ABUSE

Audible, an Amazon company, has accessed Rights Holders’ earnings, clawing back monies for their own benefit, calling it a “Great Listen Guarantee”. Now that we have embarrassed them into at least paying what they call "qualified returns" after 7 days, they have suddenly clamped down on the very serial return customers they cultivated at authors’ and narrators’ expense.


But 7 days is still ample time for anyone to fully listen to and enjoy an audiobook and return it for another at our expense, not Audible’s. Despite Audible’s purposely non-transparent earnings reports and their inconsistent, shoddy dashboard that does not break out returns by sales category, rights holders still see evidence that many Audible listeners continue to work their way through a series of audiobooks, exchanging one for the next in the series as soon as they finish it.


In other words, Audible is still using our assets for their personal benefit without asking. This scheme was never in the contract. It’s illegal, but they don’t care.


Audible continues to claw back earnings from us when audiobooks are returned, only now listeners will adapt and return within 7 days instead of 365. Meanwhile, authors and narrators (under royalty share) pay 100% of the cost of production of audiobooks sold in the Audible store. Audible continues to dock our earnings without our permission because they feel entitled to our assets.


Audible promised their customers free audiobooks, an unauthorized lending library for which we never agreed to in our contract. They hid this from us, but we discovered the subterfuge. Audible thought we would never notice.


Should we have expected anything different? We’re just another supplier, like the Amazon flex drivers and the Amazon marketplace sellers. Skimming tips and margins are at the very core of the Amazon business model. They extract wealth without giving anything in return, like a giant strip mine that exploits the land and leaves behind a scarred landscape once all the gold has been extracted.


It’s so normalized that many of us don’t even question why we deal with a company that:


· Refuses to remove our audiobooks when the contract term ends;

· Pays us less if we dare to sell our own audiobooks on any other store;

· Makes baseless accusations of fraud without proof and withholds our earnings without explanation or justification

· Allows others to upload unauthorized versions of our intellectual property with no checks or repercussions whatsoever, and when we complain, Audible keeps all the money earned from our pirated works;

· Sends threatening and accusatory emails; the abusive “nastygrams” familiar to all suppliers throughout the Amazon corporate ecosystem;

· Pays us 13% of whatever’s left after their earnings claw backs, even though we are the ones incurring 100% of the production costs.


OBSESSION IS AN EXCUSE FOR AMAZON ABUSE


Jeff Bezos calls this business model “customer obsession”. How wonderful that Amazon – and Audible, an Amazon company – obsess about customers more than anything. Well, almost anything. They don’t care about customers as much as making profits, then driving their competition out of business so they then gain even more market share, and reap still more profits.


Amazon—and by extension—Audible, is obsessed with customers, but only in the sense that they want to control access to customers. Their endgame is to control the customers themselves. If you are a customer, know that you aren’t being shown all the deals, or the best deals. You only see the deals that are best for Amazon.


Amazon and Audible’s true obsession is not with customers, but with profit and market control.


Their customers save pennies, at suppliers’ expense, all to enrich the corporation who didn’t create, or invest in, any of the products. The money flows in one direction only, and it’s to Amazon and Audible, not to suppliers or customers.


Why do I mention this obsession? Because when someone is being obsessed over, someone else is almost certainly being neglected and taken advantage of to maintain equilibrium. The customer isn't golden to Amazon. Amazon, and by extension, Audible, doesn't play fair with them either. The middleman plays each against the other and reaps all the rewards.


As long as we let them, they will do this.


LEAVING AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP IS HARD


It’s very hard to extract yourself, because by the time you realize you’re being injured, you no longer have any power or resources to fight or take flight.


Staying is an option. At least in the short term. But abuse is an insidious, divide-and-conquer strategy which destroys each of us, slowly and invisibly. We become conditioned to expect crumbs and exploitation. It pits us against each other and often devolves into a blame game between victims.


Since October 2020, when the “glitch” occurred revealing the huge returns losses, we’ve fought for Audible to treat rights holders and narrators fairly. Letter-writing, bad publicity and social media pressure has worked in a small way.


Yes, in some circumstances, not all, we don’t have to suffer a seven-year contract for no reason except that Audible wishes to maintain their monopoly. Yes, we have the skinniest sliver of transparency, but certainly nowhere near what it should be. Yes, our cost of returns is now limited to seven days, but why should we cover any returns at all?


Audible controls every variable in its own store., including quality control, selling prices, audio samples, the audio app and playback, and the whole buying experience. What does a return gain us? What did we do wrong to be responsible for any returns whatsoever?


Everything Audible has delivered is a weapon to stop us from looking further, for continuing to ask for our returns data prior to 2021, to pay us for what must amount to billions of dollars in collective lost earnings.


Audible has doubled down because there’s a great deal at stake for them, and they expect us eventually to lose the energy and passion to continue. They know this is a marathon because they set the course and Amazon companies have run it many times across all their companies.


But we are not just fighting for our lost income and to have fair contracts, we are fighting for a healthy industry. A healthy industry is one where there is more than one player that is controlled by the biggest corporation in the world whose goal is to own everything and cares nothing for people as human beings.


We can make history as the brave group who said, stop, this is abuse and we won’t take it anymore.


Or we can spend the next months, years, maybe decades, complaining about how our compensation is diminishing. We can complain about the disrespect shown as we receive baseless accusatory fraud emails or cookie cutter replies to queries, and how wrong it is to not even receive payment according to our contracts.


We can complain in private, yet toe the line in public.


Will we be the group who missed the chance to not just leave this abusive relationship but to put a stop to the abuser’s tactics? Can we say that we stepped up and stopped the abuse, so they can’t do this to anyone else again?


That's what we are doing, but we need your help.


WE WILL FIGHT


You can fight alongside us, because we’ve formed a U. S. non-profit, The Equitable Rights Movement (TERM) and we are seeking tax-deductible donations (U.S) to fund legal action. We are opening up for donations in the coming weeks and will provide more information shortly about how you can contribute.


You can step up, speak up, or donate anonymously to fund the legal fight. Without your help, we will not escape the abuse, so we hope you’ll contribute to the cause which will provide long term benefits for us all.


Phase one of our legal case will cost an estimated $US50,000, which we need to fund by June 30, 2021. If we reach this threshold sooner, we can commence legal action even sooner. Our international law firm, Pearl Cohen, is ready and waiting.


If 1,000 people each donated $50, or 500 people contributed $100, we could start right now.


We know this is a lot to ask rights holders and supporters, whose earnings have already been eroded. However, every day that passes the door remains open for Audible to take what isn’t theirs to take. They are still taking money that, according to our contract terms, belongs to us, not them. If you believe you are losing hundreds or even thousands of dollars, then support our legal fund with a tax-deductible donation. You have little to lose and so much to gain.


This is an important step though, and we can’t do it without you. The entire creative community will benefit from our collective strength.


Remember when Audible’s hidden returns deductions were exposed in October 2020? It just happened again, this month, in April 2021. Again, they called it a “glitch”. One thing is certain. Audible will find another way to shove their hands in our pockets. What they won’t do is take the “returns” hit in their own performance pay and bonuses unless we force the issue and insist on compensation for the earnings we are owed.


The small team behind Audiblegate and now TERM have been working very hard behind the scenes. We have come a long way, but we’re at the beginning of the next phase of this fight for a fair deal. We need your donations to fund legal action. If we can't raise the funds, then the fight stops here.


Let’s keep our momentum with this next step of legal action. We are rights holders and it’s us who have done the hard work, and fair compensation for use of our intellectual property is our right. Together we can make a difference. We are earning a living from our creative works, only we don't receive it because someone is deducting our pay. We deserve dollars, not breadcrumbs.


Please share this #Audiblegate post on social media. This is an important issue and we need to get the word out to as many people as possible.


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Colleen Cross Bio

Colleen Cross writes financial thrillers and white-collar true crime, drawn from her background in forensic accounting and fraud investigation. She is a CPA with CFO/finance executive experience at large multinational corporations. She follows the money to find the truth. www.colleencross.com

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