Audiblegate: a narrator's perspective - Victoria Fitzgerald
By now, most of you have heard about Audiblegate. You know that Audible is not on the up-and-up about audiobook sales, returns, and compensation given to authors, rights holders, and narrators.
Needless to say, this behavior has affected how authors are producing audiobooks, and how these audiobooks are distributed.
But, today, I’m going to look at how this behavior has affected one narrator’s outlook.
I had the privilege of interviewing narrator Victoria Fitzgerald (or Vicky-Fizz, for those of us lucky enough to call her “friend”).
How long have you been narrating audiobooks?
Two years ago, my daughter, who was 14 at the time, expressed an interest in finding a job. Trying to find one that took into consideration her schoolwork and her weekend drama academy was difficult but I told her to leave it with me and I’d have a think about what she could do. Fast forward to bedtime that night and my husband was in bed with his headphones on. He appologised and proceeded to tell me that he was at the end of the chapter and he just HAD to know what was going to happen. That was the a-ha moment. I delved into the world of audiobooks and tried to find out about production, etc., and wondered if kids could do it too. So, whilst I was researching for my daughter I started recording the first chapter of Dracula to show her how it appeared to work and, BOOM, I got the bug. My husband built us a studio (we affectionately call it ‘The box’) and to date I’ve narrated and produced 38 audiobooks.
Do you narrate on a royalty-share basis?
All of my projects have been on a royalty share (RS) basis which isn’t always ideal but I was working on long term thinking, seven years passive income seemed like a good deal to me.
When did you first notice that the sales numbers weren’t adding up properly?
Pretty much straight away. From the get go I just couldn’t figure out how my monthly figures were calculated. I’d like to think that I’m a fairly intelligent woman but I couldn’t make head nor tails of the calculations. I kind of brushed it off in the end, I mean, this was ACX I was dealing with, part of one of the biggest companies in the world, surely it would know what it was doing, right? Maybe I should just stick to screaming, crying and wildly gesticulating in my box (all in the name of art of course).
When you found out that Audible was cheating you, how did that make you feel?
Bloody furious actually! I joined a couple of narrator/author groups and lurked a lot. These people seemed to have been doing it for longer, knew more than me and I hoped to learn passively more about the industry. It was actually quite a relief when occasionally others mentioned about payments not adding up. It wasn’t just me! Then I kept seeing Audiblegate and followed down the rabbit hole. I couldn’t believe how rotten to the core my knight in shining armour had become, or had always been. I remember when I first found out about ACX, it was the answer to all my questions and a gift from the gods, seemingly more from Loki now I know the truth.
Have your projects through ACX/Audible dropped off?
In a word, YES. What a load of old shite ACX has become. There are quite blatantly LOADS of scammers uploading other author’s intellectual property and ACX couldn’t care less. I was caught by one only last year but I do blame myself for this one. I have started my own company in the UK, selling Margarita salts and when Tequila Mockingbird came up for audition I thought it would be a perfect project which would go hand in hand with marketing my new business too. I got the gig, I was elated. Perfect, right? Wrong. I got no answers from the rights holder for any of my questions and decided to contact the author outright. No reply from him either so I gave it up as a bad job. I’d already recorded ¾ book before it hit home I was being scammed. A stupid mistake that I won’t make again.
Have you begun offering your narration services through other outlets?
No, I’ve looked and looked but I can’t seem to find which one I’d rather go with. This whole deal with ACX has left a rotten taste in my mouth. I wanted to earn doing something I loved and now it’s become more about the fight rather than creating audiobooks. As a consequence of playing hide and seek with scammers and not being able to find decent and LEGITIMATE titles on ACX, I turned my talent to voice over (VO). I have had the best time acting in audio dramas. I’ve played; one of Dr. Who’s travelling companions, Emmeline Pankhurst, various aliens in science fiction dramas and have more in the pipeline. I WANT to do more audiobooks but I’m pulling off the gas a little for now. Saying that though, I do have 23 short stories to be produced on ACX but the author is currently looking at his options so it's on hold.
What would you like to see happen with Audible?
I want Audible/ACX/Amazon to admit what has been done and I would like to see back payments correctly calculated and paid out to authors and narrators. I mean, if you take away the financial clusterfuck, the business model is/was a great idea. Play fair, don’t take the lion’s share and we can ALL make some money. It’s really rather simple.
Other audiobook distributors offer royalty-share projects. Will you ever do a royalty-share project again?
Yes, I would, but I’d like to know, from the outset, just EXACTLY what the percentage paid out will be.
Please tell us anything else that you’d like for us to know, and I mean anything that you feel would be of interest?
Speak up! Don’t hide behind ‘Well, I’m getting some sales each month’ Audible are ACTUALLY STEALING FROM YOU! There are some authors (in Audibles pocket) that still say there is nothing going on. Well, as a Brit, I firmly say ‘Bollocks’ to them. Believe in the power of the people and the passion of the people that are behind Audiblegate. I am so proud to be part of the team and will wear my team Mockingjay badge with honour.
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