Audiblegate: an author's perspective - Isobel Starling
Updated: Apr 28, 2021
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 author’s outlook.
I had the privilege of interviewing author Isobel Starling, whose titles can be found here: https://isobelstarling.wixsite.com/books
When did you first suspect Audible of not accurately reporting your sales and returns?
“I’ve always been a bit suspicious of sales reporting at Audible because they produce earning reports that are so baffling that even accountants find them hard to understand. Amazons earning report, on the other hand, is clear and concise – with returns data clearly shown, different market income, KU page reads, paperbacks, and free reads. I wasn’t surprised when ‘the glitch’ happened and revealed that they were stealing from us.”
Are you continuing to release audiobooks to Audible?
“Yes, I am continuing to release books to Audible. At the current time, I think that the world situation is so shaky that it would be foolish to completely remove my content from the site that has 90% of the market share and damage my income further. Even though I get an outrageous number of returns, I still earn a respectable income from audiobooks. Yes, it should be more, but my audiobooks still go into profit within 3-6 months, so I’m thinking with my business hat, and not reacting emotionally. I’m looking at the long-term picture and not acting on the current ‘knee jerk’ of many authors who are so angry that they are looking to remove all content from Audible as soon as possible.
I tested going wide via Findaway Voices for 6 months and discovered that it wasn’t the answer for me. Sales were abysmal, and even though Findaway says they give a ‘bigger royalty’, I found the true picture is that it’s less – because every aggregator site takes a cut, then Findaway takes a cut, and I got a percentage of the remaining royalty. The same thing happens no matter which distributor you choose.
The fact of this is that no matter where we sell our audiobooks if we want to sell on the biggest site our audiobooks will be uploaded via ACX. Every other production house is made to use ACX to upload content to Audible – and there isn’t one who can protect their authors from the returns issue. There really isn’t a viable alternative at the moment, so I’ll stick with the largest site where I can get sales while we continue our fight for change.”
At this point, what would you like to see happen with Audible?
“I would like to see Audible be upfront about their royalty structure. I want to know if we pay for their sales, ‘sign up and get a free book', and other marketing deals they advertise as member perks. Authors and narrators need full transparency with our business partner; therefore, we all need to see our lifetime returns data. When we know the numbers, then Audible should compensate us for our losses.
I don’t believe any of the above will happen, so they need to be shamed and for their true policies to be publicly revealed with a court case.”
Interviewer: T. M. Bilderback (but YOU can call me Michael!)
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