Innovation and The Audiobook Market

When I was at NINC in 2018, I was telling my mailing list that all the exciting developments in the audiobook market are coming from outside Amazon – companies like Findaway, Kobo, Chirp/BookBub, and various others serving the library market as well.

This is a most welcome development because it also feels like many of the moves (Amazon-owned) Audible has been making lately have been quite negative: the royalty cut, the new subscription service and its low pay rates, and Amazon’s controversial and brazen move to start captioning audiobooks without compensating publishers and authors – which resulted in an immediate lawsuit from the Big 5.

Those large publishers have themselves been making no friends with libraries recently, offering ever-worsening terms for audiobooks, to match those for ebooks. Which is an opportunity for indies, of course, especially those using companies like Findaway to better serve that market.

The Audiobook Market & Indies

But what really excites me is the dynamic in audiobook publishing that is the complete opposite of that which upended the ebook market. In the same way that Amazon gave indies a level playing field, and pricing control, and let them do their thang, the non-Amazon entities in this space have adopted that strategy while Audible resolutely goes in the other direction.

Companies like Findaway and Kobo and Chirp realized something very important: if you let indies actually market their audiobooks (especially by giving them pricing control), they can bring you lots of new customers. We’re growing the pie, and everyone is benefiting – not least us.

(Unless you are tied to ACX/Audible right now, of course, which is the situation with one of my titles; I’m counting down until I get those rights back…)

I spoke with my list about various audio experiments I will be engaging in the future and the first of those was the audiobook edition of Strangers to Superfanswhich you can check out here.

This audiobook is produced and distributed by Findaway Voices – a company I’ll be talking a lot more soon, because they have a very different approach to production and distribution.

But just to give you a taste of how much broader your distribution will be with Findaway, check out this list of retailers and library services where Superfans will be available:

Amazon, Audible, Apple, Nook Audiobooks, Kobo, Audiobooks.com, Google Play, Scribd, Biblioteca, Chirp, Walmart, Hibooks, Hoopla, Storytel, OverDrive, Playster, Baker & Taylor, Beek, Downpour, Ebsco, eStories, Follett, Hummingbird, Instaread, Libro.fm, Mlol, Nextory, 3Leaf Group, 24Symbols, Odilo, Permabound, and Wheelers.

That’s not even a complete list, there will be more coming very soon too. And notice that Amazon and Audible are on that list – being with Findaway doesn’t keep you out of any of the major stores, including Audible. Just to knock another myth on its head: it also doesn’t stop your Findaway-distributed title getting Whispersynced on Amazon either.

Having pricing control is exciting. The ability to run discounts will allow indies to truly market their audiobooks for the first time – some are even experimenting through various storefronts with perma-free series openers. It’s a really exciting time, and I’ll have lots more on this topic soon.

For now, check out the Superfans audiobook here. It’s narrated by Melinda Wade, who was just wonderful to work with, and I’ll speak more about that process in future posts.

David Gaughran

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time spent outside. He writes novels under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership with his books, blogs, workshops, and courses, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.


11 Replies to “Innovation and The Audiobook Market”

  1. Hi David,
    I’m in the process of producing my first audiobook, and going with Findaway Voices. I’m just not sure if I should go with their standard distribution package or Voices Plus. From Katherine’s comments above, it’s seems like having a non-exclusive distribution agreement with Audible (via ACX) and adding on Findaway for all the other retail opportunities is the best option with regard to royalties. Can you offer any further guidance on this?

  2. Hi David. I did a search for ‘audiobook marketing’ on this site and found this article from last year and little else. I did note you said ‘It’s a really exciting time, and I’ll have lots more on this topic soon’, so I am wondering whether there is more from you on this subject as I always appreciate your insights, here, in your newsletters and in your books.

    I’m keen to learn more as I have just published four pro-produced audiobooks exclusively through Findaway Voices and opted to open an Authors Direct shop too. Any thoughts on current audiobook marketing strategies or blog/articles/books you can recommend?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Suzanne, if you have your book already narrated then you have a free hand. You can go with Audible (and be exclusive with them or not) or you can go with Findaway. There are pros and cons to each.

    1. Audible cut royalty rates significantly a few years ago (from 50% – with potential escalators going up to 90% – down to 40%): https://gigaom.com/2014/02/27/amazon-owned-audible-lowers-royalty-rates-on-self-published-audiobooks/

      Then slashed bounties last year: https://boingboing.net/2018/08/03/use-em-and-lose-em.html

      And introduced the romance subscription package with very low pay rates: https://the-digital-reader.com/2018/02/28/authors-flee-audibles-romance-subscription-ridiculously-low-royalty-rate/

  3. Thanks for a great article, David. I can attest to the benefits of going wide with audiobooks. I have been extremely successful in the various library audiobook vendors where they pay per checkout. I also regularly promote this feature to my email list, telling them they get a free audiobook via their library and I still get paid. It’s a win/win!

    1. If you do a royalty split via ACX, you are tied to them (and that narrator deal) for seven years. If you pay for production, you are tied to using Audible for distribution for seven years – either exclusively or non-exclusively. You can email them and request a switch rom exclusive to non-exclusive during that seven year period IF you paid up front for production (and they always agree AFAIK). But you can’t opt out completely from using Audible for distro until that seven-year period is up. At least that’s my understanding. More here: https://www.acx.com/help/contracts-agreements/200474550

      1. I made a transition to Findaway in the past few months and what you’ve indicated is largely correct, except that if you did a pay for production contract up front and chose the “exclusive” contract, you have to remain in it for one year, and then they will allow you to switch to a non-exclusive arrangement.

        One thing I learned the hard way with the switch to Findaway is that there was a lot of confusion about the term “rights holder”. Findaway required that I submit an email request to ACX to transfer the rights to Findaway. I wrongly assumed that meant “distribution rights”. I had one book that was still exclusive with ACX, but when they complied with my request and transferred rights for all 3 of my books, I took that to mean that they had approved a non-exclusive distribution via Findaway for the 3rd one. That is not at all the case.

        From the ACX perspective, they merely transferred the owner/management rights from me to Findaway, but the one-year contract for exclusive distribution still applied. There was a big kerfuffle because now the book obviously couldn’t be distributed by Findaway, but it had been taken off sale from ACX, and ACX couldn’t accept my request to switch to non-exclusive or put it back on sale because I was no longer the rights holder! It was a nightmare that eventually got resolved when I became the rights holder again for that one book until the contract term is met.

        Frankly, I’m wondering if it isn’t better to have a non-exclusive distribution agreement with Audible (via ACX) and add on Findaway for all the other retail opportunities. ACX won’t allow price changes period, so the promotions/discounts that Findaway make possible won’t work with Audible/Amazon customers, anyway. Unless you opt for Findaway’s exclusive arrangement, you have the option of picking which retail platforms to include or exclude in their distribution, and if you are distributing on your own through ACX you keep all of the 25% royalty instead of giving 20% of it to Findaway. I also miss seeing how I’m doing with Audible through the ACX dashboard – I find the Findaway reporting functions are a bit clunky. After the initial glitches the experience has been fairly positive though.

        I’m excited that you are diving in with them – keep us posted on your experience! And I would love it if you could get any info out of Chirp about when they will move out of beta and let the rest of us have a crack at promoting there!

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