Amazon-owned Audible: Hey Authors, Want $20 Million?

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The Amazon-owned digital audiobooks site is launching a new program, “Audible Author Services,” that pays audiobook authors $1 per sale through,, and iTunes, out of a $20 million fund. The audiobook publishers do not receive any of the funds.

To sign up, authors must make their titles available as audiobooks through (Audible encourages them to do this via ACX, the audiobook rights marketplace it launched last year.) Once they enroll their books in the program, Audible says, they will:

  • Receive an honorarium of $1 per unit sold at,, and iTunes, and increase awareness of their book in audio format; [LHO note: Downloads via subscriptions count as sales]
  • Obtain samples and links from Audible for use in social media, blogs, or on their websites – wherever they communicate most easily with their fans – as part of our “quick start” audio awareness plan;
  • Gain direct interaction with Audible marketing and merchandising teams; and
  • Obtain a free copy of their audiobook from Audible.

Authors get an “honorarium,” publishers get nothing

Significantly, the audiobooks’ publishers are cut out of the deal — the $1 per unit payment is an “honorarium,” “a direct payment from us to you, a way for us to reward you for promoting your work. Sharing the payment with your agent is at your discretion.” Audible continues to pay regular royalties on each audiobook sold.

(MORE: Thanks to E-Books, Flat Revenues are No Problem for Publishers)

While Audible encourages authors to market their audiobooks, they can get the $1/sale payment without doing any extra marketing at all. The authors get $1 whether the audiobook is sold outright or downloaded as part of a monthly or annual subscription.

The fund runs through December 31, 2012. After that, “If you want the program to continue in 2013, please help us by signing up and raising awareness of your audiobooks.”

“People buy a Neil Gaiman, not a HarperCollins or a Simon & Schuster”

As you may have imagined, Audible is not just doing this out of the good of its heart. CEO Donald Katz tells the Guardian, “The fact is people buy a Neil Gaiman, not a HarperCollins or a Simon & Schuster, so it is for us to connect with the writers and hopefully wake them up to what they can do. If it works it can become a channel of membership and sales.”

The site says “we want to foster direct relationships with more authors…authors whose books are unavailable in audio are disenfranchised from an exponentially growing audience for their work. Through Audible Author Services, we hope to increase awareness among those authors and encourage them to get into the game.”

Or, as Katz tells the Guardian roughly 1 million times more bluntly, “This is an era of self-reliance which is there for the taking. This is the last generation of authors who can think of themselves as Victorian gentlemen living above the marketplace, because publishers and agents don’t have the wherewithal to support them.”

Just as Amazon encourages authors to self-publish through KDP (and pays them extra for making their e-books available exclusively through the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library), Audible may hope that authors will self-publish their audiobooks through Audible instead of through a traditional publisher. Audiobook rights in publishing contracts are negotiable, so an author does not have to give away those rights to a traditional publisher.

Ultimately, of course, Amazon and Audible may hope that authors will simply self-publish their books — in all formats — through Amazon.

(MORE: Shut Up and Pay Up, Please: The Tax Whiners Don’t Know How Good They Have It)

Republished with permission from paidContent, which writes about the transformation of the media-and-entertainment industries in the digital era, with a focus on emerging-business models and technologies.

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