Audible puts the screws to indie authors

Audible — Amazon's audiobook company — dominates audiobooks, controlling 90% or more of the market; their ACX platform is tailored to indie, self-published authors, and, until recently, it paid them handsomely for any new customers they brought into Audible's fold.

If your audiobook was the first one that a new Audible customer downloaded, and if that customer stuck around for 61 days, Audible gave you $50. This encouraged authors to aggressively woo new customers for Audible, even as Audible slashed royalty rates, which plummeted from 70% to 40%.

Now Audible has come for the new customer bonuses; authors only get a commission if a new customer comes in via social media channels. That means that if you hustle and get a radio interview or a review and someone goes straight to Amazon to buy your audibook, you get $0.00.

Last month, Google launched an audiobook competitor that's DRM free and offers competitive royalties to authors. Anyone who releases as an Audible exclusive after all is just begging to get screwed over by Amazon.

Look at it this way: let's say you score a major media spot on NPR, or a hit podcast, on TV or a viral YouTube video. I always mention on air that I have a great audiobook that I recorded myself–which drives people right to my Amazon page. I would say something along the lines of "If you like the dulcet sounds of my voice, you can pick up the Audiobook on Amazon".

With the old system, you'd earn a $50 Bounty if some of those listeners got excited enough to start up subscriptions to Audible because of your interview. Now, those same listeners will go right to the Amazon page and the author gets cut out. Same goes for word of mouth. If someone tells their friends that you audiobook was amazing and subscribes to audible because of that you still get zero dollars.

You only earn the bounty if someone types in a URL that looks like this:

ACX: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly [Scott Carney]