Have you ever wondered why your favorite audiobooks are available on some platforms but not others, or why the prices fluctuate across platforms? The simple answer is that it comes down to the audiobook distributor. Some of the largest and most well-known audiobook distributors are Audiobooks Creation Exchange (ACX) and Findaway Voices. They distribute to platforms such as Audible, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Kobo, Chirp, Scribd, Storytel, and Hoopla. Many distributors also offer audiobook production services.

Rights holders, a term used to describe the person or publishing company with the rights to an audiobook, may choose one distributor over another for various reasons. It may be that the distributor offers the full production and distribution package, that their royalty rates are higher than those of their competitors, or that their audiobooks are accessible on different platforms than their competitors.

ACX distributes solely to Amazon, Audible, and iTunes. Unlike other distributors, they offer rights holders two choices. Rights holders may grant ACX exclusive distribution rights, meaning their audiobook can only be distributed on these three platforms, or non-exclusive distribution rights, meaning their audiobook can be distributed beyond these three platforms. Exclusive contracts ensure that ACX will be the only distributor that offers the audiobook, while non-exclusive contracts mean another distributor may offer the audiobook as well. Exclusive distribution rights with ACX result in a 40 percent royalty share, while non-exclusive rights come with a 25 percent royalty share for rights holders. For comparison, Findaway Voices offers an 80 percent royalty share, Lantern offers 75 percent, and Author’s Republic offers 70 percent.

If a rights holder distributes through Findaway Voices, and they sell an audiobook on Audible, then they would receive 80 percent of the 25 percent royalty from Audible. It’s also important to note that if a narrator other than the author was used, and the narrator choses to be paid royalties rather than a per-finished-hour production fee, then the rights holder would split 50 percent of the original 25 percent royalty with the narrator.

Calculating sales and royalties can get very tricky, especially because prices fluctuate on platforms like Audible and Amazon and because subscription-based services typically use a credit system. Rights holders can’t determine the price of their audiobooks with ACX like they can with other distributors, and Audible and Amazon are known to sell audiobooks at deeply discounted prices. Plus, with subscription services like Audible, rights holders receive less than they do through direct sales. This is because the subscription price that translates to a book credit is often less than the price of an audiobook à la carte.

Genre and length can affect sales across platforms as well. Subscription services like Scribd and Storytel report an especially high interest among science fiction and fantasy titles. Author Craig A. Price Jr. believes this is because these
types of titles tend to be significantly longer than others or may have prominent narrators attached, so listeners feel like they’re getting more bang for their buck (i.e., credit).

Royalty rates and accessibility are some of the factors rights holders should consider when choosing a distributor for their audiobook. Many authors agree that non-exclusive contracts are best when distributing with ACX. Exclusive contracts may sound alluring with promises of higher royalty rates, but non-exclusive contracts offer rights holders more avenues for revenue along with chances of reaching a wider audience across platforms.

Leave a Reply