As an audiobook fan, you have your three or four different audiobook subscriptions, and you want your favorite author’s or narrator’s newest audiobook. And now you might wonder… what is the best way to get this audiobook? Is it okay to borrow it through Hoopla, or is it better for the author to buy the Amazon Whispersync deal?
Penny Reid was so kind to give me a look behind the scenes and share with me some info on how authors are paid for audiobooks. And we can give you the ultimate answers on how to best support your favorite author!
**The marked links and book covers on this page are affiliate links. If you use them to purchase something, I earn a fee at no additional cost for you. Disclosure**
The Most Important Rule to support Authors
It might sound simple, but if you want your beloved authors to keep writing, you should, in some shape or form, pay for their work.
But if you listen to an audiobook on YouTube or download it through BitTorrent, you have pirated it – stolen it – and the author will not get paid.
Please don’t pirate!
Free audiobooks are definitely a thing. But whenever you are offered free audiobooks without a paid subscription or library card, you should double-check that it is approved by the author and narrator!
You can take a look at my list of websites with free audiobooks to find reliable sources. But please don’t listen to indie or traditionally published audiobooks on YouTube, through Torrents, or websites that look somehow fishy!
Also, please be aware that when you finish an audiobook that you bought with an Audible credit and then return it, the author might not receive royalties from Audible! It’s as if you go into a bookstore, buy a book, read it at home, and then return it.
When you borrow an Audible Plus book, everything is fine. But when you buy something with an Audible credit, and you enjoy the audiobook reasonably much, you should keep it, so the author gets paid fairly for their work.
You can read more about this in my blog post on what you need to know before returning a book on Audible.
How do Authors get paid for Audiobooks?
Let’s delve deeper. How do authors get paid for audiobooks? Depending on the platform, authors get paid royalties either for purchases of the audiobook, for downloads, or per minute listened.
Every platform handles this a bit differently. But most of them pay authors either 25%, 40%, or 50% of what the listener paid for the audiobook.
If it’s an unlimited subscription, there is sometimes a pot that is divided among the authors whose books have been downloaded.
Indie authors and publishers have the option of making their audiobooks exclusive to Audible. That’s why many audiobooks have that yellow banner in the lower right corner.
These marked audiobooks are sometimes produced by Audible itself, through Audible Studios or Audible Originals, or authors use Audible’s ACX platform to create their audiobooks.
ACX helps authors to connect with narrators, and they can even choose a royalty share model with which new authors and new narrators can take chances on one another to make a name for themself.
Related article: Why are audiobooks so expensive?
If an audiobook is Audible-exclusive, the author receives 40% royalties (or 20% for the author and 20% for the narrator). If the author wants to publish the audiobook on more platforms, they only receive 25% royalties for any Audible sale.
Now, to get into actual numbers, were you to pay full price for an audiobook on Audible, the author would earn more money than when you pay $7.49 for a Whispersync deal. But if paying full price means your budget only allows you to purchase one audiobook instead of three, those deals are a good way to make it a win/win for both you and the audiobook creators.
For authors and publishers, there is also the consideration of whether they prefer to sell fewer books for more money or more books for less money.
Audible is by far the market leader, and Penny Reid told me that they have done and are doing a lot for independent authors, but since they are also part of a huge corporation, Amazon, the bottom line is what matters.
Not every decision Audible makes is necessarily the best for authors and publishers. We have seen that in the past, with their decision not to pay any royalties to authors whose audiobooks were returned while heavily promoting the returns policy to customers (this has since been partially changed after a huge outcry by authors).
And we are seeing it now with Audible lowering the prices on all audiobooks and not reacting to calls to adjust their royalty payments to the market average.
On Audible and Amazon, authors and publishers have no influence on the price. Audible decides how much an audiobook is worth, when/if there will be a discount, and how high that will be.
Amazon also decides whether or not an audiobook is suitable to be Whispersynced. The author only has an indirect influence on this. If an audiobook is significantly different from the ebook, it can’t be Whispersynced.
But authors can’t choose to have an audiobook synced without offering the cheap Whispersync pricing.
Related article: Are Audible Exclusives Bad?
If a self-published author or publisher decides to publish their audiobook on all platforms instead of Audible-exclusive, they often go through the platform Findaway Voices, like Penny Reid and many other indie authors.
Here, audiobook publishers have more options for deciding the price for their audiobooks. They can also control promotions and sales. And they can add their audiobook to library apps like Libby and Hoopla!
Through a platform like Findaway Voices, authors can choose if and how they want to publish library copies. If they want their audiobook to be available in library apps, they can pick a pricing structure and might either opt to be paid per download (e.g., $2) or sell a high-priced library copy that can be downloaded a certain number of times.
The audiobook publisher or indie author has full control here.
So, rest assured that authors fully approve when you get their audiobook through a library and that they will be paid!
So, what can you do?
To sum it up, as long as you obtain an audiobook legally, everything is good, and you are supporting your favorite authors and audiobook creators to the best of your abilities! Authors are being paid for library copies and for audiobooks in subscriptions like Scribd.
That being said, if you want to go the extra mile, consider using Libro.fm or Audiobooks.com to buy an audiobook with a credit instead of Audible. The author will receive higher royalty payments!
If an audiobook is available in a variety of stores, Audible pays only 25% for any purchase there, while other stores pay 40% – 50%.
You can also consider supporting your favorite authors by buying the print or ebook version of your favorite book since royalties for these are usually higher.
And remember, authors love reviews! So, if money is tight, but you want to do something more, write a review on GoodReads, Amazon, or Audible. You can write a helpful audiobook review in as little as 3 minutes.
Or recommend the book to a friend! You wouldn’t believe how many books I have bought just because someone tweeted about them or mentioned them on Facebook or Reddit 🙂
How much do Authors make with Audiobooks?
Depending on the platform, authors get paid royalties either for purchases of the audiobook, for downloads, or per minute listened. They receive 25% – 50% of the purchase price as royalties or a set amount of cents per download or minute listened.
What are Audible Royalties?
For each purchase you make on Audible, either with money or with an Audible credit, the author gets paid a certain percentage. Sometimes, the author and narrator have a royalty share agreement. In that case, the narrator also receives royalties. The author gets a smaller amount but doesn’t have to pay the narrator a high fee upfront.
How much does Audible pay Authors?
Audiobook creators who publish their titles exclusively on Audible receive 40% royalties. If they publish wide, they get 25% royalties for purchases on Audible. This includes audiobooks bought on Amazon through Whispersync.
Does Scribd pay Royalties to Authors?
Yes, Scribd pays authors a set amount for each ebook and audiobook that a subscriber borrows once a certain percentage has been read or played.