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 Most Important Rule
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. Whether you get a library card or a Scribd subscription or buy every audiobook for the full price on LibroFM, these are all ways audiobook creators earn money. 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 doesn’t 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 it 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 you purchasing the audiobook, or for downloading it, or per minute you listened.
Every platform handles this a bit differently. But most of them pay authors either 25% or 40% of what the listener paid for the audiobook. If it’s an unlimited subscription, there is usually 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 (although many of them are actually produced by Audible Studios). If an audiobook is Audible-exclusive, the author receives 40% royalties. If the author wants to publish the audiobook on more platforms, they only receive 25% royalties for any Audible sale.
Obviously, were you to pay full price on Audible, the author would get more money than when you pay $7.49 for a Whispersync deal. But in the end, if paying full price means your budget only allows you to purchase one audiobook instead of three, you should consider getting those deals. And of course, for authors and publishers, there is also the consideration of whether you prefer to sell less for more money, or more 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.
On Audible, 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 has no influence on this.
When an author decides to publish their audiobook on all platforms instead of Audible-exclusive, they often go through Findaway Voices, like Penny Reid and many other indie authors. Here, authors have more options to decide the price for their audiobook. They can also control promotions and sales. And they can add their audiobook to library apps like Libby, Hoopla, and Overdrive!
Through Findaway, 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 choose a pricing structure and might either opt to be paid per download (e.g. $2) or sell a high-priced copy that can be downloaded a certain number of times. The audiobook publisher or indie author has full control here.
So you can be sure that authors fully approve when you get their audiobook through your library!
Stores that Pay Higher Royalties
While you can generally assume that royalties are about the same everywhere and as long as you legally obtain your audiobook, everything is well, Penny Reid did mention two stores in particular for their high royalties and author-friendliness.
The first one is Authors Direct, Findaway Voices’ storefront. Since it pays 70% royalties, authors can offer their audiobooks at very low prices here and still earn more than they would with Audible copies. Some authors also offer free content here (check out Penny Reid’s page for Winston freebies) or give away audiobook codes. And good news, Authors Direct is not only available in the US anymore, you can now use it from the EU, UK, Australia, and Canada as well!
Unfortunately, the store isn’t all that browsing-friendly. But you can search for a genre, an author name, or book title. You can see here when you search for the term “Romance” over 900 audiobooks show up and you could specify your search further, like “Dark Romance”, “Paranormal Romance”, and so on.
The second noteworthy mention is Kobo**. I have only used them a few times myself and was not aware this store was anything special before my chat with Penny. She told me that Kobo pays relatively high royalties and offers great author services. So, this seems to be a store worth exploring as well!
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.
That being said, if you want to go the extra mile, do check out Kobo and Authors Direct, since these platforms pay authors more! If you can buy an audiobook for $7.50 on Amazon or on Authors Direct, the latter is definitely the better choice for the author you want to support.
And remember, authors love reviews! So, if you want to do a little bit more after picking up a great deal, writing a review on GoodReads or Amazon is a great idea. You can write a helpful audiobook review in as little as 3 minutes.