I wrote in my Sharing the Wealth last week about how Amazon changed their ACX royalty rate. It went from 50% (with a very generous escalator) to a flat 40%. There are more details about it, and you can find them all in that post and the announcement I linked to, but that’s the gist of things.
Since I posted that, I haven’t seen a lot of communication on that, either from Amazon or the blogverse. This concerns me for a couple reasons, the main being that Amazon has been seen as our side for the past few years. The company has allowed many authors to earn a living from their writing for the first time, has made millionaires out of at least a couple people, and completely revolutionized publishing and writing. With all the changes, publishers, agents, and even authors (who still sell there…) have trashed it at every turn, a lot of times for the very advantages it now offers authors. There have been massive debates on this, with many in self publishing coming to Amazon’s defense. I myself have taken part in those debates, commenting on other sites while writing my own points of view here.
And in most of those cases, I feel very comfortable saying we’re in the right.
But that doesn’t mean Amazon is perfect, and this ACX move really feels like a major move in the wrong direction. In a very real way, they’ve cornered the audiobook market for self publishers. Hell, I wrote about it just a few weeks ago. My opinion then was that, well, it’s really the only option so I might as well go that route. I also said I wasn’t about to pull the trigger on it though, because I hadn’t done near as much research as I was comfortable with. I didn’t want to sign up for something I wasn’t ready for.
I’m not ready, I need to take a royalty split and at this time I can’t really sell a narrator on a single book. I will be able to eventually, when Virgil McDane has a few more adventures under his belt, but at this time I don’t think a narrator would see it as a reasonable investment. Now, I think even more so. They’ve been hit with this just as hard, if not harder, than the authors.
ACX seems to have always been a bit different from KDP. The price can’t be changed, the royalty report is apparently archaic and weird, and there aren’t as many options for inserting calls to action and other stuff. There attitude with audio has been different as well, and this might be a sign of that changing. I theorized last week that this might be a sign they see audio as the next big thing, and are looking to push harder. Maybe they offered a higher royalty to incentivize the use, then, seeing it as nonviable, lowered the royalty to make it a better business model. Overall, if that’s the case, I could see that being better for authors as volume makes up for royalties.
Or you might also think that, having cornered the market, Amazon switched their royalty because there are no other options. Whereas with KDP and even Createspace there are other competitors. It could even happen with those markets. Amazon could come along and lower royalties to whatever they wanted and authors couldn’t do a thing about it.
This just brings up the reminder to diversify, to bring your stuff to other markets and build your following there. I don’t want to see authors trade out one cage for another.
There’s a caveat to that. Diversification doesn’t mean traditional publishing. Don’t confuse things, this is nothing against self publishing. I’m all for diversifying content, that’s what I’m trying to do with Kobo and B&N. Hopefully, and this is as a buyer, a reader, and an author, we will see more competitors come to the market and offer a quality service. The point is, just like buying a bad stock doesn’t increase the value of your portfolio, neither does signing a bad publishing contract.
I wish I had a better answer. I really do. It’ll be interesting seeing how this goes from here on out.