How Much Authors Make on Audiobook Royalties & the Secret to Keeping it All

 

Like many others, I’m a self-published author that publishes audiobooks and am trying to make a living doing what I love. However, it’s been very apparent to me that most audiobook royalties are going to the distributors and not the authors who put their blood, sweat, tears, and dollars into making them. To put it simply the audiobook industry is exploding. Whether you’re an independent author, a self-published author, a publisher, or a narrator, audio is booming.

 

I published one digital audiobook on Amazon’s Audible in 2019. It didn’t take me long to discover that a large portion of the money my audiobook made wasn’t coming to me. I knew there had to be a better way to get my finished audiobooks out into the world while also keeping all of the profit. And luckily for me, I found that way, and my goal now is to share it with every audiobook author who will listen.

 

That’s why I’ve written the Ultimate Author’s Guide to Selling Audiobooks for Max Profit and here’s part 1 coming to you live! So get ready to discover where you as an author can keep the most royalties.

 

This post will cover what your audiobook royalty will look like with Audible, Findaway Voices, and a newer platform, Soundwise. If you’ve never heard of Soundwise, then as an author get ready for some refreshing news, especially when compared to other audiobook publishers.  I’ve also listed all of the benefits of Soundwise separately.

 

Authors Scenario

Let’s say you’re ready to publish your completed audiobook and paid all the narrator production costs. Great. You’re excited, pumped up, and ready to hit the publish button. The following shows how much you would make on Audible, Findaway Voices, and Soundwise when your sales reach 100, 500, and 1000 sales in a given year. You’ll find the large publishers share some similarities.

 

Audible Exclusive Audiobook Agreement

The exclusive route to publishing audiobooks through Amazon’s Audible means that you pay the audiobook producer, or narrator, the full production costs upfront. The agreement states that if you lock yourself into a seven-year contract, then you can earn 40% of the royalties. As a side note, authors should think long and hard before giving their audiobook rights exclusively to publishers, but that’s a topic for another time. For a $14.95 audiobook, that would equate to $5.98 as the author’s share of the purchase.

 

audiobook royalties

 

The reason I’ve marked the price $14.95 is because that is the cost of a single credit subscription, which suggests that Audible pays a 40% commission, or royalty, on that price even though they state that authors will receive 40% of the purchase price of an audiobook. This is the closest approximation of what I could calculate based on their descriptions of how they calculate commissions and these figures are also in line with what I get per purchase of my audiobook on Audible. Keep in mind that this figure excludes audiobook narration costs since you have to pay that upfront to be eligible for this royalty rate.

 

Audible Royalty Share Audiobook Deal

If you want to do a royalty split, or share, with the producer (narrator) then you might expect the following calculations. This is assuming a retail price of $14.95 which would equate to $2.99 per title sold going into the author’s pocket and $2.99 going into the narrator’s pocket. Like the name suggests the author and narrator share the royalty. This would be an attractive option for authors who are looking for a way to publish their audiobook without paying for the cost of production. The downside of the royalty share option other than a lower royalty rate could include finding an experienced narrator that will be willing to follow the royalty share agreement. Basically, it forces the narrator to work for nothing on the hopes of being rewarded later, if the audiobook is successful.

 

non-exclusive audiobook royalty share table

 

Audible Pay for Production Non-Exclusive Audiobook Agreement

Some authors will want to go wide and publish their audiobooks to as many different retailers as possible hoping this increases their share. This has been a debated topic among audiobook authors for a long time. If an author decided to publish their audiobook on Audible, but also other retailers as well, then they would get 25% of the purchase share for each audiobook sold through Audible. Again, the author will have to pay all the production costs up front in order to receive this royalty percentage. The royalty amount isn’t shared with a narrator under this model.

 

non-exclusive audiobook royalty pay for production table

 

 

 

ACX, the production arm of Audible, states that audiobooks are sold at a given price based on the length of the audiobook. However, there are plenty of authors who don’t see their commissions, or royalty, reflect that model. Authors have documented they are receiving approximately half of what they should in audiobook commissions.

 

For example, according to ACX, a 10 – 20 hour audiobook should retail somewhere between $20 – $30. Let’s say the retail price is $25. Sure, some people will pony up $25 to buy the audiobook. However, under Audible’s subscription model, listeners can pick any book in the catalog at a much lower $14.95 per credit and then purchase additional audiobooks at even lower prices, reducing an author’s share amount even further.

 

Audible calculations are difficult to forecast, and many authors have found that what they state in the contract and what they receive in audiobook royalties do not correlate.

 

The problems have become so mainstream that authors have coined the term “Audiblegate”. To add even more fuel to the fire, Audible had been granting refunds to audiobook customers up to a year after purchase.  In the past, this practice has hurt authors by reducing their earnings well after earning a sale. However, in 2021 Audible has changed its return policy and decided to pay royalties on any audiobook seven days past the purchase date even if the audiobook is returned later.

 

Findaway Voices Royalties

Okay, same scenario. You sell 100, 500, and 1,000 copies of an audiobook on Findaway Voices in a given year.

Findaway Voices is similar to ACX/Audible in its pricing model. They claim that you get 80% of royalties and they only keep 20%. What they don’t tell you explicitly is that the retailers who sell the audiobook take a whopping 50% of the proceeds first. Of the remaining amount, Findaway Voices takes 20% and leaves the remaining 80% share as royalty to the author.

 

The good news is that Findaway Voices does allow you to set your own price. In the example above, I’ve set the price of the audiobook at $20. The retailer takes 50% of that ($10) first, then Findaway Voices takes 20% of what’s left ($2). Finally, the author is left with the remainder ($8).

 

Findaway Voices 20 table

 

So how much does an author make with a $20 price point on 100, 500, and 1000 sales? What amount will the author’s share be?

 

 

A little better than the exclusive pay for production agreement, but only because we increase the price to $20. How does it compare if we followed the credit model on Audible and price the audiobook at $14.95?

 

Findaway Voices b

 

Findaway 14 table

 

Hm. Looks awfully familiar when compared to the Audible Exclusive model, doesn’t it?

 

There might be a sliver of reasoning to use Findaway Voices for distribution. It’s certainly easier if you’re interested in a wide distribution play. In that regard, you’ll only have one platform set up that will be distributed to all the different retailers from there, and you’ll only get one check at the end of the month for all of your sales, instead of from multiple retailers.

 

That may make it worth it. In addition to that, there are Chirp deals you can utilize, but those will drive your price points down severely. However, that is a good option to introduce your audiobook to a new market at a cheaper price to a large list, especially if it leads into a series. Listeners may give you a chance when they can pick up your audiobook for next to nothing. Just keep in mind that you’ll make a slim amount on each purchase.

 

What doesn’t make quite as much sense is that no matter where you sell your audiobook, you’ll have to invest marketing dollars to give it exposure. From a marketing perspective, you want to earn the most you can from your hard work so you can earn the best return on your investment.

 

If you’re spending marketing dollars to drive traffic to any of those retailers and the retailer is the one reaping the lion’s share of the rewards from your efforts, is it really worth it? Before you decide to use Findaway Voices, consider the next alternative.

 

Soundwise: The Best Royalties for Authors

Soundwise is a newer option for authors to sell their audiobooks, but it will become a strong contender since it provides major advantages over the other two platforms from a royalty share perspective. From one author to another, this is the best advice I can give and you’re about to understand why.

 

Soundwise doesn’t charge authors a percentage of each transaction like Audible and Findaway Voices, which as we have seen are 60%+ of the list price. Whether you call it a commission or a royalty, they don’t touch it. Authors do not share royalties with anyone. The proceeds are yours to keep, just the way it should be.

 

However, there are a few costs we need to cover.

 

Stripe Payments

Before we dive into the sales example, we need to discuss Stripe fees. You’ll need to use Stripe to receive payment for your sales proceeds. This is a transaction fee that occurs on all platforms. Through Audible and Findaway, these costs are absorbed and you don’t see them necessarily, but rest assured you are paying for them and much more through royalty share. The Stripe setup for your audiobooks is easy.

 

Stripe will take 2.9% of each purchase, plus $.30. For a $20 audiobook, that equates to $.88.

 

Here’s what the calculation looks like.

 

Audiobook Price x .029 + $.30 = Fee for one audiobook purchase

 

That’s a huge difference when compared to the 60+% of the purchase price the big retailers and publishers will take.

 

The other main cost is monthly or annual subscription cost. The table below will show the total subscription model price that you’ll pay each year if you choose the annual plan.

 

Soundwise has monthly plans, but as with most subscription services, you’ll save on annual plans versus paying for the monthly subscription. The example below will use the annual charge for the Plus and Pro Plans.

 

Ok, here we go. The last example, and the most astounding. Again, you sell 100 copies, 500 copies, and 1,000 copies of your audiobook in a given year.

 

Plus Plan

The subscription price of the monthly Plus Plan is $49. The annual price drops to $39/month or $468/year. Take a look at these numbers. What a difference when you don’t share royalties.

 

Soundwise Plus Plan audiobook royalties

 

We set the price at $20 since that is what we would charge through Findaway Voices. This makes the numbers fair. As you can see, there is over $10K in additional profit between what you keep if you sell 1,000 copies in a given year through Soundwise versus using Findaway Voices. That is money going into your pocket, not the big audiobook publishers. Royalty coming to your bank account, not theirs.

 

And that is after deducting the cost of the subscription and the Stripe fees. That’s a significant amount of money and the more audiobooks you sell, the more the royalty compounds.

 

When compared to the previous tables, an author can make 2x – 3x more money by using Soundwise for their audiobook sales. Authors would do themselves a big favor by using Soundwise and cutting out the retailers altogether. This levels the playing field in the audiobook distribution game because now authors can take control of their own traffic to their website or straight to their Soundwise landing page and make significantly more money.

 

How much an author makes on their audiobook royalties (really commissions) is the most important factor when considering which distributors, or publishers, to use. If you’re an author and you want to make more money per sale on your audiobook, I highly recommend Soundwise.

 

Pro Plan

The total profit on the Pro Plan is actually a little lower than the Plus Plan and this is due to the higher annual cost of the plan. Soundwise doesn’t charge you a percentage of each sale on either plan. However, on the Pro Plan you have access to Zapier integrations and multiple pricing options. Also, there aren’t any contracts with Soundwise.

 

Soundwise Pro Plan audiobook royalties table

 

Learn about all the benefits of Soundwise in the next part of this guide. You’ll find that keeping all your audiobook profits is only the beginning.

 

This post has been PART 1 of the Ultimate Author’s Guide to Selling Audiobooks for Max Profit. I hope it’s been informative and helpful as you develop your writing career. This series includes:

 

 

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