ACX's Statement Regarding #audiblegate and the Returns Policy is not the win you think it is. The numbers reveal all.



This morning ACX/Audible (An Amazon Company) issued a statement due to the recent questions and concerns authors have been raising about their unfair return (exchange) policy. 

Some author groups seem to have interpreted this as a win for authors, but when you dig deeper and really look at the truth of how it materially affects right's holders who work through ACX to produce and sell Audiobooks, you see a really grim truth. 





Authors, the right's holders, have to pay to produce audiobooks. These books can cost upwards of $2,000 each to produce. That is beyond the cost already paid for by an indie author to produce the book in print and ebook forms. When you add editing, cover art, interior formatting, ebook conversion, ISBN's, Copyright registration, and marketing costs, a single book can cost $1,500 to produce in print. That means if an author has paid all production cost for that book including audio, it was $3,500 out of pocket. We have a lot of money to recoup before we ever see a cent of profit. So most of the indie authors you see out there, are doing this because we love to produce entertaining content, but we are not making a lot of money in the end. That said, we at the very least should be treated fairly by the companies we have to go through to reach the marketplace. Amazon has historically been difficult to work with, but because they are the biggest player in the book world, an author would be shooting themselves in the foot to avoid working with them. After all, in order to sell books, we have to be where readers are looking to find them, right? 

Audible, an Amazon company is the distribution arm for audiobooks. To get a book into the Audible catalogue, authors must go through ACX. 

ACX does not produce the book. They provide the platform for the book to be produced and distributed. That means they facilitate finding an audio producer, the messaging system between the author and producer, and the means to upload and vet the book before it goes on the Audible catalogue. 

 We can either find a narrator who will share royalties with us (effectively cutting down the production cost), or we can pay for the production of the book and retain full rights to the royalties. (as long as it stays within the Audible system. 

We can remain direct with Audible distribution as the exclusive and earn 40% of the royalties, or we can opt for wide distribution and earn 25% of the royalties. 

If an author opts for royalty share, that 40% is split between the Author and Narrator, so 20% each. 

Just to put that into perspective. If the audio book cost $10 then Audible keeps 6 and the author is paid $2 and the Narrator is paid $2 for each book sold. 

So we don't make a ton of money for selling audio books, but that's not the big issue. Here's the rub. When a member gets a book through Audible, it's considered a sale. When a member returns the book (per audible's policy of accepting any and all returns, no questions asked) the right's holders, the Narrator and Author, have their royalties debited. 

When we look at our sales dashboard, there is no separate line between sales and returns. We see a single number representing a total. If you look at my account below you'll see that for this quarter, counting only October and November, I am negative on sales for Dissension. What does that mean? Did I have 10 sales and lost 11? Did I have one sale and lost 2? Books only show up on the dashboard if they have registered a sale. With that in mind, Complication shows all 0s meaning (because it showed up at all) there had to be at least one sale. But now, that sale is gone and I am left with nothing. 




When you have a return policy, especially one that is going to debit the right's holder, you need to show all the numbers. Sales and returns should be in separate columns. What we have is a confusing list of types of sales, applying both sales and returns to the number in that column. 

AL: audiobook units bought by AudibleListener members using their membership credits
ALOP: audiobook units bought by AudibleListener members but not using their membership credits
ALC: audiobook units bought by customers not in an AudibleListener membership
Bounty: bonus payment earned when a qualifying book is the first purchase by a new AudibleListener Member

So that's the author side of the problem. No transparency. No accountability. 

But here is where it gets really bad. Audible promotes returning a book, even after it has been listened to by a member, as an "exchange." It's a feature. 




Question: 
When, in the history of customer service has returning an item ever been advertised as a feature? 

Answer: 
When the retailer has no monetary concern about the item being returned. 

 ex·change
/iksˈCHānj/ noun
an act of giving one thing and receiving another (especially of the same type or value) in return.

re·turn
/rəˈtərn/ verb
give, put, or send (something) back to a place or person.

By promoting the EXCHANGE of a book as a feature of their service, they create the idea in a member's mind, that they are getting a benefit for using the policy. What they do not know is that feature, actively removes money from the creator of that audiobook, without affecting Audible's bottom line. 

Audible Plus cost users $7.95 per month with no credits, meaning users pay for the access to Audible's book library. They still pay on average of $14.95 per book 

Audible Premium Plus cost users $14.95 per month with 1 credit per month (the cost of purchasing a book)

Whether a member buys a book or not, Audible makes their money. When members exchange their books, audible loses nothing. They still have your money. Authors and Narrators, however, lose their royalty. 

How does this break down? 

Simple math. 

Let's say a book cost $10 retail in the audible store. (Because it is a nice round number to work with)

Plus members pay 7.95 + 10.00 in their first month. Audible make 17.95 then sends $4 of that to the right's holder. 

Audible has made $13.95 from that user for that month. 

The rights holder has made $4

If that member "exchanges" the book, they get a new book to listen to at no additional cost. That's two books for the price of one. What a feature. 

Audible loses nothing. They still have that $13.95. 
The right's holder's royalty is now debited $-4
Audible pockets that $4 from the right's holder they just debited. 
Audible has made their full $17.95 for the month. 

Premium Plus members pay 14.95 for a month with one book. Audible nets $14.95 then sends $4 to the rights holder. 

Audible has made, $10.95 from that user for that month.

If that member "exchanges" the book, they get a new book to listen to at no additional cost. That's two books for the price of one. What a feature. 

Audible loses nothing. They still have that $10.95. 
The right's holder's royalty is now debited $-4
Audible pockets that $4 from the right's holder they just debited.
Audible has made their full $14.95 for the month. 

Audible's policy of allowing returns for any reason, for 365days after purchase, even if the member has listened to the book multiple times, actively steals money from the right's holder while allowing Audible to promote these "exchanges" so they can pocket all of the money for themselves. 

This is what AudibleGate is. Indie authors have finally picked up on the fact that they are being screwed over and are banding together to stop the Amazon Giant from stealing our money, our work, and our ability to compete in the marketplace. We want fair treatment and distribution options that do not strip us of the ability to earn any money from our books. 

Authors Guild has joined the fight. This is huge, we need some big names with legal support helping this cause. If you have a moment, please sign this petition. If you don't want to sign please share. Awareness helps too. 

Authors Guild petition

So that's the background on why AudibleGate is such a big deal for authors right now.

This morning ACX/Audible (An Amazon Company) issued a statement due to the recent questions and concerns authors have been raising about their unfair return (exchange) policy. 

On the surface, it sounds like a small win for authors, but when you dig deeper and really look at the truth of how it materially affects right's holders who work through ACX to produce and sell Audiobooks, you see a really grim truth. 


Why is this not a win for authors? 

#1 - Still no transparency in reporting sales vs returns.
They have not nor will not release itemized reports on sales and returns so going forward authors can verify the actual impact of their returns. 

#2 - Their starting date allows for them to continue stealing from us during the lucrative holiday period. Why not make this change immediate and, dare I say, retroactive? If they really cared about the authors as they claim, they would do right by us. 

#3 - Per an earlier email sent this week, they offer %5 additional royalty compensation for December is a poor offer compared to all the money they have pocketed due to the unfair policies that have already impacted authors. That %5 (using the numbers from above) amounts to about $0.20 per book sold (and not exchanged.) which will be split 50/50 if that book is part of a royalty share. So let's all praise Scrooge McBezos for his generosity during the holiday season. $0.10

What ACX is doing with the statement they sent out today, is hoping we'll accept this and shut up. They know if we keep pushing for full transparency it won't look good for them when the truly criminal nature of their policy is revealed.

Audibe's return policy is literally stealing money from authors, narrators, and anyone involved in the production of an audio book to be sold on the Audible Platform. 

I think I've done enough talking on the subject. Please share and spread the word. Every voice helps. 

Find out how indie authors feel about this, and follow the links below to learn more and how you can get involved in fixing this issues. 

Spilling Ink spills the Ink on #AudibleGate

Plot Mom #Audiblegate: how Audible is mishandling indie authors and narrators

Aaron Oster - AudibleGate: The End of Publishing with Amazon's ACX (Audible)? | A #1 Bestseller's Thoughts

Go Indie Now - Town Hall on #AudibleGate

Susan May broke the story earlier this month. 

Writer Beware

Alliance of Independent Authors

Facebook - Fair Deals For Rights Holders

Spilling the ink on #Audiblegate







Audibe's return policy is literally stealing money from authors, narrators, and anyone involved in the production of an audio book to be sold on the Audible Platform. 

Find out how indie authors feel about this, and follow the links below to learn more and how you can get involved in fixing this issues. 

Spilling Ink spills the Ink on #AudibleGate

Plot Mom #Audiblegate: how Audible is mishandling indie authors and narrators

Aaron Oster - AudibleGate: The End of Publishing with Amazon's ACX (Audible)? | A #1 Bestseller's Thoughts

Go Indie Now - Town Hall on #AudibleGate

Susan May broke the story earlier this month. 

Writer Beware

Alliance of Independent Authors

Authors Guild

Facebook - Fair Deals For Rights Holders

Big Book News

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Chapter 17, 18, &19 https://youtu.be/VtbRz61prbA

About The Author

Katie Salidas is a USA Today bestselling author and RONE award winner known for her unique genre-blending style.

Since 2010 she's penned five bestselling book series: the Immortalis, Olde Town Pack, Little Werewolf, Chronicles of the Uprising, and the all-new Agents of A.S.S.E.T. series. As her not-so-secret alter ego, Rozlyn Sparks, she is a USA Today bestselling author of romance with a naughty side.

In her spare time Katie also produces and hosts a YouTube talk show; Spilling Ink. She also has a regular column on First Comics News where she explores writing from a nerdy perspective.