ACX Cuts Audiobook Narrator Royalty
Income By 20%. What To Do Now?
March 1, 2014
By David Lawrence XVII
Voice Actor, Actor, Producer, Coach
I’m going to warn you right now – this is going to take a wee bit longer than 60 seconds to read. But I promise, it will be worth it.
So. When ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) announced on February 27 they were reducing royalties by 20%, doing away with escalating revenue sharing based on sales, while increasing the bounty payment, but only if your book is "the first purchase of a new AudibleListener™” the furor among rights holders and narrators alike was visceral, almost universal and, frankly, predictable.
Here is the ACX February 27 notice:
We’re posting today with an important update regarding ACX royalty and bounty payments, effective March 12.WHAT DO YOU THINK?
What does this mean to you as a narrator? The overwhelming consensus is that this is a sucker-punch in the gut.
As artists, we were enjoying a free-to-join, free-to-work-on, free-from-commission, artist-friendly so-different-from-Voice123-and-Voices.com site, that let us audition for whatever we want, whenever we want and decide on how we work, how we manage our clients, and how we get paid.
It felt to some like a total betrayal.
But to a few, it was taken as a new piece of data to use in their business process, me included.
BUSINESS DECISION - NOT ABOUT ART
Today, after all the outrage, the screaming, the open letters, the petitions, the threads and the threats, I’m asking simply, "What does this mean to you as a business person?”
Business decisions should be, and smart ones are, made in the cold harsh light of logic and economics, not righteous indignation and emotion.
Business is rarely about art, and always about your standards, practices and level of risk aversion (those are fancy words about how financially capable and willing you are to take a chance on something that could go really bad).
IT'S AUDIBLE'S BALLPARK
So, what does the ACX policy revision mean to your business?
Humor me. Forget for a moment the incessant demonizing of Audible (ACX parent company) for this. You plays with a monopoly, you takes your chances.
See, the truth is, it’s their decision, because it’s their ballgame, their stadium, their league, their rules.
We play with Audible because it’s attractive and profitable, money-wise or other-wise. And they have far more narrators than they have books to be narrated – 15,266 producers versus 3,856 titles at this very moment – so it’s buyer’s market.
And as artists, we’re often tempted to sell our work to buyers for little or nothing. (I try to lobby against that at every turn, but then, I’m looking out for your ability to pay the rent and put food on the table with your art.)
DECIDE YOUR BOTTOM LINE
But we all have our own personal business lines that we draw in the sand. We won’t work for anything less than X, or we don’t do THAT kind of book, or whatever.
Look, don’t get me wrong: 20% is 20%. And that’s a hit, no matter how many new AudibleListeners we draw to audible.com and coach on how to accurately make our book their "first purchase.”
We’re going to make less money than before. 20% less than before. That’s a fact.
In any other instance, like a supermarket giving 20% less of a discount, or charging 20% more for their items, you’d maybe do nothing, or maybe, you’d vote with your feet and your wallet and go shop elsewhere.
You can do that here. You can stop working for ACX. If enough of us do, they’ll make some changes pretty fast.
I have a feeling not enough of us are willing to do that. I have a feeling that although some of us aren’t willing to take this kind of abuse, others of us don’t look at it as abuse at all – and might even want to have a dialogue with Jason and Mike and the rest of the ACX crew and find out why this, why now, and why 20%.
ASSESS YOUR OPTIONS
The question is: what are you willing to do about it? Here are some options.
1. Are you willing to continue to work for them, even at these reduced rates, because things are actually pretty good? I mean, you figure even though a 20% royalty isn’t the 25% royalty it used to be, 20% is still a lot higher than the 1%-3% royalty the authors themselves got as royalties in the old days, right?
2. Are you willing to try to persuade them to change their mind with a reasonable and professional tone and temperament, but still work for them?
3. Are you willing to only take reasonably well-paying (on par with union rates) PFH books on ACX, and completely abandon royalty share, stipend enhanced or not?
4. Are you willing to sign a petition demanding change, organize a boycott of Audible’s audiobooks, encourage other narrators not to work for them, and other methods to try to shame them into going back to the old royalty schedule?
5. Are you only willing to sit on the sidelines and take whatever results the rest of the really exercised narrators are going to get accomplished?
Or ...and here’s the big one:
6. Are you willing to quit working on ACX projects altogether?
Any or all of these are completely up to you – and I’d suggest you decide, as an artistic entrepreneur dedicated to making a living at performing. I have. And I’m at peace with it.
So? What’s your decision? Where is your line in the sand? Tell us in the comments below.
After a 30 year career in radio, David H. Lawrence XVII has been seen on ABC's epic series LOST, CBS' legendary CSI and military thriller The Unit, The Mentalist, How I Met Your Mother, NBC's spy comedy Chuck, Good Luck Charlie and ANT Farm on Disney, Touch and The Finder on FOX, and is best known as the creepy evil puppet master Eric Doyle on NBC's smash hit Heroes. His film career includes on-camera and VO work on Men in Black III, Pizza Man, The Changeling, The Hulk, Iron Man, Percy Jackson, Unstoppable, Too Big to Fail, A Special Relationship and countless others. Lawrence helps actors create their own voice over careers with his award-winning VO2GoGo voice training service, and was BACKSTAGE's Readers' Choice for Favorite VO Teacher and Favorite VO Demo Producer for the past 4 years. On radio, the Emmy-award winning and Clio-nominated Lawrence hosted The David Lawrence Show, Online Tonight, and has been heard on over 300 radio stations and both XM and Sirius Satellite Radio. He is also considered to be the first podcaster in history, having delivered daily RealAudio and MP3 "podcasts" via email from early 1994.
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