Audiobook Pay: Narrator Revenue
Sharing 'A Bad Deal For Everyone'
By James Adams
Chairman & CEO, BeeAudio
& Audiobook Narrator
January 10, 2011
There has been much talk in recent months about audiobook publishers cutting deals with narrators and other talent that involves sharing revenue rather than paying a flat fee for services rendered.
In theory, it can sound attractive.
But I'm writing to discourage both publishers and narrators from going down this road. Here's why ...
HOW IT WORKS
Right now, I get paid a flat fee as a narrator and I generally receive my fee two weeks after finishing a book (a very generous payment schedule by publishers for which I'm grateful).
I get no royalties and the publisher is gambling that the investment that is being made in buying the book rights, producing the audio and marketing the product will pay off in the form of revenue which is shared between the retailer, the audio publisher and the rights holder.
The way rev share works is that the narrator agrees with the publisher to forego a fee in favor of a royalty on sales.
WHY CARRY RISK?
When I was writing books, I always got my agent to fight for the largest possible upfront fee gambling that
The same arguments apply here.
It makes no sense for narrators to start carrying the risk for the audiobook publisher - and giving up income on the gamble that the publisher will do a good job selling the finished product.
I TRIED REVSHAR ...
Here's an example of the market reality.
I agreed on a revshare deal a few months ago because I wanted to see how it would work. I narrated the book and received no income.
Meanwhile the book went through the normal inefficient publishing and marketing process over which I had no control, but on which I was dependent for my income.
A few months later after narration was finished, I received my first royalty check for $15.
At the current rate, it will take me several years to receive the income I would have gotten from a straight fee-paying narration.
And that's assuming the audiobook sells tons of copies, which does not seem likely.
Much more likely is that I never receive my full fee for the job.
And there is another, hidden, reason not to go down this road.
Most audiobook publishers have no idea why they publish this book and not that, why they pay this sum to one narrator and that sum to another, why they pay a huge amount for some rights and pay almost nothing for others.
In other words, it's a whimsical and very unpredictable business that has yet to adopt even a fraction of the efficiencies and processes that are standard in most mature industries.
The longer such inefficiencies are subsidized, the less incentive there is to become truly efficient and profitable.
ABOUT JAMES ...
James Adams is founder and CEO of BeeAudio, an audiobook publisher offering fixed-price digital service and a voice talent pool of 40 narrators. Adams is a former Managing Editor of the London Sunday Times, CEO of United Press International, founder and CEO of iDEFENSE - a cyber intelligence company, board member at the National Security Agency and NCIS, author of 13 bestselling books on warfare and intelligence, and is currently chairman of ADRevolution. This article is reprinted with permission from a recent BeeAudio newsletter.