In my mind, this is worse than the battle we had with the Amazon book stuffers from a couple of years ago. Way worse. Because this time, it isn’t the ‘get-rich-quick’ scam artists who are scamming authors; it’s the company itself who is doing it.
Yes, I said it.
Audible is running its own scam under the guise of a legitimate company. For those of you who are unaware of what is happening, let me break it down for you: authors, once again, are getting screwed over. It’s really that simple.
Here is how the scam works. You – an audiobook listener – can become a member of audible for $14.95 a month. With that, you get two ‘credits’ wherein you can ‘purchase’ two audiobooks of your choice with those credits. Of course you can outright buy as many audiobooks as your little heart desires. But why would you when Audible’s return policy is so ‘user friendly’?
Audible says they monitor the number of returns closely and if someone has returned too many audiobooks that member risks losing their membership. The question is how many is too many? 15? 50? 100? 10,000? Who knows and apparently no one at Audible really cares. This is one of those wink and a nod, look the other way, I know nothing, nothing! kind of things. If you don’t ask what the hard limit on returns is, then there isn’t one.
What’s wrong with returning audiobooks you might ask and why are you so pissed about it? The cold hard truth of the matter is that an audible member can listen to an entire audiobook, leave a review, and then return it. We’re (authors) are pissed because when that happens, we aren’t paid for the book.
We. Owe. Them.
Oh, it gets worse. Keep in mind authors are paid royalties from Audible every 30 days. Example: royalties from books purchased in January are paid to us in February; February is paid to us in March; you get the idea.
Here’s how it gets worse. Let’s say a listener purchases an audiobook in February but doesn’t get around to listening to it until March or April. They listen to the entire book, leave a nice review, and then they decide to return the audiobook in May, exchanging it for another book. When that happens, the author now has to pay back the royalty for the returned book. We owe Audible. You heard me. We. Owe. Them. Because we were already paid the royalty, but in order to keep the exceedingly liberal return policy afloat, we have to pay back the royalty earned.
Yes, it gets worse from there.
Accountability? There isn’t any.
We have no idea how many audiobooks have been returned. Audible doesn’t provide us with that information. Amazon lets you know every single ebook that has been returned, but Audible doesn’t. We have absolutely no way of tracking it. The reader/listener can. They can go to their audible dashboard and see exactly which book(s) they’ve returned over the last year or more.
But the author of that audiobook? We don’t get any of that information. We are once again at the mercy of a huge corporation who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about those individuals who are providing content.
Could it get any worse? Of course it can.
I’ve recently learned that you can purchase an audiobook, download it to your device, such as your phone or tablet, return it, and the audiobook remains on your device forever. You can listen to it later.
It’s a never ending cycle.
Audible is nothing more than an audiobook library at this point in the game. A quasi-library whereby authors aren’t allowed to opt in or opt out as we can with Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program. We have no choice, or at least we didn’t used to have a choice.
How much does it really cost an author?
It can cost thousands of dollars for an author to have an audiobook created. It’s especially expensive for those of us who write really big books. We pay for the finished hour. A book that is 10 hours long can cost $4,000 or more. We have to pay the narrator and the producer/sound guy.
In the past, before the ‘return at will’ policy, an author could reasonably expect to earn back the cost of producing an audiobook in a month or two. But now? Now it can take months, if not an entire year to earn that money back. Even though authors are adding more content, we’re earning less money. Royalties have been on a continual downward trend for the past several years. I couldn’t figure out why until I was made aware of the current Audible scam. Now it makes sense. More and more people have caught on to the fact that they can use their credits to grab a book, listen to it, then return it. I am 100% certain that readers/listeners were unaware of the fact we weren’t being paid in the process.
So for the low, low price of $14.95 a month, you too can screw an author!
So for the low, low price of $14.95 a month, you too can screw an author. And not in the way that leaves a smile on their face.
Supposedly, Audible is changing its return policy and putting a max of 7 days from date of purchase. But that doesn’t mean jack squat. Authors have lost millions of dollars in revenue due to Audible’s Return Policy Scam. Millions upon millions. They don’t apologize, they don’t listen, and they sure as hell aren’t doing anything to make it up to us or to actually fix the problem. They’re still not providing us with information on returns. And repeated requests for an audit go largely ignored.
They are, after all, the big corporation and we’re just the little piss ants who provide content. They don’t care about us, the author. They simply don’t.
How can you help stop it?
Author Susan May has done an incredible job bringing this ugly scam out of the darkness and into the light. She has worked tirelessly with The Alliance for Independent Authors, The Authors Guild, and countless others on this issue. I commend her and thank her for her hard work and due diligence. She’s united thousands of authors in this fight. Tap here to learn more about Susan May and this fight.
For readers/listeners: If you want a better way to get your audiobook fix at lower prices, might I suggest Chirp? Chirp has the best audiobook deals without a monthly membership fee. They have really awesome audiobook prices and sales.
Because Audible controls our prices when we upload directly to them, we can’t run a sale or offer our books at lower prices. I’m using Find A Way Voices now to make my audiobooks available at many more places than those Audible limits us to. Find A Way also allows us complete control over pricing and we can even run sales.
Stay tuned for more important updates over the next days and weeks. The fight is far from over.