When Audible launched Audible Romance last November, authors were thrilled at the idea that there was now a Kindle Unlimited for audiobooks where subscribers could pay a flat monthly fee and listen as much as they want.
That elation lasted until yesterday, when quarterly earnings statements from Audible arrived in authors' inboxes. Reports are coming in from KBoards that authors were dismayed to learn that Audible is paying $0.0009556 for each minute that an Audible Romance subscriber spent listening to their book.
If an audiobook is ten hours long, and an AR subscriber listens to the whole thing, Audible will pay 57 cents. (And to make matters worse, in many cases that 57 cents has to be split between the author who wrote the book and the narrator who recorded it.)
If that audiobook had sold, the author would be getting a cut of $30 to $45 retail price, or of the $15 monthly credit.
The low pay in Audible Romance comes as a surprise given that Kindle Unlimited has worked out so well for many authors.
In comparison, the Kindle Unlimited rate was almost five times as high in January 2018, when Amazon was paying $0.0044795 for each page read by a KU subscriber. To put it another way, KU is paying just under a half of a cent per page, while Audible Romance is paying a tenth of a cent per minute.
With Kindle Unlimited, authors are getting almost as much when a book is read in KU as they would if the book sold.
The same cannot be said for Audible Romance. To put it simply, authors (and narrators) are getting screwed by Audible's subscription service.
And the authors are pissed. "Not only is the rate absolutely terrible, but it is drastically hurting my normal sales," one wrote on KBoards. "This is ten times worse than kindle unlimited (where a novel length read through is "roughly" equal to a sale). I didn't expect to be rolling in money, but this is far worse than even my worst expectations."
As a result many authors are discussing how they might pull their audiobooks out of Audible Romance, which could be a problem given that authors agreed to submit their audiobooks for a period of seven years.
However, several authors have said over on KBoards that they were told by Audible reps that they can pull their respective audiobooks out of Audible Romance simply by emailing Audible and making the request.
I'm still waiting for anyone to confirm that that worked, and even if it is possible to get out of Audible Romance it's not clear whether that will help authors.
The thing about Audible Romance is that it is so popular that a number of authors have said that their romance audiobook sales evaporated when this service launched last November. "My romance audiobook sales pretty much dried up when they started this program," author Marty South wrote back in December. "I chalked it up to the doctrine of: Why buy the cow when you can subscribe to it for (practically) free?"
Audible Romance has put romance authors in a terrible position; they can join and be paid poorly, or they can sit out and see their sales fall. Neither option is great, leaving romance authors to ponder whether they should release audiobooks at all.
Given the poor returns romance authors are seeing in the audiobook market, that is not a crazy idea.