When Amazon launched ACX, its KDP or CreateSpace-style self-publishing platform for audiobooks, it was seen as a great equalizer for both authors and readers. Audiobooks can be prohibitively expensive, so much so that only a fraction of books (even traditionally published books) makes its way into audio. With the ability to record your own audiobook file, hire a narrator through ACX, or even agree to a royalty split to avoid the full upfront cost, authors had a whole new way to reach readers.
But with the launch of Amazon’s Audible subscription package for romance titles, authors are starting to feel the sting of having their audiobooks paid out for pennies per listen. Some are likening it to authors’ books being a part of Kindle Unlimited, which pays a tiny percentage of the overall monthly pot for every page a KU subscriber readers. However, where Amazon pays an author his $1.52 at the end of the month for his page views, an audiobook is paid out quarterly, and only one a $50 minimum threshold is met.
In terms of “equalizing,” it seems that romance audiobooks are anything but equal, though. While it’s true that many print or ebook authors make significant investments in their editing, formatting, cover design, and more, it’s not a financial requirement for putting a book in Kindle Unlimited. An audiobook author, on the other hand, will either shell out the funds for a professional voice over artist, or will invest heavily in equipment and mixing software to produce a book file that meets Amazon’s standards. According to authors who’ve weighed in on discussion boards, the return for their investment leaves a lot to be desired.