Where be all them audiobooks?

“It has been months! Where’s Arachnomancer? Where’s Dungeon Runner? We’ve had zero transparency!”

First off: “Bad Dustin!” I’ve been bad at keeping people in the loop across my blog, newsletter, and social media. This is something I am fixing. You’ll be seeing a lot more from me going forward. 🙂

TL;DR? Audiobooks are not my current priority. I have plans that I will reveal later. Until then, my focus is on eBooks.

I wanted to explain my decision-making process when it comes to audiobooks. I feel like this will shed some light on when to expect the books, my priorities, and my goals. I also wanted to explain the audiobook market and how it affects creatives like me.

My Goals

To help you understand my decisions, you first need to know a bit more about me. I’m not here for fame or wealth. I am here because creativity is my purpose in life. It’s what I do to find fulfillment and contribute to the world at large.

I say “creativity” and not “writing” because I’m passionate about writing, narration, music, art, and game design. These pursuits culminate around projects like Arachnomancer and Dungeon Runner. I have a vision for them, and following that vision is very exciting.

Needless to say, I’m here for the long term. The decisions I make are for the long term. And long term is not counted in months, it’s counted in decades.

Creative Vision

Ideas come about in many ways. And when I write, I get ideas for music and paintings and the sound of a character’s voice. All of these ideas work together to build new worlds. They breathe the essence of life into characters that had, until that moment, not existed.

When I write, I narrate. I’m doing it even now. Every word I type, I’m reading it out loud to make sure it feels right.

I give characters unique voices. Their rhythm and pacing and tone are all very important to me. If the character doesn’t come to life in my performance, I rewrite the dialogue. Everything I do is with extreme intent, and that intent follows my creative vision.

This vision of my work is vitally important, and this is making it hard to work with any other narrator.

Companies & Narrators

I’ve been approached by all the big audiobook companies. I’ve been approached by the best GameLit audiobook companies. I’ve had the pleasure of negotiating with some of the best narrators that I know. But in the end—and for more reasons than just my creative vision; see the next section—I declined to work with them.

I hold the audio performance to a very high standard. In fact, I feel like it’s the truest form of storytelling. I think authors should learn to narrate and use that skill to write better stories. It’ll help them with flow and dialogue, and it’s a great way to find mistakes.

Now, to have someone else come in and narrate, forces them to interpret my work. It’s like painting a picture and then having another artist paint their version of the painting. Or it’s like the telephone game. With each step away from the source—with each interpretation—you lose parts of the work.

I’m not saying that the interpretation the narrators make can’t be fantastic. I’m saying that the interpretation will always be just that, an interpretation. It’s their creation, not the author’s creation. The author merely provided the source material for the performance.

I’ve often told my writing friends that we could take an identical premise and write entirely different stories. Narration is the same. Grab all of your favorite narrators, give them the same script, and they’ll each provide you with a unique performance.

What does this all mean?

The only way for me to achieve the vision I have for my books—to achieve the correct sound, pacing, voices, and so on—is for me to do the narration. There’s just no getting around it. I know what these stories should sound like because I’ve narrated them a dozen times each while writing them; it’s baked into my process.

The Audiobook Industry

Did you know that Audible takes 60-75% of what an author makes?

Podium’s default offering is a 20/80 split, the 20% going to the author. Podium is exclusive with Audible, so they get to keep 40% of what their audiobooks make. This means the author will get 8%.

Tantor’s default offering is a 30/70 split, the 30% going to the author. Tantor is not exclusive with Audible, so they only get 25% of what their audiobooks make. This means the author will get 7.5%.

Smaller publishers and narrators often offer a default 50/50 revenue share (RS). Or the author can pay, on average, $300-350 per finish hour (PFH). Generally, 9,200 words—about 37 pages—represents an hour of narration. Most books are 80-120k words long ($2,600 to $3,900 at $300 PFH).

Most RS contracts last for seven years and then auto-renew every year past that. However, it’s not ideal to ever change the narrator. If you accept an RS deal, the narrator/company will likely get their cut forever.

In the gaming industry, the marketplaces—Steam, Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo, etc.—take 30%. Games are huge, taking a lot of space and bandwidth for delivery. I just downloaded an Xbox game and it was 68 gigabytes. On top of this, these marketplaces provide tools, code, and support to help companies succeed.

Audible takes 60-75% and delivers 300 megabyte files.

New competition in the technology industry is forcing companies to share more of their split. Epic takes 12% instead of the standard 30%. Windows has just matched that for their Windows Store. Apple and Google are lowering their take as well.

Audiobooks? Nah. The standard is 50% outside of Audible.

My Thoughts; My Plans

The marketplaces are greedy. They use their market share to take advantage of authors and narrators. If you haven’t heard about #AudibleGate, you should look it up. I haven’t mentioned most of the problems, just the basic things I find appalling as a creator. This rabbit hole is deep; good luck!

So what am I doing about it?

There is definitely a lot of uncertainty in the air. I love audiobooks. I love Audible as a consumer. I want to produce amazing audiobooks for my readers and deliver upon the vision I have for my works.

But?

Given the state of the market—and despite having an awesome narration booth setup—my audiobooks are not my current priority. It pains me to say that, but it’s true.

I’m watching the audiobook market and making plans. I don’t have anything to reveal today, but there will be audiobooks for my stories, one way or another. Until I have a solution to reveal, my focus is on writing new books for my readers. I understand, for you audiobook nerds (like me!), that this can be frustrating. I appreciate your patience!

That’s it!

I guess that’s a bit anti-climactic, isn’t it?

Narrators don’t fit my vision. Production companies take most of the author’s profits, forever. The stores are greedy. And I have some secret plan that I’ll reveal someday if things don’t improve. Well, it is what it is. I hope you found the post interesting! Stay tuned for a post on how Arachnomancer 2 is going. 🙂

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