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Self-publishing News: Audible/ACX Have Questions To Answer Over Returns

Self-publishing News: Audible/ACX Have Questions to Answer over Returns

In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway looks at the ongoing controversy over Audible's controversial returns policy.

Dan Holloway head and shoulders

ALLi's News Editor Dan Holloway

I'm really delighted that last week for the first time Howard and I had a whole half hour to talk about the self-publishing news on the ALLi podcast. We talked about bookstores and the launch of Bookshop.org, as well as AI. I'm guessing next month Audible might feature a little!

Audible Returns: Campaign for ACX/Audible Rights Holders

Last week ALLi took up the baton on the question of Audible using “return anything” as a way of enticing subscribers, denying many authors their royalties. Hundreds of ALLi authors have been asking for full transparency from ACX on this matter, and while waiting for an answer our service Watchdog reverted the rating for ACX, the platform through which we reach Audible, to “pending” status.

Breaking news is that the ALLi watchdog has now further downgraded ACX's rating from “pending” to “caution”.  We are also connecting with other organizations and representatives and further action is planned. A full statement will issue as soon as possible.

A Facebook group for concerned rights holders, started by author Susan May is collating responses and evidence, and ALLi encourages all rights holders, authors, producers and narrators to join this group, with whom we are now working closely.

As I said in my first post on this story, this really matters. Audiobooks are an increasing source of revenue for all authors and subscription for audio content is only going to grow.

Less than two months ago I reported that Audible's adoption of an all-you-can-eat model in Spain presented a major threat. That now looks mild compared to this silent clawing back of payments on returns that they are encouraging.

Watch this space.

Futurebook and the Future of Frankfurt Book Fair

I can’t believe it’s been a year since I sat in the audience of Futurebook listening to James Daunt and Data Guy give their keynotes. It’s interesting that in the year since, Daunt has been ever-present. Data Guy, on the other hand, already felt like part of a past not a future world last year. And now he is just part of our collective memory. Though this week we are reminded of the need for someone to keep the statisticians honest. James Patterson was revealed, to no one’s surprise, to be the bestselling author of the 2010s. Figures, as always, courtesy of Nielsen Bookscan. Which was always the problem. Not that anyone would seriously expect any indies – or anyone else – to challenge Patterson’s dominance (80 million titles plus). But it would be great to have reliable data to situate us.

It is no surprise that a lot of the talk at Futurebook is about Covid. There have also been urgent calls for greater diversity in publishing. And of course there has been talk about audio. The headline figure there is that audiobooks are headed for their 6th consecutive year of double digit growth. I wonder, though, if many months of discussing R and P (reproduction rate and prevalence) has educated the general reader of such statistics to realise that low double digit growth from a small base tends still to leave you with a small figure. While we're on the subject of storytelling and the future there's one item I can't not mention. If ever we needed proof of the imaginative power of storytelling, we saw it this week as NASA's latest mission took Baby Yoda/The Child into space.

And talking of conferences and an industry adapting to a post-Covid world, Frankfurt have stated the desire to carry on digital, at least in part, into the future. 

Amazon’s New Author Portal

If you’re anything like me (heaven help you) you may have found Amazon’s Author Central difficult over the years. So the promise of a new author portal (thanks for the tip off to The Digital Reader) is welcome. On a technical note, it promises mobile optimization. That’s great for acknowledging that the way people work is changing. More beguilingly it promises all-in-one-place usability. That would certainly address the problems many of us have faced in keeping all our information across all Amazon stores up to date.

Where is Audio Heading?

Audible’s very obvious issues are clearly a concern for writers. But maybe they are also an opportunity for people to take a look at the wider landscape. Of course, there’s been plenty of opportunity to do that already, but our resistance to using anything other than Amazon can be huge. And, as we have seen with Kindle Unlimited and the debates about per page income, the window of opportunity to leave can be small.

So it’s maybe apt that at this moment we have a week of widespread news about audio. Nextory is one of Sweden’s handful of highly successful audio platforms. If you regularly check Mark Williams’ pieces at The New Publishing Standard you will be familiar with it already. What’s interesting this week, as Williams points out, is the injection of new investment. $20m of it. Following $6m in March. Investment in start-ups is always interesting, and something I try to report on. But investment in existing companies with established business models is really important for gauging trajectory. Investors, it seems, are willing not only to back audio but to back subscription. And outside of Amazon.

Sweden, of course, feels like it may be an outlier. It's hard to imagine claims that audio will account for 50% of a country's reading, as made by Storytel's Jonas Tellender, being made for anywhere else. But in the UK, audio is also continuing to attract new readers at a rapid pace, as a new Nielsen survey shows.

Audible still have questions to answer over their returns policy, and top #selfpub news stories for #indieauthors, in one quick read, by #ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes #digitaleconomy #publishingopenup Click To Tweet

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Help us fill this with great online events in the coming weeks and months.

Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA) – Zoom meetings the 2nd Saturday of each month


Nielsen Metadata Webinar, 24 Nov
Cove Park Winter & Spring Writing Residencies, 30 Nov application deadline

Over to You

Let us know about online events of interest to indies in the comments below.

Author: Dan Holloway

Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines, which has appeared at festivals and fringes from Manchester to Stoke Newington. In 2010 he was the winner of the 100th episode of the international spoken prose event Literary Death Match, and earlier this year he competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available for Kindle at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Transparency-Sutures-Dan-Holloway-ebook/dp/B01A6YAA40


This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. At least we know that Amazon are listening – even if they don’t intend to do anything about it. Here’s what they said in their letter to ACX authors this week:
    “In addition, we’ve recently heard from members of the ACX community who are concerned about Audible’s overall return policy. While this customer benefit is for active members in good standing and suspicious activity is rare, we take your concerns very seriously and are actively reviewing the policy with this feedback under consideration. ”

    I totally support ALLi’s campaign for transparency. Compared to KDP, ACX is murkier than a peat bog in winter.

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