Answered someone’s question on Audiobook Royalties, realised I wrote a giant text and figured I’d just post this here rather than waste it. I also got a bit tired towards the end after discussing ACX (which is the main headache) and did short shrift of the others, but many of the others get complicated.

Anyway, here’s what I said:

Okay, not sure I’m an expert but this is how I understand pricing.

Audible / ACX Pricing

Firstly, it’s worth knowing that there is pricing that some publishers get (where they can adjust/dictate prices to Audible) and then there is pricing that independent authors get. So, a publisher can dictate the MSRP of a book. That is the a la carte sales price, what you see on places like Apple for example. It’s also the price you can buy it from Audible (as a non-member).

That price is NOT what you get paid on…

As an indie author through ACX, you do NOT control pricing. However, there are tiers that are based off how long your book is which is often how Audible comes up with the MSRP (list price) for your book. There seems to be a few tiers and it doesn’t always make sense and it doesn’t mean they will always allocate prices.

Roughly though, starting at <3 hours around $3.99, another set around $7.99 for around 5 hours and around $14.99 or $19.99 for <10. Anything over 10 hours gets bumped up to $19.99-21.99. Over 30 hours is like $31.99 – 34.99

Note, all this is ‘list price’ or MSRP. This is NOT the price that a member pays if they want to just pay cash. It also isn’t the major way that most audiobook readers buy audiobooks. Add to the headache, there’s ANOTHER way to get discounts which is Whyspersync which reduces the price an audiobook costs down to $7.99. As an ACX author, you get either 40% if you’re exclusive to ACX (Audible & iTunes) or 25% of net sales.

As an ACX author, you get 3 buckets for royalties.

  1. The a la carte price sales. These are often Apple sales or non-member purchases. Very small number very often.
  2. Member sales for cash which are often at a discounted rate. So, for example, something listed for $7.99 a la carte can sell for $5.45
  3. Credit sales are weird. Your credit amount varies month to month but is based off a ratio of the credit pool earnings your book earns based off its MSRP(the Audible Listener Allocation Factor).

So, MSRP is the same, what AMOUNT you get paid from can depend on on-going promotions like Whyspersync or member discounts on list prices or the Allocation Factor and the Credit Pool shifting. Note that shifts in Credit Pool are very minor (generally).

One other major factor – other promotions being run on Audible. If you get put on a 2-for-1 sale or an Audible Monthly Deal, your pricing might change SIGNIFICANTLY. That often also comes with a LOT more individual book sales though, so most indie authors never complain about getting thrown on those sales. (Hint, hint, Audible).

Anyway, that’s Audible.

Sidenote- the assumption right now is that the Audible royalty changes that Brandon Sanderson has discussed will trickle down to ACX authors too, but ACX and Audible are two different companies. Also, the current guess is that it’s just a 10% raise, so we might see a 50% and 35% new royalty rate. That is, however, a guess and it might be a little more or a little less.

Other Retailers

Other retailers are either very straightforward in what you can earn. There are a few different models, and they generally are:

  1. Straight Sales – a % (generally 50% of MSRP and then minus your distributor cut of 20% of the gross if it’s FindAway) of your MSRP. That basically works out to around 40% of MSRP (again with FindAway). This is true everywhere but Spotify who actually give you a full 50% since they’re the same company (hint, hint Audible/ACX/Amazon).
  2. Subscription sales – like the equivalent of Audible Prime’s catalogue, these subscription catalogues like Kobo Plus or Spotify’s 15 hours free or Storytel pay you by hours / minutes listened. Amount varies because you get paid out of a pool (theoretically). Currently Spotify pays the most per minute listened; and it’s at a level that is hard to compete (and unlikely to last).
  3. Library sales / borrows – I stick libraries here differently because Library pricing is often much higher than retail pricing and can be set independently. They can either buy your book outright, or in many cases, just pay a borrow fee. You get paid a small fraction based off your price for each borrow – something like $0.69 or so per borrow. It’s not a lot, but you get paid each time someone borrows it, so it can be a consistent level of income rather than the single purchase and never again.

And that’s it I think for all the various forms of pricing and sales.

It’s a headache. Half the time I don’t do auditing, and only if something weirdly changes do I poke in deeper. Total sales for non-Audible retailers can vary for many, but have sat around 10-30% only for me so far. So it’s often just not worth the extra effort. Hope that helps!


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