Fantasy Author Brandon Sanderson Just Negotiated Higher Audio Royalties for All Audiobooks on Audible

Brandon Sanderson Audible
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Brandon Sanderson Audible
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Photo Credit: Audible

Fantasy and sci-fi author Brandon Sanderson withheld his latest projects from Audible to negotiate higher royalty rates for all authors. It worked.

Sanderson has been very vocal about the state of audiobook royalties on his official blog, which he outlines here. For authors who have audiobooks on the Audible platform, there isn’t much clarity in how royalties are paid. It’s unclear what a sale means, how much of an Audible credit is given to authors when it is used to purchase their work, or just how audio royalties were being calculated in general.

“I felt that the industry was taking advantage of authors because of their lack of powerful corporate interests to advocate for them,” Sanderson wrote in his recent blog post. “While video game creators and musicians get 70-80% of a sale of their products on a digital platform—Audible was paying as low as 25%, with the high end being 40%.”

Sanderson says he felt he could have gotten a better deal for himself just negotiating for his works, but he decided to do something that would impact the whole industry. He withheld his most recent writing projects from Audible, instead highlighting some of Audible’s smaller competitors.

“I hoped this wake-up call would prompt change,” Sanderson continues. “I didn’t refuse to put my books on Audible out of retribution or to declare war; I did it because I wanted to shine as powerful a light as I knew how on a system that favored the audio distributors over the authors.”

The gambit worked as Sanderson says three key officers in Audible’s corporate structure flew to his offices to present a new royalty structure that will be offered to independent writers and smaller publishers.

“This new structure doesn’t give everything I’ve wanted, and there is still work to do, but it is encouraging,” Sanderson writes. “They showed me the new minimum royalty rates for authors—and they are, as per my suggestions, improved over the previous ones. The structure moves to a system like I have requested, which pays more predictably on each credit spent—and that is more transparent for authors.”

Part of the new changes will see Audible pay royalties monthly instead of quarterly, with a spreadsheet breakdown that shows how the money is split with authors. One of the key changes is giving authors a way to track how Audible is dividing money between books purchased with a credit and those listened to via their Audible Plus program.

The move mirrors a similar one Taylor Swift made in 2018 when she asked Universal Music Group to share proceeds from the eventual sale of its $1B+ stake in Spotify with musicians signed to the label.