Contracts

Audio, Audio, Wherefore Art Thou Audio?

“I’ve heard that audio rights are never given to the author in the contract because that is how the publisher makes more money. Is this true? And if you lose the audio rights, do you lose all control? Let’s say for instance, do you have any say in who reads your story or is that completely out of your hands? Do your writers hold onto their audio rights in your publishing negotiations?”

Thanks to Holly for the great question!

Audio rights are part of the subsidiary rights negotiated in every contract. In some cases we negotiate the author to retain audio rights, in other cases the publisher wants them to be included in the total deal. Each case is different. There are a number of great audio publishers who license the audio rights from the original publisher.

How Does it Work?

For example, let’s say your book My Soul Can’t Handle the Truth is contracted by Big Kahuna Publishing for a $25,000 advance. As part of the deal the publisher negotiates the rights to publish the book and in the subsidiary rights section controls audio, film, and foreign rights.

Because the publisher controls the audio rights they can create their own audio edition. They can hire the voice talent, the studio, and production themselves. Or they can license those rights to a third party. Along comes Big Audie Recording Company (BARC) who wants to license the audio. They pay an advance to Big Kahuna Publishing of $1,500. Then BARC pays for all the costs of creating and producing and selling the audio. Every copy sold earns a royalty that once the advance is earned out money is paid to Big Kahuna.

Big Kahuna takes the $1,500 and keeps $750. The other $750 is placed into your author royalty account to help offset the advance they paid you.

It is very rare for the author to have any say in who the voice talent will be to record the audio. There have been a couple isolated cases where the publisher asked the author to help select the voice.

I’ve also had a few clients who have on-air talent and we negotiated to have them do the audio recording. This is rare, and usually has to be the publisher’s option since not everyone is as talented on-air as they claim, so the publisher can be a little reluctant.

I heard of a situation where an author insisted on using their own hand-picked actor to do the audio edition. Unfortunately the actor had no experience doing audio recordings. The actor was not a good “sight reader” since he was trained to memorize short lines for scenes, which is a completely different skill set. It took a month to edit the final audio because of all the mistakes in the recording. Over 3,000 edits. Obviously creating a professional audio is not as easy as it sounds!

Back in my Bethany House days, on multiple occasions, I accompanied an author to a recording studio to oversee their audio recording. The author was to be the voice talent for their own book. It was grueling for them to be “on-stage” for so many hours at a time and keep the recording at a top level. One time, around 2:30pm the first day the sound engineer turned to me and said “Let’s call it a day.” The author’s voice had begun to change as the strain increased. The author could not hear it until we played back two sections for comparison. The difference sounded like two different people talking.

By the way, a good reader can record a little more than 9,000 words per hour. A 90,000 word book would take three hard working days to record and another few days to properly produce. This is not an inexpensive process. It can cost $200-$500 per finished hour of recording. (Your mileage may vary.)

The trouble for the author comes when no one wants to license the audio and the publisher doesn’t want to spend the money and time to create it themselves. But the audio rights were made part of the original contract. The audio languishes in Neverland. Now the author is frustrated because they have a reader who prefers audio, but no one wants to do it (meaning, pay for it). Then begins the struggle to get those rights back after they have been granted. Some publishers are agreeable to revert those rights after a period of time. Others remain reluctant.

If You Retain Audio Rights

If you keep the audio rights your agent can license them for you. We’ve done it a number of times. Or you can self-publish.

Amazon created the ACX (Audio Creation Exchange) to help Indie authors and small publishers create audio editions. It is a fine program worth investigation. Amazon owns Audible.com and is the largest online sales vehicle, which makes integration with ACX a snap. Jane Friedman wrote about alternatives to Amazon on her informative blog: https://janefriedman.com/acx-alternative-2/

One of our clients was a voice talent for years. You can find Kim de Blecourt’s “audition” over at Voices.com, a site for voice talent. ACX’s site has over 52,000 audio samples to choose from.

Your Story

If any of you have had experience self-producing audio, let us know your story. And how easy or hard was it to sell the audio version once it was available?

 

 

Leave a Comment

A Ghostwriting Masterpiece

The Christian Writers Institute has just released a marvelous book by Cec Murphey, Ghostwriting: the Murphey Method. It is a wonderful look behind the scenes in how so many bestselling books are created. Cec is the writer who helped craft many bestselling books including Gifted Hands by Ben Carson and 90 Minutes in …

Read More

Writers Learn to Wait

Ours is a process industry. Good publishing takes time. Unfortunately time is another word for “waiting.” No one really likes to wait for anything. Our instant society (everything from Twitter to a drive-thru burger) is training us to want things to happen faster. Awhile ago I wrote about how long it takes to get published which gave an honest appraisal of the time involved. Below are some of the things for which a writer must learn to wait.

Waiting for the Agent

We try our best to reply to submissions within 6-8 weeks and are relatively good about that. But if your project passes the first review stage and we are now reviewing your entire manuscript remember that reading a full manuscript is much more demanding than reading a few short proposals.

Read More

Deadlines…A Date With Destiny

We need to create some new English words to describe certain things. For instance, I do not like the fact that people who handle money for others are called “brokers.” I also dislike the term “deadline” as it indicates something negative will occur at a certain date or time. Maybe …

Read More

Is Book Publishing Fair?

Anyone who has been around young children has heard their cry of protest, “That’s not fair,” when some sort of consequence is meted out for misbehavior. In reality, what is being objected to is fairness, as consequences were spelled out ahead of time and known to all. Parent: “One more …

Read More

Publishing Acronyms

After being in an industry for a while there is a natural tendency to speak in code. Acronyms flow freely and can be a foreign language to those new to the conversation. Below is an attempt to spell out some of the more common acronyms in the publishing industry and …

Read More

Zip It Mr. Galilei

Did you ever tell someone, “Don’t feel that way” and not get the best reaction? In the same vein is “Don’t be that way.” Honestly, I could never figure that one out. Feels like a philosophical conundrum of the highest order. Telling someone not to be. Four hundred years ago …

Read More

Defusing Contract Landmines

by Steve Laube

During the last six months we have run into some landmines buried within some small press contracts. In each case it was the author’s relationship with the publisher that helped land the offer, and so we proceeded to review the paperwork in order to protect the author’s interests.

In one case the small publisher was very grateful for our negotiations and contract changes. They plan to change their contract for all authors in the future. We were glad to help our client form that new partnership.

In two cases the publisher said they could not afford to hire a lawyer to review our requested changes to the contract and thus were unwilling to negotiate. We recommended the author walk away both times.

In yet another case the publisher wouldn’t negotiate and said, in essence, “take it or leave it.” We walked away. Our client terminated their relationship with us and signed the deal on their own.

Read More

L is for Libel

by Steve Laube

 To libel someone is to injure a person’s reputation via the written word (slander is for the spoken word). I wrote recently about Indemnification but only touched on this topic. Let’s try to unpack it a little further today.

First, be aware that the laws that define defamation vary from state to state, however there are some commonly accepted guidelines. Anyone can claim to have been “defamed,” but to prove it they usually have to show that the written statement is all four of the following: 1) published 2) false 3) injurious 4) unprivileged.

The first is obvious. Posting something on Twitter or Facebook is “published.” And yet two weeks ago a Federal judge ruled that a blogger has the same defamation protection as a journalist. (Read the article here.)

Read More

I is for Indemnification

by Steve Laube

Publishing is not without risks. Plagiarism, fraud, and libel by an author are real possibilities. Thus within a book contract is a legal clause called indemnification inserted to protect the publisher from your antics.

The indemnification clause, in essence, says that if someone sues your publisher because of your book, claiming something like libel (defamation) or plagiarism etc., your publisher can make you pay the fees to compensate for their losses. This is to “indemnify” which is defined as “to compensate (someone) for harm or loss.” Bottom line: The publisher has the right to hire its own attorneys (at the author’s expense) to defend against these claims.

Doesn’t sound like a happy clause does it? But you can understand why it is there. This clause and the Warranty clause are notoriously difficult to negotiate. (The Warranty clause is where the things the author guarantees or warrants are listed; i.e. the book is original, it is not libelous in content, etc. This clause will be more fully covered by me at another time) The language has been written by the publisher’s attorneys and are usually set in stone.

Read More