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Distribution

Wide vs. Exclusive

The major distribution choice indie authors must make when publishing in audio involves how and where to distribute. That is, which distributor or aggregator to use and whether to work with that entity exclusively. From a marketing perspective, we currently recommend distributing exclusively with ACX for the first ninety days. After that period has passed, we recommend assessing sales and other marketing plans to determine when to open up distribution. When you do “go wide” we currently recommend using Findaway as an aggregator to distribute to all channels except Audible/ACX and Kobo.

 

Why should I start exclusive with ACX?

  • It’s still the case, at least in the US, that Audible (or as I like to call them the Kleenex of audiobooks) owns the majority of the market.. To maximize the income on your release, it makes sense to earn the higher royalty rate.

  • Additionally, when you’re exclusive you can set a preorder and/or release date[1], which allows you to plan marketing for your release.

  • Finally, you’ll get 50 - 100 ACX download codes to build a positive base of reviews on Audible[2].

 

Can I do a pre-sale in my online store before going exclusive?

It is possible, but tricky, to do a pre-sale through a direct shop, then do an exclusive release on ACX and then go wide. However, you can only do this if you haven’t claimed the book on ACX[3]. When you claim the title, you must choose between exclusive and non-exclusive. You can only move from one status to another one time. There was an issue a few years ago where Amazon titles were being claimed on ACX by entities other than the copyright holder[4]. I haven’t heard of this being an issue recently, but if that’s a concern you may not want to wait to claim your title. If you do have an issue with claiming your title, here is a good blog post on dealing with that.

 

Why should I discontinue exclusivity with ACX at all?

  • If your audiobook’s sales are flagging on Amazon.

  • If you want your book to be in libraries.

  • If you want to be able to run sale promotions and control your prices overall.

  • If you want to sell audiobooks directly to consumers.

 

What if my books are in KDP?

  • Your eBooks can be in Kindle Unlimited while your audiobooks are nonexclusive with ACX. There is no relationship between the two. From the author perspective, a big difference is that you can’t go back and forth between exclusivity and non-exclusivity on ACX. You can only make the change one time.

  • More importantly, just because you’re successfully exclusive with KDP, that doesn’t mean you’ll have the same success being exclusive with ACX.

  • Why? Listener perspective.

    • Kindle Unlimited readers can devour as many of your books as they want with a monthly subscription.

    • Since the demise of Audible Escape[5], this is no longer true for Audible subscribers. After they’ve used their credits for the month, they have to pay extra to listen to more books.

    • Listeners who were used to the all-you-can-listen buffet started looking for other ways to satisfy the habit when Audible Escape disappeared in 2020. Serial listeners seek out audiobook deals on Chirp, borrow books from the library (hoopla, Overdrive, etc.) and all-you-can-listen plans like Scribd and Kobo Plus.

 

At what point should I go wide?

  • I recommend going wide after the ninety-day period is up, unless sales continue to be robust, or you have a sale coming up on the ebook (which tends to boost add-on Whispersync sales).

  • When the time is right to go wide, be sure to do it in the first days of the month, because ACX will lower your royalty rate from 40% to 25% the minute you make the request. Even before they release you from exclusivity.

 

Where do I upload books for wide distribution?

  • At this time, you cannot upload to most audiobook retailers directly. Apple, Google Play, and Barnes & Noble work with Findaway and its competitors like Author’s Republic, Blackstone Audio, and a few smaller companies. Chirp only works with Findaway, and it’s very popular with listeners in the US and Canada. Our current recommendation is to use Findaway as your audiobook aggregator because they have the greatest reach, great options in terms of modes of payment, and allow you to (relatively easily) run price promotions.

  • Whether or not you start exclusive with ACX, I highly recommend distributing with them directly in order to have direct access to their customer service, but primarily to get the entirety of your 25% royalty rate (no need to share that with Findaway).

  • I recommend working with Kobo directly because it’s the only way to participate in their audiobook promotions.

 

Notes and Resources

 

[1] How to set a preorder and/or release date on ACX https://www.homecookedbooks.com/set-a-release-date

[2] During the audio “gold rush” period ACX gave authors hundreds of codes. Authors even received royalties when listeners downloaded the free codes.

[3] Scroll to “Claim Your Title on ACX” for more info https://help.acx.com/s/article/the-acx-rights-holder-s-audiobook-checklist

[4] Check out this blog post on common ACX scams: https://www.narratorsroadmap.com/acx-projects-to-avoid/

[5] Audible Escape's end: https://www.distractify.com/p/audible-escape-ending

Going Wide Checklist

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