November 20, 2020
UPDATE 11/25/2020: After hearing from many authors and the Authors Guild, Audible advised us that, effective as of January 1, 2021, Audible will pay royalties for any title returned more than seven days following purchase. They explained that the adjustment would affect the customer policy allowing exchanges and returns for 365 days.
The Authors Guild appreciates that Audible has acknowledged the concerns raised by authors and has shown a willingness to make changes to its policy so that authors lose their royalties only if an audiobook is returned within seven days of purchase rather than the current 365, but their proposal does not go far enough. For high volume audiobook listeners, a seven-day period is more than enough to listen to a whole audiobook, and it is not fair to deduct the author’s royalty for books that have been or could have been listened to. This practice is unparalleled in digital media retail. We think that royalties should only be deducted in cases of accidental purchase and within a much shorter period of time, such as 48 hours, and only if the audiobook hasn’t been listened to substantially. We have communicated this to Audible. We have also asked Audible for transparency in their reporting so that authors can see the royalty deductions from their accounts; currently authors only see the net amounts – the number of books sold minus returns.
We are continuing to collect signatures on our letter to Audible CEO Bob Carrigan and General Counsel Zakharenko and invite everyone to add their voice to the over 12,000 that have already signed the letter. In addition to the authors and supporters who have signed the letter, a number of international organizations representing authors, audiobook creators, and performers have co-sponsored our letter, including the Dramatist’s Guild, Novelists Inc., Alliance of Independent Authors, Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, Irish Writers Union, Society of Authors (UK), Equity (UK), Australian Society of Authors, the Writers’ Union of Canada, and the Canadian Authors Association.
We will update this post as we receive new information.
Read the letter below.
Sign Our Letter and Tell Audible to Stop Charging Authors for Returns
We are sharing with you a letter to Audible’s CEO Bob Carrigan and General Counsel Stas Zakharenko, demanding that Audible end its practice of encouraging its monthly subscribers to return or exchange audiobooks they have purchased and deducting the earned royalties for those audiobooks from authors’ accounts. Audible is promoting this easy exchange policy as a benefit to increase its subscriber base, allowing listeners to purchase and listen to entire audiobooks and then return them for a refund or exchange them for a new book—all at the detriment of authors’ earnings. This is not an exchange policy, but an unauthorized audiobook rental arrangement supported by authors’ reversed royalties, and it must stop.