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Audiobook News for 2024

In audiobook news for 2024, if you've been looking for audiobook versions of my stories, there's been a glitch. The good news is that my Ice Age Shifters® paranormal romance series has audiobook versions. My Central Galactic Concordance space opera series had audiobook versions, and will have again.

The bad news is that none of them are available at the moment.

Illustration of a computer tablet and earbuds in a space-themed environment, for audiobook news, generated by MidJourney

Until recently, the existing audiobooks were distributed to most vendors through an independent service called Findaway. About 18 months ago, Spotify, the well-known streaming music service, bought the service. It seemed like a good opportunity to access Spotify's worldwide listening audience. And for a while, it was.

Unfortunately, in February 2024, Spotify chose to make changes to its terms of service that included an unacceptable rights grab.

What's a Rights Grab?

First, a little background: Independent authors (or even traditionally published authors) don't sell their stories, a.k.a. intellectual property (IP), to publishers or distributors. Instead, they lease rights to do things that will make money for both parties. In legalese, they “exploit the rights holder's IP.” 

Ethical companies ask only for certain rights with a specific, narrow scope and time limits. For example, a magazine might ask for first worldwide publication rights for a short story for a specific set fee, and ask the author not to publish or lease other rights anywhere else for six months. In another example, an audiobook distributor might require authors to offer the same retail price across all other distributors or vendors in order to keep a level playing field.

Watercolor illustration of coins falling into an open human hand, generated by MidJourney

Unethical companies slyly include all sorts of extra rights, such as making movies or plush toys or whatever, in their “standard contract.” Or they'll demand an absurdly long contract period, such as 30 years. Or even worse, “in perpetuity,” which is legalese for “forever.” Sadly, there are notorious companies that make their living by preying on naive authors and selling them the dream of being a published author.

In the grey area in between, some corporations are more interested in profit than partnering. Regrettably, Spotify's new terms and conditions are great for Spotify and not so great for audiobook creators.

Spotify Has a History (Just Ask Musicians)

In the days of yore (2006), newly-minted Spotify told musicians they'd be paid based on the number of listens based on “market share.” This proved to be elusive, ever-shrinking revenue for musicians, protected by proprietary formulas and business secrets. To be fair, musicians often signed unethical contracts** with record labels that allowed the labels to cut self-aggrandizing deals with Spotify, such paying the music companies a majority percentage before musicians ever saw their 3% of their $0.003 share.

Back to audiobooks: When Spotify updated their terms and notified authors on 15 Feb 2024 and said they'd go into effect one month later, authors sounded the alarm. News articles picked up the story and it blew up. For example, the new terms would let Spotify make derivative works for free and forever. Furthermore, authors would be prohibited from saying bad things about those works. 

After receiving a day's worth of howling, Spotify said they “heard their partners' concerns” and modified the terms. They withdrew the “perpetual license for derivative works” part of the new terms but kept in the language about letting Spotify profit from using authors' works to train A.I. services.

I have no issue at all with my work being used to train A.I. services. However, I'm less thrilled that Spotify is profiting from it, not me, the actual IP owner. More importantly, I'll bet my professional narrators have massive issues with their vocal delivery and performance being used to train A.I. services that are already replacing them in the audiobook narration world. The recent SAG/AFTRA strike proved that. The upshot is that I removed my audiobooks from distribution by Findaway/Spotify so I wouldn't be agreeing to the new terms of service. 

Watercolor illustration of a lizard wearing a western man's business suit, generated by Midjourney

When a corporation tells you who they are, believe them the first time.

New Audiobook Vendors in 2024

The good news is that the paranormal romance audiobooks, narrated by David Brenin, are done. The audiobooks for the space opera series are more complex. Four of the novels (Overload Flux, Minder Rising, Pico's Crush, and Jumper's Hope) were under contract to Tantor Media until the middle of last year. I've been working with a fabulous narrator duo, Samantha Cook and André Santana, to make new recordings of them as well as all the series novellas. The aforementioned SAG/AFTRA strike delayed this, so that's my project for this year. 

In the coming weeks, I'll be uploading the Ice Age Shifters audiobooks to individual vendors that allow it, such as Google Play and Kobo Books. If I can get them into Overdrive, that will make them available to libraries. I love libraries and all they represent. Lastly, I'll be selling them directly. More on that when it's ready for the grand opening.

My website will have all the latest links as vendors get them listed. 

abstract watercolor illustration of a man and a bear, generated by MidJourney


**Don't get me started on my opinion of how the traditional music and publishing industries treat their artists, a.k.a. commodity content providers. We'd be here all day. Grrrrr!

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