Does returning an Audible book hurt the author?

Answered by Robert Dupre

Returning an Audible book can indeed have negative consequences for the author. When a book is returned, Audible treats it as if it were never sold in the first place. This means that the author does not receive any earnings from that particular sale. This can be disheartening for the author, especially if they put a lot of effort into creating the audiobook and were looking forward to receiving compensation for their work.

Furthermore, Audible’s return policy allows customers to return audiobooks within 365 days of purchase. This means that even if an author initially receives payment for a sale, they may later have that sale reversed if the customer decides to return the book. This unpredictability can make it difficult for authors to accurately gauge their earnings and plan their finances accordingly.

The issue becomes even more problematic when considering Audible’s distribution scheme. Audible operates on a revenue-sharing model, where authors receive a percentage of the revenue generated from each sale. However, when a book is returned, Audible does not adjust the royalty payments accordingly. This means that authors may lose out on the earnings they should have received from that sale, even though the book was bought and enjoyed by the customer.

Another issue arises when authors sign up for Audible’s exclusive distribution program, Audible Exclusive. By enrolling in this program, authors agree to distribute their audiobooks exclusively through Audible for a certain period of time, usually seven years. During this time, the author cannot distribute the audiobook through any other platform. If a customer returns an audiobook during this exclusivity period, the author not only loses out on potential earnings but also remains bound by the distribution scheme for the remaining years of the contract.

This situation is particularly unfair for authors who rely heavily on audiobook sales for their income. Unlike physical books or e-books, audiobooks have production costs associated with them, such as hiring narrators and audio engineers. These costs need to be recouped through sales, and when returns are frequent, it can significantly impact the author’s ability to cover these expenses and make a profit.

Returning an Audible book can indeed hurt the author. It deprives them of their rightful earnings and disrupts their financial planning. Additionally, authors who have enrolled in Audible Exclusive may remain subject to Audible’s distribution scheme for years, even if their audiobooks are frequently returned. This can create a frustrating and unfair situation for authors who rely on audiobook sales for their livelihood.