How to Earn More Money From iBooks

 

iBooks is renewing its commitment to indie authors. With Nook Press on the decline, iBooks is well-positioned to take over is solid number two spot for many self-published authors. While the platform is not without its drawbacks, namely the difficulty to publish directly from PCs, iBooks provides several key ways to earn more money from your books. Here are four strategies you can use to get the best bang for your buck from Apple:

1. Use the Affiliate Program

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One well-kept secret among Amazon success stories is how much money some big-time authors earn from the Amazon Associates affiliate program. The program not only provides you with additional earnings if readers buy through affiliate links, but it also returns additional money when readers go on to buy other products. Apple’s affiliate program works in much the same way, except you’re able to tap into lots of digital media affiliate commissions you never would’ve thought of.

When a fan buys your book on iBooks using your affiliate tracking link, a cookie is placed that tracks all other items the customer buys in the immediate short-term. For example, if a customer picks up your book through the tracking link, and then goes on to buy an app, a movie, and a song, then you’ll get a small affiliate commission for each of those sales. Essentially, using the affiliate program is like getting free money.

There are multiple affiliate tools you can use to generate your links and widgets, such as the iBooks Badge, the Banner Builder, and the Widget Builder.

2. Create iBooks Links on Your Site

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When you want to sell more books from a platform, it’s a smart idea to listen to the people behind the platform itself. The number one way that Apple suggests you sell more books is by creating links to the iBooks Store on your website. It seems like a simple enough idea, but you’d be surprised how many authors with products on iBooks don’t take this small step. Don’t just link to your books on Amazon on your website’s book page. You’ll limit your sales potential drastically.

Use Apple’s Link Maker on your desktop to create the appropriate link to your books. On a mobile device, simply click the arrow the upper right corner of your screen and select the Copy Link button. When you use these tools in conjunction with the affiliate program, you’ll provide more opportunities for readers to click and more chances to earn extra affiliate commissions.

3. Link to Your Other Books

Whether you learned about book funnels from the Self Publishing Podcast or from doing marketing research on your own time, you know the importance of linking to your other books in the back matter of your work. Readers want to know what else you’ve created, and if you leave the back of your book blank, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity. Many authors do a great job providing links in the back matter of their Amazon books, but they really fall down on the job when it comes to their Apple books.

You should add text or a graphic upsell page to the front and back matter of your books. The normal iBooks link will send your readers the right page to buy the next book in your series or a related work. You may also tie your purchase link into the iBooks affiliate program. When you use Apple’s special link building tools, you’ll be able to track clicks as well as collect additional revenue.

4. Connect With A Merchandizing Rep

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Some authors complain about their inability to get featured in the iBooks Store. They hear the stories of authors making four to five figures a month on the platform, and they wonder what it is that they’re doing wrong. In some cases, the only thing you’re doing wrong is failing to reach out to the right people.

Like Kobo and Nook Press, Apple has merchandising reps who choose which books to feature where on the platform. Outgoing authors who attend conferences and set up meetings with the Apple representatives are much more likely to get their books featured then someone hoping to win the iBooks lottery. Check with Apple to see which conferences their representatives will be attending. Spending a few hundred dollars on airfare and lodging, may be worth the expense if you are able to boost your book on Apple for the foreseeable future.

Start By Taking One Action

It can seem impossible to start from scratch on a new platform after you’ve spent so much time building up your books on Amazon. Don’t look at it like you need to build everything up in a single day. Start by adding affiliate links to your website. Later on, make sure your book has the proper upsell links. As you gain steam, you can look into setting up a meeting and forging a stronger connection with the platform. Build your presence on iBooks brick by brick and you may end up with a tower that’s even taller then the building you created on Amazon.

How to Distribute Non-ACX Audiobooks

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ACX is by far and away the leader in self-published audiobooks; we wouldn’t have done an entire series on the platform if it weren’t. That being said, there are some instances in which you might want to consider going a different route. While ACX recently opened its doors to British self-published authors, there are still many parts of the world in which ACX is not available. Additionally, if you’re interested in getting your books on non-Amazon platforms, then you may want to consider selecting the nonexclusive contract and trying to distribute your audiobook on these other platforms.

Unfortunately, Audible has such dominance in the audiobook industry, that it’s doubtful you’ll make many sales from other platforms. Since there is no telling what the future of the audiobook industry holds, here are a few options you might want to consider if you want to get your book elsewhere:

1. OverDrive

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OverDrive is a platform that distributes e-books and audiobooks to libraries. There are tens of thousands of libraries in the United States alone, which means that distribution with OverDrive could get your books into the hands of many potential readers. The main caveat is that OverDrive is very selective of the authors it chooses to include in its platform. Unsurprisingly, most of the books in OverDrive were placed there by traditional publishing company.

If you have over a dozen audiobooks available, you are more likely to get accepted into OverDrive’s catalog than if you have one alone. Even if you have 30 books available in audio format, there’s no guarantee that OverDrive will select you. If you have a nonexclusive contract with Audible, then there’s no harm in applying to OverDrive, just make sure that you don’t get your hopes up.

2. Audiobooks.com and Downpour

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Audiobooks.com and Downpour are the number two and number three audiobook only subscription services in the US. They are the second banana and third banana to Audible by far. That being said, with rapid growth of the audiobook industry, there may be promise in trying to get your self-published audiobooks on these two platforms. According to a late 2014 chat on Reddit, Audiobooks.com’s CEO said that authors will soon be able to list their books on the platform using the Recordio app. The app allows you to record your audiobook using a mobile device. The conversation did not mention self-published audiobooks produced professionally being included on the platform.

dpIt is likely that you’ll need to negotiate individually with both Audiobooks.com and Downpour if you hope to get your books on those platforms. Once again, if you have a nonexclusive contract through Audible, this may or may not be worth your efforts. At the time of this article, there are no known success stories of indie authors on either platform.

3. CD Baby

CD Baby is a platform best known for its distribution of indie music. By giving up a small portion of their royalties, indie musicians are able to post their albums to Amazon, iTunes, and other platforms. In a guest post on Jane Friedman’s blog, author Lee Stephen discussed using CD Baby to publish his audiobook without going through ACX. While Stephen was able to obtain pricing control, better sound quality, and a higher royalty rate from his books, there were a few drawbacks.

Since CD Baby doesn’t usually handle audiobooks, it places the books into Amazon’s spoken word category. Because of this issue, Stephen decided to use CD Baby for direct sales only. By circumventing Audible, the CD Baby method also keeps your books from being accessible through the convenient Audible app. If you plan on only selling your book direct to your fans, and you don’t want to deal with a file sharing service, CD Baby may be a viable option for you.

4. Podiobooks, Soundcloud & Internet Archive

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Making money off your audiobooks may not be your primary concern. In fact, you may be more interested in using the medium as a lead generator than as a separate source of income. If that’s the case, you can use platforms like Podiobooks, SoundCloud, and Internet Archive. Podiobooks provides a service much like its name by allowing you to release free chapters of your book like you might a podcast. SoundCloud is an audio file hosting service that some podcasters already use to host their files. Internet Archive lets you host both audio and video files.

Each of these three services have some minor differences, but they serve the same purpose if you’re interested in getting free audiobooks out there. If money is no object, and you don’t feel like dealing with ACX, then posting your books on any of these platforms for free may work well at finding new audiophile readers.

5. eBookIt

Let’s say you want to be on ACX but you’re in a country that doesn’t allow for it. eBookIt is an ebook and audiobook aggregation service that lets you submit your book to get it on ACX no matter what country you reside in. It’s kind of like Draft2Digital for audiobooks.

ACX is expanding as fast as the audiobook industry itself. Since eBookIt takes a fee for every sale, it may be worth waiting until Audible opens up in your country. If you can’t wait, and you want your book on ACX now, then eBookIt is a good way to make it happen when you’re outside the US or the UK.

6. iAmplify & Self-hosted

When you sign an exclusive seven-year contract with ACX, one of the things you miss out on is the ability sell your book direct. Using a service like iAmplify or any other file hosting provider will allow you to sell direct if you went the non-exclusive route yourself. Similar to the problem with self-hosted Kindle books, there isn’t a great way to make your direct audiobook files convenient for readers. Until someone gets over this hurdle with more convenient software for open source audiobooks, selling direct may not pay dividends for quite some time.

The Best Choice For Now

Currently, there aren’t many choices that top what you can get from ACX. You can try to cobble things together using some of the other services, but the best deal still lies with the 900-pound gorilla in the room. While the next few years may bring massive changes growing audiobook market, the best self-publishing option remains the Amazon standby. Keep an ear to the railroad tracks on this one, because the next great innovation in self-publishing is likely to disrupt the audiobook industry.

How ACX Earnings Work

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Here’s where we get to the good part. Once you’ve gone through the entire audition and production process, and if you have your marketing plan set up for success, you’ll start to see some purchases come in. Unlike Amazon’s KDP dashboard, you can’t track your sales in real time. When you get your monthly royalty statement, there are a few things you need to be aware of to fully understand what types of new readers have picked up your audiobook. Since your book can have as few as seven different prices without considering occasional sales, it’s worth taking a deeper look at what your royalty statement can entail.

Here are five things you need to know about your ACX earnings:

1. The Split

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As we’ve previously mentioned, there are different potential royalty splits depending on how you created your audiobook. If you selected Pay for Production by paying up front for your book, then you’ll have a 60/40 royalty split. Audible will receive 60 percent of each sale, while you collect 40 percent. You must choose to be exclusive to Audible for seven years to get the 40 percent royalty, which drops to 25 percent if you go non-exclusive. While there used to be an escalator clause that allowed you to earn up to 90 percent per audiobook depending on your number of sales, Audible discontinued the payment structure in 2014.

If you’ve used the Royalty Share option to get your book produced, then you’ll split the 40 percent royalties in half. Audible will take 60 percent of exclusive books, your narrator will take 20 percent, and you’ll get the remaining 20 percent. Non-exclusive contracts are not available through Royalty Share. All contracts with ACX are for seven years. If you sign the exclusive contract, you won’t be able to sell your audiobook on any other platforms for at least seven years.

At the end of your seven-year period, you’ll need to notify Audible at least 60 days before the contract ends to opt out. Otherwise, Audible will automatically renew the contract for an additional year.

2. The Pricing

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On KDP, determining your U.S. revenue is a much simpler prospect than it is on Audible. According to Simon Whistler’s Audiobooks for Indies, Audible’s standard non-member price is around $28.69 per book, 20 percent of which would be $5.74 per sale. If all audiobooks got you nearly six bucks per sale, the platform would be overwhelmed with new submissions, but that simply isn’t the case. Prices vary depending on their platform and whether or not an Audible subscription member is buying it. The price on iTunes, which Audible distributes to, is $21.95. Audible members not using their monthly membership credits spend around $20.08 on books, while members using their credits get you a percentage of the $14.95 sale. Members on the two books a month plan pay the equivalent of $11.28, and members using Audible’s three-month discount offer pay $7.49. Lastly, readers who buy books through Amazon’s Whispersync program pay between $1.99 and $3.99 depending on the length.

All of this means that you can earn as much as $5.74, but as little as 40 cents for each sale. If you’re confused, things will become clearer when you check out your royalty statement. Once again, keep in mind that ACX won’t tell you how much you made throughout the month, so the royalty statement will be the only way for you to figure out exactly how much you made.

3. Your Dashboard

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While your Dashboard on ACX won’t tell you how much you’ve made per sale, you can get a pretty good idea once you’ve decoded the site’s abbreviations. ACX refers to an Audible Listener as AL. Sales in the AL column mean that an Audible member with a monthly credit has bought your book, which works out to around $2.99 per sale for a Royalty Share book. ALOP refers to Audible Listener Off-Plan or an Audible member who didn’t use a monthly credit. Audiobook prices vary wildly depending upon the length of the book, but the average is around $20.08, 20 percent of which is $4.02. ALC means A La Carte, or a non-member purchase who’s paid full retail price for a book. Like sales in the ALOP column, the retail price a customer paid will depend on the book’s length and the platform he purchased on. To keep things simple, let’s say this works out to around $28.69, or $5.74 for each sale of a Royalty Share book.

Let’s do a little math. If you make 10 AL sales, 10 ALOP sales, and 10 ALC sales, you’ll earn approximately $29.99 for the first, $40.02 for the second column, and $57.40 for the third for a grand total of $127.41 or an average of $4.25 per sale. As the sales go up from there, you can tell that determining your average earnings per sale will get complicated. That’s why it’s best to wait for the monthly royalty statement before jumping to any conclusions about your earnings.

Bounty is the final column, and we’ll discuss it further in the next point. You and your narrator will split $50 for each bounty.

4. Bounty Payments

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Let’s talk more about bounties. Audible wants new members, because it can make around $14.95 per month for each subscriber. That’s $179.40 per year, so it’s willing to pay top dollar if you bring some of your fans into the mix. When a new Audible customer signs up, he gets a free book as part of a 30-day trial. When you tell your readers about the book, encourage them to visit a link that’ll prompt them for the trial. If they select your book as a free trial and stay with the membership for 61 days, you’ll earn a bounty on your royalty statement.

ACX will split the $50 bounty between you and your narrator ($25 each), which is significantly more than any other sale you can make. This is the best way for you to make significant earnings from your books. Encourage your readers who haven’t listened to audiobooks to get a 30-day trial using your book.

Learn Before You Earn

While you can earn more money through non-audio listeners through the bounty system, there are a lot of hungry audiobook listeners you can directly target through Facebook Groups, ads, and audiobook review websites. It’s probably better to go with the Walmart strategy of selling more copies at a lower price to people with less resistance. As you publish more and more books to Audible, you’ll find that audiophiles who enjoyed your first will keep on buying. It takes time to build up your base, but once you get some people on board, selling your audiobooks may become a much easier process.