Recently my narrator brought to my attention that our royalties from the audio book of my novel All Fall Down were being cut into because Amazon has made it available in Whisper Sync. Then, yesterday, an author friend of mine was excited that her Audible book was on sale and was talking about it on her Facebook page, when someone commented and said they got it on WhisperSync for $1.99, a lot less than even the Audible sale price.
So what is Whisper Sync and why is it hurting authors and narrators?
Amazon started a program called Whisper Sync where if you buy the ebook, you can also get the audio of it in Whisper Sync (generally for $1.99) to seamlessly go between listening and reading your book. That sounds wonderful, doesn't it? However, authors have no say whether they opt in to this program and no say over the extremely low price the audio is being offered for. Authors don't even get to know in advance which of their books will be placed on Whisper Sync.
But it gets even more complicated than just choice being taken away from authors. Unfortunately, for those of us who have invested time and money into producing an audio book with professional narrators on Audible, Whisper Sync cuts into those royalties and makes it difficult to get back our investment.
Let's break it down. I have a professional narrator who spent hours narrating my book and making it come to life for Audible listeners. We did a royalty share, so both of us would split any royalties from the audio book after ACX takes their cut. Sales were brisk until Whisper Sync came into the picture. My professionally produced audio book is $17.95, but who would pay that when they can get it on Whisper Sync for $1.99?
Since I don't have any choice in the matter, apparently Amazon didn't think the authors and narrators would mind being forced to take this drastic cut in royalties. I can't take my book off of Whisper Sync. We are forced to accept pennies on the dollar for Whisper Sync books sold. How can I not feel bad about this when my narrator probably won't see any return on his investment in me for a very long time now? An even bigger question is why would any professional narrator do royalty shares on ACX with Whisper Sync hanging over their heads as a royalty-killer? And if the amazing professionals refuse to do royalty share any longer on the chance the book might be made available on Whisper Sync, the only way audio books could be made is for the author to pay up front, which isn't a viable option for some, or for authors to work with a less-experienced narrator which could be hit or miss in quality.
I've been told that the only way around Whisper Sync is to make the audio book at least 5% different than the ebook because then it won't sync up. Or possibly to add music. So I guess there are those alternatives, but it would seem to me the fair thing to do would be for Amazon to allow the author to opt out of Whisper Sync. Or at least have some say in the price the audio is being sold for. Especially since the only losers here are the author and narrator who invested all the time and effort to produce the book in the first place.
Man, I really hate being the loser, but it's even worse seeing someone as talented as my narrator lose along with me.