Remember how devastating Spotify streaming was for musicians? Now imagine how devastating it will be for authors, when books are often only read once – not streamed multiple times like music is.
Spotify has launched a new audiobook streaming service. All the major publishers signed the deals without any discussion with their authors or their agents. Which is nice – but not unexpected.
The Society of Authors is ‘deeply concerned’ because ‘the streaming of audiobooks competes directly with sales.’
Here’s the thing. Many outside of the publishing industry think most authors are having lavish launch parties and living the life of a billionaire.
The reality is, most already can’t make a living from their work in the first place.
Even prior to this Spotify deal, the reality for most authors in 2023 is this: even those lucky enough to get a publishing deal can already expect not to make minimum wage – or even close to it, even if their book sells well.
The expectation is that we spend months or years creating something that the entire industry and related infrastructure makes money from and somehow, the author is the last in the queue, hands out. Please sir, I’d like some more.
To give you an example of my own experience – last year I was offered a publishing deal from a reputable audiobook publisher (they’ve published Booker prize winners) for my last novel Life, Slightly. They wanted the exclusive rights for 12 years, refused to pay any royalties – all for £1000. I said no.
This is the state of play *before* the Spotify deal. We’re almost at the point where we are supposed to be paid in lacklustre gratitude already – and now this.
The SoA said: ‘As far as we are aware, no authors or agents have been approached for permission for such licences, and authors have not been consulted on licence or payment terms.’
Literary agent, Imogen Pelham said: ‘It’s impossible to understand what the benefit is supposed to be for authors.’