Why the Sentenced to Troll Compendium audiobook is no longer for sale

Earlier this year, I decided to bundle books 1-3 of Sentenced to Troll into an ebook box set. We were in the middle of a global pandemic, unemployment was at an all-time high, and everyone was scared. I thought that some money was better than no money, and even if times were tight, I could help out those struggling while also continuing to pay my bills.

So I put the compendium on sale for $.99 for that first week, and then it was $9.99 after that, $4 cheaper than buying all 3 books separately. I sold a lot of books, got a lot of great reviews, and made some new fans along the way. Initially, I thought I would never bundle them as an audio box set even though people kept asking. It just didn’t make sense financially to cut off sales of 3 individual titles that made up half of my income.

But by the time September came around I had reevaluated. I figured that if I sold more audiobooks, even if they were bringing in less money, it would put me in a better situation. This was true to a degree. I released the omnibus in audio and it sold really well for about a month, I spent a lot of money advertising it, more than I had spent on any launch previously, and was really happy with the results.

Then the unthinkable happened.

A month after release, Audible had a glitch. A glitch that revealed a lot of shady things that had been happening under authors’ and narrators’ noses for years without us knowing. For the previous month, returns that normally happened on a daily basis weren’t processed. This glitch processed them all at once. Two of my titles (Sentenced to Troll 1 and 2) went into the negative sales overnight, meaning I suddenly owed audible money for books people had returned. For the remainder of the month, I watched as these two titles continued to remain in the negative day after day. I’ll get to the reason why below.

Because of Audible’s lax return policy, anyone who had purchased any of the Sentenced to Troll books over the past year could return all 3 of them and now use one credit to buy the compendium, regardless of if they listened to them all the way through or not. As of me writing this, the Alliance of Independent Authors, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Associations, and many others are looking into the practices audible has employed and deciding what action to take.

Over the previous few months, Audible had ramped up their return policy, using it as a marketing tactic, encouraging users to return books if they didn’t love them, no matter how much they had listened to a book. In essence, Audible had been encouraging users to treat its service as a library, checking out and returning books without consequence. Because this practice didn’t hurt audible at all. They got their monthly membership no matter how many books a user returned. The ones who suffered were the authors and narrators. Authors and narrators who entered a 7 year contract for each audiobook produced and many times granting exclusivity to audible for the first year.

But back to the glitch. Due to this glitch, authors suddenly realized just how big of a problem returns were. That anywhere from 10-40% of potential sales were being returned without us having any idea. Many of them not done with ill intent, but because listeners didn’t know that returned books took money back from the author. The worst part about all of this was the reporting. You see, the way audible reports sales is a flat amount each day. I get told I sold 5 books for example, but this could mean that I sold 10, and 5 of them were returned. We’re able to gauge how many sales based on the rank on Amazon. Once this glitch occurred and returns began being counted on a daily basis again, I realized that current sales didn’t match up with what they had during the month prior. On a day where I should have sold 40-50 books, it was only recorded as 14.

Due to this, I requested Audible to pull the omnibus from sale. I felt that I had created it with misinformation. And having a box set available meant that any time I advertised book one, I would have to worry that that book would be returned once someone learned of the box set. For up to a year after the audiobook was sold, I may have to return money to audible after it has been deposited into my account. In ebook, this has never been an issue. In Kindle Unlimited, for example, I get paid the same if readers read each book individually or read the box set because they have the same number of pages. Those who purchase book one and enjoy it don’t tend to mind paying for the other two books in the series. I very rarely get ebooks returned. I proudly stand behind my ratings and reviews, and for those who don’t enjoy it I have no issue with them returning it. But with audible, it was never an issue of quality, it was misinformation that grew their listenerbase without hurting their bottom line at all. I have paid thousands of dollars to have each of these audiobooks produced and I only make 40% per sale as it is. If I wanted to take my audiobooks to other platforms, audible would then cut my royalties to 25%. I have nothing against libraries or streaming services like Hoopla. But authors who make their books available on them do so willingly and are usually compensated at a higher rate for the sale because the book will be lended out.

Anyways, for those of you who were holding out to spend your credit, I apologize for the letdown. And for those of you who have the compendium audio, I hope you enjoy it. It’s a collector’s item now.

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