Last updated 12/18/20
My fellow narrators and I often contact authors about creating audiobooks of their books. Many times, the author tells me that her publisher has the audio rights, or she isn’t sure who owns them.
Authors could make more money by exercising as many subsidiary rights as possible for each book, especially the audio rights. The audiobook industry is on a 3-year trend of double digit growth that shows no sign of slowing.
If you have your audio rights, you could contract with a narrator or producer to create an audiobook. You also could choose to license your audio rights to a publisher or producer. The trade-off is that you earn more royalties if you retain your rights and contract with a narrator or producer. When you license your rights, your royalty rate is lower because someone else is managing the audiobook production process.
I’m posting this list of links about rights so that more authors can get their books into audio.
- UK Society of Authors Guide To Copyright and Permissions
- This site publishes a number of other guides and articles that you will find helpful.
- The Creative Penn blog How Authors Sell Publishing Rights with Orna Ross
- Note: I bought the book with the same title but found the coverage on audio rights in chapter 10 to be limited to ACX, Podium Publishing, CD Baby and Author’s Republic, with the emphasis on the author’s costs and royalty rates. Licensing the audio rights to a publisher or producer isn’t discussed.
- The article Securing Audiobook Rights: Rights You Need to Bring Your Audiobook to Market on Jane Friedman’s blog is a good summary.
In addition to managing your own publishing rights, you’ll want to be sure to honor copyrights on others’ works. This Cornell University chart shows copyright terms in the US.
Lyrics and Music
Many authors include popular song lyrics in their books without understanding that they first need to obtain permission from the copyright holder, which may be granted at a cost based on projected sales of the book. This article explains the process of licensing reprints of song lyrics.
The reprint rights are non-transferrable, so they don’t apply to the narrator. Be aware that your narrator will not be legally allowed to sing or say the lyrics of a copyrighted song in the audiobook unless you also obtain a mechanical license, which is an additional permission and expense.
You cannot include copyrighted music in your audiobook without also obtaining a master use license from the copyright owner of the sound recording.
If you want to fully understand the flow of copyright and licensing agreements in music, I highly recommend Harvard Professor William Fisher’s video lecture on this topic.
I’ll continue to add to this page as I discover useful sites. If you know of a helpful site on this topic, please post the URL in a comment. I’ll also be happy to answer any questions.