I wish I could tell the tale of an epic battle where I triumphed magnificently, but getting my audio rights back from my publisher was actually quite simple. All I had to do was request that they return them to me. Thirty days later, they did.
Of course, it’s not always that easy. It depends on what your contract says. So if you are a traditionally published author with books that are still controlled by your publisher, at least go and read your contract. You may be able to get this one important subsidiary right reverted.
In my case, I had sold nine books to Avon/Harper Collins between the years 2002 and 2007. In each of those contracts, this is what the audio book reversion clause looked like, and it was boilerplate at the time:
“6(d) If the Publisher does not either exercise or license audio recording rights to any Work within 60 days from the date of the Publisher’s initial publication of such Work, the Author may request in writing that the Publisher revert to the Author such rights, and the Publisher shall revert such rights to such Work within 30 days of such request.”
I’m sure this language is no longer standard, however, because audiobooks are now in a stage of tremendous growth in the marketplace. Moving forward, publishers will no doubt want to hang onto those rights. So this is something to consider when negotiating a new deal with your publisher.
First of all, try and keep your audiobook rights if you can. If that is not possible, do your best to arrive at terms that provide a decent reversion clause.
So what can you do if you get your audio rights back?
You basically have three choices: sell those rights to an audiobook publisher for an advance; publish your own editions independently; or do nothing.
Personally, I chose to publish the audio editions independently through ACX. Within a week of receiving the reversion letter from my publisher, I had contracted Rosalyn Landor to narrate and had pushed the entire Pembroke Palace series into production.
I had to create my own covers for the audio editions because I did not own the rights to Avon's cover art. Instead, I hired my usual cover designer, Kim Killion.
All the audiobooks in my Pembroke Palace series are published by me through ACX and are currently for sale on Audible, Amazon, and iTunes. I am now gearing up to get audio editions produced for my American Heiress series (6 books which are still published by Avon in print and ebook formats). That will happen in 2015, and I will use the same excellent narrator, Rosalyn Landor.
Finally, I am capitalizing on a format I had not been able to break into while I was at Avon - and yes, it’s lucrative. And I am very glad I checked the reversion clauses on my old contracts. You just never know what you’ll be able to claim as your own.