Thursday, December 10, 2009

Hudson Audio Publishing

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Lately I've been getting a lot of questions from writers who've been solicited by Hudson Audio Publishing (which appears to be engaging in a major spam campaign).

Per Hudson's website,

Hudson Audio Publishing is a boutique service company that specializes in assisting:
- Self published authors
- Unpublished authors
- Seminar speakers
- Owners of quality audio material
to get their works converted into audio books and sold through the three largest audio book distribution platforms in the world - Amazon, Audible and iTunes.


How does it work? You can record your book yourself, using free or low-cost software, in which case there's no upfront fee due to Hudson (verbiage on the website suggests that this fee-freeness is temporary). Or you can pay Hudson to do it for you, using (they say) professional voice talent, which on average (they say) will cost between $1,500 and $2,500. Royalties aren't overly generous (if you grant Hudson a 5-year exclusive license, you get 20% of net; for a non-exclusive license for a similar term, you get 12% of net) but Hudson takes only digital download audio rights, leaving other rights free.

(This is a limited claim on rights, but it's still a claim. Despite that, and despite the fact that it calls itself Hudson Audio Publishing, Hudson alleges that it is not, in fact, a publisher.)

Basically, Hudson is self-publishing for audiobooks. I would imagine it carries about the same chances of success as print and electronic self-publishing (i.e., small sales and exposure for the average writer--depending, of course, on any individual writer's definition of "success"). Another consideration: people who buy audiobooks don't want to hear a bad reader droning on. They expect the books to be engagingly and expressively read. Can you do this yourself? Do you even want to? If you're pondering using Hudson's voice talent, however, there's a concern beyond the substantial expense: is the talent really professional? It would be a good idea to obtain a couple of Hudson's non-author-read audiobooks, just to make sure.

Something else to take into account: the audiobook market is small, a fact not noted by the hype-ish coverage on Hudson's website. According to the Audio Publishers Association, revenue reported by member companies in 2008 was $331 million, with total estimated revenue for the audiobook industry of close to $1 billion--around 4%, my calculator informs me, of $24.3 billion in total book sales for the same period. And just as audio books are a fraction of the book market, digital downloads are a fraction of audio sales: just 21%, according to the APA. Digital downloads increased their market share in 2008 (up from 17% in 2007), but APA members' total revenue slipped 6.7%.

If you are willing and able to read your book yourself, you probably don't have much to lose by using Hudson (though be aware that there are other free or low-cost options for turning your book into audio--Podiobooks.com, for instance). If you're considering paying for voice talent, however, do shop around--there are a number of companies that offer audio self-publishing for a fee, such as Spoken Books Publishing (a division of self-publishing service Infinity.com), or, if you're enterprising, you may be able to create your script, hire the voice talent, and book the studio yourself.

Most important: be sure to evaluate whether it's really worthwhile to spend a lot of money to launch yourself into such a limited market.

23 comments:

yarnbuck said...

Thanks, Victoria. If I could get my day job data de jour condensed like you do the barrage of pub talk, I could clock out at 1:15, go home and write.

RE: Hudson Audio - I wonder . . . for a title released 2 years ago, would it make sense to try to squeeze a little more commerce out of it via a market like this?

"Or you can pay Hudson to do it for you . . . will cost between $1,500 and $2,500. Royalties aren't overly generous (if you grant Hudson a 5-year exclusive license, you get 20% of net."

Not to sound suspicious w/o reason, but would an outfit like this have an Arm's Length accounting/ sales tracking mechanism so there's no ambiguity of "Net?"

And speaking of sales - any thoughts on their MKT., Promo model?

Thanks again for the digging and discerning.

Adam Hudson said...

Wow - what a post! Hopefully I have a chance to respond without being moderated out.

The first issue I would like to address is the assertion that we spammed people. We contacted authors who had listed themselves on http://authdir.net/ a site that describes itself as an email directory for authors. Secondly, we didn’t approach anyone asking for money but simply asking if we could work with them on a ‘no upfront fee basis’.

Next, this post asserts that we try to make money by charging for readers and even that they may not be professionals. If you actually look at our blog there are several posts where we provide guidance on how to do it yourself and actually encourage that practice to save money. In respect to the assertion that our readers are not professional that is simply wrong. If the writer of this aggressive post had actually researched our site properly they would have been able to hear samples of both self-read and professionally read work that we clearly offer in the featured books page.

On the issue of royalties not being ‘overly generous’ again this is a statement made out of ignorance. The sites we sell through (Audible and iTunes) set the royalty rates not us. We simply share the net royalties 70/30 in favor of the author - with no upfront fee. The rates that they set would be the same for you if you went direct or through us. We make no secret of the fact you could record it yourself and we even go one step further to say that you could avoid us altogether in our FAQ section. The bottom line is, most authors simply don;t have the time or inclination to do the grunt work required to make it happen so they let it slide. That's the service and value we offer - getting it done.

The issue of us calling ourselves a publisher and then explaining on our own home page that we aren’t really a publisher only came about because of communities like yours that claimed we weren’t a real publisher. We saw your point so we made an effort to clarify exactly how we should be perceived. We really can’t win on this point and have been ridiculed either way.

I am stunned at your aggression and disappointed that you have attacked a company that employs good people to serve authors. We are a small business and we are investing a large amount of time and resource ‘hoping’ that the royalties we cause to occur will make it worth while for all involved - in the meantime we are working for free. You are entitled to your opinion about the size of the market but so far our authors have been delighted with the royalties we send them and the terms on which we made those happen.

How arrogant of you to self-assume the role of “shining a light into the dark corners of the shadow-world of literary scams, schemes, and pitfalls.” There is a not a single piece of evidence that shows we steal from or do the wrong thing by authors.

Shame on you!

Adam Hudson - Director
Hudson Audio Publishing

Victoria Strauss said...

Adam, I understand it can be frustrating to be the focus of such close scrutiny (my post about you was actually pretty mild--have a look at the archives of this blog), but I feel you're over-reacting. Nowhere did I suggest that you stole money from or cheated anyone.

The purpose of my post is simply to suggest that writers evaluate their options, consider market realities (as opposed to hype), and do some double-checking to make sure that your service is as professional as you say it is. That's just common sense.

To my knowledge, I'm not listed on the email directory you mentioned, yet I got one of your solicitation emails.

There's something maybe you can clarify for me. Your website says you pay royalties of either 20% or 12% of the "sale price," which I assume means net, depending on what kind of contract the author signs. Yet here and elsewhere, you say you split income 70/30 in favor of the author. Can you clear up this apparent discrepancy?

Victoria Strauss said...

Yarnbuck, if you have the audio rights to your title, I don't see why you shouldn't turn it into an audio book. But as I noted in my post, there are several different options for doing this, and it pays to do some research.

I don't see, at least based on its website, that Hudson markets or promotes its titles, other than making them available at Audible, etc. This is standard for self-publishing services, which concentrate on producing the book, not selling it, or else sell marketing packages (usually not worth the money) separately. If I'm wrong about promotion, I'm sure that Adam can correct me.

Adam Hudson said...

Hello Victoria,

Telling authors to double check before taking action might be some advice you should take before posting something like this. By your own admission here you do not understand clearly the offer and you have made no comment about a number of statements you made that are misleading.

Aside from my statement about stealing or doing the wrong thing by authors, I do not feel my reaction is inappropriate. People's jobs rely on our reputation in the market place as do the royalties of the authors we help and the readers who are now getting paid work because of our activity in the marketplace.

Of all people, authors should understand the power of the pen - especially a digital pen permanently linked to Google's all finding search engines.

I also seriously question your statement that the purpose of your post was to encourage authors to evaluate their options. That statement is a long way from what you actually did say. In my experience posts (and blogs) like this are there to build the profile of their owners using the most effective mechanism of all - fear.

In regard to your question about royalties, Audible pay 12% or 20% of the sale price as royalties depending on the rights granted - non-exclusive or exclusive respectively. We then share those net royalties 70/30. The cost of doing business with us in regard to royalties is 30% of what you would make if you did it all yourself.

I would have been more than happy to be interviewed by you or answer as many questions as you like BEFORE you posted this which is what any credible outlet that is truly concerned about the accuracy of their story would do. I would have even put you in touch with the readers we have created work for or the authors we have created royalties for - but my trust levels are now extremely low in respect to you and your blog.

Adam Hudson

Victoria Strauss said...

Thanks for clarifying the royalties issue, Adam. You might want to make that clearer on your website--it's confusing.

The first issue I would like to address is the assertion that we spammed people.

Well, you did. You sent unsolicited email to a lot of people offering your services.

Secondly, we didn’t approach anyone asking for money but simply asking if we could work with them on a ‘no upfront fee basis’.

I didn't say you approached anyone asking for money. And I pointed out that for self-recorded books, there's presently no upfront fee.

Next, this post asserts that we try to make money by charging for readers and even that they may not be professionals.

Well, you do charge for readers. Do you make money doing so? I don't know, but I didn't say you did. As to professionalism...you say your readers are professionals. I suggest that writers do some checking to make sure. Caveat emptor.

On the issue of royalties not being ‘overly generous’ again this is a statement made out of ignorance.

Since you've clarified the payment issue for me (and it is confusingly presented on your website, because you do say that royalties are 20% or 12%, which might encourage authors to assume they get the whole amount), I can see that your income split does favor the author. However, I stand by what I said about non-generous royalties. Even the Kindle gives self-publishers 35% of the list price.

I also seriously question your statement that the purpose of your post was to encourage authors to evaluate their options. That statement is a long way from what you actually did say.

I don't agree. In any case, a healthy company should be able to withstand a bit of skeptical commentary.

Adam Hudson said...

And a credible critic would do their research and ask questions before pulling the trigger.

Deb Salisbury said...

My goodness. I thought your post was fairly neutral, Victoria. I'm surprised at Adam's response. It certainly makes me wonder.

Lili said...

If I were in the market for an audio self-publisher, Adam Hudson's comments here would make me much warier than Victoria's initial post.

S.M. Carrière said...

I have to agree. Such immediate and forceful protests of innocence make me stop and think... Adam did overreact, I think.

James Macdonald said...

Let's agree, first, that the otpions where The Author Pays are a complete a non-starter.

What does the The Author Doesn't Pay option give us that makes it worthwhile to go with Hudson rather than some other service, or Do It Yourself At Home?

Recalling always that there's a huge grey area between Bad Idea and Outright Scam and no one has called Hudson a scam, there's also a huge distance between Bad Idea and Good Idea.

tomlopy said...

There are other options for self-publishing. I did a book through newfiction.com . They produce my book into audiobooks

Standback said...

@Deb, Lili, S.M.:

I don't think this is a "the lady doth protest too much," or at least I wouldn't run to declare it as such. "Writer Beware" is inherently skeptical, and you certainly don't need to be a scammer or a liar to get a very skeptical review here.

Regular visitors understand perfectly why, when a business claims professional readers, you shouldn't get your expectations up. But to a person who's started such a business, and made effort to get good voice-readers, having it assumed that he's probably lying feels rather unfair.

Hudson's response here seemed in line with what I'd expect - especially given that "Writers Beware" is probably one of the larger sites that's paid attention to HAP, and he's evidently unfamiliar with the blog's usual tone, and with scams it commonly deals with.

Moderation in all things...

Lili said...

Oh, I don't think he comes across as a scammer. I just think his response focuses much more on throwing a really in-depth hissy fit than on rebutting Victoria's points, answering her questions or showing how he provides a worthwhile service.

In fact, he basically says 'I'm not gonna answer any of your questions because you're so mean.' So now, not only do I still have the same questions that Victoria's post raised, but I have the impression that he's unable to answer those questions, as well as the impression that when questioned he puts his energy into hissy fits rather than answers. That would put me off way more than the initial questions.

Lili said...

P.S. Just to clarify: he may perfectly well have excellent answers to all those questions. But the 'I have brilliant answers but now I'm not going to tell you and it's all your fault for being so mean' approach always makes me suspect - rightly or wrongly - that the person has no answers at all. Or is seven.

Adam Hudson said...

The thing I find so frustrating is not being asked questions about our business from genuinely interested parties (we do this everyday) it's being forced to prove our innocence on a site that is a self-styled scam watcher. It is akin to being ambushed on the street by one of those despicable current affairs shows where the presumption of innocence goes out the window. This is a much larger issue that I find deeply offensive.

If Victoria had asked me these questions privately as normal potential customers do, I would not have responded strongly at all, but the real impact of her blog and others like it seems lost on her and many of you as well. Google our company name now and the first site found is "Writers Beware!" It has already been reposted onto other sites and on it goes - welcome to the internet.

I recognize that people will come to their own conclusions about this thread but it's a such a negative, horrible process to have to deal with.

If it seems like a "hissy fit" then perhaps we can take something from that? These days we are so used to sanitized corporate responses that when someone actually stands up to a critic and personally says "this is not OK - you are affecting me" we seem shocked. Victoria went after my business and reputation which affects me, my family, my staff, and the other folk like authors and readers who earn a living as a result of the activity we create. I think this is disgraceful. It can't be changed so we either write nice sanitized responses hoping not to be perceived as having a 'hissy fit' (or showing any emotion around it) or we call it for what it is. I spent years in Corporate life, I choose option B - at least you know where I stand.

I realized that I did miss Yarnbuck's question about third party accounting and the answer is "yes". We hire an independent accounting firm to account for and audit the royalty distributions.

If any of you have genuine questions I would be happy to answer them, through my site and I promise - no hissy fits :-)

Adam Hudson

Jekyl1 said...

Wow.
I am a voice over artist (a professional one) and I have been approached by Hudson to record some audio books for them. I have also received email solicitation from them about revenue sharing rather than upfront payment.

And I admit, I am still not sold on whether they are legitimate or not. The email solicitation made me think "not legitimate" immediately. But then the unrelated offer of a contract for a job made me think, maybe not.

So, suffice to say, I came to this blog (and other sites) skeptical of Hudson and hoping to find "proof" of illegitimacy.

But, I have to be honest, I find it incredibly bullheaded to claim that Adam has been elusive or overly-tempermental.

Lili wrote:
"In fact, he basically says 'I'm not gonna answer any of your questions because you're so mean.' So now, not only do I still have the same questions that Victoria's post raised, but I have the impression that he's unable to answer those questions."

Again, I'm not claiming anything about the company. I have no idea if they are trustworthy or not. But after reading this entire discussion, Adam clearly answers many of the questions posed.

Did he miss a few? Yeah.
Does he and his company have an unclear message about what they do? Yeah.

But has he tried to clarify, and admit to, some these errors? Absolutely.

One of his points, I think, is that in this age of instant dissemination, a blog like this can do real damage. And rather than simply post such inflammatory remarks, it maybe would have been appropriate to give Adam the chance to answer some of these questions beforehand.

As I began my research this morning into Hudson, I found a number of forums discussing the company. After just a minute or two, I saw many posts from Adam offering to answer any questions and giving out his email address.

I think it's totally unfair to claim he is throwing a hissy fit and evading questions. He is trying to defend his business (whether or not that business is a good idea, bad idea, or predatory), and he did answer most of the questions.

Like I said, I am undecided. I have been awaiting a contract from them for almost 2 weeks, which in the voice over world is an eternity. When I booked the job, I said to my wife, "I just don't think this is legitimate. This is the same company that wanted me to work for free and 'share in the revenue.'"

But I think my opinion is leading towards this: This may be a legitimate small business, but it seems they are not doing a very good job of clarifying exactly what they do, and then (from my end of things), they are not doing it well.

Adam Hudson said...

Hi Jekyl,

Thanks for the support. I notice your post here was made Dec 31st so it was a very difficult period to be waiting on a contract. Our staff have been away since mid-December. Please feel free to email me directly to sort this out right away.

Also, for readers of this post, when Jekyl says we 'solicited' him asking him to work for free what happened was we sent an email to professional readers who had previously bid on paid jobs we had posted through Voices.com but missed out because the job was awarded to another reader. So it wasn't like we had no relationship at all with those professional readers and asked them to work for free. We simply approached those who had missed out and said we have other work here on these terms if you are interested. Anyone who cares to look can see that we have awarded many paid jobs to the reader community.

Anyway, my email is adam@hudsonaudiopublishing.com and I am happy to sort out any issues right away.

Thanks.

Adam

Owen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Peter Klein said...

Hudson published my audiobook. I can say nothing but good things about how I was treated.

Simple arithmatic: If the selling price on Audible is $10, Audible keeps $8. That's just a fact of life. The $2 gets split 70/30 between the author and Hudson. That means the author gets $1.40.

Anyone who has ever downloaded an audiobook knows that the reader can make or break the story. Therefore it pays to get a professional reader. Hudson offers to help you find a professional reader. He doesn't "broker" the deal. He doesn't get a comission on the fee that you pay to the reader. You don't even have to go through Hudson. You can go directly to Voice.com and find your own reader. If you can't or don't wish to pay that reader up front, Hudson will arrange for the reader to get paid out of royalties. That way the reader is taking the same risk that you are. Without such an arrangement the reader's up-front fee could be a deal breaker.

Robin Bamber said...

I am a pensionless pensioner and seventy four years old this year.
Without Adam's personal help I probably never could have four books on the audio market right now.
He has encouraged me with great patience and understanding the whole way through and has my complete confidence. He even took the trouble to design and suggest the cover for my first book!
I am about to inform our local writers circle about Hudson audiobooks with much enthusiasm and applause.

Robin Bamber [South Africa]

thmilin said...

I've done VO for both Peter Klein and Hudson Publishing. PLUS - I'm an author, of ebooks.

Obviously I'm biased but I'd definitely be honest if the experience were poor, I was aware of scamming, or I was misled. And that was never the case. I knew what I was getting, I reviewed the project and the company.

I went looking for some “news” on Hudson today and lo and behold - this blog is showing up near the top. Note that not everyone is going to read through the comments.

I know how it is as a writer - it's exciting and easy to type away, impassioned by a thought, or feeling clever about some insight. But in the digital age, you can start a domino effect far beyond what you intended. Be sure of your intent, and plan and post accordingly with thorough research to back up that intent.

Even gossip sites like TMZ and pinkisthenewblog post facts, whether the facts are distasteful. And blogs like dooce make a point to say "in my opinion, no facts to back this up" or don't say it at all.

And if something is unclear, ask first, before posting. That just gives you more legitimacy and avoids unpleasant threads like this that now lead people to doubt your blog AND Adam. Not a win-win here.

Yes, it's common sense to ask writers to "double check offers they receive." (I'm paraphrasing, not quoting.) But that wasn't what you did. You asked writers to "double check offers they receive from Hudson Audio" with a bunch of naysaying attached. Those are two entirely different things.

Adam was therefore forced to post to defend his business. If you'd asked him first, he could have defended hotly off blog and then you could have made your decisions about what you'd post (or not).

You didn’t even provide quotes from people who HAD had bad experiences! If you’re asking people to “BEware” then show them an actual proof to be wary of, don’t just interpret things you read on the site. If you’re advising people “plan carefully or thoroughly research their business opportunities with this particular business” then you are asking them to “BE AWARE” - and the post has no place on this site or should be specially marked as NOT a warning of a problem business.

I've never received unsolicited email from Hudson as an author. As a VO artist, I had indeed applied for jobs with Hudson. I therefore later received mail. I wasn't surprised when I got it and didn't see it as spam.

They managed their relationship with their author and myself well - timely, thorough, and supportive. I consider myself professional. But this is a subjective rating that has to come from the author. Authors don’t just sign off on "whoever,” it's YOUR book. I had to do a demo for the author, I picked a section of her book and she had to approve of me.

As for "publishing" - why nitpick on that, honestly? Is this blog "news" or a "report"? It's semantics which are getting trickier in the digital age.

The simple fact Hudson procures voice talent and packages and arranges the distribution of your audiobook makes them a publisher. Maybe they're an agent/publisher. A publishing agency? This is a new digital age. The rules are bendy. Adjust accordingly.

Could Hudson be more thorough on the site? Certainly. Hopefully some changes to make things clearer for authors can be made and in future Hudson will prompt people to sign up for emails first. And hopefully Writer Beware will be more thorough before posting next time.

Adam said...

Hello all. It's Adam - the owner of Hudson Audio Publishing again. We have now ended our third quarter representing largely unknown authors and I am pleased to say that the results speak for themselves. This past 90 days we sold 6546 audio books for a total of $64,393 in sales. That was up more than 300% on the previous quarter. Assuming no more growth at all, this means we are now selling around $250,000 a year of audio books and we haven't finished our first 12 months. Yes this is small potatoes in the world of publishing but our client's work collectively is now being listened to by around 20,000 more people annually (assuming similar sales each quarter) than before we turned up and not one of those authors paid a cent upfront to work with us - unless they needed their book read by a professional voice actor. Approximately half of our clients were not included in that latest royalty period due to the timing of pay periods, so this result is very strong. Anyway - I just thought I would share the results of the work we have done for our clients to add balance to the 'opinions' around the place.