Lots of interesting year-end publishing news

Via a post by James Scott Bell at Kill Zone Blog: The Book Biz is A-Changin’

A) Amazon is beta testing AI-narration for audiobooks.

I would definitely be interested in this. I consider audio strictly a vanity project that is unlikely to pay for itself (I would like to be wrong). Although in some cases, I’m willing to pay real narrators, I would be very interested in a much cheaper option if the quality turned out to be acceptable.

B) The Author Guild survey for 2022 is out. Here it is if you would like to take a look.

C) Did you know that there are lots of scammers with websites that make them appear to be KDP or Amazon, but they aren’t, they’re just scammers? Lots and lots of versions. The real Amazon is suing twenty of them. Good start.

D) Goodreads is taking steps to stop review bombing. Also good. You probably know this, but review bombing is a concerted effort to tank someone’s book by getting lots of people to post one-star reviews all at the same time.

E) Jane Friedman participated in an interview describing how authors published by Big Five publishers are specifically seeing their income decline.

This is all interesting, but the Author Guild survey is particularly interesting. Let me take it apart a little.

–Median book income for full-time fiction authors is $15,000. I think this means gross income. I’m not totally sure of that because Author Guild does not specify, but gross income would be much easier data to collect.

–Median book income for full-time self-published authors was $12,500, in shouting distance of all full-time authors.

–Median book income for all authors was $2000. This includes about two-thirds of the authors, who said they were “part time,” as well as the roughly one-third who said “full time.”

–Romance authors are still doing best. No surprise. No mention of SFF, which is disappointing. Literary authors are doing horribly in comparison to other genres, no surprise there. Even worse that authors of biographies. Wow.

The Written Word Media 2023 survey will be very interesting. I don’t believe it’s out yet.

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6 thoughts on “Lots of interesting year-end publishing news”

  1. I would be very wary of AI audiobooks honestly, there are similar allegations of plagiarism as with other generative AI software (in this case, training the voices on human audiobook narrators without their knowledge) as well as audiobook vendors trying to undercut human narrators and push them out to reduce their own costs to the detriment of audiobooks as a medium.

    I’m not strictly against private not-for-profit use of text to speech by readers for accessibility reasons, but authors selling AI-generated recordings for profit I have to admit comes across as a low-effort cash grab. (Besides the solidarity with other artists issue, there’s a quality one- I’ve used my phone’s text to speech feature to read nonfiction books to me when there’s no human-narrated audio edition and let me say they do not do great with proper real-world names, I can’t imagine they would be good at all for fantasy or SF with invented names!)

  2. Sandstone, I’m trying to see how plagiarism would work with voice. You mean these AI audio narration things are … fed with specific human-narrated audiobooks and come up with a similar type of vocal style? I would not really have thought that was possible. It just seems like that should be much harder than the kind of text prediction function of text generators. But yes, if that’s how it works, that’s pretty much just as bad as AI-generated book cover art.

    But … I will add … audio narrators are very expensive and I will never pay that much to make audio editions of most books — and if I won’t, then surely the vast majority of self-published authors aren’t going to be able to afford that either. And that is a shame, because it basically throws almost all audiobooks into the baliwick of Big Traditional Publishers, who have enough of the pie already.

  3. Kristine Kathryn Rusch posted earlier this year about her testing the waters of AI audio, and she’s been using it to generate audio versions of her blog posts.

    https://kriswrites.com/2023/03/01/business-musings-the-research-part-one-ai-audio/ (more about background)
    https://kriswrites.com/2023/03/08/business-musings-the-research-part-two-ai-audio/ (more about services)

    It seems like there’s some pricing and licensing issues in that space, at least right now.

  4. That’s definitely a good question, Evelyn. I would really like to know how the questions in the survey were worded. If the questions did not rigorously define terms, they should have.

    Frankly, I think the Written Word Media people do a better job with their survey. They get responses almost entirely from self-published authors, though, since that’s the population of writers who use their services.

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