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– Unpublished authors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–, 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, 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.