Posted On January 11, 2012 by Print This Post

Sara Megibow Sells Romance – Selling & Managing Audio Rights

Now, we all dream about selling our book with a huge advance and Brad Pitt/Gorge Clooney/Alex o’Loughlin/Insert the Name of Your Favorite actor fighting over the lead role and dying to meet YOU!  Alright . . .  now let’s come back to reality and talk about something that can really happen after you sell your book . . . managing your audio rights. Once again, Sara is here to offer us great advice.

Audio Books Sales

Happy New Year!

Audio Books and how I manage audio sales for my clients…

Here’s an overview of one of the most important subsidiary rights for a fiction author: Audio Books. Typically I spend 10% of my week reading slush pile and 90% of my week supporting current clients. A huge chunk of that time is spent pitching, negotiating, auditing and promoting subsidiary rights sales. Most agents don’t sell your book into print and then sit back drinking martinis (tempting though it sounds). Instead, there is a whole world of activity going on and many authors never see these details. So, here’s an inside glimpse at how I work audio rights sales.
Late 2011 was marked (at least in my experience) by an increase in pressure from publishing houses to retain audio rights. Audio books are selling well right now – especially driven by an increase in digital downloadable audio sales. Hard copy audio includes the CDs one may buy in a bookstore while digital downloadable audio are those we press “buy” from our e-devices in a similar way we buy ebooks. Authors are finding the audio rights to their books very valuable right now because of this trend.
If our agency retains audio rights, then it’s my job as an agent to shop your book for an audio sale independently. If the publishing house has acquired audio rights (true in the vast majority of my sales in 2011), then my job is to follow up with the publishing house to make sure THEY sell audio rights.
Here are some of my tasks for clients whose audio rights we control. First, I make a list of acquiring editors at various audio publishers (including Audible, Brilliance Audio, etc). I compose an email introducing the book (including the pitch, information on the publisher, the projected print run, early reviews and publicity) and I email the proposal to those editors. Sounds like a book submission, yes? Then, I spend anywhere from one to six months following up and hoping for an offer. Once there is interest, I negotiate the offer and audit the contract. One important aspect of the process is managing the production elements – for example, we try to arrange it so authors have consultation on the voices used and pronunciations in the final product. On the back end, it’s my job to watch sales and audit the royalty statements. Audio rights are one reason my work week fills up so quickly!
If the publishing house retains audio, then once a month I contact them to ask “any audio sales yet? Anything I can do to help?” It’s their job to pitch, but it’s my job to make sure that pitch happens. To reassure you authors out there – audio companies rarely differentiate between books pitched by agents and books pitched by publishers. The one major exception to that rule is Harlequin who has a wonderful relationship with Audible. Many Harlequin novels are picked up by Audible just because they are with that house (of course, this means Harlequin usually retains audio for themselves).
How does the money work? In general (and of course there are a billion variables and exceptions) – an author makes more money if the agent retains audio rights and sells those audio rights independently. Audio companies typically pay an advance and royalties on sales and if your agent sells directly, you keep 85% of those monies (and the agent keeps 15% just like when selling print rights). If the publishing house retains those rights, then they keep a percentage on top of that. Either way, a subsidiary right sale means further income on your book. This is one reason agents spend so much time negotiating these rights. For the record, all this time I spend on audio is similar to the time I spend on film rights and foreign rights.
So, why would we ever sell audio to the publishing house? For one thing, it’s become a deal breaker in many cases. There are now publishing houses that only offer for a book if the deal includes print, electronic AND audio. Authors may ask, “well isn’t it the job of the agent to fight for those rights?” Yes – that’s absolutely true. I’m a good agent though and the majority of my sales in 2011 granted audio to the publishing house. Naturally, there are some benefits to going with the publisher. For example, you all know that authors earn royalties on their books only after the advance is earned out, yes? Well, when the publishing house sells a book to audio themselves, payment is credited toward the advance and the author is that much closer to earning out. So, an audio sale via publisher means you are closer to earning royalties and that’s a very good thing (both from an income perspective and for the profit and loss statement at the publisher). Also, there is some evidence that publishers are willing to pay a higher initial advance when audio is included. An offer for $20,000 for print MIGHT turn in to $25,000 for print and audio.
One important thing to note when selling rights to the publishing house: As the agent, I ask for a contractual reversion of audio rights. What that means is if the publishing house has not successfully sold audio rights after a set amount of time, those rights revert to us. If that happens, my next step in the process is to take over shopping the rights and start back at step one. This reversion allows us a second chance at shopping the book. I don’t always succeed in getting that reversion, but I sure do try.
Finally, here are the important things to remember: whether the author retains audio sales or the publishing house retains audio sales, the important step is to make sure your book is PITCHED to audio companies. If we retain audio, then I shop it aggressively. If the publishing house retains audio, then I follow up aggressively with them. In either case, my job is to make sure you get every chance possible to make that sale. Three good questions to ask your agent include “who owns audio” “is my book being pitched for audio” and “if we’ve sold audio to the publishing house, will there be a reversion of those rights after a specific amount of time?”
May 2012 continue to be a year of profitable audio books! Cheers!


Whew! Sara started the year off with a bang-up discussion.  The forum is open – what do you want to ask her?

On Friday, Laurie Schnebley Campbell wants to talk to you about the tricky parts. Are you game?


And for one lucky commenter, Sara is giving away a copy of CRASH INTO YOU by Roni Loren.

Brynn LeBreck has dedicated herself to helping women in crisis, but she never imagined how personal her work would get, or where it would take her. Her younger sister is missing, suspected to be hiding from cops and criminals alike at a highly secretive BDSM retreat–a place where the elite escape to play out their most extreme sexual fantasies. To find her Brynn must go undercover as a sexual submissive. Unfortunately, The Ranch is invitation only. And the one Master who can get her in is from the darkest corner of Brynn’s past.

Brynn knows what attorney Reid Jamison is like once stripped of his conservative suit and tie. Years ago she left herself vulnerable only to have him crush her heart. Now she needs him again. Back on top. And he’s all too willing to engage. But as their primal desires and old wounds are exposed, the sexual games escalate–and so does the danger.  Their hearts aren’t the only things at risk. Someone else is watching, playing by his own rules. And his game could be murder.”


Bio: Sara Megibow, Associate Literary Agent
Nelson Literary Agency, LLC

Sara has worked at the Nelson Literary Agency since 2006. As the Associate Literary Agent, Sara is actively acquiring new clients! The Nelson Literary Agency specializes in representing all genres of romance (except inspirational or category), young adult fiction of all subgenres, science fiction/ fantasy and commercial fiction (including women’s fiction and chick lit). Sara is an avid romance reader and a rabid fan girl of super sexy and intelligent stories.

Nelson Literary Agency is a member of AAR, RWA, SFWA and SCBWI. Please visit our website http:// submission guidelines, FAQs, resources and sample query letters. Sara’s Publisher’s Marketplace site ( is a great place to find more about her personal tastes, clients and recent sales. You can also cyber stalk Sara on twitter @SaraMegibowHow an agent chooses what books to read.


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24 Responses to “Sara Megibow Sells Romance – Selling & Managing Audio Rights”

  1. Sara – great post! I had no idea of the rising importance of audio rights. Have you had any clients balk at selling their audio rights? Has it been proven to add appreciably to their sales?


    Posted by Robin Covington | January 11, 2012, 5:38 am
    • Hi Robin –

      What do you mean balk? You mean if the publishing house offers for print and audio and the client says “hold audio?” Sadly, I’m the one who makes the call – not the client. 🙂

      Or, do you mean we get an offer for an audio book and the client doesn’t want the book made into audio? No, any versions of a book are a good thing so I can’t imagine anyone balking at an offer.

      As for helping print sales – I believe it does. Lots of excitement and momentum here right now

      Posted by Sara Megibow (@SaraMegibow) | January 11, 2012, 8:33 am
  2. Hi Sara,

    Audio books are a great invention, especially for long car rides. Does the author have a say in the voiceover? Is the author allowed to read her own book?

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | January 11, 2012, 6:49 am
    • Morning!

      There is rarely leverage with these things. I always ask for Author Consultation on voices but don’t always get it. As for reading her own book, I imagine that an author could apply to the audio house to be on the list of choices to read. That would be cool!

      Posted by Sara Megibow (@SaraMegibow) | January 11, 2012, 8:43 am
  3. Hi, Sara. Thanks for the lesson on audio rights. I was lucky enough to have my series picked up by Audible and I’m curious about how the narrators are chosen. I’ve had three different readers for my books (they are all part of a series). They were all good, but I loved the reader who did my November release.

    Have you had instances where you’ve requested certain readers? If my next book is picked up, I’d like to request the same reader.


    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | January 11, 2012, 7:38 am
    • Hey that’s cool you’ll be on Audible Adrienne!

      Posted by Carrie Spencer | January 11, 2012, 8:18 am
    • Yeah – that’s AWESOME!

      I don’t know how they are chosen specifically, but I do know that each house (publishing and audio house) has a list of approved readers. Then, they pick based on tone of the book, etc.

      You *could* ask, on your next contract, to have Author Consultation on voices. I don’t always win that, but then the Author at least gets a say.

      “A say” means that the audio book is demonstrated to the Author before release date and the Author gets to listen and give feedback. Like cover consultation, it isn’t Author Approval – just Author Consultation.

      But, it’s fun to be a part of the process and remember – publishing houses WANT their authors to be happy with their products so they want to hear you say “I love it!”

      Posted by Sara Megibow (@SaraMegibow) | January 11, 2012, 8:46 am
  4. Thanks so much for going into this in such detail, Sara! As a pre-published author (heard this term recently – love it!), audio has mostly been off my radar. This puts audio rights in a whole new light. Thank you!

    Posted by Becke Davis (Becke Martin) | January 11, 2012, 7:53 am
  5. Morning Sara!

    Wow, here I thought audio was going out of fashion! =) Goes to show I need to keep up on the outside world eh?

    How often does the author get consultation on the audio rights? I think that would be a major bonus in the author’s eyes, to at least be able to make sure pronunciations of names and tows were said correctly!

    Thanks again for a great post Sara!


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | January 11, 2012, 8:18 am
    • It is a major bonus – I love it when it happens that way! It’s so fun to be a part of the process

      I ask for Author Consultation every time. I don’t get it granted to us every time. What percentage? hmmm…maybe about 50% of the time?

      Posted by Sara Megibow (@SaraMegibow) | January 11, 2012, 8:48 am
  6. Hi Sara,

    Thanks so much for this informative post. I never knew there was so much involved with selling audio rights. This has definitely given me food for thought on this aspect of what I want for my writing career.

    Great work!


    Posted by Widow Dyer | January 11, 2012, 8:19 am
  7. Sara, as always, thanks for your candid look behind the curtain. Oddly enough, I’ve been giving audio some thought lately since my debut releases April 1.

    Do publishers try to release audiobooks at the same time as the e/print books?

    A little over a year ago, I found audiobooks in my local library. That’s two extra books a month I can read while driving to and from work. Beautiful!!! The only downside I’ve found is that there’s a dearth of romance. 🙁

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | January 11, 2012, 10:40 am
    • Good question!

      Yes, audio companies want the audio book available simultaneously if possible. Shopping audio for a book BEFORE its release is really important to me for that reason.

      More romance novels to come on audio I hope! Audible is doing a great job of it. The trick, of course, is that reading a romance outloud can’t sound like porn otherwise no one would buy it. 😉


      Posted by Sara Megibow (@SaraMegibow) | January 11, 2012, 11:06 am
  8. Hi Sara!

    What’s the average time that a publisher has to sell the audio rights before they revert back to the agent?

    If the rights are sold to an audio publisher, do they have the right to publish audio books in other languages or is that negotiated separately?

    Does the agent or publishing house have any input on the marketing of the audio book or is that the responsibility of the audio publisher?

    Thanks so much for being with us today!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | January 11, 2012, 2:48 pm
    • Hi Jennifer –

      If the publisher grants the reversion of rights, it’s 3 months before pub OR 6 months after pub OR two years after pub depending on the house and imprint. There are others out there too, but those are the reversions I’ve seen most often. Good question!

      As for translation audio, it depends on the contract. If we grant audio to the publisher it’s usually WITH translation meaning yes – they can sell to a licensee to produce in another language.

      As for marketing input – that’s the responsibility of the publisher. however, if I have an idea (or a client has an idea) on something that could help sales, I am happy to send it along to the editor. I’ve done that before.


      Posted by Sara Megibow (@SaraMegibow) | January 11, 2012, 3:06 pm
  9. Oh, wow. It’s so interesting to see a glimpse behind the scenes, especially regarding something that I hadn’t ever pondered before.

    I think audio books are a great resource, but it never entered my mind how audio rights work in relation to a book sale or after. Very intriguing post!

    Of course now my crazy aspiring author mind is whirling with fantasies of someone reading my novels… which, as one might guess, is quite amazing in my little dream world.

    Posted by Kate Ingram | January 11, 2012, 2:55 pm
  10. Hi Sara. Me again.:) I just thought of another question. I saw somewhere that authors are hiring agents to handle their audio and foreign rights on their indie pubbed books. How does that work?

    Posted by AdrienneGiordano | January 11, 2012, 2:59 pm
    • I am absolutely sure that will be a big thing in the future (meaning now)

      I don’t offer that service though, so I wouldn’t be able to say anything helpful.

      I probably get 10-20 authors per day in the query slush pile saying “I’ve self pubbed and would like to hire you to shop foreign/ film/ audio/ whatever.” I am sure other agents are doing it – it’s a great thing! Just not my cup of tea right now. I prefer to read a book, fall in love with it, offer rep, shop for print and go from there. Of course, that may change but for now I politely decline any offers to shop subsidiary rights on behalf of anyone but my clients.

      In theory, the way it would work would be some percentage of the sale after the sale, to the agent. OR, I suppose one might hire an agent for some fee and then ask them to shop. That doesn’t sound very agent-y though. 🙂

      just my thoughts.

      Posted by Sara Megibow (@SaraMegibow) | January 11, 2012, 3:09 pm
  11. Sara – Thank you for bringing us another fantastic post. I learned tons of valuable information. I’m printing this post and putting it in my “writers notebook”.


    Posted by Robin Covington | January 11, 2012, 8:47 pm

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