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My video About the ACX Scams
The ACX Problem
I might be late to the party, but I recently realized a serious problem with ACX and fraudulent rights claims they grant to scammers for the audiobook version of our books.
I became aware of this issue while perusing one of my writerly indie publishing Facebook groups I belong to and came across a post warning about ACX rights fraud.
The low-down: scumbag thieves are fraudulently claiming the rights to audiobooks on ACX for titles that they don’t have rights to.
So I went to ACX to see if this problem affected any of my titles and sure enough; Someone had fraudulently claimed the first book in my cozy mystery series.
How do I know? When I looked up my book on ACX, they stated a “publisher” had already claimed that title. Since I’m the rights holder and I hadn’t claimed it, that meant someone else had done so fraudulently.
I was dumbfounded. I’m the publisher. And I haven’t claimed it. So this has put me down a rabbit hole of a problem with the way ACX is currently handling rights claims on their platform — the biggest for indie audiobook production. A problem they had for over two years and they don’t seem to do anything to correct it.
What is ACX?
I should backup a bit. ACX stands for Audiobook Creation Exchange. It’s a marketplace for professional narrators, authors, agents, publishers and rights holders to connect and create audiobooks. Audible — the biggest marketplace for audiobooks — launched ACX about ten years ago. When Amazon bought Audible they also bought ACX so both Audible and ACX are Amazon companies.
If you’re a self-published author, ACX makes it easy as pie to produce an audiobook version of your books. You can choose to go exclusively with them for 40% royalty or go wide for 20% royalty.
Via ACX you can start the production process for your audiobook by opening up for narrators to audition for the job. It’s a slick and easy process to get started (which is why scammers use it and abuse it). I created an audiobook years ago with ACX.
I was happy with the process, but my audiobook results weren’t profitable, so I’m not planning to produce new audiobooks soon, so I hadn’t thought to claim my books with ACX. That was a mistake.
ACX Scams. How do they work?
It’s simple really, ACX does not verify that you truly own the rights to books on their platform. If the rights are available, and basically any book on Amazon is claimable on ACX. You have no say in the matter. So if it’s available, you can claim it via your ACX account.
Check a box to show you are the rights holder and that’s it. For a thieving scammer, that won’t stop them from lying.
The Aftermath of the Scam
I was lucky. The warning I received on that Facebook group page gave me the heads up on this problem. Although the rights to one of my books had been stolen, luckily, it doesn’t appear the thieves have produced an audiobook for sale, yet.
I was curious if this was happening to other authors, so I searched ACX Rights Claim Scam on Twitter and found out that it is more widespread than I thought.
I found a tweet from an N.R. Walker, who had one of her books’ rights stolen and the thieves actually put up an audiobook version of her book up for sale on Audible and Amazon without her knowledge.
By the time she found out about it, it was all ready for sale. ACX took it down. But whatever royalties were made from those sales… she didn’t get a penny. And to add insult to injury… they stiffed the narrator as well.
I also found out that has been a problem for a while. Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware wrote about it back in 2019, but doesn’t seem that ACX has done anything to prevent this from happening or at least making it more difficult for the ACX scammers.
Writer Beware article about this ACX rights holder fraud scam from back in 2019.
I’m still dealing with this problem. ACX support has been responsive. And their emails are sympathetic, but after four days, I still don’t have my rights back. I’m sure they’ll take care of this, I just wish they would address the problem faster. It shouldn’t take days.
I also hope ACX Amazon would make it difficult for scammers to do this. I know, it stinks, as the legit rights holders that we would have to go through more loopholes to claim our books on ACX. But unfortunately, there are too many dirtbag scammers out there, so they need to make the process more difficult to keep the scammers out.
Amazon has experienced this with KDP where they’ve had to make many changes to combat Kindle publishing scammers. It sucks for us, legit self-publishers, but that’s the harsh reality of the world.