Audiobook 'Hobby' Helps Fund a New Career

Audiobook royalties delivered an unexpected windfall for this unlikely author.
January 27, 2017

Opportunity can be found in the unlikeliest of places. And Anthony Stewart is not one to miss out on unexpected opportunities.

What began as an effort to educate himself turned into a financial windfall--twice--all thanks to the growing market for audiobooks.

Audiobooks are the fastest-growing format in the book business. According to the Audio Publishers Association, audiobook sales jumped 21% across the U.S. and Canada in 2015. For the first half of 2016, it grew another 32% over the same timeframe the year prior, and in June 2016 alone, that figure was over 50%.

But Stewart didn’t know any of this. He just wanted to study a pair of classic academic works in the field of African American History, and decided to record them himself for easier access while on the road. With a background in audio/visual recording thanks to his time spent touring with artists such as Lil’ Wayne, recording the books (which by now are in the public domain), was little effort.

A friend later suggested he put the recordings online for others to access, and not long after he received a call from… the No. 1 source of audiobook recordings in the world. They offered to place his audiobook recordings on the service, and pay him 20% of any sales or streams it received.

Stewart’s reaction? “Thanks for the free money!” he says. “I was not looking to use this as income. It was just gravy.”

Soon, quarterly checks of a few hundred grew to checks for over $2,500. Nice extra cash for sure, but Stewart had bigger ambitions to fund. He’d recently launched a digital food & wine publication called The Mixologist, and wanted to increase its online presence through promotion and other means, and explore a print edition. That takes money, more than even $2,500 a quarter could cover.

So he looked into selling the royalties for his audiobook and found Royalty Exchange.

“I wasn’t making much money from them anyway. That wasn’t the idea,” Stewart says. “So I used them to give myself a loan. I could try to go to a bank, but what’s the chance of them giving me $40,000? It’s easier to get the cash you need to move on to a new space if you have a royalty. I wasn’t attached to it, and it wasn’t doing much for me. So why not?”

Why not indeed? With 12 months of royalty earnings at just under $8,000, Stewart listed the two books for a starting price of $24,000, a multiple of about 3x. Investors quickly flocked to the auction, attracted by the growth in the audiobook category and the fact that the two books in question are supported by Audible’s marketing machine. Fierce bidding nearly doubled the asking price, closing at $47,500 for nearly a 6x multiple.  

“It was wonderful,” says Stewart. “You all made it super simple for me, and we got a deal done before the holidays.”

Stewart has a few other audiobook projects in the works. One is a recording of his own book, “Dwayne Vs Lil Wayne: 12  Winning Lessons from the Man Behind the Character” available on right now. Another is an as-yet-unnamed, in-progress title.  

Either may find their way to Royalty Exchange in the future. All due to something he recorded on a whim.

Are you earning “gravy” royalties that you’d like to amplify into something much larger?

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