Publishers are in a scramble with Amazon-owned Audible for rights previously handled by the now-defunct AudioGO.
AudioGO went into administration last month, with rights in its audio contracts now anticipated to revert.
Demand is believed to be particularly strong for the BBC adaptations which sat with AudioGO from its previous incarnation as BBC Audiobooks, including popular radio dramatisations like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Lord of the Rings—described by one publisher as "the real gold".
However a spokesperson for BBC Worldwide said "no decision" had yet been made on a future distributor for its content. “We are looking at the next steps right now. We're looking for people to distribute that content,” he said.
Audible has bought the master recordings to 5,000 of AudioGO’s titles, aside from the BBC ones, and is now approaching agents and authors for the rights to distribute them.
Meanwhile agents are understood to be inundated with approaches from other audio publishers keen to acquire AudioGO titles. One agent, with a number of titles out on license with AudioGO, said they “been approached by everyone doing audio…Nature abhors a vacuum." The agency was taking a "title by title" approach, she said.
Alice Lutyens of Curtis Brown said: “There is a lot of interest in our titles—they range from Catherine Alliott to Patricia Cornwell to Margaret Atwood and more, so we have had a fair few approaches. We are not signing deals just yet, but exploring all options which are best for our authors. Audible are very keen to ensure these recordings continue to be available to fans, and are working hard to try and make sure this happens. This is also something we want, whichever avenue we take.”
However publishers could be pushed out of the market, with Audible thought to be offering large amounts of money in an attempt to secure rights. One publisher said: “Agents are using publishers and Audible to compete. Audible is chucking money at them. The trouble is, how much is it worth to Audible, how much to a publisher?"
Dominic White, head of publishing and commerce at audiobook publisher WF Howes, said: "Many rights have reverted back to the authors, and Audible has bought up the master recordings to a lot of the backlist that AudioGO publishes. Agents are obviously reselling rights along with future books from their authors. We're very much looking at things ourselves. It's quite an important thing for the audio market at the moment—it's very important for us to get the content back on sale. The space that AudioGO has left is a gap in the market that is important to fill.”
Audible declined to comment on the situation.