ACX Scams: Rights Holder Fraud

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My video About the ACX Scams

The ACX Problem

ACX scams

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.

The title has been associated with a “publisher.” I’m the only publisher. It’s fraud easily allowed by ACX.

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.

That’s the extent of the verification process. Checking a box.

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.

N.R. Walker's tweet about ACX scams.
From @NR_Walker

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.

What Happened?

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.

I'm a full-time Internet marketer and infopreneur and an aspiring fiction writer. Blogging about my fiction writing at Fictive Universe.

7 thoughts on “ACX Scams: Rights Holder Fraud

  1. Hi Alan,

    I’m a narrator who encountered this problem myself. ACX will continue doing this until it costs them substantial money. I’ll be taking them to small claims court when they deny my demand letter (the first step to take before going to small claims court), but I assume there is no justice in this situation. Perhaps a class action lawsuit would make them take notice.

    From the narrator’s side, we get offers from the ACX platform shortly after we post a clip or complete a legitimate production. Almost all titles are on a royalty share basis. In my case, I completed a six hour book only to be told — after “rights holder” approval, that ACX had discovered the rights holder didn’t have rights to the book. I think this happened because the cover image the fraudster provided was “too blurry” to pass ACX’s so-called QA process. I was involved in two additional projects, and in neither case was the “rights holder” able to provide me with confirmation that they had any connection with the book I was narrating.

    I lucked out in that the first two projects I did were both legit; the odds of that may well be pretty low. ACX is yet another “gig economy” game, where a huge corporation manages to push all risk off onto people who are struggling to earn a few bucks. I’d say they’ll eventually be brought to justice, but I don’t really believe such a thing exists in America today. Money makes right.

  2. I am a narrator, not an author and twice this summer I have been scammed on ACX.
    Hours of work put into two projects, only to discover, that the listing were scams.
    It was strange that ACX could discover the fraud after they were offered on ACX, but before the work was completed!

    It can’t be beyond the ability of the tech giant that is Amazon, to install some sort of automatic check via the ISBN with the publisher as to the status of book rights before they are offered on ACX.

    I know I could contact the publisher myself, but as a “nobody” by the time the publisher got back to me (if ever) the production date on ACX will be gone, and so might any hope of earning from what could turn out to be a legitimate offer.

    Don’t blame a narrator who takes a project in good faith, they are just as much a victim as the author.

    1. Absolutley. I made that very clear in the video and in the post, the narrator is also scammed in the scheme just like an author. Ending up wasting their skills, time, and money narrating and producing an audiobook that the scammer will never pay the narrator their share of any royalty they manage to get from ACX/Audible before the scam is shut down. Since ACX isn’t doing anything proactive about this, I would suggest narrators contact the author directly via their website/social media channels to double-check that they’re the one behind the ACX project you’re interested in bidding on. Thanks for commenting. Good luck out there.

  3. I have done three projects with acx. And now today I am told they all are cancelled since they are not legit books. I am very upset. I am looking forward in tips how to deal with it.

    1. Since ACX doesn’t seem to be doing much to prevent these scams, I would suggest trying to contact the right holder/author directly, before working on the project. Most authors are active on social media and have websites with contact info. Send them an email or DM letting them know you’re double-checking that they truly are the ones behind the project. You could also ask for proof like a copy of the copyright ownership certificate. Not all self-published authors do this (file an official claim with the US Copyright Office), but if they do, they’ll have a copy of the certificate. I don’t know how that works in other countries.

  4. Hi: I have had this happen twice. The second time I sent a message to ACX support asking them to verify the alleged rights holder was legit. They responded that she, “…appeared to be a real person…” In retrospect I should have suspected both the rights holder and ACX support. If the person offering the narration does not have a legitimate presence online, run for the hills!

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