Monday, January 12, 2015

Subscription Services for Self-Published Authors

Subscription services are often overlooked by self-published authors. The reason for the oversight is simple: authors tend to focus on sales rather than borrows. There aren't many book subscription services, so the field is fairly narrow. But those that exist have a huge number of subscribers (and an equally huge number of books).

Self-published authors should consider offering their books on subscription services because, as far as publishing goes, the more venues the better. You should - after perhaps an initial foray into Amazon KDP Select - get your book onto as many sites, and in as many formats, as you can.

Of the three subscription services listed below, Scribd and Oyster are the least restrictive. (Amazon demands exclusivity.) I would recommend going through Smashwords to get your books onto these services because 1) you will get a royalty and 2) Smashwords also makes your book available to libraries.


Scribd is a subscription service with 80 million unique visitors a month. For a monthly fee of $8.99 subscribers can read unlimited books. The Scribd library boasts more than half a million e­books and over 30,000 audiobooks, including New York Times bestsellers, Pulitzer Prize winners, as well as self-published works. 60+ million documents ­have been uploaded by ­users, Essentially, anyone can upload a file onto Scribd, which has led to several copyright infringements, Although Scribd has a huge readership, the best way to ensure that they notice your book, and that you get some monetary compensation, is to go through your publisher. As a self-publisher, you can use Smashwords or BookBaby, each of which offers a Scribd royalty payment.

Recently, Scribd secured $22 million in financing led by Khosla Ventures and including new funds from existing investors. The new funding brings Scribd’s total financing to date to $48 million.



Note: Oyster announced in September 2015 that it would be shutting down its service.

Oyster was launched in 2013 and is headquartered in New York. With half a million titles and 1,600 publishing partners, Oyster claims to be the leading e-book subscription service and the fifth-largest e-book retailer in the U.S. Half of its titles are self-published. Subscription price: $9.95, free 30-day membership. Royalties: Authors receive about 60 percent royalty via Smashwords. BookBaby authors in their Premium package earn 70 percent from Oyster with BookBaby earning 0 percent. Authors in BookBaby’s Free or Standard package earn 70 percent minus 15 percent to BookBaby for a total of 55 percent of the book. Like Scribd, self-published authors need to go through Smashwords or BookBaby.


Kindle Unlimited offers a Netflix-style, all-you-can-read approach to more than 600,000 e-books, including blockbuster series like “The Hunger Games” and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” nonfiction titles like “Flash Boys” by Michael Lewis, as well as literary fiction and classics for $9.99 a month. Books published through Amazon's KDP Select program are automatically enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. The catch is that for 90-days (renewable) you cannot offer your book on any other platform. Royalties: Once a customer reads more than 10% of your book, or a Kindle Owners' Lending Library customer downloads your book, you'll receive a share of the KDP Select Global Fund.


  1. KDP has changed their royalty methods. They now pay by the pages read. If you have books of a decent length, or better, a series with long books, you will do quite well, as I've found out with The Poland Trilogy.

    1. I'm referring here to the Kindle Unlimited subscription service.


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