As a writer, sometimes it doesn’t pay to get out of bed… really.
I just learned Scribd has finally been forced to face the reality that their business model isn’t sustainable. We all knew that, but for romance authors it was good times until Scribd realized those voracious romance readers were siphoning them dry at $9.99/month and authors were raking in full royalties. Ouch! There was a purge, to the tune of about 80% of romance titles, to nominally realign author and reader “interests.” Company speak for shit, we’re getting shafted.
Yesterday Scribd announced it is abandoning its unlimited subscription model in favor of a more restrictive program at the same price point, $9.99. Romance readers can probably chow down three books in a day, leaving them bereft of content for the rest of the month. They ain’t gonna be happy and if romance readers ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.
Rats. Sinking ship?
While I’m not keen on subscription models from an author’s perspective, particularly when a program like Kindle Unlimited is paying a pittance per page read, at least Scribd paid the full royalty rate for each book borrowed. And I had a fair number of borrows, despite most of my titles being purged from the Scribd shelves. The ones that were left—because I jiggered the BISAC, aka shelf, categories—were being borrowed at a good clip and the re-directs to the next in the series were fairly steady, even when those books weren’t available in Scribd. In short, good deal for me.
Now, for the first time ever, borrows rest at goose egg. Redirects to next in series or the backlist have also collapsed. I suspect that’s going to be the case in perpetuity as my target market migrates to lusher pastures. Unfortunately, that pasture will probably be…
Naturally, my grannies were in a knot when I saw how the system was being gamed, but Amazon alleviated some concerns by going with the KENPC version that “normalized” pages to account for variations in front and back matter, and by-the-by rewarded full novels (aka “real books”—keep your arrows in their quivers, you aren’t going to win that debate), so… happy dance. Granted, that dance was more a softshoe shuffle because the compensation per page read continued to fall until it now rests at a whopping 0.0041 cents.
For those of you math challenged: a 200 page book, if read cover-to-cover, would generate $0.82 compared with a sale at a price point of $3.99 which would yield approximately $2.79, less some funny money transfer fees that are determined by file size, the phases of the moon and the number of guards stationed at third world country borders.
Then came KENPC 2.0 which supposedly normalized page count further to account for irregular formatting (oh those tricksy tricksters and their games!). For my titles in KU, I had a uniform 13% hacked off the page count across the board, despite formatting to the highest standards (it’s my day job dammit), while others saw their counts rise. Mostly the page counts were lowered, judging from comments by fellow authors.
That 200 page book is now a 174 pager times 0.0041 = 0.71 or a loss of 0.11 per borrow.
Then Digital Reader announced that trad and smaller publishers are looking at Kindle Unlimited with an eye to increasing market share through exclusivity. It sounds crazy, but crazy like a fox. The article also reminded me that Amazon’s playing field is far from level when it comes to treating independent authors and trad publishing as equal business partners. Trad publishing has entre into perks such as being in KU without the onus of exclusivity and also garnering full remuneration per borrow rather than the gum sticking to the bottom of your threadbare trainers compensation package afforded indies.
As trad publishing invades KU—and even if they enter under the same conditions currently holding indies in indentured servitude—what will happen is that the page pool will increase exponentially (hell, it already is but this could be on the major tsunami level), the visibility issue will shift more in favor of trad pubbed titles, and the per page compensation will continue to fall.
This news also seems to put the lie to exhortations to indies to “go wide”—B&N, Kobo, Apple, and others haven’t delivered the goods when it comes to making it easy to browse and buy books. Amazon owns that experience and sales at the other venues seem to reflect that, if my discussions with other authors is any indication. Yeah, yeah… your mileage may vary and Kobo might be your golden goose, but it isn’t mine and never has been. And yes, I have pointers to all the other ebook outlets on my website, but for sales, Amazon is it. Not even All Romance, once my primary sales outlet, has lived up to past performance.
Given how much it costs to bring a book to market, I have to seriously ask myself if it’s worth the effort.
Of course, in the background I hear the chorus of boo birds chiming in about how ebooks don’t cost squat to produce and how do they dare charge THAT…
Ahem, read THIS—one of the best and most concise explanantions about the TRUE COSTS to running a publishing business, whether you are a one-man/woman-band or a Big House with offices in NYC.
Whether you are a hobbyist or in it to win it, at some point you have to decide if the ROI is worth the headache, the soul-sucking creative drain, the whoring of your time and energy, and the unrelenting shitstorm of my way or the highway lists of how to achieve success…
Like this one: 7 Marketing Trends Authors Can’t Afford to Ignore. We talked about it on our Face Book page, PAGE TURNERS (join us for news and views about writing and publishing), and one of my comments went something like…
I’m not frigging Mother Theresa, so back off bitch.
I wasn’t alone…
I’ll leave you now as I go in search of a napkin to clean the rabid drool off the keyboard. Comments welcome, but be nice and if you can’t be nice, then…
…at least use good grammar and correct punctuation!