Smashwords reveals authors’ deal for Oyster subscription service

Self-publishing pioneer Smashwords has set out details of earnings for authors who sign up for the firm’s new link with ebook subscription service Oyster.

Smashwords CEO Mark Coker says: “As a Smashwords author or publisher, you’ll earn 60% of your book’s retail list price whenever an Oyster subscriber reads more than 10% of your book, starting from the beginning of the book forward. It’s an author-friendly model. That’s the same rate Smashwords authors earn when we sell ebooks through the major retailers such as Apple and Barnes and Noble.”

Coker had promised a good deal when the link-up was announced recently and 60% sounds like he’s done just that.

Recent start-up Oyster claims to offer unlimited books for $9.95 a month and has around 100,000 titles so far in epub format. It is only available in the US at present and on devices that support Apple’s iOS 7, which limits the market to the iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.

Oyster customers don’t actually get downloads of the books they select but are offered unlimited access to read any book in the “library”. The last 10 books opened by a customer are stored for offline reading.

The firm has direct agreements with publishers and aggregators which are paid according to how often their books are read on Oyster. These companies pay authors based on deals they have with them.

Warning to keep sales expectations realistic

As Oyster’s market is limited at present, authors who sign up for the Smashwords deal probably won’t be seeing a big surge in income and Coker adds a note of caution, saying: “I want to encourage you to keep you sales expectations realistic. Although Oyster represents a new, innovative and exciting distribution channel, they are still a new company and it could take them many months or years to establish a sizeable readership.

“However, as we know from our experience opening up distribution in 2009 and 2010 to new channels such as Kobo, Barnes & Noble and Apple, authors who are in first have a fan-building advantage over authors who delay. Even smaller retailers add to your bottom line. Every sale you get at Oyster is a sale you would not have otherwise received.”

It looks as if Oyster will be focusing on promoting Smashwords’ best-selling books as Coker says: “I’m going to provide Oyster, per their request, with a spreadsheet identifying the bestselling books that are opted in to the Smashwords/Oyster catalogue.

“Oyster plans to use this spreadsheet to identify popular books their merchandising team can promote in their app. As we do with the Smashwords bestseller list we supply to Publishers Weekly each month, the list will be based on sales of Smashwords-distributed titles aggregated across the Smashwords distribution network. Credited sales at Oyster will contribute to a book’s ranking in our Publishers Weekly list as well.”

Scribd sharing deal operates across platforms

The well established document-sharing service Scribd recently added an ebook subscription service for $8.99 a month. It hasn’t revealed how many titles it has on offer but has a significant deal with major publisher HarperCollins, which has also signed up with Oyster for selected titles, and several smaller firms.

Scribd has wide access with apps for iOS, Android and Kindle Fire and claims that books sync across platforms.

eReatah is pricier but customers keep the books

Another ebook subscription start-up, eReatah, also has a deal with HarperCollins, which seems to be very keen on the new channels.

Customers with eReatah get to keep the books they pick, which are downloaded and will stay on the app even if they cancel their subscription. But there is a price to pay for this with subs considerably higher than Oyster and Scribd and limited to two books a month for $14.99, three a month for $22.50 or four books a month at $29.99.

The eReatah reader app is claimed to work on iPads, iPhones, Android devices and Kindle Fires. The service has over 80,000 books on offer and is only available in the US at present.