scribdAs an author, Christmas has come early for me. Although I’m still writing the article detailing my experience, I decided last month to distribute my books through Smashwords. One of the reasons was the partnership with Oyster, and I was crossing my fingers that Scribd was to come.

And today it has. Scribd just announced their partnership with Smashwords, and there’s a lot to like, both as readers and authors.

For readers, the number of books is close to on par with Oyster, who has already partnered with Smashwords. Unless I’m missing a partner, that gives both services basically the same book selection, with both HarperCollins and now Smashwords. More books makes the $8.99 subscription price even more attractive. According to the release, “Additionally, Smashwords eBooks will also be available for individual sale to Scribd customers.” Because of Apple in-app purchase polices, the purchases will only be available via their mobile site. Of course, subscribers can always read them for free, so I’m not sure I see a huge value in this one. I guess if you read a book through the app and liked it so much that you wanted to own it? But couldn’t you just go directly to Smashwords? Yes, this one has me puzzled.

For authors, it looks quite attractive. This looked like it had potential:

Smashwords’ and other indie books will be featured throughout Scribd’s curated book merchandising, including on its homepage in its new Scribd Selects merchandising feature

I’ll be curious to see that and how the merchandising works.

Here’s a couple of features that could be interesting:

Smashwords authors will each have a profile page, which authors can use to promote their own books and the books they like reading

Scribd will help Smashwords authors get to know their readership with a custom data dashboard

I asked for more detail on the custom dashboard, and here is the answer:

Our goal is to provide authors with insights into who their audience is and how their books are being read.  Our dashboard will show standard breakdowns like readership by country and by device.  We think we have a unique opportunity to provide authors with valuable insights into how people actually read their books.

By that, I’m hoping we’ll be able to see whether someone started and didn’t finish. It would be cool to know where they stopped reading. Scribd does have that information, and sharing it with authors (in an aggregate, of course), could be very helpful.

We’ll see how the profile pages work. I’ve seen them in the app, but they haven’t seemed useful to me. Perhaps because authors aren’t using them? Right now, they are just a list of books by the author, which is convenient but not exciting.

Of course, I can’t forget to mention this one: “Each Smashwords author will receive a one-year subscription to Scribd’s new subscription service so they can engage with Scribd as a reader in addition to as an author.” Free subscription? I’d say sign me up, but I’m already a subscriber. The subscriptions will come as a gift card, so if you’re already a subscriber, you’ll just add on to your existing subscription. I think this is an excellent idea. I do think it’s important for authors to experience the various ways their audience is experiencing their books.

There are no details in the release about how authors are compensated when someone reads their book. My guess is that it will be similar to the Oyster/Smashwords deal: “60 percent of your book’s retail list price whenever an Oyster subscriber reads more than 10 percent of your book.” However, that’s just a guess, and I’ll update this post when we know something certain.

As I said in my lead, as an author I’m excited. I believe in being as widely distributed as possible and that the more places a reader can find my books, the better. Being in two subscription services, where there’s no financial barrier to trying a book, has got to be a good thing. If we get additional information about who and how they are reading, that’s potentially a big bonus.

Note: Because of some family issues, I’m playing airport shuttle today, and I wrote this article last night, from a draft of the release. It’s possible new information (like author compensation) will show up on the Smashwords blog while I’m driving to and from Richmond. As soon as I get back to my computer, I’ll update as appropriate.

Update: We’ve got more detailed author compensation information from Smashwords now. It’s not the same as Oyster, but it’s not bad. Assuming I understood it correctly (it’s confusing and took me two reads to process it), there’s full credit (60% of list price) for someone reading 30% of the book, partial credit (not defined) for reading 15%, and if 10 people read at least 15%, that counts as a full sale. (Does that also mean we get 10 partial sales? See what I mean about it being confusing?) Non-fiction books work a bit differently because it’s assumed someone might not read sequentially. Basically someone has to read 20% of the book to trigger full credit.

I definitely prefer the Oyster plan because it’s easy to understand. I hope they’ve done the programming right to track all those partial and full reads. However, the Scribd monthly plans are less expensive than Oyster, so I suppose they had to cut costs somewhere.

I’m still a happy author, and I’m looking forward to opening the app and seeing my books. (Oh, and because I’ve already redeemed a gift subscription from my husband, when I get my extra year, I’ll be paid up until March of 2015!)


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