Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A Thing About #Scribd #publishing

Last week I posted about leaving Kindle Unlimited (Amazon's book subscription service) on the 15th July, although not because of the new payment scheme. Instead, KU had failed to achieve my hopes for it in other respects. I was getting borrows at Scribd that paid me a set rate, and I'd just uploaded my titles to Oyster (another book subscription service where you can also buy the book). Things looked peachy.

The very next day, Smashwords and Draft2Digital sent out emails to say that Scribd were dropping pretty much all of the romance titles listed on their site. 

From D2D's CEO:

"As we all know, the concept of a subscription service for books is extremely new. There are several models on the market now for effectively monetizing subscriptions, and none of them exactly matches what we’re used to from traditional sales royalties. As the market experiments with different approaches, there are bound to be some missteps and false starts along the way. In fact, we should expect this business model to evolve even more in the near future.

Scribd took a significant risk putting in place a model that paid authors the same amount as a retail model for each book read by a subscriber. As we all know, romance readers tend to be incredibly avid readers. In trying to cater to this voracious readership while under this progressive payment model, Scribd has put itself in a difficult place. In a bid to better balance these operating expenses, Scribd is immediately slashing the volume of romance novels in its subscription service.

If you are receiving this email, then you are a Draft2Digital author who has published books in the romance genre to Scribd. This means that some or all of your romance novels are likely going to be delisted from their service today. (Books that are priced at free will not be removed.)

While a large number of romance novels will be removed from Scribd, it isn’t all of them. We aren’t privy to the exact guidelines Scribd is using to decide which romance novels will remain, and it’s our understanding that they remain in flux at Scribd. However, over the coming days, we will be working closely with Scribd to resolve the exact criteria and share them with you so that you’ll have the opportunity to restore all of your titles to the service. 

Please Note: If you write in other genres, understand that those books will not be affected by this policy change.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and assure you that we are working with Scribd to explore alternative solutions to this challenging problem, always searching for new terms that could restore our full catalog to their service. 

Believe me, this situation is just as difficult for Draft2Digital as it is for you. We also stand to lose a significant portion of our revenue due to this change. More importantly, we regret that we couldn’t give our authors more notice, but unfortunately we were informed quite late in Scribd’s decision-making process. It has been our highest priority throughout these discussions to preserve as many of your books in the service as possible, and we will continue to pursue that goal going forward."

You can also read a blog post by Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords, HERE. His recommendation right now is not to leave Scribd. *snorts*
Of course, this isn't the fault of SW or D2D, who are also going to suffer as a result. Why has this happened? Because romance readers are voracious and Scribd are losing money over it. I don't think cutting the titles is a good solution (ignoring my own disappointment at losing a venue that was paying me a good rate, especially compared to KU). If they cut romance titles, the romance readers will leave. At the moment, none of my titles have been culled but since Scribd has since said they will 'rotate' romance titles, it could happen any time. I've now got to decide whether to leave things as they are, pull my titles as protest, or relist my romance titles without the R label should they get pulled, risking the ire of readers who don't like all those girl cooties and kissing, having lost my main audience (fortunately - or perhaps not - several of my stories have romantic elements rather than full blown romances). Problem is, my biggest seller was my time travel romance Keir. I can only assume that listing it as space opera has so far saved it.

But there's another issue. Many of my fellow authors found their paid titles being pulled, while their FREE ones remained. WTF?! So Scribd is essentially charging their readers to read books that are totally FREE through other vendors. Outrageous? Completely. Why the heck should you pay a subscription fee to read free books while being denied the full choice of a range of titles Scribd would actually have to pay for? That seems unfair on readers and authors both.

I understand that Scribd is a business and that the aim is to make money, and not lose it. But this seems such an extreme, knee-jerk reaction. I don't fathom the logic. Of course, one alternative is for them to stop paying authors as much, a tactic already employed by Amazon with KU and using a general fund, the division of which decides how much is paid by borrow (now complicated by their pay by page read scheme, which literally makes my head ache trying to work it out and another reason I'm just going to steer clear). It seems every time something of this nature happens, it ends up hurting authors. 

Once again, just as it seemed I might actually be able to start making a living wage from this writing thing, another door slams shut. Suddenly exclusivity at Amazon doesn't seem such a high price, with over 90% of my sales there and other retailers falling by the wayside. Just this week I tried dropping the price of my novella When Dark Falls to try and get it moving, but to no avail. It's enough to make me seriously reconsider if I'm ever going to get anywhere.

But as I've said before, I'm a stubborn woman, and publishing is in a constant state of flux. I'm still writing, still selling books, and still getting mostly positive reviews. I'm not going to let another set back...well, set me back, lol. Guess I'll hang in here a bit longer and see what comes of this latest upheaval in the publishing world...

You can also read Greta's post on the Scribd palaver HERE which also covers Amazon's latest (and in most people's view harshest review cull).

Update: As of this morning, all but one of my titles have disappeared from Scribd. I'm going to be removing that and all my links to Scribd as a result. I knew it was too good to be true.

Status update

Keir's Fall is still with my editor. Right now I'm taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo with a target of 30K spread across several short stories that need completing, including a superhero story and a fun space opera. Depending how it goes, I may also be finishing up a sequel to my paranormal romance short Hallow's Eve, and two unfinished SFRs that I really should have got done by now. The problem with not having a publisher and set deadlines is I start to drift. Camp NaNoWriMo at least gives me a deadline to work to.

Keir's term at NetGalley is over, and while I had no idea what to expect or what might be considered average, I was surprised and pleased by the results. Keir had 66 downloads, currently resulting in 13 reviews (with a range of ratings, but including one review at Geeks In Highschool where the reviewer totally got what I was aiming for. Love it!). I was also told that I'd had a good response and review rate. Again, I'm surprised and pleased by that news. My awesome cover by Danielle Fine also got 36 thumbs up and only 3 thumbs down. ^_^
At the moment I'm considering putting Tethered up there, but I'm not yet sure. When I have to decide whether to spend my budget on the possibility of reviews or putting it toward artwork/edits for another title, it's a tough choice!


Next week Liza O'Connor is my guest here at Spacefreighters Lounge with her new and debut scifi release The Gods of Probabilities. You can read my review for it HERE

It's the final week of the SFR Brigade Summer Cafe, and we have our second and last round of Space Opera. Go HERE to follow along and enter for the grand prize bundle. 

I have less than two weeks before my not so little monsters break up for the seven week summer holidays. I'll be posting a few teasers from my books over those weeks, but you can also follow along on Tumblr from the 22nd July to see how I transformed a pair of Monster High dolls into my characters Keir and Quin - I'll be posting each Wednesday (providing I've figured out the scheduling correctly!). I'll also be posting my summer reads and reviews over at Critique de Book HERE every Wednesday from the 22nd.

Stay shiny!


  1. Well, you know what I did with Scribd. I've pulled all mine. I think their position is unethical (leave the free books up). And I also think they've got serious cashflow problems. Publishing - in turmoil one day, a mess the next...

    1. I just checked this morning, and all but one of mine are gone. So that's getting pulled, my KU shorts won't be going there, and all my Scribd links are getting deleted. I couldn't have got to sorting it any sooner anyway. It'll probably go back to being a pirate site. Be interesting to see what happens to Oyster. I know they charge a higher subscription fee AND they sell books as well as doing borrows. Perhaps that's a more sustainable model.


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