Ebook subscriptions. Good or bad for self-published authors?
Let’s do the maths (or math for my US readers) here.
At $9.99 per month for most ebook subscriptions, and a return for authors of around $1.35 per borrow, this means a reader has the potential to read 7.4 ebooks per month before they exceed the price of their subscription.
This is, in fact, a very good ratio for both readers and authors. Oh, and the subscription service of course.
If you are into statistics, this Pew Research Centre report shows how few books, or ebooks people on average actually read per year. So what can be gained from this is that there are probably only a small proportion of readers who will chew through 7.4 books or more per month.
However, those avid readers who do chomp through 7.4 books or more per month are very likely candidates to enrol in a subscription service.
So there will be some readers who will gain an advantage from an ebook subscription service while for other readers, who read less, it may be break even against buying ebooks.
Whichever way, the maths (or math) seem to add up for both authors and the subscription supplier.
The only problem is, as I am sure you have realised, is that for authors who have their ebooks for sale at between say, $2.99 and $5.99, a return of only $1.35 per borrow is a huge drop in income per copy sold, as against borrowed via subscription.
The only hope then is that borrows on subscription will be two or three times more frequent than that of sales. Yes, this part is a bit a-wishing and a-hoping, more than logical.
On the other hand, however, for those authors who have had $0.99 ebooks on sale, you have probably done the same as I have, and increased the price to $2.99 and now make $1.35 net per borrow instead of only $0.33 royalty per sale.
This is a huge bonanza and one facet I have been over the moon about with subscriptions. I am now making five times as much per ebook!! Yes, five times!
So what do smart self-published authors do?
I don’t know if it is fair, but if I am making five times as much on my $0.99 novellas, why on earth would I bother writing a 120,000-word novel, pricing it fairly at $4.99, and then only get back $1.35 per subscription copy?
Ebook subscription services are here to stay, so let’s forget about moaning and face the realities and possible benefits.
What if I cut my new 120,000-word novel into four separate series novellas of say 30,000 words each, which would make sense with subscriptions, because 4 x $1.35 = $5.40.
A small increase on $4.99, but as borrows seem to be becoming more numerous than sales, why not?
I am sure many authors will take the view that at $1.35 instead of $2.99 0r $4.99 per copy, they will say, ‘look I’m sorry dear readers, but at $9.99 per month for all you can (eat) read, you are only going to get what you pay for. My words, and at my price.’
Ask Taylor Swift. Sorry Apple, she said. My music is my music, and you will pay for it!