When Oyster launched their ebook subscription service last month it was widely hailed as a boon to readers, who were now able to access a large selection of ebooks for only $9.99. Much less was said about how authors were going to be compensated, with many wondering if this service would be as good of a deal for creators as it is for readers.
Today I can lay their fears to rest.
Earlier today Smashwords sent out an email to their author and publisher partners with details on Smashwords’ deal with Oyster. SW was one of the launch partners for Oyster last month, but it wasn’t until this week that all of the technical bugs had been worked out so the deal could move forward.
The contract terms are much better than I had expected, and if I were willing to admit to having written a book it would definitely be included in this deal. Mark Coker of Smashwords informed SW authors and publishers that the titles would begin rolling out to Oyster in the next 72 hours. He also shared the payment terms:
A single Oyster user could conceivably read multiple books by the same Smashwords author in a single month, and the author will be paid for each book. As a Smashwords author or publisher, you’ll earn 60% of you 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.
That is fairly author-friendly (especially when compared to Spotify), but I am also not sure whether it is financially sustainable.
I can picture myself starting and abandoning a handful of books each month, and that would be more than enough to eat away at the $9.95 monthly subscription.
On the other hand, Pew reported in June that half of American readers reported consuming 6 or fewer books in the previous year, and that book readers as a whole consumed an average of 15 titles in the previous 12 months.
This tells us that Oyster’s success will depend on signing the lighter readers, obviously. But it also suggests that Oyster does have a real chance of success.