What is a Book Subscription Service?
A service that, for a small monthly fee, provides subscribers with access to a variety of products. As this website and integrated blog are primarily dedicated to authors and readers, this article will focus upon books though some services also provide access to films, music and games.
Unless a reader wishes to create their own library, whether physical or digital, subscription services make a lot of sense. Book purchasing, even of digital editions that often come at a lower price, can become expensive. Alternatively, a book subscription service, for a monthly fee that often equates to the price of just one or two books, provides access to multiple books, frequently hundreds if not thousands, occasionally millions with a larger site. The subscriber can usually read these at their leisure. Even if there is an imposed time limitation, it is normally of adequate length for a reader not to feel pressurised. These benefits make such services ideal for the avid reader.
Of course, there are also sites that offer readers books for free but those are not the subject of this article.
Most ‘self-publishing’ sites and systems enable authors to select the retailers and book distribution companies they would like their books available from. Many have also included catalogue sites from which libraries purchase. A true benefit because it is otherwise very difficult for an independent author to get their book(s) into libraries. Some companies have now extended these options to include book subscription sites and organisations.
Bearing in mind readers will be getting access to books for a minimal, or in some cases no, fee, is there any incentive for an author to select these additional options?
A number of factors may come into play here most of which depend upon what the author is aiming for. By having a book available to readers through one of these sites an author may:
- gain greater exposure;
- benefit from increased publicity;
- extended their reader base;
- reward their fans/readers;
- in some instances, receive a small additional royalty payment.
With regard to the latter point. Only some subscription sites do this. The payment is usually based upon a combination of: overall membership numbers; how many books members read; with regard to individual books, what percentage is read or what percentage of their members read the book; and in some instances upon the book’s market price. The algorithms vary from site to site, company to company.
Now just a quick word about subscription sites in general. In order to be able to offer a book to their members, subscription companies usually have to purchase at least one copy. Some sites, if they consider there is adequate demand, will purchase more than one. Consequently, authors do not really lose out by having a book available through such sites and services. In most cases, unless they have opted to offer their book free, they will receive the standard royalty payment in respect of each book purchased. Just the same as when a library purchases a copy.
Naturally, the payment of royalties, whether the standard or a percentage, will be of particular benefit to those who rarely sell books by the usually means. And, as already mentioned, even where there is no payment, due to an author having opted for free submission, there are advantages.
Of course, there is no guarantee, even though made available, a site will offer or promote a book to their members. Nevertheless, unless the author is fortunate enough to have a ‘best-seller’, it may be virtually guaranteed a subscription service will not feature a book unless the author has selected the ‘add book to subscription service’ option.
There are many book subscription sites in existence and it would be a mammoth task, even if it could be fully achieved, to try and list them all. A search against: ‘Book Clubs’; Online Libraries’; ‘Book Subscriptions’; or similar terms, will throw up a selection. Just by way of example, here are three such services/sites:
Amazon’s, Kindle Unlimited (Link is to .com site though service is available through all of Amazon’s sites.)
It is known two of these make small royalty payments to authors when the reading volume/trend meets certain criteria, as described above.
As said, there are many more subscription services in existence that authors may wish to seek out. However, the best option is probably to utilise a publication service that includes the facility to add books to such sites.
Impact upon income
As mentioned above, having books available through a subscription service will, generally, result in some income for the author. However, especially with Amazon’s introduction of Kindle Unlimited, several authors stated they saw their overall income decrease. It should be born in mind these were usually authors who already had a good sells record. This got worse when Amazon altered the specifications of what and how much was paid based upon the percentage (number of pages) of a book the reader actually read. The company is able to track such information which, besides using it to assess author payments, it also uses to gain an understanding of reader habits. Consequently, authors who are fortunate enough to have either a ‘best-seller’ or a dedicated fan/reader base may not wish to opt for inclusion in a subscription service though, even for them, the increased publicity/exposure could prove beneficial.
Readers, especially avid ones, definitely benefit from subscription services. They have access to hundreds and possibly thousands, occasionally millions, of books for little cost.
Having a book available through a subscription service would, more than likely, benefit most authors.
Even though they would also receive some benefit, authors of best-sellers or those with a high volume fan/reader base may wish to consider if the benefits outweigh possible reductions in overall income.
Authors, especially independent ones, who wish to have their book(s) made available through one are recommended to utilise a publishing service that includes the option. It would probably be very difficult to get a book included otherwise.