Smashwords Signs Distribution Agreement with Scribd

Written by on December 20, 2013. Posted in Indie Writers News

scribdbuttonSmashwords today announced a distribution agreement with Scribd, which operates one of the world’s largest publishing platforms and online reading communities.  Scribd receives over 80 million monthly readers to their platform according to their website.

There are two distribution components to the Smashwords agreement with Scribd.  1. Smashwords will supply books to Scribd’s new ebook subscription service, where for $8.99 per month subscribers can enjoy unlimited reading.  2. Smashwords ebooks will also be available for individual sale to Scribd customers under our standard retailer terms.

Ever since Scribd launched in 2007, I’ve admired their publishing platform, their social reading technology and their commitment to content creators.  Scribd has built a massive audience of millions of readers, and these readers are now accessible to the 70,000+ authors and publishers that distribute with Smashwords.

Scribd’s roots are in community publishing. They’ve been a pioneer in user generated content, and in making it possible for content creators to share their works with the world.  Their platform makes it easy for people around the world to upload documents, presentations and books, and they’ve always done a great job of making the content discoverable, readable and sharable.

Back in October, I wrote a two-part blog post in which I named Scribd as one of the leading examples of the new breed of ebook subscription services that aim to do for ebooks what Netflix did for filmed entertainment and what Spotify did for streamed music.

Over the last year, they’ve developed a compelling subscription ebook service.  For a low monthly subscription of only $8.99, readers can enjoy a massive catalog of ebooks, and a frictionless reading environment where book price is not a deciding factor.  Readers can enjoy unlimited reading on-demand.

Visit the Scribd home page and it’s immediately apparent they’re positioning their entire business around ebooks.  They’re working to convert their 80 milllion monthly visitors to subscribers for your benefit.
Scribd is going to provide an incredible level of support to Smashwords authors, and I trust every Smashwords author will want to be involved and support their efforts.
Scribd reaches a global audience, serving readers in over 100 countries.
The terms we negotiated with Scribd are author friendly, generous, and closely aligned with our standard retail distribution terms.  But as you’ll see, they’ve thrown in some compelling twists as well.
For Scribd’s retail store, the terms are identical to our standard retail agreements.  Smashwords authors and publishers will set the price, there will be no discounting, and authors will earn 60% of the list price on all sales.  The first 10% of the book, from the cover image forward, will be the free preview sample, similar to most retailers.
For Scribd’s subscription ebook service, authors will earn 60% of the list price on all qualifying reads, and here they’ve added a cool twist.  With subscription services, the author or publisher earns credit for a full read when the reader reaches a certain trigger point, measured by the percentage of the book that is read.  The first 10% of the book is a free sample, similar to a retailer.  Excluding the sample, once the reader reads an additional 20% of the book, a full sale is triggered and the Smashwords author earns 60% of the list price, up to a maximum of about $12.50 per read.  In practice, what this means for most fiction writers is that after the reader reads more than the first 30% of your book, it triggers a full sale.  For some non-fiction writers, where your book’s content is more likely to be read non-sequentially, it means if the reader starts their reading deeper in the book at Chapter 10, a sale could be triggered after reading only 20% of the book (As an aside, this underscores the importance of authors building fully functional navigation into their ebooks so that all their book’s content is easily discoverable.  To learn how to upgrade your ebook’s navigation, check out my recent blog post and video, How to Add Navigation to a Smashwords Ebook).
Unlike any other subscription service or retailer, Scribd has sweetened the pot by added a secondary sales trigger for the author by providing credit for partial reads.  If the subscriber reads 5% more than the first free 10% but less than the additional 20% necessary to generate a full sale, this triggers a credit for partial read.  For every ten partial reads, which Scribd calls a “browse,” the author earns credit for a full sale.  Since most people read fiction from page one forward, this means if 10 people read just over the first 15% of your book but less than 30%, it’ll generate a full sale.  For non-fiction, where readers are more likely to read non-sequentially, they can read 5% of the middle of the book and trigger a browse credit.
Smashwords and Scribd have begun integrating our respective distribution systems and conducting test shipments.  If all goes as well as we expect, Smashwords books will start appearing during the month of January.
To qualify for Scribd distribution via Smashwords, the book must be Premium Catalog approved.
In addition to the sales opportunity represented by their subscription service and ebook store, Scribd has outlined some exciting plans to take their support of Smashwords authors and publishers to the next level.
Here’s a hint of some of what you’ll see from Scribd in the months ahead:

  • As part of this relationship, they plan create ongoing merchandising features dedicated to indie authors, showcasing and celebrating the amazing talent of the indie author community.  Smashwords will share our bestseller lists with Scribd, drawing upon our knowledge of your sales through the Smashwords distribution network (yet another reason to maintain full distribution with Smashwords!).
  • For a limited time, they’re planning to offer Smashwords authors who distribute to Scribd via Smashwords a free one-year subscription to the service so you can try it out.  Multiplied by 70,000 Smashwords authors, this is a $100 per author bonus, and an overall potential commitment valued at over $7 million.  Cool beans!  To qualify, make sure your books are opted in to Scribd by January 1.  The Scribd distribution channel will appear in your Smashwords Dashboard’s Channel Manager later today.
  • They’re planning to develop author profile pages that Smashwords authors can access and manage.
  • They’re planning to create analytic tools in which they aim to give authors unprecedented data about how readers are engaging with their books.  I’ll share more about that in the months ahead as their plans unfold.

Please join me in welcoming Scribd as the latest member of the Smashwords distribution network.  I’m looking forward to working with Scribd to grow our authors’ audience and sales in the months and years ahead.  I’ll send out an author/publisher alert about the deal later today.
Check out the Scribd blog which quotes Smashwords author Quinn Loftis.

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Like many who enjoy the fantasy genre, Akers started reading it as an adolescent. He was fascinated with Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and Bram Stoker's Dracula. He currently enjoys reading works by Dean Koontz, Heather Brewer, J.K. Rowling, and Rick Riordan. Akers enjoys creating a fantasy world with compelling storylines, while injecting humor and a touch of drama into the action as he did with his first book Terra Vonnel and the Skulls of Aries, which has received rave reviews. "I start every story with this thought: Where can I take my audience now? To me it's about the journey, the escape into a world filled with the fantastic and the unexpected. There is nothing like an adventure that takes you further from reality with every turn of the page." D.C. Akers was born in Texas and after spending several years working in accounting, Akers began to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a writer.

Comments (2)

  • December 20, 2013 at 12:48 pm |

    Hi D.C.! I’m Carrie, Scribd’s brand new head of community, and this blog post just made me the happiest person around. 🙂

    I’m so glad that you’re loving what Scribd is doing. I’m planning to connect readers and writers in next-level ways in the coming months and years, and I’m so excited that Scribd is moving in this direction. As an avid reader myself, I can’t put the app down, and I’m discovering authors I’ve never read before!

    • December 20, 2013 at 12:53 pm |

      Hi Carrie! I cannot agree more. I’m very excited about the future partnership and possibilities it will present! Happy Holidays! DCA

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