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Smashwords Reveals Author Payment Terms for Oyster’s eBook Subscription Service

When Oysteroyster[1] 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 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 had 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.

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Greg Strandberg October 25, 2013 um 4:10 pm

That 60% sounds pretty good to me, and I wonder if I’ll finally see some edging up with my SW sales. Right now I don’t get much love from Smashwords, and I wonder how long this will take to get going. Even with a big PR push I don’t see a lot of Smashwords buyers really getting on this for a year.

Fbone October 25, 2013 um 4:28 pm

Is it still only available for iOS?

Nate Hoffelder October 25, 2013 um 5:16 pm


carmen webster buxton October 28, 2013 um 3:04 pm

When you are a tiny rowboat in an ocean of other books, 60% of a paddle is better than no paddle at all.

I’m not opting out of Oyster. I will be very interested to see how it does.

Scribd is Culling Romance Titles From Its Catalog Because You're Reading Too Damn Much | Ink, Bits, & Pixels June 30, 2015 um 7:19 pm

[…] effectively the wholesale price anytime a reader read more than 10% of a book. To be more exact, Mark revealed in late 2013 that authors were earning 60% of the retail price when that threshold was […]

Scribd Just Gutted Its eBook Service | The Digital Reader February 16, 2016 um 10:19 pm

[…] In other words, Scribd's and Oyster's revenues were finite and their expenses only limited by the the gluttony of their customers. And to make matters worse, Scribd et al were paying when a reader crossed a relatively low threshold (10%, according to Smashwords). […]

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