I’ve recently come across three interesting web sites—Scribl, Patreon, and Noisetrade–that could potentially benefit both writers and readers. Each has its own new twist on book distribution, which is exciting to see, since the democratization of the internet (and of the ebook industry) is often in question.
I’ll cover each of these new sites in a different post over the next week or two. First, up…Scribl!
Scribl (www.scribl.com) is a new ebook distribution service that attempts to connect readers with writers—and keep new writers’ exposure high—with a new pricing model they call CrowdPricing.
The long and short: you post your audiobook, novel, novella, or short story (including flash) to the site. The piece automatically starts at a price of free, hopefully attracting readers with a no-risk, low barrier to entry.
If people like your book, however, it won’t stay free for long. With each download or purchase, the “stock” of your books goes up. Scribl automatically increases your title’s price in small increments based on demand.
The most innovative part of this equation to me, however, is that they actually show how your price is trending—thus, its popularity, too–with a familiar 5-star system (this is not a quality/review rating–readers also have a review system that is not connected to this rank). You can see how this works at https://www.scribl.com/info/price-based-ratings.
Why is this cool? Readers can tell from a book’s CP (CrowdPricing) rating whether or not the book is trending up (in which case the price is about to increase) or down (wait a week to get a better deal). The idea is that a title reaches its price organically and dynamically through demand rather than an arbitrary decision.
The split on sales with Scribl are Amazon-standard (70% to the author, though with no price minimum), but with a few twists (from https://www.scribl.com/info/earn-more):
- If you decide to keep all rights to your work, you get 70% of the gross.
- If you grant Scribl the right to keep your book on their site for a few years after you have made at least $50 (you can still do whatever else you want with it), you get 80% of the gross from day 1.
- If you grant Scribl the exclusive rights to the audiobook version after you have made at least $500, you get 90% of the gross from day 1.
The author can choose different rights for each title.
I have some reservations about the model, which I emailed to the crew at Scribl, but haven’t heard back yet about.
For instance, they say “Our patent-pending CrowdPricing system automatically sets book prices based on each title’s download popularity within its genre.” I take this to mean that your piece is automatically competing with the other books next to it.
While healthy competition is nice, it could also mean that no single title gets above quite a low price threshold. Or, as other titles spring forward with a third-party ad (e.g. Bookbub), they also could leap ahead in price for a brief time, thereby suppressing other books’ prices.
Other issues I had were: what are the thresholds for price increase? How large are the “genres” that become the criteria pool for your price? How does Scribl plan to grow the community, since many books and even more readers are integral to the success of the CrowdPricing concept?
I haven’t hitched my wagon to Scribl yet for a few reasons.
First, I don’t have a book that would fit the Scribl model very well: the first book in my series, A Reason to Live, is perma-free on all major distributors (Edited to note: ARTL is no longer perma-free and has not been for some time, but the following cautions apply.). Although I might attract new readers, it wouldn’t be very fair to expect any of them to pay on Scribl when the book remained $0.00 on Amazon.
Conversely, my other books in the series are $3.99. I can’t afford to offer any of them for free, then wait weeks or months for them to reach the price they already are on other sellers—I’d be leaving gobs of money on the table and, obviously, cannibalizing sales from those other sources…not to mention if Amazon felt Scribl had become a competitor, they might drop my book’s price to price-match. Ouch and double ouch.
Speaking of cannibalization, part of any winning self-pub strategy is playing the ranks and sub-lists game on Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, and B&N. All sales through Scribl are direct, so while you might have a home-run on your hands there, the book’s popularity on Scribl won’t do much for exposure across other sites.
So what’s Scribl good for? Well, I’m eyeing it up for a standalone novel that I haven’t released yet. I would lose very little by having it start at free, can watch if it grows in price, and—at the point it reaches a $2.99 threshold or so—place it on Amazon and the other sellers since the price is “matched” at a level I feel comfortable with.
Of course, the price could dip on Scribl at any time, making things a little dicey, but it would a small price to pay for some fun experimenting (remember, the novel’s price could go WAY up, not just hover at $2.99). I could also go all-in with full exclusivity on Scribl and earn 90% and stop worrying about what the other sellers are doing.
Scribl could also be a great resource for short stories and short audiobooks that don’t meet ACX/Audible’s criteria. Your price might never surface above $.49 or $.99 but very few shorts are earning more than that on Amazon, anyway.
I love the concept that Scribl is proposing and am ready to experiment with several of my shorter and/or less-known pieces. There’s the danger that, if every author treats the site like this, it may become a bit of a second hand, “drawer novel” repository, but with enough content, Scribl might begin to attract attention and build a robust community that could become one of the first true, viable ebook “marketplaces” where readers set the price…and writers reap the benefits.
Come back for a rundown of the other two sites, Patreon and Noisetrade.