How should writers get paid by streaming services?

home 8I find it bizarre that people still buy DVDs when you can stream most of the movies you want for the same price per month as you’d pay for one film in a shop. And I look at people as if they’re dinosaurs when they show me CDs they’ve bought from actual record shops (do these even still exist?) when I listen to all my music online from spotify. Legally. For free. So it would seem logical that I would run towards a streaming service for books – makes sense, right? – and I’ve been trialling Scribd for a while (8.99 for unlimited reading each month) but it’s obviously more tricky when I’m wearing my author hat and I wonder if this sort of service is as appropriate for authors as it is for other creative genres.

Turns out, it’s a bit of a thorny issue.

Firstly, it’s a moot point if streaming services do actually work for recording artists. You just need to look at the recent fracas between Apple and Taylor Swift to see how contentious it is (and how Swift took her music off Spotify after she claimed they were paying unfairly). Even with Apple’s recapitulation, it isn’t clear how much artists will profit, as identified by Charles Arthur in The Guardian. At least recording artists have the opportunity to make money on tour and merchandise, something even the giants of the publishing industry cannot do. Seen Stephen King on tour lately reading chapters 1-6 of his latest novel? Thought not.

Secondly, no one can decide how best to reward authors anyway. A post on Nathan Bransford’s blog recently pointed me to Will Oremus and how authors using Amazon’s KDP Select programme to publish will now be paid, not for every book that is downloaded, but for each page that is actually read. This sounds horrific but might make sense if you think that it is free for Amazon Prime customers to download books by KDP authors. So far so good. Except the argument provided here by Brady Dale and Eliza Dumais is that this system rewards easier novels, “quick-moving thrillers and beach reads, rather than big-“L”-literature or ambitious non-fiction that requires more dedicated concentration”.

It’s undeniably complicated and there are no clear answers yet. However, if you need help about where to start in getting your self-pubbed book out there you could do worse than starting by reading Carla King’s advice on Self Published Author about her recommendations for streaming services (Kindle, Scribd and Oyster). If you have anything to offer on this subject, plough in below…


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