Writer Beware: Oyster, Scribd and Smashwords

There is a new website called Oyster that, like Netflix, offers a service for a monthly fee of $9.95: eb00k lending.  After doing much research, I discovered how an indie publisher can list their book on the site and receive money every time a book is “rented”.  However, there are some things to think about before doing this.

Here is how it is done:

  1. Publish to Smashwords – There are some tricky technical issues with publishing to Smashwords, but the skinny of it is that if you can “nuke” your text file down to the basic level and follow their guidelines in their downloadable free style guide, you can publish to this website and offer your book on multiple e-formats.
  2. Select Oyster as a Distributer – When you sign up to publish your book to Smashwords, you will get an option to publish your book on Oyster.  If you select this and your book passes muster for the Smashwords vetting program, you will then be able to keep 60% of the cost of your e-book and it will get listed on Oyster’s growing website which has been called the Netflix of book lending.

At present, Oyster does not accept books directly from an author, so Smashwords is the inevitable middle man, but the benefits of this would be to get your book out in front of a few thousand (on average) more readers.  Smashwords has also announced that it will partner with Scribd, which is a website where people can download tons of PDF books for a monthly fee of $8.99.  Again, Smashwords has promised to pay the writers of the books their cut of 60%.

In my opinion, listing to Amazon is much better and more secure.

Case in point: There is nothing stopping a person who downloads a PDF copy of your book from Smashwords to then publish it elsewhere without your knowledge.  Currently, my novel The Transgression Box, which is federally copyrighted, is being offered on another website for free without my permission.  I e-mailed the website and they took it down.  Smashwords is working on its security issues, but if you don’t mind the risk, go ahead and publish with them.  Personally, I do mind the risk.  I work very hard to write novels that are engaging and fun to read, and don’t appreciate theft in any form.

Oyster is $9.95 a month, while Amazon Prime is still $79.99 a year and allows patrons to download one Kindle book per month.  Oyster offers unlimited downloads, but the monthly fee is still more expensive than Amazon Prime membership.  Not only that, Kindle is still the most popular e-book format and with 70% profit to the writer it can’t be beaten.

I don’t know how many of you were considering using Oyster through Smashwords or even Scribd once is launches its partnership, but if you are you might want to rethink that.  Consider the risks.  Are any of you currently doing this?  If so, then post below with your experiences.  I’m sure the rest of us would like some advice.

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Published by Roger Colby, Novelist, Editor

Roger Colby is a novelist and teacher who has taught English for nearly two decades. He is also an avid reader of science fiction who feels, like many other sci-fi readers, that he has read everything. He writes science fiction for the reader who is looking for the next best thing, something to excite them into reading again. This blog is his journey as a writer and his musings about writing. He also edits manuscripts for a fee and is an expert at helping you reach your full potential as a writer.

6 thoughts on “Writer Beware: Oyster, Scribd and Smashwords

  1. Really glad to have read this. I got away from Smashwords some time ago, and had been considering the (slim) possibility of going back. Reading this has trimmed that possibility even more. Thanks!

  2. I spent a very frustrating weekend trying to format my book for Smashwords. Since I use Open Office rather than MSWord, I eventually gave up. The more I hear about Smashwords as a company the more grateful I am that I did not succeed.

  3. Thank you so much. I have been advised, to use Smashwords, from the get go. I had heard similar concerns, but this is the first time they have been explained in detail. I will follow your advice. Blessings.

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