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Self-publishing News: What Streaming Means For Your Earnings

Self-publishing News: What Streaming Means for Your Earnings

In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway looks at the potentially catastrophic effect of the rise of streaming on author income.

Dan Holloway head and shoulders

ALLi's News Editor Dan Holloway

ALLi’s new guidebook, 150 Self-Publishing Questions Answered: ALLi’s Writing, Publishing, and Book Marketing Tips for Authors and Poets, written by ALLi’s Outreach Manager M.L. Ronn (Michael La Ronn), is available now. You can read an excerpt in this blog post and you can purchase the book here. As with all our guides, ALLi members can access their complimentary e-book copy in the member zone. Members: just log in and navigate to “Guidebooks”.

Streaming: What We Need to Learn from Other Industries

This week’s news is particularly exciting for me. It brings together several of the topics I love covering. More than that, it brings together topics I think it’s really important for you to know about that you don’t often see in writing pages.


First up, we have subscription streamimg. We know subscription services are on the rise. We especially know subscription streaming for digital audio content is growing rapidly. But what we read less about is what that means for us as writers. The first thing it means, of course, is the potential to benefit from new platforms. Whether it’s Storytel or Scribd, or trying to catch Wattpad’s eye, there are sites out there that can help us benefit from the subscription trend. What is really interesting this week is this piece about an area where literary-related subscription offers financial possibility. Booktubing. Booktubers are people who use YouTube to broadcast to their fans about their love of books. Like Wattpad, this is a massive industry that we rarely talk about. We might not want to become Booktubers. But we should learn about them and how to work with them.

How Do You Monetize Streaming?

But this week’s other news is more of a warning. It’s a warning I’ve been giving for a while. Subscription models are not great at making creatives rich. We are used to complaining about payments from Kindle Unlimited. But Spotify makes those rates look like untold riches. Given the difficulty of making money on streaming, this week saw some sobering figures. Since lockdown, 85% of music revenue has come from streaming services. 7% has come from vinyl and CDs. And 8% from digital downloads. Our industry’s landscape doesn’t look like that. For now. We’re moving in that direction. And before we move much further we need to work out what that means for us.

And it is not just music. Tik Tok has been in the news a lot recently because of its problems in the USA. But this week it has been in the news because of its problems paying creators. In July it announced a $200 million content creators’ fund. This would be shared rather like Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited fund. The fund has started paying out. And content creators are not happy. Many popular posters are measuring incomes in cents not dollars and many others are finding their views dropping off since the scheme started.

Net Neutrality

Net neutrality was in the news a lot a couple of years ago. At stake was what we might call equal access to bandwidth. That is to say, what net neutrality laws try to do is to stop some companies “jumping the queue” and getting first dibs on the digital infrastructure. If they could do that, they would be able to offer faster, more reliable content than smaller rivals. And that would, the argument goes, increase their tendency to monopoly. And as indies, one of the things we care about is not having monopolies. There was positive news this week. The European courts ruled, in the first case of its kind, that companies should not be able to access a “zero rating.” This means Internet Service Providers cannot offer some companies tariff free access to their infrastructure, and avoids a two tier internet.

Frankfurt and Comic Con Move Online

In this week’s “who could possibly have seen that coming?” news, Frankfurt has shelved its physical book fair and moved wholly online. As many of us have been saying for months, it’s extraordinary they have kept up the pretence this far. Others have more ambitiously embraced the online festival notion. The latest of these is New York Comic Con. Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s flagship event is due to go ahead with a reduced physical presence this week. It will be very interesting to see figures and feedback from each event.

News from the Platforms: Type to Tell, Amazon, Goodreads

Some interesting smaller stories from some of our most familiar platforms this week. First up is the quiet withdrawal of Type to Tell. They launched in the UK with a great fanfare at London Book Fair just 3 years ago. Run by Bonnier they were a high quality self-publishing services company that has run in Sweden since 2015. The UK venture soon folded. And now even the Swedish core is closing down at the end of this month. Meanwhile, Amazon are expanding again. A new feature, Book Clubs, is in beta. It is designed to help people get together and discuss books. Nate's account of their platform, over at The Digital Reader, makes it sound more eye watering than mouth watering. Talking of dreadfully designed platforms, this week saw Goodreads' abject awfulness hit the mainstream media.

How the rise of streaming could prove catastrophic for author income, and top #selfpub news stories for #indieauthors, in one quick read, by #ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes #digitaleconomy #publishingopenup Click To Tweet

Upcoming Conferences and Events

Help us fill this with great online events in the coming weeks and months.

Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA) – Zoom meetings the 2nd Saturday of each month


Frankfurter Buchmesse, 14-18 Oct [Frankfurt/online]

Over to You

Let us know about online events of interest to indies in the comments below.

Author: Dan Holloway

Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines, which has appeared at festivals and fringes from Manchester to Stoke Newington. In 2010 he was the winner of the 100th episode of the international spoken prose event Literary Death Match, and earlier this year he competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available for Kindle at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Transparency-Sutures-Dan-Holloway-ebook/dp/B01A6YAA40


This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. Thanks for sharing the latest news with us, Dan! As always things are moving so fast they leave me feeling a bit dizzy…I appreciate you keeping up to date on what’s going on. (wry grin)

  2. “We are used to complaining about payments from Kindle Unlimited.”

    Wait, what? We should be asking why we are complaining at all about something we freely enter into, knowing in advance and from years of bitter experience that by doing so we

    a) will get a low per-page payout from Amazon

    b) will lose all possible revenue from other ebook retail, library and subscription services

    c) give KU subscribers no reason whatsoever to buy our books on Amazon at retail price, despite evidence that subscription users often buy more retail books than non-subscription readers, and

    d) we enter a pay-to-play minefield where we have to pay Amazon to get our books noticed.

    “But Spotify makes those rates look like untold riches.”

    Comparing rates is nonsensical. How do we compare a three minute music track with a three hour book read or a twenty hour audiobook listen? We read the book once and maybe again years later. The popular music will be listened to over and over and over. That’s why popular musicians are raking in huge cash from subscription.

    And critically not just from Spotify but from Apple Music, Amazon Music, etc, etc.

    We need only to look at ebook subscription beyond Kindle Unlimited to see that publishers are mostly comfortable or even enthusiastic about subscription – look at the success of Storytel, Nextory, Bookbeat, Scribd, 24Symbols, etc, etc, none of which demand exclusivity.

    Publishers benefit from subscription by maximising global market reach, which is something indies choose to forego when they chase the KU dream.

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