PublishDrive All In on Subscription Model

by | Jul 23, 2020

By David Kudler

Distributor/aggregator PublishDrive has shifted completely to a subscription-based model for all new accounts. Up until this month, the New York-based company offered both monthly subscriptions — where all royalties received from retailers were passed along to the publisher — and the more traditional model, in which the aggregator took a 10% cut of every sale.

In the past, there were essentially three ways that ebook aggregators have made money:

  1. Traditional: The aggregator distributes your ebook for no upfront charge and takes a percentage of gross sales. (Smashwords, Draft2Digital)
  2. Upfront Fee: The publisher pays a one-time setup fee and receives 100% of all royalties. (BookBaby, Lulu)
  3. Combination: The publisher pays a one-time fee and the aggregator takes a percentage of each sell as well. (IngramSpark)

As I’ve written before, PublishDrive struck out on a new path two years ago, introducing the idea of a subscription-based ebook distribution scheme. At the time, the scheme was aimed at more well-established publishers grossing $1000+ per month on ebook sales. To other publishers, they continued to make the traditional 10%-off-the-top model available.

As time went on, PublishDrive introduced lower subscription tiers for publishers whose sales volume (and title lists) were lower. In addition, they introduced print-on-demand and audiobook distribution channels — but only for publishers on one of the subscription plans.

Clearly, the aggregator has decided that this model works for them, since in their most recent move, they completely eliminated the “pay as you go” royalty percentage plan for new accounts. From this point forward, publishers using PublishDrive’s services have their choice of four subscription tiers:

  1. Starter ($9.99/month) for up to 2 titles
  2. Standard ($19.99/month) for up to 6 titles
  3. Plus ($49.99/month) for up to 24 titles
  4. Pro ($99.99/month) for up to 48 titles

All of these tiers allow the publisher to distribute in ebook, audiobook, or paperback (print on demand) form. PublishDrive’s ebook distribution list is one of the largest, including the five biggest English-language retailers:

  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • Kobo
  • Barnes and Noble
  • Google

as well as many subscription and library services:

  • ScribD
  • Overdrive
  • Biblioteca, etc.

The audiobook distribution plan includes most major outlets through Findaway. (Unlike some competitors, such as Smashwords and Draft2Digital, they don’t seem to offer Findaway’s audio production services as well.) The print distribution list is currently limited to Amazon and China’s CPNeReading; however, this is their newest offering and may expand in future.

Note that publishing one book in different formats (an ebook and an audiobook edition, for example) counts as two titles under any of these plans.

For those (like me) who have been using PublishDrive’s more traditional plan, we can for now continue as usual, if we choose. New users, however, will have to choose one of the subscription tiers.

Whether the subscription approach make sense to you is a matter of personal choice.

Reasons to stick with the traditional model:

  • Too many titles: You have a large backlist, which would push you up to a tier that was too expensive (though obviously you don’t have to move all of your existing titles over if you don’t want to.)
  • Risk: You are just starting out and are nervous about the idea of committing to paying a distributor before you have predictable sales.
  • Complication: You’ve already got accounts at most of the major retailers and all you’re looking for is access to some of the outlets (ie, ScribD and Overdrive) that are important but secondary.

That said, there are plenty of reasons why this setup could be very attractive:

  • Convenience: Because PublishDrive takes no percentage of sales, and even offers some nice promotional tools (including Amazon Ads and even KindleUnlimited), you can move all of your titles to a single dashboard, saving you time tracking sales and updating files.

  • Money: If you regularly earn enough on existing titles, the prospect of not having to give up 10% becomes more attractive than the subscription fee.
  • Learning Curve: Every retailer and aggregator has its own idiosyncratic system for managing new titles, tracking sales, and taking advantage of promotional opportunities — as with Convenience, PublishDrive ensures that you’ll only ever have to learn a single system.
  • Accounting: You’ll receive all of your royalties in a single lump sum (I get as many as ten separate monthly payments from Amazon alone) and PublishDrive’s Finance reports will break the amount received down by title, author, and store, making it easy to categorize the funds that come in.

Whether it makes sense for you to move to PublishDrive, to use a more traditional ebook distribution model, or to sell your ebooks directly, this new subscription-only model offers one more option for you to accommodate to your publishing needs.

Want to read more articles by David Kudler? Click here.

Photo: BigStockPhoto

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2 Comments

  1. Sherelle Winters

    I’ve been sticking with them purely because I was grandfathered in to the original way. But I really can’t recommend them anymore with the subscription model – many authors are not going to make enough to justify the monthly cost. If they do remove the grandfathered aspect, I’d pull my books all together.

    Reply
    • David Kudler

      I’m in the same situation, Sherelle. I’ve loved them — not as much as Pronoun, but that, of course, was a doomed exercise from the beginning. I’ve been recommending PD to all my new clients — but this makes them a much higher risk operation.

      I think, from their point of view, newbies tend to take up a disproportionate share of the resources while generating a smaller share of the revenue. Still, I’m saddened by the move.

      I’ve been looking at my own list, trying to see whether transferring more of my existing titles over to PD from other aggregators makes sense. Not yet — and the idea of having to update all of my links is a bit overwhelming as well! So for now, I’ll be continuing to take advantage of their old, traditional plan.

      Reply

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