The All-in-One Subscription Model

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

The All-in-One Subscription ModelSelf-publishing is easier than it has ever been, but in the current marketplace earning money for the books you’ve written now comes with a whole new set of challenges.

Most authors and publishers are finding it difficult to get their books to stand out in a market that’s only getting more and more saturated. The number of books published in the US continues to rise each year, in both print and digital formats, making it more difficult than ever to get noticed. And as well as competing with other book titles, there’s a vast array of movies, music and video games that are also grappling for people’s time.

There’s no doubt that hardened readers will always find time for books, but the casual reader is losing more and more reading time to movies and television series—both more efficient ways of absorbing stories in a fast-paced world. It might be time to accept that people are now more likely than ever to split their time between different types of media—and we should look at this as an opportunity rather than a threat.

The model that my company uses addresses this reality by bringing books, audiobooks, music, movies and games together under the same monthly subscription. And although we do offer single-media packages (for example, “books only”), what we find is that around half our members upgrade to the comprehensive package. This demonstrates just how many readers, gamers and movie buffs have an interest in—or at least a temptation for—other forms of entertainment, too.

And therein lies the great opportunity for authors and publishers. Getting their books marketed alongside similar titles is not a new concept, but the crucial difference with the all-inclusive model is that these similar titles could be movies, songs or even video games. This allows authors to reach an audience of not only power readers, but more casual readers, as well—those who perhaps wouldn’t commit to an “ebooks only” subscription package or a glossy hardcover from the bookstore, but would delve into something that was recommended to them if it were included in their monthly fee and just a mere tap or swipe away.

The all-in-one subscription model creates a platform of discovery with more potential than any other. It appeals especially to those who are fascinated by different perspectives on a story—which is a large number of people, when you consider how popular book-to-film adaptations have become. We’ve already seen our Hunger Games audiobooks getting more attention from the latest movie release, and we’re expecting the same with our new Star Wars audiobooks when the latest big screen edition hits later this month.

Nielsen’s BookScan stats showed the same trend with Fifty Shades of Grey earlier in the year. The hysteria around big movie releases makes this kind of thing almost inevitable, but by actually bringing movies and books together into the same room we’re adding a tantalizing new level of potential to digital storytelling.

Star Wars, along with other huge franchises, like Lego and the Marvel Universe, is already spreading its stories across a wide spectrum of books, audiobooks, movies, music and games, rightly confident that it’ll have an audience for each. The die-hard fans will want it all.

Of course, fandom alone creates a desire for anything that a popular franchise touches, but many would argue that the medium is becoming less important. What matters is the story, the subject matter, our mood at any given time. We’re already seeing music services sorting their songs by mood, which signals a shift away from the concept of genre. Could this be a trend that begins to re-shape other media types, too, and perhaps digital entertainment as a whole?

The all-in-one subscription model provides two major benefits: accessibility and value. The more accessible and better value we can make digital media, the more open people will become to trying everything. By bringing books, movies, music and games together, we all but eradicate the comfort zone. We end up with an ever-growing universe of stories, which metadata, search algorithms and our own sense of wonder help us to navigate.

And for authors and publishers currently struggling to make their impact on the industry, the model presents an opportunity. Because even if they lack the powerful legacy of a franchise like Star Wars, all they really need is a compelling story and some relevancy. Their books stand shoulder to shoulder with movies, songs and games, and, most important of all, they become much easier for the user to start reading. There’s no extra commitment, because they’ve already paid for it, and if they enjoy the first one, then they know exactly where to find the rest.

11 thoughts on “The All-in-One Subscription Model

  1. Mark Williams - The International Indie Author

    I share your view on the value of the all-in-one subscription model, Colin, but one big question pertaining to self-published authors, since you opened with us.

    How do we get our titles into Playster?

    So far as I can see none of the self-publishing aggregators have distribution agreements with Playster.

    Tell us more!

  2. Michael W. Perry

    Consumers tend to have preferences that companies need to take into account if they want to succeed. I think you’re right that media consumers want to rent media of all sorts, meaning ebooks, audiobooks, and movies (perhaps music too). Getting two or three bills a month will strike them as too much extravagance, particularly since the use of one means less use of the others. They’ll feel better about one larger bill.

    It also lets households adapt to the habits of all their members, although that comes with a hefty downside. It means more people consuming more content that has to be paid for. And in the end there is the Catch-22 of all subscription models. Heavy users have more incentive to subscribe. Light users have more reason to buy outright.

    In the end, companies like yours will simply have to take a chance on a particular model and see if it works. That’s why Amazon is doing so well. It’s willing to take chances.

  3. Bob Mayer

    Good point made above– you direct this toward indie authors, but I couldn’t find a place your website where we can submit our books. Could you please clarify?

  4. Bob Mayer

    Since the writer of this blog hasn’t bothered to answer questions and he’s the communications manager for this company; it doesn’t bode well. One has to assume this was just a long ad for Playster; because the content is vague and the comparison to Star Wars a little bit ridiculous. Nothing new was said here and most subscription model have not done well.

    Perhaps this will be different, but not if there is no follow-up.

  5. Colin Strachan

    Really sorry for the delay – I broke my leg in an accident last week, so I’ve lost some hours to appointments and mobility issues. Please bear with me if you have any follow-up questions!

    We have some distribution agreements that we hadn’t previously announced, including Draft2Digital which is a good option for indie authors. My best recommendation for smaller publishers would be to contact and discuss directly with our acquisition team how we can best help you to get your books onto the platform. We’re keen to make our collection as strong as it can be, so it’s great to see some enthusiasm for coming on board.

  6. Colin Strachan

    You’re welcome, Mark.

    We’re actually international already! Playster is available in most of Europe, Australia & NZ, the Americas and Asia. We’re also getting an increasing number of foreign-language titles.



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