Switching to an eBook subscription service

At Angry Robot we like to think we're reasonably clued-in when it comes to digital. All of our titles are released as eBooks at the same time as our paper editions, and they're (we believe) realistically priced. Our new audio offering kicks in soon, too, with many simultaneous e/paper/audio releases. When a number of people told us that they trust the Angry Robot brand to such an extent that they'd buy all of our titles, sight unseen, we decided to investigate further.

Of course, saying such a thing is no guarantee of a follow-through, but when we looked at the statistics from our own eBook store we noticed that a significant number of our readers were already doing this, and many more were buying the majority of our titles. It became clear that an eBook subscription service was not only a viable product, but one that would be welcomed.

We're a small team with limited resources, and in such a situation it is very easy to delay the decision to do something like this - there is always something else vying for your attention, always another job that needs doing right away. But in the middle of June we decided the time had come, and that we should get the offer in place by our second anniversary - just two weeks away! 

For our own direct-to-reader eBook store we customised an off-the-shelf eCommerce system. Unfortunately, the system isn't set up to offer subscriptions easily, so our original preference of offering a subscription to one title choice per month was not possible from a technical perspective. The only way to do it was to offer all of our titles for a set period from date of subscription, and to collect payment up-front.

We opted for an annual deal at the enticing price of £69 (for a minimum of 24 titles). Not so low that we compromise our margins, not so high that the cost is prohibitive to our readers.

We prepped the eBook store, and it went live at 9.30 on Friday 1st July. It was a fairly low-key launch - we blogged it, and tweeted it, but a press release didn't go out until later. We witnessed one exchange on Twitter between someone who thought it a great idea, and someone who was convinced it couldn't work (who, after all, would buy every book from a single publisher?), and we wondered. But not for long. 

Within 15 minutes we'd sold our first subscription. By lunchtime we'd sold a few more, and by the end of the weekend - just 3 days into the month - we'd sold enough to beat our store's eBook sales for every other month this year.

In addition to the financial success of the project, of course, it's also gratifying from an editorial perspective to realise so many of our readers trust our judgement to such an extent. 

Part of this success is based on the possibility that we're robbing Peter to pay Paul - the readers who have bought subscriptions will be less likely to buy much else from us over the next year (except for backlist titles, and we've given them a discount voucher for those), but it's likely that not all of them would necessarily have invested in all of our titles. The subscription becomes cost-effective for the reader at about 15 titles, so for those who would have probably read fewer books, we've sold a few extra titles, and for those who would have bought more, we're rewarding their loyalty.

I think we can chalk that up in the win column.



Great idea - glad it's working!

What a great idea for building your community, just another example of the way listening to your readers has paid off for you. You guys are leading the charge for us small indie publishing houses, showing that with creative thinking and great books we can be just as effective within our niche's as the big boys - niche is nice!

Well done.

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