Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Changing World

Two very interesting articles crossed my inbox this week.

One was an alert from the Authors Guild letting us know that Simon and Schuster, Inc. was trying to change it's contract language regarding electronic rights. It wants to own the author's electronic rights-and pay them only 15 percent royalty. This is important for a couple of reasons: 1) electronic books do not carry the over head and production costs of printed books. Thus authors have demanded their fair share of the monies. Average royalties on electronic books should run 30 percent. 2) Electronic books do not ever go out of print. An author contracts with a publisher to publish their books until the book goes "out of print" - in other words the publisher has moved on and the book is no longer available. After this agreed upon period of time that a book is "out of print" an author can re-sell the book to a new publisher who will see the book gets into new readers hands. If a publisher keeps your electronic rights, you can never re-sell a book and income for the author is lost. For example- a collection of books written for Harlequin gets 6 weeks of shelf time each. If after say 5 years, an author regains the rights to these works because they are "out of print" and unavailable to the public. She/he can resell them as a group to a single title publisher and gain longer shelf time. This gives readers a chance to read older works they might have missed. And gives good stories new life. But -you say- with electronic books they will always be available to the public. My question to you is-will you as the reader go out of your way to discover lost titles? Isn't it more likely you are waiting in line at the store- and see a book from your favorite author-pick it up- and joyously discover three stories you've not read yet? Hmmm- in fact a recent study on book buyers habits revealed just that. Buyers are more likely to impulse buy. I know, I do.

Now to make things even more interesting-an article on also appeared in my inbox. This article talked about how Amazon - the biggest on-line bookstore in the world- is positioning itself to become the biggest publisher. They have recently acquired a print on-demand publisher. And could be poised to bypass publishers, agents and editors and simply deal straight with authors. The article suggests that Amazon could give the author 30 to 40 percent royalties and still make 70 percent of the profits. Hmmmm

With the idea of bypassing agents, editors and publishers and going straight to the public-an author's potential income can double. It makes a writer think twice before signing with New York. Especially with New York doing their best to take away your rights.

Will we see this brave new world soon? I'm not certain. Self-publishing-even with Amazon-is a huge risk. Right now, publishing with New York holds a certain cache. It means you have arrived. Sort of like owning a high end designer handbag. It only works as long as authors buy into the idea. As New York ask authors to do more of their own editing, marketing and publicity-then cut their income- cache might just lose its appeal. Authors may just turn their backs on an ancient system and start earning a living wage.

It's a brave new world. It will be interesting to see how it all turns out.

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