Publishers need authors, but authors need publishers … not necessarily anymore…
The 17.5% e-book royalty his publishers were offering, looked less and less attractive for US writer Barry Eisler, compared to the 70% he can now make on his own.”
Barry Eisler who walked away from a US$500,000 two-book deal from St Martin’s Press is not the first author to self-publish e-books although he may be the first to turn down such a lucrative contract. But it is happening to hundreds of authors all round the world who are doing the same. So how many more authors need to go it on their own before publishers realise that the deal they are offering at the moment, 25% of net proceeds, is just not enough if they are to hang on to some authors and their e-book rights?
Authors are pretty savvy today and they know what’s being offered by Amazon and other online retailers and they can compare these with the rates offered by publishers. The situation with publishers has gone so bad that they refuse to negotiate rates even with bestselling authors and have instead threaten not to offer to publish if the author is not prepared to agree to their fixed rate.
The world is changing fast and sadly, not in the right direction for the publishing industry, which means less books will be sold through the traditional bookshops. Writers and publishers are already finding that e-books sales are beginning to be a significant part of their business. The e-book revolution has already started and in the next decade, there will be a whole generation of young readers who will think nothing of reading a book electronically.
What the e-book revolution has done is to enable anyone to get their own books published online bypassing a publisher. If publishers no longer have control over the rights available, what kind of business will they have for the future? Publishers therefore must be eager to secure book rights and this they can easily done by offering a fair rate to authors for their e-book rights.
The nightmare scenario for publishers is when a truly major brand author: a Dan Brown, a …. realises that they can likely earn twice as much from half the sales if they publish their own e-books. These authors always can go to one of the also respected mid size publishers if they want paper books additionally.
Creating ebooks (including the editing, layout, cover design and converting of the manuscript into the actual e-book) costs less as there are
- no paper, print, production costs
- no distribution costs in a time of ever-increasing fuel prices
- no need for inventory cost and control
- fast cash / secure credit card payments
and most important: no return of books!!!
Even at a 50% share with the author, the margins are greater than those they can make from traditional bookselling.
The move away from print to e-book was happening faster than people imagined, and publishers are likely to lose out if they do not adapt by offering an e-book royalty more in keeping with the split of development and production costs.