From the Managing Director at a small publisher via Medium.com:
It is interesting to watch the Authors Guild take the next vital step in proving itself irrelevant.
“As part of its ongoing effort to raise writers’ income,” reports Publishers Weeklythis first week of January, 2016, “the Authors Guild is sending an open letter to members of the Association of American Publishers. The Guild will begin mailing the letters this week, with the first going to the largest publishing houses; in subsequent weeks the Guild expects to hit the remaining relevant AAP members, said Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the Guild … . The letter recaps the highlights of the Guild’s Fair Contract Initiative, which the association began at last year’s BookExpo America, and which sets forth the Guild’s contention that if authors are to be adequately compensated for their work, the standard publishing contract needs to be reworked.”
Among the demands of this initiative are 50% of NET proceeds from eBook sales, the return of rights to the author once a publisher stops “supporting” a book (support being vaguely defined), and the discontinuance of non-compete and options clauses which inhibit an author’s freedom to embark on further projects in a timely manner.
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The Guild’s simplistic understanding of the publishing economics for eBooks — on which they base their demand for a 50% royalty on NET — has been debunked by more than one industry pundit, perhaps most clearly by my longtime friend and sometime editor Peter Ginna, former publisher and editorial director at Bloomsbury Press. I’ll not repeat what he has already said so eloquently. You’ll find his piece here. Simply stated, eBooks are not cash-cows.
As to the automatic return of rights once a publisher stops “supporting” a book, I’m guessing this might mean once a publisher puts its editions out of print. But here the Guild forgets that nearly all trade publishing contracts (at least those negotiated by agents who are not drunk at the time) have long included language obligating publishers to return rights for out-of-print books to authors upon demand — either that or republish the work. Here the Guild also forgets that in the new digital publishing environment, the eBook edition of a trade book usually never goes “out-of-print” — thus the demand seems moot.
Finally, the fact that non-compete and options clauses inhibit authors’ abilities to bolt off immediately from one publisher to another is completely true. This is the intent of those clauses, and always has been. These clauses protect publishers who don’t want a similar book by the same author competing directly with a front-list title for which they’ve paid a hefty advance. These clauses also protect publishers from having to bid on a follow-up project from an author before seeing what sales they have earned from that author’s current front-list title, and what benefit they’ve derived from not just their royalty guarantee investment in that author, but also their investments in editorial time, publicity, etc.
. . . .
It must be noted that in terms of real dollars, most authors published by legacy houses wind up making far more than even today’s standard contractual royalty rates on a per-unit-sale basis. Why? Because any agent worth his or her salt negotiates the largest royalty advance possible, and the vast majority of books from legacy publishers never earn-out on those advances.
. . . .
Get the picture? There’s a hell of a lot of talent out there, boys and girls. Realtalent. Excellent writers. All competing. And all tending to make it a buyer’s market for new and innovative content, save — of course — when it comes to blockbuster “name” authors, whether these be actual writers such as King or mere inarticulate celebrities such as (God help us all) Snooki.
One feels rather through-the-looking-glass as one watches the Authors Guild make demands from this powerless position.
Link to the rest at Medium.com and thanks to SMH for the tip.
Perhaps it’s a good time for PG to remind everyone that he doesn’t necessarily agree with everything he posts on TPV.