Royalties

Canada’s Access Copyright predicts 55% royalty drop in 2017

14 November 2016

From The Bookseller:

Canadian national organisation Access Copyright is warning creators and publishers that 2017 royalties could fall by as much as 55% due to a reduction in revenue from the educational sector.

Access Copyright represents tens of thousands of Canadian writers, visual artists and publishers and their works, to license the copying of content to educational institutions, businesses and governments, among others.

The organisation estimated the amount it pays to creators will fall from $11m to $5 next year, according to Canada’s book trade monthly the Quill and Quire.

The drop in educational revenues for Access Copyright and the creators it supports is down to the introduction of an expanded definition for “fair dealing” in Canada’s copyright laws. In 2012, the Supreme Court of Canada issued five rulings in a single day ultimately changing how fair dealing is assessed, meaning schools could rely more heavily on fair dealing for photocopying that takes place on campus and in the classroom. With licences becoming less necessary, the result is less money from Canadian schools to copyright holders.

Roanie Levy, executive director at Access Copyright, told the Quill and Quire that its 2017 payout to creators would be 80% less than it distributed in 2013, when copyright holders received $23.5m.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Harry Shearer Files $125 Million ‘Spinal Tap’ Fraud Suit, Copyright Termination

19 October 2016

From The Hollywood Reporter:

For a Hollywood accounting case, this one is an 11.

Harry Shearer has launched a $125 million fraud and contract-breach lawsuit against Vivendi and StudioCanal over the 1984 rockumentary classic This Is Spinal Tap. The complaint, filed Monday in California federal court, is packed with enough nuggets to instantly make this a must-watch “Hollywood accounting” case. Through the lawsuit, Shearer also reveals he is attempting to claw back rights to the film and its continually popular soundtrack.

Shearer, perhaps best known for the 23 characters he voices on The Simpsons, co-created the semi-fake band Spinal Tap in the 1970s with Christopher Guest and Michael McKean. The film, directed by Rob Reiner and featuring Shearer as bassist Derek Smalls, was produced and released by Embassy Pictures. After a series of transactions, rights to Spinal Tap landed in the hands of Vivendi, the French conglomerate that once had the ambitious goal of becoming one of the largest studios in the industry.

Despite the film’s legacy and Spinal Tap’s enduring success as an actual band able to sell out arenas, Shearer’s company Century of Progress Productions alleges that the four lead creatives have received just $81 in merchandising income and $98 in musical sales income in the past three decades from the franchise.

. . . .

“The accounting between the Vivendi subsidiaries is not at arm’s-length, is anti-competitive, and deprives the TIST creators of a fair reward for their services,” states the complaint.

With other accounting improprieties alleged, such as undocumented marketing expenses and improper deductions, Shearer’s lawsuit references the Copyright Act’s termination provisions, which allow authors to cancel grants and regain rights after 35 years.

“Particularly given that Vivendi has offset fraudulent accounting for revenues from music copyrights against equally dubious revenue streams for film and merchandising rights also controlled by Vivendi subsidiaries, Shearer is concurrently filing notices of copyright termination for publishing and recording rights in Spinal Tap songs he co-wrote and co-recorded, as well as in the film itself,” states the complaint.

That means that Vivendi would potentially lose rights to This Is Spinal Tap in 2019. Copyright termination has been a big subject in the music industry, but is only beginning to impact the film business.

. . . .

Shearer’s company says that in 2013, in anticipation of the film’s 30th anniversary, it commissioned a study of accounting statements and revenue streams that “first discovered that Vivendi had engaged in a pattern of anti-competitive and unfair business practices, had abandoned enforcement of valuable TIST rights, and had willfully concealed and manipulated years of accountings to retain monies due and owing to Plaintiff.”

Link to the rest at The Hollywood Reporter and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

Celebrity book advances: How much stars got paid to write

13 October 2016

From News.com/AU:

Celebrities can get paid staggering amounts of money to write books.
Stars typically receive a handsome advance which is like a signing bonus that the author receives before the book is published.

As Brian Klems from The Writer’s Digest explained, an advance is “paid against future royalty earnings, which means that for every dollar you receive in an advance, you must earn a dollar from book sales before you start receiving any additional royalty payments”.

. . . .

  • Tina Fey, Bossypants (2011). Advance: $US6 million
  • Amy Shumer, The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo (2016). Advance: $US9 million
  • Keith Richards, Life (2011). Advance: $US7 million

Link to the rest at News.com/AU and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Spotify Seeks to Fine-Tune Music Rights as It Gears Up for IPO

25 August 2016
Comments Off on Spotify Seeks to Fine-Tune Music Rights as It Gears Up for IPO

From The Wall Street Journal:

As Spotify AB gears up for a potential initial public offering next year, the music-streaming service is missing one key component in its pitch to investors: rights to play the music in years to come, according to people familiar with the matter.

Spotify is now operating on short-term extensions of its old contracts with all three major record companies, having been on a month-to-month basis with at least one of the labels for nearly a year. It is negotiating new deals that would make its finances more attractive to investors.

Spotify, which saw its net loss increase to roughly $200 million last year even as revenue doubled to more than $2 billion, wants to pay a smaller share than the nearly 55% of its revenue that it currently pays to record labels and artists, according to people familiar with the matter.

It pays roughly an additional 15% to music publishers and songwriters.

But some major label executives want Spotify to pay them as much as 58% of revenue from both its free and paid tiers. That is what Apple Inc. pays for Apple Music subscribers who aren’t on free trials, people familiar with the matter said. Apple has more than 5 million users on free trials, they said.

. . . .

The licensing disagreement highlights the tricky relationship between Spotify and the major record labels, which all took minority stakes in the Swedish outfit as part of their initial licensing deals. As investors, the labels have a direct interest in seeing Spotify succeed, while they are also counting on subscription streaming in general to make up for a long decline in record sales. Paid services yield far more per user than ad-supported ones, and Spotify is the world’s biggest subscription service, with double the 15 million paying subscribers that one-year-old Apple Music has.

But the labels and Spotify don’t see eye to eye on some fundamental issues. In addition to what Spotify should pay for the music, record companies and their artists have also butted heads with Spotify over its practice of making its entire 40 million-song catalog available to both free and paid users at the same time. Pop star Taylor Swift, British singer Adele and rocker Gwen Stefani are among the artists that have withheld albums from Spotify because they didn’t want to make them available on the free tier, where users can listen to entire albums, playlists or artist catalogs in a random order they can’t control.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

What’s a masterpiece worth?

1 July 2016

From Amadis of Gaul:

When Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo wrote his version of Amadis of Gaul, he probably wasn’t thinking of payment. In medieval times, writing was either a gentlemanly avocation or a vocation sponsored by a gentlemanly patron. Books were hand-copied, so literature couldn’t be commercialized. Montalvo was a gentleman whose occupation was managing the city of Medina del Campo near Valladolid.

But only a century later, the printing press had come into being and had turned books into an affordable mass commodity. Miguel de Cervantes wrote Don Quixote de la Mancha, a parody of books like Amadis of Gaul, for money. Writing had become a profession, and professionals got paid.

What did Cervantes earn for Quixote? We don’t know, but we have enough clues to try to guess. Cervantes was poor before it was published and poor after it was published, so it wasn’t a huge amount of money. Everyone agrees on that.

. . . .

Don Quixote de la Mancha was published in two parts, the first in 1605 and the second in 1615. Cervantes didn’t plan on a second part, but after another author wrote a continuation, he decided to write his own.

In 1604, Cervantes was 50 years old and living in Valladolid. He had written a short story about Don Quixote, and he presented the idea of a novelization to publisher Francisco de Robles, who agreed and urged Cervantes to get it ready fast. Then the book was hastily edited (which explains the many errors in the text), printed on cheap paper with worn type, and rushed to the market.

Probably no one considered it a universal masterpiece at first, but the first edition of 1,000 copies sold well — in fact, it was immediately pirated in Lisbon. Cervantes had already won notice as a playwright, and this book cemented his reputation as a major writer.

He had received a 10-year royal privilege to print Don Quixote, which he sold to Robles for an unknown amount; the paperwork was lost. But he had sold an earlier novel, La Galatea, to Robles’ grandfather for 1,336 reales, of which he eventually only received 1,086.

Nieves Concostrina, a journalist with Radio Nacional de España, reported in the series Acércate al Quijote that he received no more than 100 ducados (which equals 1,100 reales or 37,500 maravedíes) for the copyright, which she estimates is worth only about €200 today.

Daniel Eisenberg, the former editor of Cervantes, the scholarly journal of the Cervantes Society of America, wrote that he probably received 1,500 reales (51,000 maravedíes), which he says would have been worth 500,000 pesetas in 1992, or €5,503.72 today. That’s better, but no J.K. Rowling.

Link to the rest at Amadis of Gaul and thanks to MKS for the tip.

On the True Costs of Bargain Books, Or Guilting Readers Because Authors Signed Bad Contracts

10 June 2016

From The Digital Reader:

James Mayhew has taken up the cause of trying to guilt, harangue, or otherwise convince readers to overpay for books from legacy publishers.

About a month ago (I just now found it) Mayhew published a post where he argues that fans should not buy bargain price books because an author’s royalties are slashed as the price drops.

So how does it all work? Authors get paid royalties, which are a percentage of the book price which you may (or may not) earn from books sales, usually around 5-10% of the price, but very often less; most books are discounted in any case, and the royalty shrinks accordingly. In simple terms, you would expect to get between 50p and £1 for each hardback book sold (and less on a paperback). This is completely normal, and I have no complaints, although it’s often a shock to people.

What happens when books get discounted further? Subject to contractual terms, the royalty may shrink on cheaper books. So you end up getting a tiny % of an even smaller amount. We are talking pennies. Once upon a time there was a system called the Net Book Agreement, limiting the extent to which books could be discounted. But that was abandoned in favour of a “free market” years ago. The result? books can be reduced to next to nothing.

But increasingly, publishers broker cold, hard, cynical deals with these people and then print to order. The publisher is complicit in the arrangement and sells books at extremely low prices (less than 50p per book) to the discount catalogue (but not at a loss to themselves) who then sell them on at a very nice profit – usually £1 per book. Tens of thousands of copies. And the author? I get less than 4p a book, while the discount company makes millions every year. …

. . . .

Authors and publishers might see things differently, but what I see here is an author who is trying to guilt readers over the price they pay for books.

That is a pretty obnoxious behavior, but it gets worse when we look at it sideways. That’s when we realize that the real issue here is not the price of the books but the contract terms Mayhew agreed to. He’s trying to make readers responsible for his, and other authors’, bad business decisions.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

That’s just the strategy for attracting more book buyers – make them feel guilty for doing so when books are discounted.

PG suggests that when indie authors are talking to readers, in addition to thanking them for buying the author’s books, it might be a good idea to let the readers know that when they buy indie ebooks on Amazon, in many cases, most of the money goes directly to the author. That’s why Amazon is such a great friend to authors and readers.

Les Misérables: gloomy French writers face crisis as incomes plummet

22 March 2016

From The Guardian:

French writers have never felt more badly paid, undervalued or under pressure, according to a new survey that shows more than half of established authors earn less than the minimum wage.

Many are so depressed by the state of the book industry that they are considering giving up altogether, according to a new report that canvassed more than 100,000 authors of fiction and non-fiction.

“Authors have a high social status but almost empty bank accounts,” said Marie Sellier, president of the SDGL, one of the five writers’ and publishing groups behind the study.

. . . .

Established writers with years of relative success behind them struggled to make a living, with their median annual earnings of €17,600 ($19,800), less than three-quarters of national average.

The most staggering statistic of all in the report, which was backed by the ministry of culture, is that six out of 10 published writers make less than €1,500 a year.

. . . .

The survey of writers as well as poets, illustrators and translators found they were they “generally worried, disenchanted and discouraged”.

“Many were asking themselves whether they should diversify into other work or stop altogether,” it concluded.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Dave for the tip.

PG was reminded that France is the home of  the Lang Law (named after a long-departed Minister of Culture). In a nutshell, under the Lang Law:

  • The publisher decides on a price for its book and prints it on the back
  • Booksellers are not allowed to sell a book for a discount of more than 5% below the publisher’s price.

Sounds like this law may be fine for publishers and bookstores, but not so much for authors.

Publishers should pay authors as much as their other employees

14 February 2016

From The Guardian:

Writers and publishers are in it together, I tend to feel. Not always in a cuddly way. Sometimes more in a screaming-down-the-mineshaft way. But in one critical respect the partnership feels increasingly strained.

. . . .

The Society called for publishers not to hold on to rights that they don’t actively exploit, not to add crippling restrictions on writers’ other work and to stop insisting that authors contractually indemnify them against all risks. It also wants ebook royalties to rise from 25% to 50%, to fairly reflect the lower cost and risk of digital publication.

No writer has a right to be published. If you’re an avant garde poet, good luck to you – you’ll need it. The issue is when the publisher makes money out of a book and the author doesn’t; when contracts exploit the desperate asymmetry of the parties’ negotiating strength.

. . . .

Responding to the Society’s campaign, the then chief executive of the Publishers Association, Richard Mollet, wrote that “publishers share the frustration of the author community” that it is increasingly difficult “to make a decent living” from writing.

“Decent” is a dream. Authors are traded according to perceived value, so few ever admit publicly how little they actually earn. But a 2014 survey by the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society found that professional full-time authors typically earned £11,000 – a median down 29% on 2005. Of course, a few writers make fortunes. But talk privately to authors – including well-known, much-loved and “bestselling” authors – and you’ll find many in financial distress and professional despair.

Richard Mollet felt the source of the problem lay not in “contractual relations” but in “deeper market factors”. Margins are indeed “being squeezed across the whole supply chain” – yet publishers’ profits have not, on the whole, tumbled by 29%. As for “there simply being more writers”, as he also claimed, quality has always been hard to find, even in a buyers’ market.

. . . .

Publishers pay printers. They pay rent – often for staggeringly high-value London commercial properties, despite those squeezed margins. And they pay salaries.

Rates for lower-ranking editorial staff are shocking. £16,000 for a graduate? In London? And yes, unpaid and low paid internships are rife, despite the damage they do to diversity. (A recent survey by the Society of Young Publishers found that 38% of respondents got their first job through internships – half of them unpaid.) But even the lowliest shuffler of proofs gets more than £11,000 a year.

. . . .

So when a publisher tells you he “shares your frustration”, ask him how much he earns – and quite how little he’d pay his lowest paid editorial assistant before he felt he was exploiting the vulnerability of their position. Before he felt he was endangering the long term sustainability of his business.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Scath and others for the tip.

PAY THE WRITER—Pirates, Used Bookstores & Why Writers Need to Stand Up for What’s Right

31 December 2015

From Kristen Lamb’s Blog:

All righty. I’d vowed to take off for the holidays but *laughs hysterically* sure. Like THAT was going to happen. No, seriously, I’m working on resting more. I’m also working on learning to shut up. Clearly those two goals are getting re-slated for 2016 resolutions because the whole “Inside words stay inside…”

Not working out for me. So why not leave 2015 with a bang? Haters gonna hate.

To quote the great Tywin Lannister, Lions do not concern themselves with the opinions of sheep.

Today I’m going to say something that could quite possibly be grossly unpopular, but whatever. It’s for your own good. I’m feeding y’all broccoli to offset all that fudge and alcohol you’ve consumed during the holidays.

There’s a trend that just makes me see red and I’m calling it out today because if we do not address this 500 pound used paper elephant in the room, then it’s going to be really, really hard for you guys to reach your dreams, which I assume is to work as a full-time PAID writer.

For those of you who do NOT want to be PAID to write? The following does not apply. If you are content to work a full-time regular job AND slave over a manuscript as a second job and your ONLY reward is simply nice reviews, compliments, hugs, cuddles, and the joy your stories might create in the hearts of others?

I am NOT talking to you.

. . . .

Yesterday, I was on Facebook and it would have been one thing to see one writer post this link. But I saw like TEN writers post this link and they were excited…as if this Washington Post article were announcing a GOOD thing for our profession.

In an Age of Amazon, Used Bookstores Making an Unlikely Comeback.

Here’s the deal. I don’t care about bookstores. I care about writers. In fact, readers should care about writers more than bookstores because no writers? Well no real point in bookstores now is there?

Want to support the arts? Pay artists. Want to support books? Pay writers. It is simple.

. . . .

Often, we blog for free (though if you do it the way I teach you actually DO get a return on that investment). Once we are published? We do interviews and guest posts for…FREE.

So please. Do not expect to ALSO get our books for free. We are frankly DONE with free.

How can a writer get PAID?

. . . .

So happy you asked.

Digital pays writers the best. Then print copies. NEW ones. Buy on-line or in a bookstore or at an event in person. We writers get a royalty. Depending on the contract, writers can even get paid if a book is checked out of a library. That library PAID for the book and the writer was then, in turn, paid a royalty.

Upon so many times checked out? The writer is then PAID again for a new “copy” of the book.

Want to support a writer in the new year? BUY BOOKS.

Writers are NOT PAID for the purchase of used copies. So while I LOVE used bookstores I want to make a point here. Writers MAKE NO MONEY.

. . . .

To be clear, I do not mind used bookstores. What I mind is the attitude that somehow digital is bad and Amazon is bad whereas “paper” and used bookstores are “cultural” and therefore GOOD and preferable for writers.

. . . .

Want to support civilization? Buy old books. Want to support a writer and his/her family and career? Buy new ones or e-books.

Encourage and educate readers to do the same. Because here is the deal. If we writers go around cheering how AWESOME used bookstores are? How the heck are readers going to know they are benevolently gutting our careers?

They (readers) see us posting the links. They ASSUME we are benefitting. They have no idea how we get paid. Why not direct them to places where we might make money?

Link to the rest at Kristen Lamb’s Blog and thanks to Scath for the tip.

Here’s a link to Kristen Lamb’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

A children’s tale that will have adults moved to tears too

13 December 2015

From The Daily Mail:

Somehow it seems both entirely fitting and slightly surreal that I’m sitting with Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler discussing how knowledgeable Father Christmas is.

Julia is the slightly eccentric former busker who’s become the fourth biggest-selling writer in British history – despite only publishing her first book when she was 45 – and the first author to record UK sales of more than £10 million for five consecutive years, while Axel is the illustrator who brings her stories to life.

. . . .

 Although the book is aimed at a pre-school audience, parents seem to adore it too. She doesn’t bat an eyelid when I tell her Stick Man’s happy ending is so touching it used to make me weep when I read it to my children.

. . . .

 Like so much of Julia and Axel’s work, Stick Man came about by accident. It was pure chance that Julia started writing books in the first place – she was working as a songwriter when a publisher asked if she could turn her song A Squash And A Squeeze into a book. Axel was the third illustrator she approached, which in itself turned out to be a happy accident for him.

. . . .

 ‘I can’t make the figures tally,’ she says. ‘Axel and I get about three per cent each per book – probably less once you count the foreign sales or the books that are sold at a discount. But even then I still can’t work the figures out. I certainly don’t receive as much as you might think. I’m not complaining but I imagine people think we’re billionaires; that’s certainly not the case.’

Link to the rest at Daily Mail and thanks to Mike for the tip.

PG is moved to tears by these royalty payments.

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