Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Turns out David's right about e-books

This article about Andrew Wylie sets out the issues, and it appears that the e-book market for backlist titles is in fact in constant negotiation and renegotiation. Meaning that Jones's rights may well have been up for grabs.

The context (since this is from Harvard Magazine, the numbers are presumably year of graduation):

The Wylie Agency, founded in 1980, with offices today in midtown Manhattan and in London, is a mighty force in publishing. It represents more than 700 clients, including Martin Amis, David Byrne, Dave Eggers, Louise Erdrich, Ian Frazier ’73, Al Gore ’69, LL.D. ’94, William Kennedy, Henry Kissinger ’50, Ph.D. ’54, Elmore Leonard, W.S. Merwin, Lou Reed, David Rockefeller ’36, LL.D. ’69, Philip Roth, Salman Rushdie, Oliver Sachs, and Nicolas Sarkozy. Wylie’s deceased clients are even more illustrious than his living ones: W.H. Auden, Saul Bellow, Roberto BolaƱo, William S. Burroughs ’36, Italo Calvino, Allen Ginsberg, Arthur Miller, Vladimir Nabokov, Hunter Thompson, John Updike ’54, Litt.D. ’92, Andy Warhol, and Evelyn Waugh, for example.

The e-book kerfluffle (This is from before Wylie want rogue.):
The music-industry lawyer John Eastman, who represents his brother-in-law Paul McCartney as well as other musicians, has advised the Wylie Agency in discussions with publishers concerning e-book rights. (Tulkinghorn comment: John Eastman's reputation is not that of a protector of bunnies and kittens. Just saying)

Wylie’s negotiations with publishers on the book industry’s version of the iPod, e-books, are currently on hold across the board. He’s dissatisfied with the terms publishers have been offering for e-book rights, which were not widely foreseen and are not allocated in most extant book contracts. In fact, Wylie threatens to monetize those unassigned rights by going outside the publishing business entirely: “We will take our 700 clients, see what rights are not allocated to publishers, and establish a company on their behalf to license those e-book rights directly to someone like Google, Amazon.com, or Apple. It would be another business, set up on parallel tracks to the frontlist book business.” Such a heretical strategy would likely meet with stiff resistance from publishing houses, which have invested years, even decades, and millions of dollars in establishing their authors as brand names in the marketplace by printing, promoting, and selling their books.


More facts here:

Priced much lower than hardcovers, many e-books generate less income for publishers. And big retailers are buying fewer titles. As a result, the publishers who nurtured generations of America's top literary-fiction writers are approving fewer book deals and signing fewer new writers. Most of those getting published are receiving smaller advances.

In some cases, independent publishers are picking up the slack by signing promising literary-fiction writers. But they offer, on average, $1,000 to $5,000 for advances, a fraction of the $50,000 to $100,000 advances that established publishers typically paid in the past for debut literary fiction.

The new economics of the e-book make the author's quandary painfully clear: A new $28 hardcover book returns half, or $14, to the publisher, and 15%, or $4.20, to the author. Under many e-book deals currently, a digital book sells for $12.99, returning 70%, or $9.09, to the publisher and typically 25% of that, or $2.27, to the author.

Of course an author who wants to do without the support of a publisher -- advance, design, sales, promotion -- can actually get the full $9.00 herself. And some might.. Doesn't sound like much of a way to build a career, but we'll see.

1 comment:

David Chute said...

Well, if I'm right in the sense you mean, it's mostly by accident.