Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Authors Guild 2; Wiley 0

Most Americans are familiar with the name of Michael Bloombergy, the Mayor of New York City and the 23rd richest person in the world (according to the March, 2010 Forbes).

Fewer people know that Bloomberg built his fortune with a $10 million severance check he received after being fired in 1981 from Salomon Brothers, the Wall Street investment firm. Bloomberg used that $10 million plus a large investment from Merrill Lynch and some other partners to build the firm he later named Bloomberg L.P.

Bloomberg L.P. is a financial software, data and news corporation.

Why am I telling you all this? Because earlier this year, Bloomberg L.P. and John Wiley & Sons announced a joint venture. Wiley is an academic/educational publisher founded in 1807 and located in New Jersey. The two companies agreed that Wiley would take over the Bloomberg Press imprint (founded in 1996).

The Wiley March 12th press release read:
With Wiley as the new global publisher and distributor of BLOOMBERG PRESS titles, Bloomberg and Wiley will leverage the core strengths of the BLOOMBERG PRESS imprint and bring an unparalleled selection of titles for business leaders, finance and market professionals and academia ....

”This is a powerful alliance that leverages Wiley’s vast experience in publishing business and finance books. The relationship takes advantage of our strength in sales, publicity and marketing, and combines with the power of the Bloomberg brand in a way that will maximize exposure for the authors and content globally,” said Stephen Kippur [EVP of Wiley].
So here's Wiley with its shiny new toy. And what did they do? They proceeded to piss off The Authors Guild [TAG].

Regular readers of this blog know that I haven't always been whelmed by The Authors Guild--never mind OVER-whelmed. However, things over there have markedly improved in the last year or so. And then two months ago, Scott Turow became the new president. So I've been holding my breath to see what the new regime would mean.

The draperies had barely been hung in Mr. Turow's new TAG office when he and his team went after Wiley.

Last Thursday, Galleycat reported here:
The Authors Guild is urging Bloomberg Press writers to reconsider signing a letter from John Wiley & Sons ... the company has sent a letter [dated April 29] to hundreds of Bloomberg writers "about a few differences in the accounting systems of Bloomberg and Wiley."
In a June 10th posting on the Advocacy section of their website here, The Authors Guild says:
If signed by an author, the letter is actually a contract amendment that will materially and adversely affect the royalty rates of many Bloomberg Press authors.
TAG had two specific complaints with respect to the Wiley letter (duplicated here). First, the Wiley letter cheerily informs Bloomberg authors that henceforth the company will be paying royalties based on net receipts instead of based on the retail list price.

Let's think about that for a moment. As an example, would you rather have 15% of the $28 list price of a book or 15% of the ... let's say ... $14 net receipt?

Gosh, let me think about that for a minute or two.

In addition, Wiley proudly announces its print-on-demand program and generously offers to pay authors 5% of net receipts of any book sold in this way. And, no, that's not a typo. I did say 5%.

Let's ignore for a minute the piddly 5% royalty they're offering. Many authors' contracts specify the minimum number of books a publisher must sell each year in order to continue to hold rights to the work. Wiley's contract amendment letter does not set such a minimum threshold. The Authors Guild worries that this would grant Wiley "a perpetual right" to authors' works.

TAG ends their posting this way:
This is no way to do business. The letter is shocking from a publisher of Wiley's stature. In our view, Wiley should tear up any signed letters it has received and start over, forthrightly explaining to its new authors the contractual changes it is seeking and how this may affect their income and their right to terminate their publishing contracts.
I finished reading the post yelling, "You rock, Authors Guild!"

Wiley was quick to respond on Thursday with a brief press release here, which said in part:
This morning – without speaking with Wiley concerning its specific assertions – the Authors Guild issued an “alert” to its authors, claiming that the Wiley letter is deceptive and inferring that the Wiley changes it effects will reduce royalties for all or most former Bloomberg authors. This is simply not the case. We believe former Bloomberg authors will be paid higher royalties in most instances.
Hmmmm. They must be talking about ANOTHER letter they sent to their authors because the one to which I linked above ain't that one.

The Authors Guild posted the Wiley press release on their site on Friday and responded here. Beyond pointing out that TAG says they emailed Wiley on May 7 with their concerns, I'll let you read the post in its entirety.

Hey, Bloomberg L.P.!!! Is this what you had in mind when you handed your book imprint over to Wiley??? You might want to give your new partners a call. Not only was that April letter a sleazy ploy, the June 10 response was UN-responsive.

Take a clue from BP's mistakes, Wiley. Act sooner rather than later. Show some sincerity and quit trying to defend yourself. Apologize and take action to make things right.


BrennaLyons said...

HIGHER royalties? Are they stupid or acting like they are?

You know, I only sign net contracts (when I do), because I'm getting 30-50% of net, and I know roughly what net will be for any given distribution channel. To move from 15% of cover to 15% of net is a massive loss to the author, and don't even get me started on a 5% of net rate. Not even first-time authors expect to make that little, doing the conversion to 2.5-3% of cover.


BrennaLyons said...

Pardon the second post. I really LOATHE the changes they made to Blogger. You can't follow comments on your first post anymore. Something to complain about.


Jesse said...

Ha! And those percentages are before the agent gets his/her cut. And they only pay semi-annually if they owe you more than $100? Do they carry writers that sell so few books? How depressing.