Wednesday, July 14, 2010

e-Book Royalties in the UK

On Monday, the UK's Guardian had an interesting article about e-book deals in Great Britain:
The chair of the Society of Authors, Tom Holland, has hit out at publishers' attempt to seize control over electronic rights, calling ebook deals that lock authors in for the duration of copyright "not remotely fair."
The RWA's alter ego in the UK is the Romantic Novelists' Association. Holland was speaking at their annual conference. He encouraged writers to seek e-book royalties that are "considerably higher" than the current 25%.

Of course, he reiterated the same arguments U.S. writers have been making about publishers' printing, warehousing and distribution costs being greatly reduced when releasing e-books. Holland believes a fair e-book royalty split would be 50/50 between author and publisher.

But then Holland introduced an interesting twist. He talked about the high expense publishers face when setting up their "digital infrastructure" and suggested that authors help to defray that expense by accepting a 25% royalty for two years. His concern is that publishers seem to be wanting to tie down a 25% royalty for the duration of the copyright.

One of the things that is worrisome to me about copyright in a digital world is that, if an author is not careful in the contracting process, s/he could get into a world of hurt. Make sure that a contract does not trap you with language about the book being "in print" indefinitely because of the availability of print-on-demand technology and a digital file. A limited contract term like Holland's two years is one way around that pitfall.

The article also offered other opinions like this one:
Katie Fforde, bestselling novelist and chair of the Romantic Novelists' Association, agreed that a 25% ebook royalty "would be perfectly fair if it was for two years, or a limited period, and then could be renegotiated". "We don't want to go on and on paying for the set-up costs," she said. "I think a 50/50 split is greedy, but if you don't ask you don't get, and I imagine that might raise the negotiations."
Go here to read the entire article.

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