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Books Businesses

Top Authors Make eBook Deal, Bypassing Publishers 297

RobotRunAmok writes "Home to 700 authors and estates, from Philip Roth to John Updike, Jorge Luis Borges, and Saul Bellow, the Wylie Agency shocked the publishing world yesterday when it announced the launch of Odyssey Editions. The new initiative is selling ebook editions of modern classics, including Lolita, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Updike's Rabbit tetralogy, exclusively via's Kindle store, leaving conventional publishers out of the picture. The issue boils down to who holds digital rights in older titles published before the advent of ebooks, with publishers arguing that the ebook rights belong to them, and authors and agents responding that, if not specifically granted, the digital rights remain with the author. Publishers and authors are also at loggerheads over the royalty that should be paid for ebooks: authors believe they should be getting up to double the current standard rate of 25%, because ebooks are cheaper to produce than physical editions. (Amazon pays authors 70%.)"
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Top Authors Make eBook Deal, Bypassing Publishers

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  • Re:A good idea (Score:3, Informative)

    by ClaraBow ( 212734 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @01:21PM (#33004840)
    They are selling these editions at 9.99$. It seems a bit hight to me.
  • Re:IANAL, blah blah (Score:5, Informative)

    by russotto ( 537200 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @01:26PM (#33004918) Journal

    This looks like a retarded money grab and nothing more. If the author's are so sure they retain "digital rights," why doesn't one of them post a book the publisher still has the rights to, in its entirety, on a website and see what happened.

    Short answer: They've already done so, they got sued, and the publishers lost.

    Random House's standard contract specified they had the exclusive right to sell the works in "book form". The authors asserted, and the courts agreed, that "book form" did not include electronic rights.

  • Re:A good idea (Score:3, Informative)

    by tixxit ( 1107127 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @01:27PM (#33004940)
    I think the idea is for the authors to get more money on a sale of their book, rather than making the e-books cheaper.
  • Re:Good! (Score:4, Informative)

    by GreyyGuy ( 91753 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @01:31PM (#33004998)

    Coward, most of the time (unless it is a big name writer) the person doing the marketing is the author themselves.

  • Re:IANAL, blah blah (Score:4, Informative)

    by vajrabum ( 688509 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @01:32PM (#33005020)
    Not only are you not a lawyer you don't know much about contracts or publishing rights either. Publishing rights are sold on a country by country basis and format by format basis. If you sell a book to be marketed in the US your publisher has no right to sell it in the UK or Australia unless they negotiate that separately. Same goes for audio books. So those advances are paid for the rights that were negotiated in the contract. Given that's the case then why would you think a pre-digital paper publishers have the right to publish digitally unless they've negotiated it or you work for a publisher who's interested in spreading FUD? The older contracts don't include those rights. Unless a contract is written specifically to allow future changes then things don't get grandfathered into a contract. They have to be renegotiated.
  • Re:Good! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Local ID10T ( 790134 ) <> on Friday July 23, 2010 @01:33PM (#33005024) Homepage

    so in your idealized world, who does the marketing?

    Ideally? No one does. Social networking and word-of-mouth is all that is needed.

    Realistically? The retailer does most of the marketing while the author does a smaller portion themselves.

  • Re:Good! (Score:3, Informative)

    by straponego ( 521991 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @01:35PM (#33005062)
    Marketing? I don't think I've ever bought a book I've seen an advertisement for. In my idealized world, nobody does the marketing.
  • by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @01:38PM (#33005094)
    What took so long was that the publishers asserted that they had the rights to e-book along with the rights to phyiscal books even when the contracts explicitly mentioned "book form" but did not mention electronic format. The authors disagreed and one or more took a publisher to court over it. This is how long since the court case was settled in the authors' favor for some organization to work out a deal for a large group of authors.
    Please be aware that the publishers do own the e-book rights to most more recent titles. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the next little while. Book publishers have never taken as big a chunk of the money made on books as music publishers, so their busness model is not as clearly outdated as that of music publishers (meaning that book publishers may still have time to figure out how to continue to turn a profit in the electronic distribution age).
  • Re:Good! (Score:5, Informative)

    by rwv ( 1636355 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @01:42PM (#33005132) Homepage Journal

    They have next to no costs associated with the make/move/sell aspect of digital distribution.

    Devil's Advocate here. Publishers are entrenched in the front lines of the multi-Billion dollar literature industry. They pay graphical artists to come up with book covers that reflect the nature of the book. This is a cost that does not go away when transitioning to electronic distribution. They pay copy editors to refine the style and grammar of a manuscript. Authors actually make many mistakes while writing their stories... and it would be a shame to sell thousands of copies where the word "teh" pops up three or four times. Marketing and advertising costs... whether through new or traditional media are significant. Though, even using new media, Facebook pages don't create and maintain themselves. It take one or two full time staff to properly drive eyeballs to the advertisements so that sales can be made.

    I'm not arguing that publishers aren't charging too much. I'm just pointing out that their role is not completely diminished because of a shift from print to digital.

  • Re:Good! (Score:3, Informative)

    by butterflysrage ( 1066514 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @01:52PM (#33005264)

    They pay graphical artists to come up with book covers that reflect the nature of the book
    sometimes, often it is paied out of the money they would have given to the author

    They pay copy editors to refine the style and grammar of a manuscript.
    HA! Maybe if you are JK Rowling... everyone else has to have their own editing.

    Marketing and advertising costs
    Again, usually either non existant except for extremely popular books (*twitch* Twilight *twitch*), or fronted for the author to be paid back later out of their sales.

    The majority of actual costs publishers have to deal with are getting dead trees to print the book on, and getting the physical books to stores.

  • Re:A good idea (Score:5, Informative)

    by Eponymous Coward ( 6097 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @01:55PM (#33005314)

    Why people willingly go for locked down technologies like Kindle and iTunes, I'll never understand.

    Then I'll explain it: convenience. Kindle and iTunes work and are affordable.

    The Kindle software group has done a decent job getting their reader software on a bunch of different platforms. Install the software and your library shows up.

    iTunes is mostly selling MP3's these days and it doesn't get much safer than that.

    Once upon a time, books were expensive and well made. These days, they are cheap and start yellowing before you are done reading them. Many publishers have even started using crappy paper for hard covers. As a result, I've started looking at books about the same way as I do a magazine. Read and toss. eBooks hang around longer on my hard drive (or in my Kindle library), but I don't have any real attachment to them.

    I can see if you are a physical book collector or like to maintain a collection, eBooks will seem stupid. To each his own.

  • Re:A good idea (Score:4, Informative)

    by jgagnon ( 1663075 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @01:56PM (#33005338)

    You realize that Amazon has a Kindle reader on many platforms, like the PC, Kindle reader, iPad, iPhone, Mac, and Linux... It's not like you have to buy a Kindle device to read the ebooks.

  • Re:A good idea (Score:5, Informative)

    by Eponymous Coward ( 6097 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @01:57PM (#33005342)

    Ack! I said MP3s and I really meant to say unencumbered files. I guess in my mind the two are equivalent.

  • Re:A good idea (Score:5, Informative)

    by gorzek ( 647352 ) <> on Friday July 23, 2010 @02:12PM (#33005536) Homepage Journal

    The issue isn't one of copyright but contract. Actors, writers, and directors in particular are all bound by contracts--either the boilerplate contracts from their respective guild (SAG, WGA, DGA) or a specific contract for the film in question. Those establish royalties and may or may not permit additional control over the film.

    To use a film clip in a TV show, for instance, you may need permission not only from the studio, but also from the actors, writers, and director, depending on how their contracts were negotiated. Even if you're the studio that owns the film, you would have to do this.

    A studio may have exclusive distribution rights for a film but that doesn't mean they have unfettered control over its use or get all the royalties. When it comes to major studio films, who holds the copyright just isn't that important because so many contracts are involved that divide control and proceeds among so many people.

  • Re:I'm not Shocked (Score:2, Informative)

    by jahudabudy ( 714731 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @03:06PM (#33006222)
    Physical format strengths include: Underling passages, making notes in the margin, fulfills my desire to hoard (a filled bookshelf is much more satisfying than a filled Palm), ease of lending to friends (this may become moot if ebooks become ubiquitous), safely read in the tub, don't worry about losing on trips, never run out of batteries (nice for long camping/hiking trips), turning a page is satisfying in a way that scrolling over isn't. I'm sure there are others.

    This isn't to say that physical is superior to electronic, just different. I hope the obvious advantages to authors of distributing ebooks doesn't convince most of them to forgo physical publishing. One is not a substitute for the other.
  • Re:Good! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Ephemeriis ( 315124 ) on Friday July 23, 2010 @03:28PM (#33006514)

    The B&N Unbound Blog is marketing. Their Friday giveaway is marketing.

    Yes, it is. It is marketing being conducted by Barnes & Noble, not whoever publishes the books.

    In the fine article, we're talking about a number of authors who've bypassed their publishers to sell directly on Amazon. Amazon can go right ahead and market things. The publishers are not necessary.

    You could write the best book in the world, but until someone other than yourself knows about it you are not going to sell a single copy. As soon as you tell someone, you have begun marketing it.

    Yes, I have begun marketing it - without involving a publisher.

    And these days I can potentially reach millions of people simply by posting something on my blog, or on Slashdot, or on Facebook, or wherever. All without requiring the services of a publisher.

    Next, it does no good at all to have thousands (millions?) of people clamoring for your book if they can't buy it anywhere.

    I could host the book on-line and accept donations. Or I could use one of several on-line ebook publication services. There's absolutely no need for me involve a traditional book publisher.

    So before you have consumers wanting your book, you better convince the retailers that this is going to be a best-seller so that they can stock up on it.

    You're talking about brick & mortar retailers, and physically stocking up on paper books, aren't you?

    Because this article, and my comments, are aimed at digital ebooks.

    If you're doing digital distribution, nobody needs to stock up. And it isn't too hard to convince folks to stock digital products. They don't take up any shelf space. There's no trade-off between some no-name and someone famous. You can throw both of them on your digital storefront and let them sell whatever they want.

    That is marketing (and is in fact the real heavy-duty marketing as far as books are concerned).

    As I said before, and just clearly illustrated, it is no longer necessary to have a publisher do your marketing for you.

Trap full -- please empty.