Royalties

Scott Turow on CBS This Morning: Authors Face a “Many Faceted Battle”

When Scott Turow stopped by CBS This Morning last week to promote his new book, Identical, co-anchor Charlie Rose turned the discussion to Turow’s “beef with Amazon,” while Norah O’Donnell brought up his April New York Times piece on  “The Slow Death of the American Author.”

Turow said Amazon’s below-cost ebook pricing, “destroys physical bookstores and drives the reading public into the ebook, which of course Amazon dominates. They’re a great competitor and I don’t mind fair operation of the market. I don’t like unfair tactics.”

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Posted in Advocacy, Copyright, E-Books, General, Royalties

Piracy, Bribery, Profit? Amazon Releases Kindle Into Complex Chinese Book Market

Will the availability of the Kindle be enough to convince Chinese readers to actually pay for the ebooks they download? That’s the hope as Amazon starts selling its Kindle Paperwhite and Kindle HD Fire in a nation of rampant piracy.

Stemming copyright violations would require quite a change in mindset. Consider a 2012 survey of nearly 19,000 Chinese readers, as reported in the People’s Daily Online:

The survey, carried out by the  Chinese Academy of Press and Publication, also showed that 40.1 percent of respondents who have read e-books before would be willing to pay for the books, down 1.7 percent year on year.

So, six out of 10 ebook readers in China would not even be theoretically willing to spend money on the titles they download.

Amazon is hoping to discourage piracy by keeping prices low, selling most ebooks at the equivalent of $1.63. But it will also have to convince consumers to choose the Kindle over cheaper Chinese e-readers, as Bloomberg reports:

Amazon, a brand known for bargains in most of the places it operates, finds itself in a more premium position with its Kindle products in China. The Paperwhite costs 849 yuan. E-Commerce China Dangdang, one of Amazon’s Chinese competitors, began selling its own e-reader there a year ago. The price: 599 yuan.

Amazon’s move comes on the heels of a scandal highlighting China’s pervasive problems with copyright, the arrest of Lou Li, the founder of that country’s largest online literature site, Qidian. Press accounts differ as to the nature of his alleged misdeeds–reports have him arrested for either selling copyrighted material that belonged to Qidian’s parent company or accepting bribes in a copyright negotiation.

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Posted in Advocacy, Authorship, Copyright, E-Books, General, Royalties

Harper Lee Sues Agent She Says Tricked Her

Harper Lee is suing her former agent, Sam Pinkus, to recover royalties from To Kill a Mockingbird dating back to 2007, when he allegedly tricked her into signing over copyright  to the classic novel as she was in an assisted living facility recovering from a stroke.

“Pinkus knew that Harper Lee was an elderly woman with physical infirmities that made it difficult for her to read and see,” Lee’s lawyer Gloria Phares says in a complaint filed in federal court last week, according to Bloomberg and other news sources. The 87-year-old author regained rights to the novel in 2012, but Pinkus has continued to collect royalties.

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Posted in Authorship, Copyright, Royalties

S&S Says Sales Not Suffering Much Amid B&N Dispute

Despite its continuing disagreement with Barnes & Noble, Simon & Schuster did not experience a significant drop in first quarter sales–just 3 percent to $171 million–as the company took steps to make up for business lost as it’s trying to negotiate a resolution with the bookseller.

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Posted in Authorship, Royalties

NYPL President: Big Six Now Allow E-Lending of Books “Anywhere and On Any Device”

Downloading ebooks from your local public library is poised to become much more widespread.

Anthony Marx, New York Public Library President, announced in an op-ed in today’s NY Times (subscription required) that Hachette Book Group has now joined the other Big Six publishers in agreeing to allow e-lending of its titles. Citing surveys that show that most Americans don’t know that libraries offer ebooks, Marx sees a need “to educate patrons that they can download library e-books anywhere and on any device.” Library e-lending, when permitted by publishers, generally allows one-at-a-time, two week uses of ebooks. Library users may download the ebooks from their homes after using their library cards to log in to the library’s website.

Marx discusses the variations in e-lending terms among the Big Six publishers: Penguin and Simon & Schuster offer their entire lists to public libraries through licenses that expire after a year; HarperCollins also offers their entire list with licenses that expire after a title is downloaded 26 times; Random House offers its entire list for unlimited uses, charging a premium for the license; and Macmillan makes only a limited portion of its list available.

The numbers show substantial room for growth in ebook downloads from the NYPL (and, no doubt, other public libraries):

The New York Public Library had 100,000 copies of 37,000 digital titles in circulation last year, compared with 6.5 million copies in circulation of 1 million print titles. Just as libraries decide which physical books to purchase and how many of each, we now will be deciding the same for e-books.

As those with library cards learn that they ”can download library e-books anywhere and on any device,” we may soon see a rapid shift in ebook buying habits.

Posted in Authorship, E-Books, Royalties

Audio of Authors Guild Seminar on Book Contracts — Traditional, Ebook & POD

Here’s a clip from last week’s phone-in seminar with Anita Fore, Authors Guild Director of Legal Services, on the basics of understanding and negotiating contracts with both traditional book publishers and stand-alone ebook/POD publishers. The clip (about 15 minutes) focuses on traditional book contracts:

Members are welcome to contact us for a link to the full-length audio of the 60-minute seminar and a handout that accompanies Anita’s talk. (Not a member? Join up! You must be a published author to join, but many self-published authors now qualify for membership.)

The Guild is hosting additional phone-in seminars for members this week and next:

Magazine Contract Issues (Wednesday, April 24th)
Anita Fore will discuss several clauses freelancers should be aware of when negotiating magazine agreements. Sign up here.

Authors’ Statutory Right to Terminate Publishing Contracts After 35 Years (Wednesday, May 1st)
Paul Aiken, Authors Guild Executive Director, will explain the rules governing publishing contract terminations under Section 203 of the Copyright Act. Sign up here.

Posted in Advocacy, E-Books, General, Royalties

Condé Nast Moves to Seize, Lowball Freelancers’ Film/TV Rights

Breaking with longstanding industry practices, Condé Nast is seeking to cut itself in on its writers’ potential film and television deals. In the process, it would slice writers’ share of potential film and television income to freelance works appearing in its magazines by more than 50%. Its new boilerplate contract — introduced last year — would give the company a free, exclusive 12-month right to option dramatic and multimedia rights. Under the contract, Condé Nast could choose to extend that option by up to 24 months for a modest sum.

Should Condé Nast exercise the option, the writer would, under boilerplate terms, be paid just 1% of the film or tv production budget. Negotiated film and tv agreements typically pay the author 2.5% or more of the production budget.

Agents and writers are pushing back, with some success. Since Condé Nast owns such leading publications as Bon Appétit, GQ, The New Yorker, Self, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and Wired, among others, authors with significant negotiating clout are affected. Reportedly, some of those authors have been able to substantially alter or eliminate the option terms of the new boilerplate agreement.

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Posted in Advocacy, Authorship, Royalties

Scott Turow on CBC News: “difficult to comprehend Justice Department’s seeming approval” when Amazon’s “aim was clearly to monopolize the e-book market”

In an eight-minute segment on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s nightly CBC News that aired yesterday, Scott Turow discussed Amazon’s tactic of selling bestselling e-books at a loss to lock up a 90% share of the e-book market.  He also took aim at publishers, saying “there should be a 50% royalty on net proceeds” for e-books, following established practices for the industry.  (See E-Book Royalty Math: The House Always Wins and The E-Book Royalty Mess: An Interim Fix for discussions of e-royalty rates.)

Posted in E-Books, Royalties

The E-Book Royalty Mess: An Interim Fix

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To mark the one-year anniversary of the Great Blackout, Amazon’s weeklong shut down of e-commerce for nearly all of Macmillan’s titles, we’re sending out a series of alerts on the state of e-books, authorship, and publishing. The first installment (“How Apple Saved Barnes & Noble. Probably.”) discussed the outcome, of that battle, which introduced a modicum of competition into the distribution of e-books. The second, (“E-Book Royalty Math: The House Always Wins”) took up the long-simmering e-royalty debate, and showed that publishers generally do significantly better on e-book sales than on hardcover sales, while authors always do worse

Today, we look at the implications of that disparity, and suggest an interim solution to minimize the harm to authors.

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E-Book Royalty Math: The House Always Wins

Tags: ,

To mark the one-year anniversary of the Great Blackout, Amazon’s weeklong shut down of e-commerce for nearly all of Macmillan’s titles, we’re sending out a series of alerts this week and next on the state of e-books, authorship, and publishing. The first installment (“How Apple Saved Barnes & Noble. Probably.”) discussed the outcome, one year later, of that battle. Today, we look at the e-royalty debate, which has been simmering for a while, but is likely to soon heat up as the e-book market grows.

E-book royalty rates for major trade publishers have coalesced, for the moment, at 25% of the publisher’s receipts. As we’ve pointed out previously, this is contrary to longstanding tradition in trade book publishing, in which authors and publishers effectively split the net proceeds of book sales (that’s how the industry arrived at the standard hardcover royalty rate of 15% of list price). Among the ills of this radical pay cut is the distorting effect it has on publishers’ incentives: publishers generally do significantly better on e-book sales than they do on hardcover sales. Authors, on the other hand, always do worse.

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