July 17, 2008. Simon & Schuster has recently sent a one-page letter to many, perhaps thousands, of authors with unspecified e-book royalty rates in an attempt to set those rates at 15% of the "catalog retail price" of the e-book. (This is the typical e-book royalty rate for S&S.) As with any amendment to a book contract, the Authors Guild advises caution:
Discuss the amendment with your agent or attorney, if you have one.
Depending on your existing contract with Simon & Schuster, the amendment may grant the publisher rights that you've otherwise retained.
Be aware that the amendment may affect your ability to obtain a reversion of rights.
In any negotiation regarding e-book royalty rates, we suggest that you keep your powder dry: try to retain the right to renegotiate e-book royalty rates. The Authors Guild expects that 15% of the retail list price will be the low-water mark for e-book royalties. As the e-book market develops, authors with clout will doubtlessly insist on a more reasonable share of e-book revenues, and the industry will have to adapt. One glance at Amazon.com's home page, which has for months been ceaselessly promoting its Kindle e-book reader, indicates that day may be near.
For more on Amazon and e-books, see this July 4th article from the San Francisco Chronicle.
As always, we're here to help. Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org if you'd like help from our legal team with Simon & Schuster's proposed e-book royalty amendment.