It used to be that once a book fell out of print, and the rights reverted back to the author, that was pretty much the end of the line for that particular title. That changed several years back when the Authors Guild teamed up with iUniverse to launch the “Back in Print” program for previously published books. For no charge to Authors Guild members, iUniverse scans a copy of the out-of-print book, designs a new cover, and offers it as a print-on-demand paperback with the author getting a 20% royalty from every sale. A lot of authors, including William F. Buckley, Hank Searls, Robert Bausch, Walter Satterthwait, Jerome Doolittle, Tony Fennelly, Lawrence Shames, Don Pendleton, Lawrence Block, Richard Wheeler and yours truly have taken advantage of the program.
The Authors Guild reports that in 2007 alone they sold 46,844 formerly out-of-print titles, accounting for $566,382 in sales and earning authors $99,530 in royalties…or, as I look at it, found money.
I have three out-of-print titles that have been available through the program since 2002. The royalties have steadily dwindled over time. In 2006, I earned $406.24. In 2007, I earned $179.65. So far in 2008, I’ve earned $69.32. Not a lot of cash but it’s better than nothing…and best of all, I don’t have to work for it.