The Ian Fleming Estate has realized what so many other published authors already know — that if you own the digital rights to your backlist, it makes more financial sense to publish the ebooks yourself. So the estate is publishing the digital versions of the Bond novels themselves, cutting out Penguin, which still has the entire series in print. The London Telegraph says that this move could be the beginning of a wave of established authors choosing to self-publish the digital versions of their highly successful franchises.
The books industry could lose out on millions of pounds because publishers have failed to sign up the digital rights to authors, who are expected to bypass traditional publishing houses in favour of Amazon or Google.
Industry insiders suggested that blockbusting authors including JK Rowling, Martin Amis and Salman Rushdie would be looking at the deal closely.
The digital versions of the 007 books will be published by Ian Fleming Publications, which administers the rights to the Bond books.
[…]There are many authors still working that have not signed away the digital rights to their books, allowing them to cut out their traditional publisher if they chose to. Agents said they had grown increasingly irritated by the low royalty rates offered by publishers for digital rights.
This development doesn’t surprise me at all, especially in light of the sobering news from Publishers Weekly this week about the plunge in “paper” sales and the incredible surge in digital in September.
As sales in the traditional trade segments plunged in September, e-book sales jumped 158.1%, according to the monthly sales estimates released by the Association of American Publishers. Sales for the 14 publishers that reported e-book sales hit $39.9 million in the month, and were up 188.4% in the first nine months of the year to $304.6 million. In contrast, sales in the three adult trade segments, adult hardcover, trade paperback and mass market paperback, all fell by more than double digits with the adult hardcover segment experiencing the biggest decline with sales down 40.4% at the 17 publisher who reported sales to the AAP of $180.3 million. The only other segment to post a significant sales gain in September was downloadable audio with sales from the nine reporting companies up 73.7%, to $7.7 million. Sales of audio CDs fell 42.6%, to $11.6 million, in the month at the 22 reporting companies.
Established authors with a large back-list, whether the titles are in print or not, could see significant increases in their revenues putting the digital versions of those books out themselves. And the news is getting around. Look for a surge in 2011 of established authors self-publishing the digital versions of their backlists.
This has agents scrambling for an approach on how to get a share of this potential income. I’ve already heard that some agents are talking about inserting clauses in their new agency agreements with authors that grant them commissions on the digital self-publication of any books for which they negotiated the original print deals. It will be interesting to see how that goes over.