Just Say No

Author Terrill Lee Lankford announced on his blog that he has just walked away from a big advance from a major publisher on his next book over the outrageous 75/25 e-book royalty split…and is going to self-publish instead. He says, in part: 

What this “sizable advance” now looks like to me is a very expensive loan. I have been watching the e-book revolution carefully for the last two years and it is clear to me that by 2012 everything we have thought about traditional publishing will be history. The bookstores know this. The publishers know this. And some of the writers know this. But I have a feeling not everyone has gotten the memo yet.

So I have no choice but to go full indie here. You heard me. I am walking away from a potential traditional publishing deal and joining the ranks of the self-published.[…]
This is a huge gamble for someone in my position. I am not prolific. My habit has been to publish two books every seven years or so. That time was approaching and I was hoping that I had found a new home with this editor and publishing house. But I can’t sign away my financial legacy to my children in this fashion, however small it may be.

He also has a warning for mid-list authors who are seeing new publisher interest in their dormant backlist…

In the meantime a lot of the little folks who just want to see print again are probably going to be seduced by new interest from publishers. I have a feeling there is going to be a tidal wave of cheap purchases by the publishers hoping to tie up as much material as possible at these usury rates. And then how much will your “platform” be worth? If you are just another name in a list of hundreds fighting for attention on a giant slate of titles you will have handed in your work cheap, with no way of getting it returned to you. Yes, that’s right. E-books don’t go out of print, so if you don’t fight for time limits, your work will be lost to you. Permanently.

I think we are going to see more and more authors, those who haven’t become household names, doing the math and making the same decision that he has.

3 thoughts on “Just Say No”

  1. Quite right. I had to refuse a contract because the publisher wanted electronic rights on a previously published book already contracted for w/o electronic rights. The temtation for midlist writers to sign away everything to stay in print is enormous.

  2. I think we’re going to see a lot more of this. I also wonder if indies who think their ebooks are a back way into a traditional deal will now reconsider. Lankford didn’t say, but if Amazon wasn’t paying 70%, would he have been so quick to turn down the deal? Would anybody?

  3. Personally, I wouldn’t follow Mr. Lankford’s course, if I was fortunate enough to be offered a substantial advance. I think that the success of a small number of writers like J.A. Konrath has convinced everyone else that’s there’s a direct path from Kindle to riches.
    An advance can be seen from the author’s point of view as insurance against failure. It’s the bird in the hand versus the two speculative birds in the bush. If you take the traditional deal, you limit your ebook royalties, but if your ebook fails you get 70% of very little if the book’s a dud.
    Since I’m risk averse and insecure, I would still take the traditional deal.


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