The Bookseller reports that UK agents are refusing to accept the line from publishers that 25% is a fair rate for e-royalties. They insist that print and e-deals be seperate. Agent Sonia Land got so frustrated that she and her client Catherine Cookson are e-publishing her backlist themselves.
Land has warned book publishers they will lose control over authors’ digital backlists unless they improve their royalty offer.
Land this week announced her decision to publish 100 of Catherine Cookson’s novels as e-books through her company Peach Publishing, bypassing Cookson’s physical publishers Transworld. Other agents warned against the move, one calling it "tantamount to a declaration of war".
In a column in this week’s Bookseller, Land called on publishers to up their rates from 25% to 50% of net proceeds from e-books to secure digital rights.
Land said the publisher forced her hand by not showing an interest in Cookson’s digital rights. She said: "I’ve been thinking about this for a year and a half. They never approached me with a deal, but I think they knew I wanted a better offer."
Speaking about publishers in general, Land said: "The thing that really annoys me is that they won’t even negotiate a decent rate . . . They say ‘25% is perfectly reasonable’. They need to stop pretending it’s so expensive. I’ve just done it. I can do my sums."
2 thoughts on “UK Agents Declaring War over E-Rights”
Good for them. First shot’s across the bow. In my opinion, the 25% is a joke, further made worse by the fact there’s no endpoint. Up until recently, unless you were very successful, print books went out of print and rights reverted. Everybody but bestsellers learns to expect it. But nobody believes – including publishers – that e-book rights will “go out of print.” So that means publishers are “licensing” 75% of YOUR intellectual property FOREVER.
I really think agents and writers, if traditional publishing is going to be able to deal with this, are going to have to come up with some sort of equitable deal on e-rights, where the scale slides toward the author, then terminates. Something along the lines of:
First year, 25% royalty
Year 2-3, 50% royalty
Year 4-5, 75% royalty
Year 5, e-rights revert to author.
Or, possibly, Year 5, 90% royalty FOREVER.
And that 25% is of the publisher’s “net cash proceeds” not of the price the reader pays for a download. Thus a traditional UK publisher can list a book at £10, farm out the digitisation work to a specialist company for a 20% commission, give the appropriate cuts to retailers and the taxman, and at the and of the day collect £3.20, of which he pays the author £0.80 — that is, less than 10%. Given that ebooks were “sold” to us partly on the promise that they would eliminate costly paper, printing, shipping, warehousing, and bookstore display, less than 10% is NOT “reasonable.”