Thursday, April 23, 2009

Chester Campbell, Author

Chester Campbell’s latest book is called The Surest Poison and features PI Sid Chance, a former National Parks ranger whose career as a small town police chief was cut short by malicious accusations of bribery. This is Chester’s first book in this series. He writes a second series featuring Greg McKenzie, a retired Air Force investigator, and his wife. There are already four books in the McKenzie series.

Chester lives in Tennessee and is active in the local chapters of both Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. He first started writing when he was in the Army Air Force and a fellow cadet mentioned that he wanted to study journalism. Chester knew a good idea when he heard one. That idea took him from work as a newspaper reporter, freelance writer, magazine editor, political speechwriter, advertising copywriter, public relations professional and association executive, all the way to novelist.

Now he’s here to advise us on electronic book rights.

Welcome Chester!

Electronic Rights to Books
By Chester Campbell

Electronic rights to books are becoming more valuable as the availability of ebook readers and methods of downloading titles rapidly increases. The big guys are still Amazon’s Kindle and what Sony calls its Reader Digital Book, but there are many others around, some with Wi-Fi capability. Mobipocket supports many mobile phone operating systems, allowing you to read while standing it line at the grocery.

What’s the outlook for the future? Some in the publishing industry still see ebooks as a fad, but Steve Haber, who developed the Sony Reader, disagrees. He told the Fast Company on-line magazine:

"E-book readers will largely dominate the industry, and it could happen in less than 10 years. Every time I give a Reader to someone to test, I never get it back. It's just like when TiVo or digital cameras came out. At first, people didn't know they needed it. But once they have it, they can't live without it.”

He said the technology shift was the same as when camcorders went from film to digital. “When we introduced our Reader, the biggest resistance I heard was, 'I like the smell of books, and I like the smell of paper. I can't go digital.' That was the confirmation for me that this change will happen. If the smell of paper is the biggest push back, then we're good to go."

So what to do about the electronic rights to your books? Adler & Robins Books, a book packager, has an excellent discussion of the subject. They recommend you retain control of e-rights as much as possible. I’m with a small press and kept all of my electronic rights, which allows me to make my books available for the Kindle and any other ebook reading device.

If you’re with a larger publisher, you may not have that option. But here’s what The Authors Guild has to say about it:

“If your publisher insists on an upfront, outright grant of electronic rights, insert contractual language requiring the publisher to negotiate royalty and Subsidiary Rights licensing splits with you immediately prior to the planned exploitation or licensing of electronic rights.

“The royalty rate your publisher proposes to pay if it publishes its own electronic edition of your book should be enumerated in the Royalties clause of your contract. If your publisher licenses electronic rights to another publisher, your share of the fee should be enumerated in the Subsidiary Rights clause of your contract. Although electronic publishing is still an evolving industry without clear standards, not long ago, Random House announced an intention to evenly split ebook sales revenue with authors. Before this announcement, Random House had been offering authors royalties of no more than 15% of the retail price of an ebook. Many other publishers, including Harper Collins, have started to offer a 50-50 split of net proceeds also. Therefore, you should negotiate to receive no less.”

If you own your electronic rights, you can also sell them to a publisher that specializes in ebooks. Some authors who’ve had a problem getting interest in their manuscripts from traditional publishers or agents go that route first. It can be a springboard to a print publication. E-publishers pay royalties of 30 to 50 percent of list price.

Another caution most advisors give is if your publisher insists on getting electronic rights, you insist on defining out-of-print precisely. Otherwise, they can sell an ebook occasionally and say your book is still in print. Your rights should revert back to you if a specific number of books is not sold in a year’s time.

According to industry buzz, Barnes & Noble is considering its own ebook reader. So are some traditional publishers, including those that currently print newspaper and magazines. Best take a close look at your own situation and be sure you’re ready for a bigger boom in digital publishing.

Which reminds me, I need to upload my new book, The Surest Poison, to the Kindle site.

Thank you Chester.

Chester will be checking in today to answer questions and say hi back to those who comment. Speaking of commenting -- have any of you retained your E-rights? If not, do you wish you had?

I’ll start off the questions for Chester by asking…. I saw in your website FAQ that you were an aviation cadet in the Army Air Forces. Where in the heck were you last month when I was interviewing people for my book on Avionics?!

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  1. Chester, My pubulisher has always offered 50/50 for ebook royalties, so I was surprised to learn some publishers treated ebook royolties the same as paper books.

  2. Good for your publisher, Charlotte. Hopefully others will get on the bandwagon.

    Hi, Helen. I couldn't have helped you much on avionics. The subject was in its infancy when I was an aviation cadet. The war ended before I got into pilot training so I never got my wings.

  3. Hi Charlotte. E-books aren't new, but they seem to be new enough that there isn't a standard royalty payment established yet. I hope the industry gets it figured out before too long.

    Good morning, Chester. Thank you for making Straight From Hel one of your tour stops! And I still would have had a question or two for you about those infancy days. :-D

  4. Thanks for this article, Chester. This is kind of a side issue, but would you know if the technology is coming where an ebook will be able to have hyperlinks in the text? I published a Free Spirit blog anthology (Between the Storm and the Rainbow) recently and I wanted to have the same links in the post texts (in the ebook version) as I did in the original posts on the blog. But the publisher said that was not possible so I had to list the links at the bottom of each post for readers to be able to look up the referred to web pages.

    Marvin D Wilson

  5. Thanks for the interesting information. Now, I'm going to to dig my contract out and review it.

    Jane Kennedy Sutton

  6. Hi, Chester,

    My first two novel ebooks were published in 1999 and were later resold to a print publisher. My 11th and 12th books, Diary of Murder and A Village Shattered, are outselling the print versions 3 to 1 in Kindle and multi format, so I'm convinced that electronic books are here to stay. I love my Kindle and take it in my purse wherever I go, especially to doctors' appointments, etc. :)

  7. Marvin, I haven't seen anything about hyperlinks, but I wouldn't doubt it's in the works. There are lots of innovations on the drawing board.

  8. Hi Jean. You comment about carrying your Kindle in your purse made me wonder -- how heavy is it?

  9. That's a great suggestion, Marvin. The e-readers connect to the Internet to download, so why not be able to link from your e-reader!

  10. Wow, you really did your research, Chester! Many new points on which to ponder.

    L. Diane Wolfe

  11. Great article. Thanks Chester!

    Speaking of eBooks and Amazon, has anyone else noticed that there are *two* versions of your book for Kindle?

    We retained the electronic rights when Rowan of the Wood was published, and I made it available for the Kindle via Amazon's DTP. Then I discovered there is a second one I didn't put up (that has a higher ranking than the one I did)

    My publisher & distributor didn't do it, so that leaves Amazon or another 3rd party.

    I've already found a few other authors who have this problem. We're guessing that Amazon somehow automatically generated the second.

    Check your titles to make sure someone else isn't getting your hard earned royalties!

  12. Wow, Christine! If someone buys Rowan through the link you didn't put up, do you get your royalties? If not, can you get that one taken off?

  13. If Barnes & Noble is considering its own reader, they must have discovered what sets the Kindle apart from other ebook readers. It's not that the Kindle carries your entire library; it's that the Kindle carries an entire bookstore. You have the ability to buy any Amazon book at any time. Being able to purchase on a whim is something new to the book industry. It's certainly good for Amazon.

    So that raises a question: If B&N puts out a rival to the Kindle, will users be limited to purchases from B&N's store? Will electronic rights be retailer specific?

    If publishers are getting into the ebook reader business, we might see a situation in publishing like that in the shaving industry where razors were given away in order to sell the blades. Maybe publishers will give away their readers which will read only the books in their catalog.

    That sounds like a worst case scenario for authors.

  14. That's interesting, Christine.I haven't run into any double listing of my books. I hear tales about how difficult it is to get answers from Amazon, but I'd certainly start asking questions.

    Mark - you raise a good point. There's a real need for a standard ebook format. Most other media have settled on one or two, but I don't know if the ebook folks will ever get together on one.

  15. My publisher (a small press) publishes in both e-book and print, with higher royalties for e-books.

    I encourage my clients who self-publish to make their books available as e-books (HTML, PDF, and TXT) on their Web site and in Kindle. One client has told them she sells more books through Kindle than in print.

    Lillie Ammann
    A Writer's Words, An Editor's Eye

  16. Good question, Mark. The books need to be in a standard format. Where you download from could be a matter of preference.

  17. Very informative article, Chester! E-rights are new area for me, having only sold print rights before, and I learned a lot. Thanks!

  18. Hi, Chester:
    Good post on e-books and a wakeup call to authors. I just read this about the Kindle at the New York Times:

    "Amazon released no new sales numbers, but J.P. Morgan estimated the company could sell more than half a million units this year and generate more than $96 million in revenue from the sale of digital books and other media for the standalone device and other mobile devices like the iPhone and iPod Touch ...

    ISuppli, a research firm, recently estimated the Kindle costs about $185 to produce, giving the $359 device a high profit margin."

    This tells me 2 things: e-books are here to stay, and the Kindle's price will come down. I hope so -- I'd love to have one!

    Pat Browning

  19. Good info, Chester. Must go tweet about your stop right this minute. Got the news from Helen's eLetter.


  20. Thanks for sharing. Publishing is changing so fast, it's hard to stay current with information.

  21. I've been e-published for years and watched how things have changed--and it's bigger changes now because of Kindle.

    With my latest publisher my royalties are 50/50. Others of my e- publishers are 40/60.

    No author should put up with royalties from the big publishers that are akin to their books.


  22. My first book didn't do that well in ebook, but my second has. That's probably an indication how things are on the upswing with ebooks.

    Morgan Mandel

  23. Great discussion, guys. Now I have to get busy and pick a couple of book winners from everybody who's made comments so far on the tour. I'll post it on my blog in the morning.

  24. Thanks Chester for leading us in this timely discussion! And thanks to everyone for giving your input and knowledge. What a great group!

  25. Like what i seen here, it was very interesting to see and visit all the great stuff on here, and would very much recommend this site to someone else also. Great Job...

  26. Helen,

    The Kindle is very slim and lightweight, not much more than a paperback novel. And you can carry nearly 150 novels in it. Can't beat that!


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