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.
Electronic Rights to Books
By Chester Campbell
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?!