Monday, April 20, 2009

A New Split

I came upon a short piece, a press release really, about HarperStudio’s new split of funds with authors. The article comes out in the May issue of Fast Company, yet it wasn’t really new news. HarperStudio, an imprint of HarperCollins, is going to offer authors 50-50 profit sharing. This new business model differs from the standard in which authors usually get around 7 to 15 percent of the royalty.

What caught my eye was HarperStudio’s plans to use technology to encourage author participation in promotion and encourage sales. One thing they did was give their authors (they only plan to publish two books a month) Flip cameras and “asked them to start video blogging, opening up their writing process and cultivating an audience as soon as a book is acquired.” All authors have to start promoting themselves and their book as soon as they sign on, if not before. This may give them encouragement and support to do that.

But here’s the nudge from HarperStudio that caught my eye:
We're looking at multimedia packaging, such as including a DVD of Isabella Rossellini's Green Porno films along with her new photo book.
Hmm. A bonus package.
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  1. Hooboy! Well I guess that would catch MY eye too! LOL. Wow. Whatever sells, eh?

    Seriously, interesting post. The times they are a changinh.

  2. Had to read that last bit twice - interesting!

    Wonder how Harper Studio is doing the 50-50 split?

    I recently met the owner of Nightengale Press and her business model was fascinating. Authors assist with the cost of editing, formatting & printing and in return receive 100% royalties until they recoup the initial cost and afterwards it reverts to a standard royalty. No, she is NOT a vanity press - she has a submission process and selects projects as carefully as any other publisher. (And claims that out of 80 books so far, only one was a mistake.) But her model protects her as a publisher and encourages the authors to participate in promoting. She says most authors need only sell between 200 & 500 books, and if an author doesn't think they can do that, then they have no business publishing in the first place.

    Thought it was rather interesting... what do you think, Helen?

    L. Diane Wolfe

  3. I had a contract where we did that split--(got out of it for other reasons) but you didn't get money until the publication costs were met and then when some sold.

  4. Now authors with no 'extras' to include in their media packages may find it even harder to find publishers!

    Jane Kennedy Sutton

  5. Interesting concept. Hopefully, Harper is leading the way to some improved, innovative marketing strategies.

    Diary of Murder

  6. Diane, Nightengale Press' policy seems generous to the author since the press doesn't get to recoup their losses until the author does. Definitely unusual, but I assume it works, or they would have changed the policy.

  7. You're right, Marvin. It feels like everything is changing. And changing quickly. Almost every day is some new idea. Writers and publishers are both trying to come up with new models to sell books in not only difficult economic times, but in a world where technology is in rapid flux.

    Jean's right when she calls this an improved, innovative marketing strategy.

    Jane, for those who don't have something significant to add to a "package," I hope publishers will come up with other strategies.

  8. might be difficult for us all to have porno to go with our books...and would we want to see...!

    Fascinating post and ties into what I'm noticing (and knew about from working in a bookstore), all the big names are published all at once in the spring and fall. I like thrillers and the list of the ones coming out in May is lengthy. Why not "stagger" the publications? Especially with the newer authors?

  9. They should be staggered, I agree Conda. I do know that publishers check to see who's coming out when. They don't want to go up against someone who's big and will easily capture the top of the best-seller list. And if there are several of those coming out at the same time, they try to debut at a time when their expected big seller can make the list.

    I would expect May to be a big month since it leads into summer and people look for "beach" reads.

  10. What I'm wondering is what they're cutting in order to free up 1/2 of their profits? Will they still be doing the same marketing on their own, or expecting authors to do it all? Overall, author marketing doesn't generally give a publisher the "blockbuster bestseller" titles a'la Harry Potter or Twilight. Wonder if they'll still pick their pet projects to push to keep themselves afloat?


  11. That's a very interesting business model, but I would also be a bit wary of the only getting paid after publishing costs are met part of it...

  12. I can't wait to hear how this works. I'm kind of camera shy so I don't know if I like having to be a film star on top of being a writer.
    And I'm not making a porno to go in my media package. LOL I'm pretty sure that wouldn't really help sales.

  13. Susan, if you're not making a porno to go in your media package, why are you making it? KIDDING!!!

    There would have to be a push by the publisher. I don't for one second believe Meyer made it all over the TV, on talk shows, on every network, like she did without a push by her publisher.

    Amen, Dana.

  14. It's getting tougher and tougher for authors to make it out there, but I do draw the line on porn. Even if I weren't an old lady, I'd still think that way.(g)

    Morgan Mandel

  15. Hmmph. Interesting. I know a lot about promotion, and book promotion as well, but I have to say, I wouldn't want to have to do it all on my own. That's one of the hard things for those who are published by small indie presses, and reputable Print on Demand publishing companies. It's a HARD way to climb the promotion mountain. 500 copies, yah, IF you're working your butt off. Getting your books into a brick and mortar store, National distribution releases, and access to top review sites and other promotion inside tracks, sure you would up your chances of selling more than 500 copies. Without that...

    But, I'm not surprised to see a 50/50 split and I'm assuming this is in lieu of advances. I do think we are going to see more publishers lower the advances with debuting or even some mid-range authors and see the author depending upon royalties to pay them for their work. Or if their books do better than expected, offering a bigger advance come contract renewal time. Self promotion will play into that big time.

    Hmmm, Porno films? Yah, if you were a porno star selling your memoirs. Multimedia packaging...I wonder if erotica writers will be encouraged to have a series of soft porn trailers. *shrugging, I'm curious.

  16. If you're interested, here are a few of the multimedia things available for HarperStudio's first book, WHO IS MARK TWAIN?

    Check out the writing contest and see if you can write the ending to one of Twain's unfinished pieces from the book:

    Download the free audio book (read by John Lithgow) from The New Yorker:

    Watch WHO IS MARK TWAIN? by Flash Rosenberg, a running illustration of a piece from the book, read by Lithgow


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