Thursday, December 17, 2009

SoA sets higher benchmark for author royalties

16.12.09 Benedicte Page in The Bookseller

E-book royalties should be "much higher" than they currently are, rising to 75% or 85% of receipts in some circumstances, according to the Society of Authors. The view will alarm publishers who currently offer between 15% and 25%, and argue that digital royalties should not be looked at in isolation.

An editorial in the Winter issue of The Author, published this week, argues that publishers have failed to give a convincing explanation for why authors should not have a higher proportion of e-book revenues.

It says: "Until the economics and scale of the market become clearer, we consider that publishers should share e-book income equally with their authors. In any event we particularly encourage authors to try to negotiate steep increases to their royalties at agreed sales thresholds (as publishers recoup their costs).

"When a book has become well-established, it may be reasonable for the author's share to rise to as much as 75%."

On other forms of electronic access, such as rental and pay-per-view, authors should receive "at least 50%, preferably nearer 85%", of the publishers receipts, said The Author.

The SoA has always argued authors should be given higher royalty rates for digital rights, previously recommending that authors should receive royalties of "at least 25%, preferably 35%, rising at an agreed level of sales". However, it has never publicly recommended a share of 75%. The Bookseller reported in October that it was planning to revise its recommendation upwards.

The SoA is also "very uneasy" at authors being asked to sign contracts which last for the duration of copyright—the author's life plus 70 years—and recommends that authors grant publishers a license for 10 or 20 years rather than full duration of copyright, as well as limiting any grant of e-book rights to the verbatim text, negotiating wider electronic rights, such as for enhanced e-books, separately.

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