Friday, July 23, 2010

Publisher defends e-book royalties and rebuts SoA attack

22.07.10 | Catherine Neilan in The Bookseller

Publishers have been giving a spirited defence of their stance towards e-book royalties, after being criticised by members of the author and agent community.

Evan Schnittman, outgoing vice-president of global corporate and business development at OUP, criticised comments made by Society of Authors (SoA) chair Tom Holland and agent Andrew Wylie arguing publishers should offer higher royalty rates for e-books.

On his blog, he noted the view was “built on the self-serving and reductive assumption that e-books can and should be viewed as separate from a book’s overall economy . . . The object of this ploy is to dissect the intellectual property into as many different pieces as possible and negotiate them on the open market in order to maximise the deal.”

Schnittman—who joins Bloomsbury as m.d. for group sales and marketing next month—told The Bookseller: “All parties are to blame, but it feels like there is a land grab attempt at establishing rates for what are primary rights being dressed up as secondary.”

Costs, from marketing to digital infrastructure, have not reduced and as e-books are generally priced lower, publishers make less per title, he argued. Schnittman stressed selling books in digital form was likely to cannibalise print sales, but this was not recognised in the author’s advance. He mooted negotiating a lower advance alongside a higher royalty rate on a “profit share” basis as one possible alternative.

In response, Holland said: “The evidence from the film industry shows whenever accountants get to work on profit share, there are no profits to be had.”

He added: “We are not asking for [costs] not to be factored in. We are trying not to be greedy, because we value what publishers do . . . but we wouldn’t be doing our job at the SoA if we weren’t standing up for the rights of authors.”

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