More on ebooks and royalties

Well, hi, kids!

Hope everyone had a groovy weekend. I was thinking about that link I posted last week in which author Graham Swift noted that authors are in danger of getting screwed with regard to ebook royalties.

And today, thanks to one of my writers’ associations (that would be Sisters in Crime), I was apprised of this story at BookBaby.

It’s an article titled “Do Publishers Pay a Fair Royalty Rate for ebooks under the Agency Model?”

Here’s what I found kind of interesting:

But despite these costs which publishers incur [read the piece to see what those are; it’s short]…they’re saving buckets full of money on not having to print or ship books – savings which range from the production department to the warehouse – and the authors simply are not being credited for those savings.

And while the price of ebooks generally is lower than hardcover, the publisher’s contribution on every sale of an ebook has remained equivalent to that of a hardcover, whereas the author’s share has dropped by about 1/3.
source: BookBaby

So I then followed the suggested link to THIS blog, with an article titled “How Ebook Royalties are Cheating Authors.” The blog includes figures, which look pretty crappy for authors.


E-book royalty rates for major trade publishers have coalesced, for the moment, at 25% of the publisher’s receipts. As we’ve pointed out previously, this is contrary to longstanding tradition in trade book publishing, in which authors and publishers effectively split the net proceeds of book sales (that’s how the industry arrived at the standard hardcover royalty rate of 15% of list price). Among the ills of this radical pay cut is the distorting effect it has on publishers’ incentives: publishers generally do significantly better on e-book sales than they do on hardcover sales. Authors, on the other hand, always do worse.
So, everything else being equal, publishers will naturally have a strong bias toward e-book sales. It certainly does wonders for cash flow: not only does the publisher net more, but the reduced royalty means that every time an e-book purchase displaces a hardcover purchase, the odds that the author’s advance will earn out — and the publisher will have to cut a check for royalties — diminishes. In more ways than one, the author’s e-loss is the publisher’s e-gain.
source: Ask the Agent (emphasis mine)

Go to the link for the specific examples that’ll show you just how bad authors do on ebooks.

Anyway, I’m not going on a rampage against ebooks. I’m an author, after all, and I like that my stuff is available in multiple formats. However, I am concerned about ebook royalties, and about the invalidation of an electronic format as “work,” thus allowing publishers to contract a lower royalty rate. Or just because they like the greater profit they make from ebooks, and sadly that doesn’t seem to be trickling down. Just some stuff to think about.

Happy reading!

Food for thought

Hi, folks!

I came across a couple of interesting links the past day or so. This one is self-explanatory: DON’T PLAGIARIZE. It’s just plain sucky to do that to someone. Here’s one author’s experience with it. And yes, it does happen in the fanfic world. In this case, the plagiarizer posted the work on a fanfic site.

Plagiarism is theft. If you’re a writer (whether aspiring or not), show the world your individual creativity. You don’t need to steal somebody else’s work. Make your own. You’ll feel better about it. For reals.

And the second link has to do with ebooks and how they can threaten the livelihoods of aspiring writers. Award-winning author Graham Smith offers his concerns:

“The e-book does seem at the moment to threaten the livelihood of writers, because the way in which writers are paid for their work in the form of e-books is very much up in the air.

“I think the tendency will be that writers will get even less than they get now for their work and sadly that could mean that some potential writers will see that they can’t make a living, they will give up and the world would be poorer for the books they might have written, so in that way it is quite a serious prospect.”
source: The Telegraph

I think he has some valid concerns, especially when it comes to the idea that things in digital format should somehow be “cheaper” than things that are not. That’s a raging debate, by the way, in book land. The pricing of ebooks. The thing is, the same amount of work goes into creating a digital file as goes into a product that becomes a print book. That is, author time/effort, the various editors’ time/effort, the cover designer’s time/effort, and the typesetter’s time/effort. All that time and effort costs money. The only difference between a print book and an ebook is that one doesn’t go to a printer for binding. And that does save a little bit of money, but it doesn’t negate all the work and time that went into the back end. Make sense?

Anyway, just some stuff to ponder. Happy reading, happy writing!

Print ain’t dead yet

That’s the news from the BEA — BookExpo America, a giant-ass convention/conference with tons of publishing and book vendors, filled with book freaks, books, and all things books and publishing.

Publishers Weekly notes:

Despite the way e-books dominated the publishing conversation over the past year, it was obvious from the moment one set foot on the volume-packed BEA show floor that the printed book is still very much at the center of the publishing industry.

Check out that article, because it notes that the philosophy of booksellers and book publishers isn’t necessarily that electronic media will replace print, but rather that the two can complement each other.

Case in point. I purchased a Kindle for myself a few months back and what I decided is that it’s not quite like reading a book. It’s a different medium, and that doesn’t make it bad or good. It just makes it different. I appreciate the ease of taking my Kindle on a plane, and having it in my backpack when I’m out and about. I love the ease of downloading titles, and I really enjoy being able to “sample” a title before I buy it. I also like that I can buy things like The Federalist Papers, the Anti-Federalist Papers, Toqueville’s Democracy in America, and Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl for around a dollar.

I also like that I can try writers out for a couple bucks or less, though I would also like an option to “rent” ebooks, too. Hell, I rent movies on Netflix. Why not do the same for ebooks?

Anyway, I like the ease of having a bunch of classics right at my fingertips. But it’s not the same as taking a book to a coffee house, opening it, and reading it. And I still use my local library quite a bit, because I like that my tax dollars pay for books and I can go and check ’em out, read ’em, and take ’em back because I’m in an anti-clutter phase at the moment and I like that anybody can have access to books that way.

So no, I don’t think ebooks will replace print books. Not any time soon. But I do think they can complement each other, and I think that’s a great and wonderful thing for publishers, readers, and authors.

Happy reading, happy writing!

I still have an attention span–hey! A new iPad!

Caught this Publishers Weekly post thanks to fellow author Lori Lake, via Sisters in Crime. It’s a lament about our dwindling attention spans. Click here.

Bill Henderson, one of the co-authors of the book Book Love, which celebrates the printed book, notes that our techie-oriented society is literally changing the structure of our brains:

The e-experts said that in the future all information and literature would be available on the device of the moment (sure to be replaced by the device of the next moment). You may never have to leave the comfort of home or bed. The latest bestseller—indeed, millions of out-of-print books (you didn’t know you needed that many)—could be had at the click of a button. This was billed as an improvement.

Lots of people are making lots of money telling us this is for our own good. Tweeting away, we never stop to think. In fact, we may be losing the ability to think.

In The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains (Norton, 2010), Nicholas Carr notes that after years of digital addiction, his friends can’t read in depth anymore. Their very brains are changing, physically. They are becoming “chronic scatterbrains… even a blog post of more than three or four paragraphs is too much to absorb… .Because our brains can no longer think beyond a tweet, we can’t write well. And we can’t read well either. The idea of reading—let alone writing—War and Peace, Bleak House, or Absalom, Absalom! is fading into an impossible dream.


He also notes that you’re probably not saving many trees with your ebook reader. Why not? Well, click the link and find out. It’s not saving resources. In fact, it’s adding lots of toxicity to the environment.

Just some food for thought.

Happy actual paper book reading!