Last December I bookmarked an article on the New York Times website that I found very interesting. The article talked about Stephen Covey (you know, the guy whose book I reviewed on this website) and how he has granted exclusive e-book rights to two of his books to Amazon.com. Well, in reality he’s granted exclusive rights to a separate company who will then sell the books to Amazon.com, but there’s no need to get bogged down in the details. From the article:
Arthur Klebanoff, chief executive of RosettaBooks, said that Mr. Covey would receive more than half of the net proceeds that RosettaBooks took in from Amazon on these e-book sales. In contrast, the standard digital royalty from mainstream publishers is 25 percent of net proceeds.
“There are superstars, and superstars are entitled to more,” Mr. Klebanoff said.
Sean Covey, a son of Mr. Covey and chief innovation officer for Franklin Covey, a training and consulting firm that also publishes business books, said that the higher royalty rate was “a factor” in the decision to switch to RosettaBooks.
The elder Mr. Covey was also particularly attracted by Amazon’s plans to heavily promote the e-book editions of both “7 Habits” and “Principle-Centered Leadership.”
There are a lot of interesting tidbits in that piece from the article. First, name me any successful author that isn’t going to jump at the opportunity to make more money off of their hard work. If the path that Covey is walking down proves to be more profitable for him, personally, then I have to imagine that other contemporary authors will be enticed to grant exclusive e-book rights to certain publishers in the future.
Second, apparently the publishing industry should seriously consider this as the Coveys are stating outright that the higher royalties were a factor in their decision. Memo to the bosses at the publishing companies – time to give more revenue to the authors!
Of course there are other publishing companies that are taking a more proactive stance towards protecting rights which they believe belong to them – including e-book rights.
Other publishers have moved to stake their claim on e-book rights for older titles. On Friday, Random House sent a letter to dozens of literary agents stating that on all backlist books, it retained “the exclusive right to publish in electronic book publishing formats.”
You know, I’m not sure how these contracts are structured, but I wonder if Random House has a case here. It doesn’t seem to be the most outlandish claim that publishers would retain the rights to publishing their authors’ content in all its forms, does it? I don’t know.
What this article makes apparent to me is that authors are taking an active role in ensuring their content gets delivered to their audiences at affordable rates. On top of that, authors want to make sure that they are paid a fair compensation for content that is distributed electronically. And finally, the big publishing houses need to seriously consider a different royalty structure when it comes to the sale of a paper book versus an electronic book.