Rights

On Developing Author Power

Back in July 2006 I wrote:

E-books will push this change even more. There is no reason why authors’ royalties should be the same on e-books as they are for paper books and in many ways there is no reason why the authors cannot sell e-books themselves rather than through a publisher. Why should you sell a paper publisher your digital rights when there is no need?

Authors Will Drive Change

And the change was forthcoming. The last six or seven years it has been rapid in fact. If anything marks that change more dramatically then the new that a once self published author doing a deal with a big New York house that did not include ebook rights, I don’t know of it:

In the end, it was Simon & Schuster who crafted a deal specifically to my needs, a deal for the print rights that would augment the success I was having on my own by doing what they do best: bringing out a book and getting it in the hands of booksellers. On March 12th, paperback and hardback editions of WOOL will become available to a wider audience. Soon, an entirely new readership will have an opportunity to sink into the world of the silo. They will get a chance to feel Holstons grief, follow Jahnss journey, and meet Juliette for the very first time. I couldn’t be happier about this deal. I am very appreciative of the opportunity I’m being given, appreciative of the readers who kept WOOL going long enough for a deal like this to come to fruition, and appreciative of an agent who was willing to say “No” with me even when it was against her best interests, all because she believed in seeing the same publishing future that I believe in.

via Hugh Howey: How WOOL Got A Unique Publishing Deal.

Philip Jones has a nice take on what publishers need to do to work with self publishers and much of what he says is valid, but I think the key point is that publishers must recognize that there has been a power shift on the field of play and the author is no longer without options.

Traditional Publishing isn’t going away because of this shift mind you, and importantly not every author has the market power to resist the demand to pass over ebook rights, but this does mark a new and important acknowledgment of the shift driven by digital and authors.

Go Read This | A New Kind of Publisher: On Merging Creative Industries

A nice post from Zoe Faulder about how publishers are positioned for the “third generation” of ebooks:

There is a third generation of ebooks that exists but is far less prolific than the previous two generations – primarily due to cost. Unlike a straight text ebook, or even enhanced ebooks to a degree, this generation cannot be tacked on to the existing production cycles and requires completely new skill-sets. The third generation of ebooks has been called apps, but I would argue that there is more to it than what we have come to expect of applications available in the iTunes App and Google Play stores. The third generation of ebooks is about taking the content and spinning it into something grander than its original form. It encompasses all the tools made available in today’s networked world. Ebooks could become immersive digital experiences based on locative media, social interaction, interactive narrative and gamification.

via A New Kind of Publisher: On Merging Creative Industries.

Go read This | The Finite Library by Willem Van Lancker

Colour me intrigued. Van Lancker is one of a trio involved in new ebook venture Oyster (good description and round up of the issues the start up will face by Martyn Daniels here). I found the section posted below in a rather interesting essay on Van Lancker’s blog. It suggests that ebooks are but the tip of Oyster’s iceberg of ambition and that while the public facing pitch is one that speaks of Spotify, the goal is actually something more refined controlled than that:

We are at an exciting impasse for the accessibility of content (e.g., images, writing), but simultaneously are confronted with a litany of services focused on incomplete collection and organization. This abundance of sources, media types, and proprietary systems has led to a fragmented and often frustrating environment. Few services promise the comprehensiveness of being your definitive library. Netflix, while likely replacing many viewers DVD libraries, offers no tools for curation and no sense of collection apart from a to-watch list queue.

via The Finite Library | Willem Van Lancker.

Go Read This | Graphic Novelist Alex de Campi Uses Kickstarter to Sell Print, Film and Foreign Rights | Publishing Perspectives

I rather like this idea, I really do:

Crowdsourcing the funding to self-publish books isn’t a new idea. Kickstarter got the trend going more than a year ago, Unbound took it a step further (just to name two examples). But how about using a service like Kickstarter to sell print, translation and film rights — as well as to secure bricks-and-mortar retail distribution? Author Alex de Campi and illustrator Jimmy Broxton are doing just that. Using Kickstarter as a platform, the duo seeks to raise $27,000 over the next two months to fund production of their latest project, a futuristic dystopian graphic novel called Ashes.

via Graphic Novelist Alex de Campi Uses Kickstarter to Sell Print, Film and Foreign Rights | Publishing Perspectives.

Pub Rants: Why You Can’t Buy An eBook In English Outside The U.S.

Not confusing at all! Interesting to think through this post and follow the competing agendas, reader’s, author’s, agent’s and publisher’s:

If I sell Title X for North American rights only, then that means the US publisher is only allowed to sell its English version in the US, Canada, US territories (aka Philippines etc), and non-exclusive in select countries in the rest of the world (clearly listed in the contract). Print or ebook. The reason for this is that we want the ability to sell English to UK or ANZ (Australia) separately and UK/ANZ insists on certain “exclusive territories” for its print and electronic edition.

Are you starting to see the problem? If UK/ANZ hasn’t been sold, then no eBook version in English is available in let’s say Denmark because Europe is considered exclusive to UK in terms of selling the English edition.

via Pub Rants: Why You Can’t Buy An eBook In English Outside The U.S..

Ebook first publishing might work

UPDATE: The Huffington Post carried an article by John Oakes (co-founder OR Books) last week which I missed.

I’m quite surprised there isn’t more news about this deal. Publishers Lunch* (apologies for the enormous robbery of content) reported on the sale of paperback rights for Going Rouge by OR Books:

Among other start-up muckrakers, John Oakes and Colin Robinson’s OR Books has sold paperback rights to their first title, GOING ROUGE, to Michele Matrisciani at HCI Books–which is reissuing the book today. Under OR Books direct-sale model, the book had not been available in traditional stores or online vendors, limiting sales despite the wave of Palin-related publicity. HCI president Peter Vegso says in their announcement “this title, although outside our usual publishing perimeters, presented an exciting and interesting challenge.”

Next up for OR Books is Norman Finkelstein’s book on “Israel’s Growing Isolation After the Gaza Invasion,” set for January, in which he “looks at how the reckless and disproportionate military action against the Palestinians in Gaza a year ago has led some of Israel’s closest allies to question their support for the country,” while “offering the possibility of something hopeful emerging from the tragedy of what occurred in Gaza.”

Oakes says eliciting a paperback partner will “certainly be a goal for each published work of ours.”

This is the almost perfect example of how one might expect a pure ebook play to develop over time, publishing ebooks to a time sensitive market while selling the rights to someone else for a paperback edition, enabling them to keep stock costs lows and cash flow high and letting someone else worry about the odd economics of the traditional model!

Mike Shatzkin has written quite a bit on these topics so it’d be worth reading one or two or even three of his posts.

We live in the most interesting of times!
Eoin

*A service of Publishers Marketplace a site that anyone interested in publisher should pay for.

Google Settlement & the author’s responsibility

Eoin Purcell

Samantha Holman of the ICLA addresses the Mercier Author Meeting

Samantha Holman of the ICLA addresses the Mercier Author Meeting

Head wrecking
Mercier has spent the last few weeks in an intense period of trying to figure out our response to the Google Books Settlement. I have to hand it our our MD, Clodagh Feehan who has gone at this with gusto and pushed for answers to questions none of us even realised we had!

The result was an author meeting last Tuesday evening in the Rochestown Park Hotel which brought out about 30 authors but generated a good few more calls and letters from people who couldn’t attend. We were fortunate to have Samantha Holamn of the Irish Copyright Licensing Agency on hand to give us a very thorough review of the deal and while I don’t think anyone was happy (at least not with the deal as it has been agreed that is) we all at least understood the concept much more.

Authors need to act
By far the biggest single thought that emerged for me was not that Publishers need to take action, because surely by now most of them have realised that, one way or the other, they must. Nor was it the unsettling feeling that something in a relatively minor court in a foreign jurisdiction was changing copyrights (and the not too often mention suggestion that Moral Rights might be affected by such things as advertising) for what many see as the worse.

No, the biggest thing was that authors need to take responsibility for their own works and make decisions AS WELL AS PUBLISHERS. Many authors felt that their publisher would take care of matters but the truth is that both parties need to claim their works. Especially as sometime in the future a book may go out of print with a publisher and at that stage, an author or their heirs need to have assert control over usage.

So, if you are an author and you have a reasonable belief that Google have scanned your works, which seems likely as they have scanned about 7 Million books, you should head to the Google Settlement site and claim your books.

Read some more opinions, there are many voices out there offering their thoughts. A good few of them disagree with my perspective which is that despite the fact that this is not an ideal settlement, it’s not a terrible one and that the way it operates at a practical level may well determine its level of success. In terms of thoughts Mike Shatzkin & Michael Cairns offers interesting considerations but there are many others. I’d also recommend Adam Hodgkin at Exact Editions and Martyn Daniels at Brave New World not forgetting the wonderful Booksquare which is always full of great discussion.

Authors, take action! Read, think, claim and decide your stance. In some ways your choice is limited by the very fact that you have to decided but, as I am pretty sure you are not armed with enough cash to sue Google, that is where we are!
Eoin