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Like many readers who spend time around romance blogs (readers’ or authors’) I have been an interested observer of the continuing train wreck that is RWA’s stance on e publishers.

Leaving aside the often condescending (if not outright distasteful) attitude that seem to drip off some of RWA’s board members’ communications with the general membership *coughDianePershingcough* here is some of the stuff I don’t get. If I understand correctly, the raison d’être for RWA is to educate its members, giving them the information they need to make intelligent choices about everything from choosing an agent to reading a contract, in order to have fulfilling careers as writers of romance novels.

Nowhere did I find (but then I don’t know the secret handshake, so it may be in the “members only” part of the site) the place where it says,

“and the board gets to decide a) what exactly constitutes romance, and b) what constitutes a career”

(Neither did I see where it says that advocacy means treating members like children who need to be protected)

Ignoring the whole “I stay because of my local chapter” and the “that’s it, I’m done“-to say nothing of the “that’s why I left/never joined”-side of the issue, here is where I see the most disconnect: advances vs royalties.

Some authors advocate that advances are the way to go, because in their experience that’s where the money lies.  Apparently their digital sales bring little to no money, comparatively speaking. Then we have the authors who advocate for recognition of reputable/successful e publishers (Deirdre Knight, Jaci Burton, Lauren Dane, Shiloh Walker, and many others-too many to list all) because they have been making money off their electronically published works for years.

How to reconcile this?

Well, I don’t know, but I’m wondering-are Ms Brennan’s minuscule digital sales off her print contract? Because it seems, from what I’ve read elsewhere, that those contracts lean heavily in the publisher’s favor, with royalties in the single digits. Whereas, authors who have more digital publishing savvy (either because they started with e pubs before going to print, or because they have done heavy research before signing their contracts, or both in different degrees) have probably made a point to ask for higher royalties from their print publishers if and when their work is sold digitally.

My point (yes, I do have one) being that if RWA is indeed advocating for its members, then it should provide all of them with as much information as possible so each of them can make their own choices, and that should definitely include factual information regarding not only how the successful e publishers work but how to negotiate the best possible terms for their digital rights.

Here is where the other question arises: how can we know which e publishers are successful and reputable?

Gee, what a good question!

One way of finding out would be for RWA to poll all its paying members, asking them to share the experiences they have had with their e publishers-because (and this may be a surprise shhhh!) I think a good number of them are published by several e publishers. Things like, what’s your royalty percentage? How often do you receive royalty statements/checks? What are your contracts like? What is the editing process like?  Are the editors available, open and professional? What’s the promotion side of the publisher like? Which options are in the standard contract? How flexible is the contract negotiation process?

You know, the kind of questions I would expect RWA asks regarding print publishers, large and small, to make sure that when they recommend them to their members, the possibility of a scam is low.

Another important aspect of the RWA’s educational efforts ought to be the business side of writing. Talking just last night about all this with someone who eventually wants to be published, I was surprised at how little he knows about the financial aspect of writing-the whole advance (paid in three or more installments by print publishers), reserve against returns, agent’s cut, bi-annual royalty statements/checks, etc. Seeing the same questions asked again and again whenever a published author posts about her experiences makes me wonder whether RWA is offering workshops geared toward the business side of writing-and if not, why? Wouldn’t that be a good issue to tackle as an advocate?

Further, there seems to be the idea that it’s either print or e. Some print only (or perhaps I should say mainly?) authors seem to think that e publishing will never be the biggest slice in the industry’s pie, therefore why educate RWA’s members on the topic? Why recognize e publishers under their own successful business model?

Other authors seem convinced that eventually print will disappear and that e publishing will be the only game in town in a number of years.

Frankly, I don’t see either of these attitudes as correct. What I see is that electronic publishing will continue growing, with more traditional publishers moving part of their business model towards what successful e publishers have been doing for a decade or more, until digital rights are a large part of what authors should be looking into protecting-all authors, regardless of which publisher they sign with.

Please note that I have no dog in this fight-I’m a reader with no ambition to write, let alone get published. Also, what little I know I’ve learned by reading blogs and discussions therein. I do not have access to RWA’s member only forms or loops, nor to those of any e publisher. Therefore, I may well be talking out of my… erm, a warm dark place (thank you, Xandra G)

Somehow, though, I don’t think so-but feel free to edumacate me in the comments.

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This comment by kirsten saell, nutshells what I think is most worrisome (bolding mine):

I almost feel the greatest danger to authors right now is not epublishers, but NY’s handling of digital rights, and many agents’ ignorance of what should be industry standards.

Things like geographic restrictions on ebooks is ludicrous, but you see them. Never from an epublisher, though.

And the long tail of epublishing can be wonderful, but there are rocking chairs all over the place.

I can’t say I’m an expert at stuff like this, but if reversion of rights depends on a book being out of print, and digital allows for books to remain “in print” indefinitely, how happy are NY authors earning 10% on those older titles going to be in ten years? I can safely say I’ll be more than happy earning my cool 40%, but I honestly don’t think a thousand bucks up front can make up for the 75% print authors are losing on the long tail.

So I think RWA needs to not only educate authors on epublishing, but on digital rights in general, and the many and varied ways traditional publishers are screwing the whole thing up.

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Link round up (and I dearly encourage you guys to read the posts and the comment threads, long-ass as they are, because there is a wealth of information from people who actually know whereof they speak):

Deirdre Knight on ESPAN: call for change

Diane Pershing’s response to Ms Knight (check out comments by Shayla Black, JC Wilder and others where actual numbers are used)

Jackie Barbosa, It’s a hard knock life for us

Lauren Dane, career paths,

Money, money, money,

Money: How things work,

How things work: digital

reaction

Shiloh Walker, survey (please note that this survey is not an official RWA one but exclusively the initiative of Ms Walker)

first results,

position

The newly created RWAChange yahoo group (for RWA members not curious readers like me :pfft: )

Dear Author

TeddyPig

42 Comments »

  • I’m an unpubbed member of RWA. Every year or so, someone says something to piss someone off and a bitchfest ensues. People are expected to take sides. Being unsure where you stand on an issue, or disagreeing with both parties, is unacceptable.

    I do have an opinion on all of this but I have a stinking cold at the moment and I’m in a pretty crappy mood. Anything I say is likely to be too extreme. I’ll try to put my thoughts into coherent sentences over the next few days.

    Thanks, AL, for a thought-provoking post! Also for the Lauren Dane links. I hadn’t seen her posts.

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  • I’ll admit I’ve been pretty vocal about the whole situation over the years, but something really got to me in the conversation over at DA.

    Print electronic royalty contracts pay on NET price.

    I’ve done a ton of blogging over paying on NET. It’s a soapbox issue of mine, because I think it opens the doors to the publishers to say, well this this this and this are costs, and ooh look…that $4.95 book now only nets you royalties on $1.00. Sales from third party vendors that require discounts…that’s one thing. From the publisher’s own website..something compeltely different.

    I posted all the links on the RWA change loop if anyone is interested in the subject (or my blog entires).

    I think that speaks directly to the issue though of what sort of advocacy RWA should be doing. You’re 100% right about the contract issue and it is very worrysome.

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  • I think the RWA needs to decide if it is about “publishers” or is it about “writers”. What is this divisive language in essence focused on?

    The type of “publishers” they want in the group. BUT… it says Romance WRITERS of America!

    So that is what I think. If the RWA is a “writers” organization then they should be supplying information and focusing on “writers” and what they are doing to make money and get published safely. That includes ePublishing. That is all the group should be about. Providing valid, current, useful information and networking.

    If the RWA is actually a “publishers” organization. Then they should consider changing their name and making sure their recognized publisher list is called “membership requirement for participation”.

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  • What is RWA’s definition of being a writer? Also, what is a definition of an author? What if you sell one book in your lifetime to whatever great NY publisher? So now you are a published author, correct? What if someone else has published non-stop over the years with an epub that is not considered one under the rules that RWA has laid out? That does mean that writer is truly not an author?
    Someone is a writer regardless if they are published or not. If you have someone working years on their craft but has never been published, they shouldn’t be welcome in an organization like RWA? Unpublished and published authors pay the dues so should be treated equally. And one shouldn’t be treated different than the other just because they have been cut a check from a publisher electronic or print.

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  • Myra Willingham
    June 21
    2:36 pm

    I belong to RWA, joined years and years ago but I have steadily become more and more disgusted by the attitude of many of its ‘print’ authors. From the moment the e-publishers began to get popular and…hold your breath now…make MONEY, those authors started to get all up in arms. They cautioned the members not to contract with these ‘fly-by-night’ enterprises saying: “They won’t be around long.”

    Wishful thinking on the part of those old workhorse types with their long, pointed noses stuck up in the air. I could see the forest for the trees and realized it was fear that was making them rattle their collective sabers.

    Fear of? Losing money. Losing readers. Having e-publishing take off. A dozen or more other reasons that had them quaking in their girdles.

    Now…some ten or so years later…they are STILL up in arms and continually looking for ways to bash e-publishing and e-authors. They ARE losing money. They ARE losing readers. E-publishing IS the future. IT’S GREEN, FOLKS! Everybody from Al Gore to my local trash collector is going green, striving to save trees, looking for ways to keep this big blue ball alive and vital for a few more hundred years.

    What pisses me off about RWA is they are moving backwards and not forward. They want to keep things as they have always been and that means pressing their big, fat thumbs down on the e-published authors to keep them in their place. It’s FEAR. Pure and simple.

    Advances, schmances. Give me 40% of the sales, my one little book available FOREVER, and my next book contracted for a certainty because I don’t have to worry if I’m a one-book wonder like those print authors.

    RWA is going to get its fat ass kicked one of these days. Someone is going to bring a lawsuit against them for something. Who cares what? They need to crawl out of their caves and take a whiff of what’s coming at them like a freight train.

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  • I was surprised at how little he knows about the financial aspect of writing

    But see, that’s the thing, with agents blogging like they do, the information is out there even if RWA isn’t teaching it.

    And my concern is the same as Kirsten Saell’s –I even blogged about it at SFC yesterday and set up a poll for authors to anonymously cough up their E-royalty rates from NY pubs but not enough of them have. Authors getting less than 10% are getting screwed. BIGTIME!

    Also, by accepting less than 10% hell even accepting less than 20%, they’re setting an ugly precedent that every author who comes after them has to try to break IF they know they should or can … but NO ONE IS TALKING!!

    No I don’t think “E” will replace print but I think at some point in the near future, it’ll be a much larger part of books sold than some authors think.

    I covered my ass. I guess at this point, I can just be grateful for that. :D

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  • What if the requirement was $1,000 in earnings from EITHER royalties or an advance?

    About the digital royalties in a print contract, it’s not that most NY authors are too ignorant to ask for more. My understanding is that those numbers are non-negotiable. Unless you are a big name, I guess?

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  • Ms Sorenson, I thought that one of the signs of a bad contract was having too many “non-negotiable” clauses–particularly when those benefit the publisher instead of the author to the degree they seem to, in the question of digital rights of works contracted with big print publishers.

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  • Harlequin’s contracts are notoriously iron-clad, but I don’t know of an author who has refused to sign for that reason. I assume that most contracts, even epub ones, benefit the publisher more than the author.

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  • I’m your basic Romance reader/enthusiast/horny-guy-enjoying-hot-love-stuff and buy a lot of books, print and epubbed. Personally, I prefer print books -they’re handier and easier to read for long stretches of time. Many of my friends feel the same, so I can’t go along with the belief that ebooks ARE the future. But with that said, the things made public from this organization disgusts me. I don’t like snobbery in any form and their hard-liners just seem to wallow in it.

    I’m going to predict that in the not too far future the epub people are going to get fed up with it all and start a Romance organization that will give RWA a run for their money.

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  • As another outsider Tuscan I am amazed at what the president and the entire board for that matter is getting away with.

    I mean I have two whole “Roberts Rules of Order” books to prove how intensely I have been involved with group politics with back stabbing high drama queens no less.

    But for a president to create this kind of divisiveness “publicly” in an organization without firm and immediate action by the members is amazing. I am so used to being on boards where you felt straight jacketed to be constantly politically correct in every action. The good old boy network was huge back room stuff but NEVER EVER EVER IN PUBLIC.

    The fact she feels so free to open her yap and piss full membership folks off without knowing full well and good she better have her bags packed as of Monday morning bright and early is shocking.

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  • I’ve often wondered what would happen if epublishers offered authors a choice: a $1000 advance paired with a NY-standard royalty on digital of 6-10%, or their standard of no advance and a royalty of 30-40% on digital. I know which one I’d pick.

    Part of being career minded is to look at the big picture. Digital does a few things that make the advance system, if not obsolete, then irrelevant. First, the faster pace from sub to pub, the absence of returns to muddle up payment of royalties, the monthly or quarterly payments (not to mention the larger royalty percentage), allows a book to earn that $1000 a lot faster than a traditionally published book. It also gives a book more than a few months on shelves to prove itself before it’s remaindered or returned.

    In five years when a reader picks up my 9th book and loves it, they’ll be able to go back and read my whole backlist–not purchased at a UBS or borrowed from a library–but purchased in digital at a tidy 40%. And if that 9th book is a breakout hit, that 40% royalty on my backlist is going to really earn for me. Those potential earnings will only increase as ebooks gobble a larger share of the market–in five years, a “breakout” ebook could represent much higher sales numbers than it does now.

    That potential–which yes, is potential and not a guarantee–is worth way more to me than $333 on signing, $333 on delivery of a manuscript, and another $333 on publication.

    NY authors earn peanuts on their digital titles because the books are priced the same (or more, boooo) as print, so readers are disinclined to purchase them, and because most earn the same pathetic 6-10% on digital sales. I’ve heard authors say it’s not worth fighting over a couple hundred dollars worth of royalties, but how easy do they think it will be to wrestle a better royalty from publishers in five years, when they’re fighting over thousands, or tens of thousands of dollars?

    Ebooks require authors to think beyond a book’s first few months out in the world. The very nature of ebooks–potentially indefinite sales–translates into money over the long haul. How is grabbing the quick cash and getting shafted over the long haul career-minded? How is that any more career minded than giving up an immediate payout in return for future earnings four times what NY authors will enjoy?

    I haven’t seen any writers’ group–neither RWA nor the Author’s Guild–aggressively addressing this issue, and it’s one that has the potential to make a lot of traditionally published authors very unhappy in a few years’ time when they realize they could make a lot more money on a title elsewhere, but can’t get their rights back because their books will never go out of print.

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  • frack frack frack! I was about to click submit and my computer crashed. Now I have to start over.

    *applause* Kirsten well said!
    Oh now i remember….I believe (without digging it out) that my Kensy contract put a number of sales on what’s considered “out of print”. Now is it E and print sales combined? I can’t remember but I want to say yes. And again, in terms of E royalties, I’d like to think I covered my ass since this was a point of discussion among authors when I first sold to NY.

    As we both said earlier, nobody appears to be thinking long-term. And what authors are happy to give up now, will bite all authors in the ass five or ten years from now.

    To address Jill’s comment…would I walk from a NY contract that offered lower e-royalties than what’s considered fair. Maybe. The problem is, no one knows WHAT fair is because NO ONE IS TALKING!

    Would I walk from a contract that offered me less than 10% on ebook sales? You bet your ass I would.

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  • Kensy contract put a number of sales on what’s considered “out of print”. Now is it E and print sales combined? I can’t remember but I want to say yes.

    Okay, imagine a situation where there are no more print books of a title “in print”, and no plans by your publisher whatsoever to change that, but ebook sales are consistent enough to satisfy that contractual requirement. You receive an offer from an established epublisher for said title, and their 40% royalty on digital is drool-worthy compared to the, say, 8% you’re making with your current publisher. Plus, they’ll put an attractive enough list price on the title for it to actually, you know, sell. A lot.

    Add to this the fact that they’ll make a POD version of the book available indefinitely at a slightly less than NY-standard royalty. Yeah, it’s not as good as the royalty you earned from your original publisher, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the 0% you earn from UBS sales and library loans and Paperback Swap.

    You now have an opportunity to find significant new financial value in a title that was earning you virtually zilch. You have an opportunity to make a royalty-bearing print version of that title available to readers–something I consider pretty much win-win. But your publisher refuses to release your rights, despite the fact that sales on that title are minimal, because they’re making a shitload more money on it than you are.

    This may be a hypothetical situation, but it’s entirely possible, and the whole idea of it just burns my ass.

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  • […] AztecLady at Karen Knows Best […]


  • I definitely think pricing is one of the larger problems for NY ebooks–just as DRM was for music. Make it affordable and peeps will eventually buy–and by it not just the ebooks but the reader, too. I’m totally spit-balling here….Maybe publishers think at this point there’s no reason to make e-books affordable because there’s no affordable e-reader. Also another rather nefarious thought: if ebook sales are low for NY pubbed authors, they have no reason to care what % they give up. And to that end….maybe NYpubs are a lot more forward thinking than we’re giving them credit for?

    FWT I don’t want to be held hostage by Kindle. I do NOT like amazon’s monopoly…and I’m getting away from your original comment. For me, the situation you outlined is hypothetical because i get a fair e-book rate from Kensy. Now whether sales would go up if the price of the ebook dropped is another matter/question I don’t have an answer for.

    I will say this. A very good friend of mine who is NY pubbed and very successful told me when I sold my first contract to keep a sharp eye on when my books went out of print and to get my rights back so that I could someday resell them to another pub. So, point well taken ;-)

    >>the whole idea of it just burns my ass.

    Mine too but you can’t make people care or see what you see (sadly)

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  • Louise van Hine
    June 22
    2:25 am

    As someone who hasn’t sold to New York, hasn’t landed an agent, but did put out one POD book and had it picked up by a small e-publisher for secondary publication, I am reeling at the notion that the great fabulous New York publishers pay 6-8% royalties and buy rights (including e-rights) IN PERPETUITY. Maybe I’m naive but I’m not ever going to sign a contract in perpetuity with a publisher – it means they can kill the book if they decide to let it go out of print.

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  • Maybe I’m naive but I’m not ever going to sign a contract in perpetuity with a publisher – it means they can kill the book if they decide to let it go out of print.

    Actually, they can effectively kill the book by NOT letting it officially go out of print–most contracts, unless I’m mistaken, have an out clause for reversion of rights if the book goes OOP. Problem is, as long as the book is made available to the buying public (say, in e-format), it’s technically “in print”, even if the publisher has no plans at all to do another print run. Basically, the book can languish, selling a few or no digital copies (at prohibitively high prices, of which the publisher rakes in ten bucks or more for every dollar the author makes), indefinitely.

    And because it costs the publisher virtually nothing to keep that ebook available, they have no financial incentive to remove it from sale, and the out clause is no longer an out clause at all. Unless you or your agent are VERY careful about the contractual definition of “out of print”–like in Amie’s case, where there’s a minimum number of copies that must be sold per month to satisfy the definition of “in print”. If the number falls too low, she can ask for her rights back. And she was smart enough to demand a better than paperback royalty on her digital rights–something that very few NY authors seem to care about.

    I do think NY pubs are keeping one eye on the future–they figure if they screw authors on digital royalties long enough, it will become the new industry standard. And as ebooks gobble up a bigger share of the market, it will only get sweeter for them, and more galling for authors.

    As I keep saying and saying until I’m blue in the face, it may seem silly to bicker with publishers now over what amounts to a couple hundred bucks. But authors need to look to the future too–when they wake up five or ten years from now to discover that digital represents 30% of the market instead of 2%, how willing do they think publishers are going to be to pony up a decent royalty? Getting corporations to change isn’t easy–and it only gets harder when it means they have to hand over a big chunk of a nice, fat revenue stream they’ve grown accustomed to having all to themselves…

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  • I am reeling at the notion that the great fabulous New York publishers pay 6-8% royalties and buy rights (including e-rights) IN PERPETUITY. Maybe I’m naive but I’m not ever going to sign a contract in perpetuity with a publisher – it means they can kill the book if they decide to let it go out of print.

    Actually it can and does go higher than 8%.

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  • One thing that those of us who are in RWA and really do want to see a change might want to think about:

    I seriously think that the more we make these debates into an ‘us’ v. ‘them’, some sort of ‘print’ v. ‘epubbed’ atmosphere, the more it hurts us.

    All that does is highlight the differences and foster defensive attitude on the parts of those that don’t really understand epub.

    It’s human nature. Most of us do get defensive when somebody takes a snipe at who we are.

    Once we put people on the defensive, it isn’t going to be all that easy to get them to listen to our viewpoints.

    I’ve said it elsewhere and I’ll say it here: We love to write. Most of us love romance, I assume. Many of us love RWA. Those of us most closely involved in the issue either already write or hope to do at some point.

    We need to focus on our common goals and not get worked up over how ‘this’ works better for ‘us’, or ‘that’ doesn’t really work for ‘them’.

    What we want, in the long run, are changes that will make RWA a better, stronger organization for the digital age we’re facing.

    We’ll get there a lot sooner if we focus on the goal, and that goal is getting RWA to embrace/acknowldge epublishing are viable, right?

    Insulting (and yes, it does come off as insulting a lot of the time) those in the print industry definitely isn’t going to help our cause.

    Because those we need to get on our side are those who either don’t ‘get’ epublishing or aren’t aware of the issues. And quite a few of them are in print.

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  • Karen, would you mind doing me a favor and adding a note up by the links to my blog/survey that the survey is NOT an official RWA survey?

    Apparently, there’s been some misconceptions and although I tried to make it clear the survey was because I’m the nosy type, some people thought it was being done by RWA.

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  • Not Karen, but will do.

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  • Cool. Thank you! I’m going to try to enjoy my vacation for a while…

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  • Insulting (and yes, it does come off as insulting a lot of the time) those in the print industry definitely isn’t going to help our cause.

    I certainly hope I didn’t come off as insulting. That was never my intent. I’ve enjoyed posting back and forth with Kirsten though it seems like we’re both preaching to the choir :D

    I care about my fellow writers–a lot–or I would have shut up a long time ago. Unfortunately, it seems like every time something like Diane Pershing’s letter happens, nothing is accomplished. I really truly hope this time it’s not the case.

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  • Nora Roberts
    June 22
    2:31 pm

    Myra, I find your comments every bit as insulting and divisive as Pershing’s.

    I don’t know what ‘print’ authors you’ve talked to, but I don’t know any who dismiss or fear e-pubs.

    This is the them or us mentality that perpetuates insults and lack of unity, or progress for that matter.

    I might be a workhorse, but I don’t have a pointed nose or a fat ass.

    I’m always interested in reading comments from various writers on their opinions and experiences, their ideas, even their complaints. But when I read something like your comments here, I dismiss both them and the source.

    It doesn’t do your cause any good, imo.

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  • Nora Roberts
    June 22
    2:36 pm

    Royalties not only can and do go beyond 8%, but I’ve never in my entire career, which has been exclusively with NY pubs–signed a contract in perpetuity.

    Again, it’s this misinformation as fact, and the insulting tone regarding traditional publishing that widens the gap, and can give the impression that at least some epubs are full of fury and bullshit.

    Fortunately for me, I know many epubs who aren’t full of either.

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  • I care about my fellow writers–a lot–or I would have shut up a long time ago. Unfortunately, it seems like every time something like Diane Pershing’s letter happens, nothing is accomplished. I really truly hope this time it’s not the case.

    I find these brouhahas very frustrating, because I often feel the real issues are buried under a sea of “How dare they say we’re not real writers, RWA National sucks, they just hate us because we write [sex, m/m, kinky stuff], those print authors think they’re so much better than us!”

    They don’t see the broader picture because they can’t get past their umbrage.

    RWA isn’t just failing epublished authors. If they aren’t educating all authors on the ways digital makes some contract clauses that favor the author impotent, and refusing to provide information on the differences between the traditional and epublishing business models, they fail every author.

    A reversion of rights clause that’s tied to a book being OOP is worthless, unless the contractual definition of OOP is streamlined to take digital into account. Nora and Amie (or their agents) are savvy enough know that, and to insist on a highter royalty on digital, but not every author is in a position to effectively negotiate, and many of them have no idea that they’re being had when they accept the same percentage for digital as for mm paperback. I’ve heard some authors say their publisher refused to even consider negotiatiation of digital royalty percentages, and the author accepted that because, hey, it’s just a few hundred bucks. Which is terribly shortsighted, IMO.

    I don’t know if contracts are technically “perpetual”, but I do realize that many effectively are, because they put conditions on whether an author can ask for their rights back after X number of years. If digital books basically make it so those conditions will never happen, the author may never be able to ask for a reversion.

    I hate seeing authors get a raw deal. And it really bugs me when they do because no one bothered to tell them their publisher, traditional or e, was effectively screwing them. I cringe whenever I see an author crow over getting a contract with an epublisher I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot virtual pole, and I cringe whenever I go shopping at Sony and see ebooks priced at trade or hardback prices, because those authors (not to mention readers) are just not being served well by their publishers.

    I don’t know what the answer is, but I do know it’s not excluding an entire segment of the industry from the discussion table just because they’ve found a business model that doesn’t fit into traditional parameters.

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  • Thanks, Azteclady, for bringing this topic up! I appreciate it a lot.

    Just generally from the comments and from all the stuff swirling around online right now: I reject the idea that it has to be either traditional or digital. Or that it has to be either the advance model or monthly royalties.

    Moreover, I’m exhausted by all the damage control when people have to take out their frustration by attacking those who are in every position to listen to a well stated argument and support it. If this is to succeed, if we are to bring our case to the general membership of the RWA the last thing we need is to go alienating everyone. If you don’t like it when it’s done to you, it’s pretty easy to imagine how others feel when it’s done to them.

    I’m all for working to educate everyone on what digital publishing can be and is. But I’m so totally done with people taking shots at it and those authors who choose that path. I’m done watching us tear each other apart. I’m so beyond done with hearing authors say this is about jealousy and the RWA is in cahoots with traditional publishing and is deliberately attempting to destroy epublishing to get rid of the competition.

    This sort of thing does not help the cause of more and better education about digital publishing. I don’t appreciate being told I’m dumb by Diane Pershing OR by those counterparts on the other side who do nothing but complain about the RWA all day long like it’s their job.

    If you can’t imagine why someone would join the RWA, it’s not for you. No judgement there, it’s not the right organization for every writer. You can get involved to make changes but if you’re getting involved to grind axes, please leave me out of it because these attitudes make our job even harder.

    At the end of the day, the real issue is providing information so authors can make more informed choices. XYZ’s opinion about those choices are not of any importance to me.

    Surely, as grown men and women involved in a professional organization made up of 10 thousand creative souls, we can have an actual discussion without attacking each other.

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  • Nora Roberts
    June 22
    6:57 pm

    ~Surely, as grown men and women involved in a professional organization made up of 10 thousand creative souls, we can have an actual discussion without attacking each other.~

    You’d think.

    But I’ve never seen one of these discussion where someone, or some someones come on and say print authors are jealous and afraid, NY publishing is a dinosaur or big fat cheaters, RWA is basically a group of elitist asshats.

    It becomes very hard as someone who is primarily a print author who works with a NY publishing house and is a charter member of RWA to get past the very nasty noise and hear the legitimate concerns, ideas and comments of others.

    I don’t like being insulted each and every time this subject comes up or having it stated me and my kind fear epubs or my professional organization is full of fat-ass, scaredy-pants, elitist snobs.

    It makes me, and I imagine others who might want to listen and consider, tend to think: Well, fine then. I’m doing okay as things are, and just don’t need to concern myself with what’s going on with those who’ve chosen to pursue a different publishing path. They think me and my kind are gutless assholes anyway, so why bother.

    Those who take this tact feel they’re being diminished? Keep it up, and that will never, never change.

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  • Moreover, I’m exhausted by all the damage control when people have to take out their frustration by attacking those who are in every position to listen to a well stated argument and support it.

    That’s exactly the problem–there’s too much attack/counter-attack going on. Too much umbrage and not enough meaningful discussion.

    And I don’t necessarily think it’s helpful for some authors to say, “Well, some of us get more than 8%.” I would assume Nora gets a fairly nice royalty on digital, because she’s in a position to insist on it. Shiloh likely gets one because, having started in epublishing, she knew to ask for it. But I don’t see a concerted, publicized effort on the part of RWA, the Writers Guild, or any other organization that advocates for authors, to push for a fair industry standard digital royalty for everyone. And I don’t see them making an effort to educate authors that they can and should insist on a bigger share of the digital pie.

    And as far as more than 8% goes, well, I don’t know if I’d call anything less than 20% on digital fair, really, especially when you consider list prices that are print-equivalent or higher. If fixed costs are no higher than print, and production costs are much lower, the percentage of that list price that represents profit is going to be much higher than for print.

    Epublishers somehow manage to make money while paying their authors in excess of 30% of list price–and they do it without a print run to “recoup losses”. For print publishers to claim they can’t afford to sell their ebooks for less than print, or pay their authors more for them, well, I’m just not buying it. I’d love to see a detailed P&L analysis that proves their stand, but so far no one seems eager to share.

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  • I think the point behind bringing up that authors make more than 8% is that there are people who keep briging up this false info about what goes into print contracts. When this happens, people tend to discount everything being said by anyone who shares the goals with these people.

    Saying you make more than 8% isn’t bragging, it’s the same thing digital folks are doing, putting out facts. By the way, I make much more than 8% too and I’m nowhere near Nora Roberts territory. Facts and information can’t hurt. And again, it’s not up to anyone but the person holding that contract to decide what’s fair. This is what we’re telling the NY advocates, isn’t it? That information is important so everyone can make the best choices for themselves?

    If we ask for more info, more facts and are given them, it seems silly to take umbrage. Certainly, authors need to make their own choices when dealing with contracts with ANY publisher. Every author has her own buttons she’s willing to walk over. But mine are not necessarily yours or anyone else’s.

    Do I believe the RWA is missing out on an important opportunity to deal with a technology that is here to stay? One that can benefit and also HARM authors who go into contracts without a broader understanding of the issue? Yes. Yes I do. But so far, I haven’t seen us get past all this side stuff to be coherent and present a case. Until we do this, until we can, nothing will happen.

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  • Thing is, there are industry standard royalty ranges in place for hardback, trade and mass market. If an author is offered 2% on mass market, they’re going to know they’re being asked to settle for less than standard. The problem I see with digital is that many authors don’t KNOW what they should be paid, because no one is telling them. And yeah, if an author is willing to accept a 2% royalty on mass market, that’s fine–because if she’s done even a tiny amount of research, she knows she’s settling for less than standard. In fact, I can’t imagine any reputable publisher even attempting a 2% royalty because there ARE industry standards. And that publisher would likely be red-flagged by writers’ organizations as having unfair contract terms.

    But the very fact that some authors might get upwards of 20% on digital from print publishers, while others get 6% tells me there is no industry standard in place yet. And if authors getting that 6% know it’s much lower than others recieve, I’m okay with that. I can’t force them to care. But they don’t always know. And even when they do, they may believe digital rights are inconsequential, when in fact they’re as important as any other aspect of their contract, and can have all kinds of future consequences that they may not have foreseen–like the definition of OOP–because no one is telling them to look out for them.

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  • There’s boilerplate in EVERY contract I’ve ever seen, from my credit card to my book sales (digital and traditional). Where you go from that language is dependent on a whole host of things, including who you are to that publisher and in general. Each time an author with some power manages to push the numbers up in literary contracts, it serves everyone else. All this stuff takes time and it IS happening.

    Yes, as far as NY goes, the contract stuff wrt digital is in flux. They’re trying to figure out what the floor is and yes, they’re going to work to keep authors as close to that as possible. Do I think it should get better for all authors? I sure do.

    When it comes to contract, traditional publishers are not unique in this regard, by the way. I want writers to be paid fairly for their work, digital and print.

    The first step, for me, would be when we stop pretending, on both sides, that abuses of power are only committed by “them” We are all writers, when this sort of thing divides us, we’re the ones who lose.

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  • Louise van Hine
    June 22
    11:56 pm

    @kirsten saell:

    Thanks for all of the additional info. I wish I could give the reference for where I saw the contract clause in a book contract in perpetuity, because I did read it on one of the romance reader forums, and not too long ago. If that never happens, then I withdraw the comment. But let’s be fair: pricing e-books at the same price as print when there is no physical book being transferred and no actual post-setup production and printing cost is simply not fair to the author or the reader, and is not in line with how e-publishers price their books (therefore, not competitive.) And if the industry standard is south of 20% for NY publishers for e-book royalties, it is also not keeping pace with what e-publishers pay. But I think you identified the single most important issue which is pricing ebooks effectively out of the market and keeping them technically “in print” so that the author cannot reobtain the rights for another run at the e-book market for their backlist.

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  • So much for staying away from boards for a few days. Oh, well. We’re back in hotel room, I stayed away for a whole (most of) a work day-that counts, right?

    Anyway, I just want to say: I want this on a plaque.

    It makes me, and I imagine others who might want to listen and consider, tend to think: Well, fine then. I’m doing okay as things are, and just don’t need to concern myself with what’s going on with those who’ve chosen to pursue a different publishing path. They think me and my kind are gutless assholes anyway, so why bother.

    Those who take this tact feel they’re being diminished? Keep it up, and that will never, never change.

    I want it on a big huge plaque and every time somebody starts the ‘us’ v. ‘them’ dance, I’m going to mail them one of the plaques. Along with a note that includes: ‘Don’t use ‘us’ or ‘we’ because you don’t speak for me.

    For me, this isn’t about RWA’s members. It’s about the plain and simple fact that the organization that is supposed to be the romance writers advocate is failing to advocate for some of their members, and they are failing to educate pretty much all of them when it comes to epublishing.

    You can’t be an advocate without educating people and you can’t protect the membership by not giving them information about other publishing outlets.

    For me, that is what this is about.

    This ‘us’ v. ‘them’ crap is just that, crap. More, it’s tired, old crap and I’m sick of it. Besides, I guess if it’s going to be another ‘us’ v. ‘them’ dance, I’m out on the sidelines, since I’m an ‘us’ and a ‘them’.

    Maybe Lauren can sit on the sidelines with and we can just have a drink, or two, or ten, while we watch it go around and then come to an abysmal end with no change.

    If it turns into another one of those, I can guarantee you, there will be no change.

    Epublished authors won’t get the the respect so many of us claim to want. Thorough, unbiased information and education on epubs will not be provided by RWA to the general membership. Nothing will change.

    Frankly, if we can’t carry forward in this with some level maturity and professionalism, maybe we don’t deserve it. Professional treatment should be for those who display professionalism.

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  • Frankly, if we can’t carry forward in this with some level maturity and professionalism, maybe we don’t deserve it. Professional treatment should be for those who display professionalism.

    And we have a winner!

    That’s it in a nutshell for me. You reap what you sew, so they say.

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  • […] of KarenScott’s blog wonders why RWA gets to decide who is having a legitimate career in publishing and who is […]


  • BINGO!!!

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  • BINGO!!! That’s what I’m concerned about, too. Digital rights are now a portion of every contract, regardless of whether it’s a primarily digital contract with an e-publisher or a print contract with NY. NY is doing its best to horde as much of the digital royalties as they can, and only a few agents seem to be aware that print published authors are giving away free money.

    Like it or not, digital rights and e-publishing is going to change the face of ALL publishing, in some way shape or form, and we’re stupid if we chose to ignore that truth.

    Not to mention, sooner or later the young will ebrace e-book technology and when they do, all of publishing will follow, the same way the entire music industry is catering to the digital addictions of millions of teens and their iPods. Just because erotica is not your preferred genre is NO reason not to realize that e-publishing is the wave of the future!

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  • For what it’s worth, I *do* think there’s fear that if the epublishing payment model gains legitimacy, it may do material harm to those who currently receive advances from NY publishers. I think really, the only justification for RWA’s stance is that it thinks its position has power to define how publishers do business and pay authors, and that if it changes its rules for publisher recognition, it will open the door for all publishers to stop paying advances and start paying strictly on sales.

    And it might. Or not. It’s really hard to say. And whether that would be as terrible as many seem to think is, I guess, open to question.

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  • Nora Roberts
    June 24
    10:32 am

    Jackie, I think you’re ascribing way too much power to RWA if you believe they weild that kind of hammer over publishing.

    If they did–and I don’t agree with that–and what you’re suggesting happened, the Author’s Guild with its much bigger hammer would take a great big whack back.

    I have never, not once, heard any author of my acquaintance express fear over epublishing or its model.

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  • Nora, I completely agree that RWA doesn’t wield that kind of hammer. Which is precisely why I find the hue and cry against recognizing publishers who use the no-advance/high royalty rate so head-scratchingly puzzling. I really don’t believe RWA has the power to CHANGE the way epublishers do business nor do its policies have much effect on the business practices of NY publishers.

    As to whether any authors have expressed concern over the possibility that the no-advance model might become the dominant one, have you checked out the RWA Change thread over on Dear Author? Because Julie Leto definitely DID raise the concern. And I applaud her for facing that fact head on and admitting it’s something she’s worried about.

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