Writers and Editors (Pat McNees's blog)
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Changing e-book business practices a topic at Digital Book World

June 27, 2010

Radically changing business practices were hard for publishing executives to talk about at the debut annual conference of Digital Book World, writes Mike Shatzkin in his Shatzkin Report on the conference. One topic "that is very tough to talk about is ebook royalties, which is a major point of contention between publishers and leading agents at the moment," he writes. "The big houses are pretty adamantly trying to hold the line (publicly) at a royalty of 25% of net receipts. But upstart publishers like Jane Friedmanís Open Road appear to be willing to pay 50%; publishing through Smashwords yields 85% (but sells the books without DRM, which would frequently scare the copyright owners of valuable properties); and self-publishing through a distributor would deliver a yield somewhere in between. (Remember: self-publishing ebooks carries no inventory risk.) In that environment, some agents are able to wring some concessions from some publishers. But the agent canít talk about that without jeopardizing her ability to get concessions for her clients and no publisher will volunteer to reveal the isolated concession and start turning that into a policy."
Shatzkin focuses in this report partly on the intersection between changes in technology (book publishing executives tend not to be tech-savvy) and changes in business practices.
In figuring out how the pie of book sales is going to be divided in future, authors need to pay attention to how publishers are thinking, how much or how little power they are going to have, and how much power authors have in this new world of digital production and distribution.