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Agent Wylie's bold step enlarges authors' share of e-book rights

July 23, 2010

Tags: e-books, book publishing, Kindle

In a stalled rights debate between authors/agents and book publishers about the author's share of income on sales of e-books for backlist titles, literary agent Andrew Wylie took a bold step that may influence negotiations over those rights, writes Julie Bosman in Literary Agent Plans E-Book Editions (New York Times, 7-22-10).
Wylie's company, Odyssey Editions, will publish e-book editions of titles by some of his agency's 700 clients, including Saul Bellow, John Updike, and Phillip Roth.

Publishers argue they own rights to such evergreen titles as “Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison, “The Naked and the Dead” by Norman Mailer, “Midnight’s Children” by Salman Rushdie, “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov and “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” by Hunter S. Thompson--five of the twenty titles Odyssey Editions will publish initially. These have not been available as e-books previously. Authors, authors' estates, and agents argue that the digital rights for backlist titles were not explicitly sold to publishers, who are offering authors far too low a percentage of proceeds from sales of e-books.

Whether this is a negotiating tactic or a new trend, it will be interesting to see how the negotiations about author's share on e-book sales will proceed.

There's a round-up of links to stories on e-book markets, rights, and audiences under
Publishing and e-publishing on Writers and Editors