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Authors Feel Pinch in Age of E-Books

September 29, 2010

Tags: e-books, book publishing

"The new economics of the e-book make the author's quandary painfully clear," writes Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg in the Wall Street Journal. "A new $28 hardcover book returns half, or $14, to the publisher, and 15%, or $4.20, to the author. Under many e-book deals currently, a digital book sells for$12.99, returning 70%, or $9.09, to the publisher and typically 25% of that, or $2.27, to the author. The upshot: From an e-book sale, an author makes a little more than half what he or she makes from a hardcover sale."

Debut novels are fetching far lower advances than they once did, and writers are being advised not to quit their day job, writes Trachtenberg in Authors Feel Pinch in Age of E-Books (WSJ, 9-26-10). And if a novel that earlier might have attracted a $50,000 to $100,000 advance now attracts $1200, think how that affects agents, who earn 15 percent of that.

"The Authors Guild and some literary agents are urging publishers to raise the author's share of e-books to as high as 50%, arguing that there is less overhead for a digital book. Thus far, publishers are resisting," writes Trachtenberg.

Listen online to Marshall Crook's quickie history of the book, putting some perspective on the current revolution in book publishing. Above all, read the comments.

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