Pub Rants

Bonus Clauses—Another Item to Re-evaluate With eBooks?

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STATUS: Anita, our new assistant, started her first day of work today. Hooray! We have so much work we could pile on but we are trying to be reasonable. Both she and Sara have colds. Oi! Knock on wood that I don’t catch whatever is going around.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? SWEET EMOTION by Aerosmith

Here is an interesting thought.

Agents will often negotiate bonus clauses with publishers. A popular one is a bonus (increasing the advance) for X number of net copies of the title sold during a certain period of time (12 months being a popular number).

Currently, the publisher ties the bonus to the specific edition. For example, if the title is published as an original trade paperback, then the bonus will be tied to X number of copies of the trade pb edition sold within that time period.

Make sense?

Well, eBooks are changing the landscape and are often released simultaneously with the original edition (be it hardcover, trade pb, or mass market).

So my thought? Why not count and include the sales of the electronic books in the total that is triggering the bonus clause? True, it is considered a separate edition but it’s rather unique in that it mirrors the original edition and doesn’t need a separate performance creation like, let’s say, an audio book.

Brilliant! Oh I’m sure Publishers will be stampeding to this point of view (not) but it is an interesting discussion, no?

My guess is that now we need to start creating bonus language specifically for sales connected to the eBook—especially as this format becomes more prominent and the sales start catching up or outstripping the other main format editions.

Fun fun!

8 Responses

  1. Cole Kleinschmit said:

    One hopes that if the strong-arm logic they employ to justify claiming all rights over eBooks of past editions (that a print book and an eBook are fundamentally the “same medium,” and therefore are subject to the original contract) cuts both ways, then they will agree.

    But the smart money is on them taking whichever option lets them make (or keep) the most of theirs. Money, that is.

  2. behlerblog said:

    Actually, Kristin, this is one editor who would readily agree to that clause because it makes sense. Converting the text files to the various e-book flavors is minimal, so why not tie them in?

  3. Natalie J. Damschroder said:

    especially as this format becomes more prominent and the sales start catching up or outstripping the other main format editions

    I’d love a blog post with some insight into how close this is. One source cites record e-book sales, another claims they’re still next to nothing.

    What’s the actuality from the perspective of someone who sees royalty statements from multiple publishing houses? Do some have more e-sales than others? Is there a steady climb? How high is the percentage of overall sales of a title?

    Thanks so much for all the insight you already provide!

  4. Eridani said:

    Over on the Kindle forums in the midst of all the Macmillan drama, some author whose name I forget made a sort of condescending post about not really caring too much about ebooks, since his ratio of paper to digital books sold was something like 20:1. When the format wars end – and that will be soon if Apple is stepping in due to their iPad interests – ebooks will become a lot more prevalent.

    It made me wonder how many authors felt that way and if anyone was watching out for them, contractually. You can’t just ignore it because it’s a small market currently. Hopefully they have good agents taking care of them, even if they don’t see the point in it now.

  5. Anonymous said:

    If I were to look at an item to change, it would be setting a specific period of time before the rights revert back to the author. With eBooks a book should never be out of print. And if the publisher is no longer printing the book or making it available via eBook, then the author should have the right to make their own eBook and sell it direct. Likewise, the author should be able to resell the book to another publisher or POD it.