Pub Rants

Burning Question about Agency Commission Model

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What’s playing on the iPod right now? BEEN CAUGHT STEALING by Jane’s Addiction

As you can imagine, I’ve been having a lot of conversations with various Contract Directors at all the major publishing houses as of late as we navigate contract negotiation.

I was in discussion with one person from a Big 6 house and we got to talking about returns with electronic books. Were they going to be allowed on the agency commission model that publishers have with entities like Apple?

According to this contracts person, the answer was yes.

So I asked what I thought was a rather pertinent question. I said, “if Apple allows returns and they’ve already deducted the 30% agency commission from the sale, how will the publisher know that the commission should have been refunded to them for the returned-sale of that title?”

Contracts person: “Good question.”

Glad I could be of some help…


10 Responses

  1. Stephanie L. McGee said:

    This may be a naive question, but how are returns on electronic copies handled? With physical copies, I get it. What doesn’t sell gets sent back to the publisher. (Or with paperbacks, just the cover while the rest gets trashed.)

    But there isn’t any issue with stock room space in electronic copies.

    Any idea how sellers are determining how to stock the electronic copies in order to have a stock that would need to be returned if it doesn’t sell? Because, really, you just take the file off your server if it’s electronic. There aren’t multiple copies that the distributor is holding.

  2. Sisker said:

    So, how can there be returns on electronic books? Does Apple “purchase” a certain number? There’s nothing physical to return.

  3. KHC said:

    Allowing returns on electronic copies makes no sense to me at all. Wouldn’t the e-book format allow for a ‘just in time’ model that would remove the need for returns? Thank you for thinking about things way down the track ahead of us, Kristin.

  4. Linda C. McCabe said:

    I am with the others on this one in not understanding the meaning of your post. I am a proud new owner of an iPad and I had not considered trying to return anything I purchased for it, be it an application or an ebook.

    Why would there be returns for ebooks? If you don’t like the book you bought and read, don’t recommend it to others. It’s not the same as having a tangible hard cover that can be physically brought back to a store and then shipped back to a publisher.

    Are we missing something here? I know the ebook revolution is changing things in the publishing industry in dramatic ways, but this topic is something I don’t understand.