Pub Rants

Is HarperCollins Pitting Authors Against Booksellers?

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Just this week, HarperCollins announced that they would give authors a royalty incentive (35% of net instead of 25% of net) on any sales of an individual author’s book(s) that are sold via an affiliate link to HarperCollins’ new consumer-facing branded book retail site.

In other words, if the author is directly responsible for the sale, they get a higher royalty percentage. (Note: this only holds true for sales of books by the author. Authors can’t provide HarperCollins links to other author books and get an affiliate commission on the sale.)

To sum up, authors are rewarded if the sale is made directly through their publisher.

So does that pit authors against booksellers?

In my mind, the answer is no. Here’s why. HarperCollins is not mandating that their authors provide and feature ONLY links to the HarperCollins’ branded retail site.

HC is simply asking that the link be included along with all the other retail links to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Google, Indiebound (the consortium of independent booksellers), etc.

If HarperCollins mandated that authors could only use their links on websites, newsletters, and email blasts, that could create a problem.

But it does raise another interesting thought. If Publishers have online storefronts? Are they in direct competition with booksellers? After all, they are now selling direct-to-consumers.

(By the way, Publishers have always had the ability to sell directly to readers via mail order, phone sales, catalog, and special sales, but it hasn’t been a big revenue avenue in the past, except for some specific titles.)

That answer is probably yes, if a publisher’s retail store starts building real market share.


6 Responses

  1. carmen webster buxton said:

    I don’t see this as pitting two sides against each other; I see it as a publisher finally trying to innovate. If anything, I think it’s a preemptive strike against authors who were thinking about opening their own online bookstore, It says to authors: Why do the work when you can make money from us with very little effort? For print books, though, I wonder if HC is prepared to compete in mailing out one book at a time? For ebooks, there’s the DRM issue. I don’t think HC can put their ebooks on a reader’s Kindle or Nook unless there’s no DRM.

  2. Emily said:

    There are several smaller publishers that have storefronts (Samhain, Loose ID, Dreamspinner press) and those authors also get a higher royalty rate when books are purchased through those storefronts.

  3. Lynn said:

    As you said, these sales are only by the author for their own books. I don’t see this as a problem or much competition unless you’re talking about best sellers and then the numbers go up. I think HarperCollins is just trying to get a piece of the online pie and if authors can profit from it, I’m all for it.

  4. L. N. Holmes said:

    I don’t think there is anything wrong with buying a book directly from the publisher. I do believe in supporting bookstores as much as possible as well. I think buying books in general will be helpful to the entire industry, especially authors.

  5. Scott Henderson said:

    I’m going to agree with the sentiment of the other responses, but respectfully disagree with the conclusion. I’m all for authors making more money, but I do not look forward to a world wherein authors are responsible for marketing their own work, even if the money-per-sale is better. Why? Because I won’t sell enough. Marketing anything well is a full time job. If we self-market, our choice is either to dedicate a substantial portion of our time and at least a little of our money to the effort, or we will fail to sell anywhere near enough books to support ourselves. Myself, I want to be a full time writer, not a full time seller. The role the publisher plays is that of marketer, and the role the agent plays (in my mind at least) is that of marketing-package-negotiator. I’d rather pay a publisher to sell my books and an agent to make sure it sells a lot of them. Also, publishers (and agents) make sure our work is market-ready, which is something else we’re not typically good at. Finding a really good self-published book is a needle/haystack proposition already. The last thing we need is an entire market full of hay and the sole responsiblity to make our needle sharp and easy to find.