Pub Rants

Category: publishers

Weighing In On SOPA-PIPA

STATUS: Rather a quiet week. I’m finally catching up since beginning of year. This might last a week or two but I’m going to enjoy it while it lasts.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD by Jimmy Buffett

I love sopaipillas! Add a little honey and powdered sugar and you’ve got yum. Truly one of my fav desserts.

But SOPA-PIPA, not so much.

As most of you have probably heard by now, there is an internet strike occurring and thousands of sites have gone dark (such as boing boing and wikipedia) in protest.

Both Acts have lovely-intention sounding names: Protect IP Act and Stop Online Piracy Act.

Who doesn’t want to protect intellectual property or stop piracy? The act of piracy steals money out of authors’ pockets and is often like whack-a-mole to stop.

Despite the backing of almost every major publisher, I do believe that both Acts overreach in their scope and there will be serious ramifications if passed.

I could offer some analysis but to be honest, greater minds than mine already have.

Web Goes On Strike

Legal Expert Says Online Piracy Bill Is Unconstitutional

Technology & Marketing Blog

Controversial Copyright Bills Would Violate First Amendment

Libraries Are the Best Counter to Piracy

Cory Doctorow: Copyrights vs. Human Rights

What’s Hot Down Under

STATUS: I was very glad to hear that New York City didn’t get as hard from Irene as anticipated but my contacts on Long Island are still without power. Eep.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? UPSIDE DOWN by Jack Johnson

As I’m based in the U.S., it’s easy to get tunnel vision on what is hot because obviously I’m mostly focused on this territory. Now granted we sell a lot of projects abroad and some of our authors are wildly popular in places like Japan more so than in the US so I’m certainly aware of territorial differences but I still find it fascinating all the same.

So when I was in Australia, I had a chance to visit with a couple of editors. One publishing division was housed in a charming old Victorian-style mansion and others had sleek modern offices. I rather liked both settings.

Some things I learned took me by surprise. For example, in talking with ANZ children editors, they are still having a wonderful market for picture books. I don’t rep this genre (so please don’t send me queries for it) but I’ve heard any number of editors and agent friends who handle picture books in the US bemoan the state of trying to break out a new author in this arena. The climate is tough here but Down Under, they are still seeing really great success–even for new authors. This could partly be because the Indie bookseller market holds a significant sales percentage still in that country.

Two chain sellers–Borders and Angus & Roberson–had closed doors and editors were greatly concerned. With it went 20% of their sales market. In consequence, print runs were down by several 1000 depending on the author.

I was also surprised to see Costco in Melbourne and Sydney. I didn’t realize that company was there. (I also saw a few Targets). Interestingly enough though, neither venue sells books in Australia yet. I mentioned that it tended to be a strong sales venue in the US so I will be watching to see where that goes, if anywhere, there.

In ANZ, for young adult, dystopian has not taken off in a big way yet. HUNGER GAMES is certainly popular and they’ve had nice success with some other dystopian titles but no big break out. Well, let’s hope Marie Lu’s LEGEND will help jumpstart that trend. I’d appreciate it.

In a similar vein, paranormal romantic YA is equally hot there as it is in US (no surprise). What has gotten harder is literary YA–and that use to be a good market for them.

For middle grade, the ANZ publishers bemoaned the dearth of MG boy adventure stories (that sounds familiar!) and Wimpy Kid blew it out there. No surprise really. That’s a series that feels really universal.

In the adult realm, they publish a lot of Australian authors (as they should) and they always do it in trade paperback. There are very few hardcovers published there. They still love beautifully written stories so US imports like a recent debut THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS is having nice traction.

Another interesting tidbit is that an adult title called THE SLAP did mildly in the US but really broke out Down Under (and it was from an Aussie author so maybe no surprise) but it did well in Europe too.

Editors like what they call “watercooler” books. Fiction that tackles issues that readers can dig in and talk about around the proverbial watercooler.

That’s a wrap. By the way, this blog entry is not meant to be the end-all be-all of the ANZ literature market. It’s just smattering of random bits of info but I hope you enjoy it nonetheless.

Random House Gets A Clean Bill Of Health

STATUS: Leaving the office at 5 p.m. That never happens!

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? YOU AND I by Wilco

In good news, we’ve now gone through all our Random House statements from the spring with a fine tooth comb and I’m delighted to report that RH is not doing a wholesale change to their electronic book royalty rate on existing contracts; there was simply an error that was resolved promptly.

Contracts that have the royalty rate of 25% of retail will still have 25% of retail. Now, I have heard that they want to change any 15% of retail to 25% of net (which is actually to an author’s advantage per my previous blog entry) but I have not personally seen that so as far as I’m concerned, that’s simply a rumor for now.

As RH royalty statements are my fav in the biz and because they always resolve issues quickly, I’m back to happy.

Speaking of 25% Of Net Receipts

Status: Gotta hit the shower and the ground running. RWA, day 2.


What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? NEVER THERE by Cake

An update from blog entry 8-4-2011:

In good news, we’ve now gone through all our Random House statements from the spring with a fine tooth comb and I’m delighted to report that RH is not doing a wholesale change to their electronic book royalty rate on existing contracts; there was simply an error that was resolved promptly. Contracts that have the royalty rate of 25% of retail will still have 25% of retail. Now, I have heard that they want to change any 15% of retail to 25% of net (which is actually to an author’s advantage) but I have not personally seen that so as far as I’m concerned, that’s simply a rumor for now.


Since we’ve been speaking of 25% of net receipts and it would have been easy to miss, if you publish with Random House, you might want to take a look at your April statements again.


Random House decided they were arbitrarily just going to use the 25% of net receipts to calculate their authors’ eBook royalties in this last accounting round—regardless of what is stated in the contracts. There was no mention of it to agents or letter circulated to authors–that I know of anyway. I’m assuming some folks just weren’t going to notice?


Now for some authors, this may be an improvement over what they were getting, depends on what is in the contract. However, for probably the majority, Random House used to pay 25% of RETAIL price that would then drop to 15% of RETAIL price after the title earned out. (and yes I’m capitalizing the word “retail” for a reason).


We had so much fun yesterday doing math, I can’t resist doing more today.


Let’s say you have a mass market paperback priced at $7.99. (we might as well use the same type of figures as yesterday):


25% of RETAIL of 7.99 = 1.99 of royalty per sale to the author.


Oh how I loved Random House back in the day….


Now, if RH switches to 25% of net receipts and because they did, as a company, switch to the Agency Model in March 2011, the math would look like this:


7.99 – 2.39 (which is the 30% to the distributor such as Amazon) = 5.60 to the publisher

25% of net receipts of 5.60 = 1.40 of royalty per sale to the author


Yep, the author just lost 59 cents per sale. Add that up over X number of sales and that’s a lot of dough.


However, if an author’s title has already earned out and they are now at the 15% of RETAIL price, it’s actually a better royalty to switch to 25% of net receipts.


15% of 7.99 = 1.19


Since the author would get $1.40 calculating the other way, then it might be worth considering (but make sure RH is not doing any other deductions beyond what they are paying to the distributor).


This concludes your moment of math. We will now return to our regularly scheduled programming.


Going Public

Status: Most of today I felt like I still had BEA brain. And the Brenda Novak Auction is ending tonight!


What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? ROSEALIA by Better Than Ezra


Many weeks before several authors started making headlines about their choice to self-publish, my author Courtney Milan, with my blessing and support (not that she needed it!), had already made that decision. She walked away from an offer on the table from her publisher Harlequin. There were several reasons for this decision but it will come as no surprise that it mainly hinged on the electronic royalty rate that had been offered. It’s no industry secret that Harlequin is well below what has become the “industry standard.” And it’s also not a secret what I think about Publishers’ current industry standard of 25% of net.


What was secret is that Courtney didn’t announce it—until now. Today she launched this new publishing direction with a novella entitled UNLOCKED in her Turner Brothers series that began with Unveiled & Unclaimed which will release in September.


In four short days, I can already tell you two important things about this digital revolution.


1. Pricing is everything. Pricing a title appropriately will move a great number of books in a short period of time.


2. Publishers are under-reporting electronic book sales in any given period on the royalty statements we are seeing.

That’s a fact.

Tales From The Contract Wars

Status: It’s pouring rain and the temps feel anything like spring but I’m eating ice cream right now anyway.


What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? DON’T GIVE UP ON ME NOW by Ben Harper


Today we officially wrapped up our negotiations on the new Macmillan boilerplate contract. It only took 6 months, 2 weeks, and 3 days from start to finish. It was worth it to get a decent contract.


Oddly enough I was excited to sell yet another book to a Macmillan imprint. THAT contract will only take several weeks. All the heavy lifting is done.


Then I get a new Random House contract in. Basically the same except for 2 rather key clauses that come at the very end of the contract but are referenced throughout.


Great. Publishers will certainly let you reserve rights but are now inserting clauses that hamstring the author from exploiting those reserved rights.


This seems to be the latest fashion.


Who’s Got Problems? Dorchester Has Problems

STATUS: I’m listening to Chill on XM. This station is new to me. Do I feel calmer? Hum…

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? TAMELESS by Yonderboi

Sadly, Dorchester Publishing has been in the news again recently. I’m sure most of you have already seen the headlines as it certainly is not a secret that Brian Keene called for a boycott of the publisher because unauthorized editions of Keene’s digital editions were being sold after the rights had reverted to him.

I can confirm that the same has happened to several NLA authors whose rights had also reverted.

In response, Dorchester vows to make it right.

Last Thursday, I was on a conference call that detailed Dorchester’s current financial situation where I also brought up this issue.

Currently they are paying royalties owed to what they call “currently active Dorchester authors” (ie. authors whose rights Dorchester currently has under contract and can exploit). I also received confirmation that those payments are happening on a weekly basis.

However, Dorchester owes a tidy sum of back royalties to what are called “non-current inactive authors” (ie. authors whose rights have reverted) and as of Thursday’s call, there is no plan in place to pay these past royalties owed.

I imagine that this is partly what CEO Bob Anthony is referring to when he mentions that they’ve needed to prioritize cash flow and in the end, one can hope that Anthony’s vow that “all authors will be paid in full” will come to pass.

Given past actions by the company, Mr. Keene and other authors remain skeptical.

And I’m Still Talking About Derivative Works

STATUS: My goal today is to work through ALL emails in my inbox. I probably have 8 hours of work ahead of me just on that. It’s very sad when I get a little behind on it.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? WHO’S CRYING NOW by Randy Crawford

I do find it funny that when I talk about contracts, I get the fewest number of comments to the entry. Now I understand that folks may still be reading the blog entry even if they aren’t commenting but I do equate number of comments with general interest in the topic.

But I’ve got one more entry on derivative works before I lay this topic to rest (for a little while anyway). And that’s to talk about fiction. For me, I rarely do nonfiction so I wasn’t as worried about the ramifications of this clause in regards to that. It’s also more conceivable to figure what could be considered a derivative work in the NF realm.

I do fiction. So I’m particularly interested in what might be considered a derivative work in this realm. I had a sneaky suspicion that I already knew.

And I was right.

For fiction, it could be conceivably argued that a comic book or graphic novel is a derivative work based off of the original novel.

Not that I agree even remotely. But it could be argued and that’s exactly what I did not want to hear.

Because to make it clear whether it would or would not be considered a derivative work, my guess is that would have to be challenged and determined in a court of law.

Once again, let me add my disclaimer that I’m not a copyright attorney, and I’m not dispensing legal advice or legal opinions here. These are simply my musings on how this clause could be interpreted.

Let’s Continue Talking About Derivative Works

STATUS: Two years and two months after initial publication, HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET cracks the top 10 again on the NYT list. Time to celebrate.

What’s playing on the XM or iPod right now? YOU NEEDED ME by Anne Murray

I can tell by the overwhelming number of comments on my last post that discussing copyright is definitely whipping my blog readers into a verbal frenzy.

How many of you used the copyright act as a sleep aid on Monday?

But I do think it’s worth continuing the discussion. As I mentioned Monday, I could see how derivative works could be created for nonfiction work.

For example, and this is just off the top of my head and probably not the best example out there but I think it will give you a sense, is to think of a nonfiction work on decorating for the holidays. In this work, let’s say there is one chapter on table place settings. The publisher than decides to take one aspect of holiday place settings from this chapter and create a whole new gift book on holiday place settings.

That would be a derivative work, created by the publisher and they would own the copyright (at least according to this clause 6.b. in the Macmillan contract.)

In talking to my lawyer, we discussed at length how a derivative work could be a book trailer. Definition of derivative work is based on one or more pre-existing works, such as translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgement, condensation, or any other form in which a work may be recast, transformed, or adapted.

In talking with Macmillan, this is an example they gave as something they could create that would be covered under this clause 6.b.

More on fiction tomorrow. Hopefully I won’t run out of time.

So Let’s Talk Derivative Works

Status: These dang computers. I want to bang my head on my desk.

What’s Playing on the XM or iPod right now? MARRY ME by Train

About two weeks ago I mentioned that the most problematic issue in the new Macmillan boilerplate was the new clause 6. b. that granted the publisher the right to the copyright in any derivative work created by the publisher.

Just for the record, I’m not a copyright attorney and I don’t pretend to be one on TV or if I stay at a Holiday Inn Express. In other words, I’m not dispensing legal advice here; I’m simply sharing with you my general musings regarding the clause.

Since I don’t have the expertise, I sent it to my IP attorney. Now he’s not a copyright attorney either but his law firm certainly has an expert in-house so we looped him on the conversation as well.

A virtual copyright party at NLA!

His biggest concern was the broadness of the clause and how derivative works is not clearly defined. If you’d like some light reading before you go to bed tonight, feel free to click here. This will link you to the copyright act in all its glory. You’ll want to click on Chapter 1 and peruse sections 102 and 103 that particularly discuss derivative works.

He also let me know that there are currently lawsuits in process that examine the scope of derivative works and what can or can’t be defined as such. Fun.

So two thoughts:
1. It’s obviously better to remove the clause and any reference to derivative works from the contract. And, if you have leverage, it can be done. But if you don’t…

2. How best to restrict this clause in such a way to make pursuit of derivative works impossible without expressed approval of the author?

Now we’re talking. My lawyer gave me some good insights and if you want to pay my lawyer fees, then I could share them on the blog. *grin*

This is why you have agents by the way.

My other big question was this: I get how a derivative work could be done fairly easily with a nonfiction project, but I wasn’t certain how it would apply to fiction. Now I am.

More on that tomorrow. Stay tuned.

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