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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

E-Books Dangerous to Writers and Their Livelihoods?

The number of discussions RE just how monetarily successful writers will be choosing to self-publish, even if royalties are higher, are increasing ... but, dividing into two distinct camps of thought.

You probably know the basics already: Self-published e-books are bringing higher royalties of 25% to 75% (or thereabouts), but, of very low unit priced products (say the current standard of $2.99 per e-book) ... This scenario compared with a lower traditional royalty of 10% to 15% of much higher priced books of say $20 to $30 per book ... etc, etc, ad infinitum :)

I feel all this pricing jumble in the new publishing jungle will settle out eventually ... AND, I think in the writers favor.

After all, the two essential ingredients in publishing are the writer and the consumer reader ... everyone else in between are middlemen, costly and becoming less needed.

Noted British author, Graham Swift, has a different take on the new digital self-publishing, and his view is discussed on the exceptional group blog, TechDirt, along with a rebuttal:

Author Says eBooks Will Hurt Authors Because Of Royalty Rates

from the but-the-percentages-say-otherwise dept

Opinions on the emergence of eBooks in the modern era come with all manner of widely varied opinions. We saw J.K. Rowling go from staunchly refusing to offer her works as eBooks to routing around her publisher and offering them directly to her fans. Barry Eisler turned down a huge publishing contract to self-publish his eBooks, even as the Mystery Writers of America were telling Joe Konrath, Eisler's friend, self-publishing meant he wasn't a "real author". And, of course, we have the always prevalent opposed viewpoints of the benefits of carrying your digital library everywhere versus the preference for the look and feel of a physical hardcopy tome.

But one argument I haven't heard before (and I spend a decent amount of time reading and learning about the publishing world, for obvious reasons) is that eBooks are dangerous to the future of young authors because the royalty rates won't support them making a living. That's the argument Graham Swift made in an article in The Telegraph by Nick Collins. Graham is quoted as saying:

“The e-book does seem at the moment to threaten the livelihood of writers, because the way in which writers are paid for their work in the form of e-books is very much up in the air. I think the tendency will be that writers will get even less than they get now for their work and sadly that could mean that some potential writers will see that they can't make a living, they will give up and the world would be poorer for the books they might have written, so in that way it is quite a serious prospect.”

Swift is an award-winning author and, as such, I assume he's as or more informed about the publishing world than I am, but I'm having trouble rectifying his speculation on declining royalty rates for eBooks with how such royalties are handled now. Unfortunately, because there is some variance in how royalties are handled in the publishing world, particularly with fiction, there are some distinctions to be made with how this all works.

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