This is something that authors may start saying when negotiating contract rights. After all, they’ve seen JA Konrath do well with his e-books, so why not keep a bigger piece of the pie? As I wrote in my blog post All Writers Were Not Created Equally I outline the reasons that what rocks for JA won’t necessarily rock for you.
But this post isn’t about authors who decide to forgo publishers altogether, but are negotiating with publishers for print/e-book rights. Here is a big thing to consider: This is a deal killer.
And here’s why:
It’s true that many things in contracts are negotiable – foreign rights, movie rights, royalties, sell-through break downs, audio book rights, etc. But with the e-book phenom, publishers are about as likely to negotiate e-book rights as I am to increase the beagle’s weekly tequila budget.
For publishers, doing an e-book is the natural extension to the print rights. We’ve already spent thousands on editing, cover design, interior design and layout, marketing and promotion, so it goes to reason that we will insist on the e-book rights.
Physical and e-books are the peanut butter and jelly sandwich of the publishing industry. They go together. There was a comment in my prior post about how authors in the near future might have two publishers; one who does physical book and the other who produces the e-book.
Who’s on first? I don’t see that happening for a single minute. Creating an e-book is very simple for us because we’ve already gone to the expense and done the hard part. If we went to a two-publisher system for a single title, who would take precedence? Would the e-publisher rush the book out to market, thus usurping the print publisher’s ability to splash onto the market first? Print publishers put a ton of energy into marketing books, and they aren’t likely to be thrilled at having their thunder stolen.
Editing: Then there is the matter of editing. If you have two editors for a single title, you could very well end up with two different books. How I edit a book is quite different from another editor, so the door would now be opened for “which book was best?” A print publisher, who has spent far more money on their books than an e-publisher, isn’t going to sit idly by and watch sales slip past them.
Control the timing
Print publishers want to control the timing between their various mediums. For instance, publishers who print hardbacks usually keep them out there for about a year before going into mass or trade paperback. The same thing goes for print to e-book. Many are only allowing the print version to be available for six months before releasing them in e-books. Others are releasing them at the same time.
If they don’t have the e-book rights, then they lose that control. Again, no publisher wants to spend gazonga bucks only to be scooped by the e-book.
So before you insist on negotiating your e-book rights [provided the publisher hasn't already prepared a voodoo doll in your honor], here are some things to think about:
File: You’ll have to create a whole new file since the publisher won’t release their file to you. Yes, you already have the version that you submitted, and probably the edited file from the publisher, but if the publisher has a brain in their head, they’ll have wording in the contract that prevents you from using that file. So, as I mentioned above, you’ll be putting out two different books – your publisher’s version and yours.
Cover design: What goes for the file also goes for cover design. They own the cover, and you won’t be allowed to use theirs. You need to submit cover art when putting your e-books on the online stores. Will buyers make the association between the physical and e-book if they have two different covers?
Linkability: With Amazon, for instance, the e-book automatically links to the physical book – as can be seen here with Donna Ballman’s brilliant The Writer’s Guide to the Courtroom. If the publisher doesn’t have those rights, there is no way…let me repeat that…NO WAY that they’ll allow your e-book to link with their physical book.
Remember, they’ve spent thousands on your book. This means they have a stronger marketing and promotion arm than you do [in general]. This means they will drive readers to the physical book. The only way people will find your e-book on Amazon is if they google your name or the title. Obviously you’ll put your book in all the other online bookstores, but you’ll do so without the backing of your publisher.
In a word; you’re working against each other.
ISBN: As I mentioned in my previous post, you’ll need to buy an ISBN for your book. It ain’t free.
As I said at the beginning, this is most likely going to be a deal breaker, so tread carefully and consider whether it’s worth it. You could very easily find yourself looking for another editor, or dealing with an agent who is ready to slice and dice you into a million little pieces for shark bait.