Separating e-book rights from print rights

I had a case a while back where the author wanted to retain the e-book rights and only grant me physical book rights. I passed. She was a bit miffed. I was too, truth be told because it was a lovely book, and we were the perfect publisher for it. Or so I’d like to think.

I know where she was coming from. She’d read about J.A. Konrath and other well-known authors who were leaving mainstream print publishing behind and blazing their own trails. Her attitude was, “if they can do it, so can I.” And maybe she can. I hope so. But, nonetheless, it bothered me to lose the book.

So why wasn’t I willing to separate the e-book right from the print rights?

The Tale of Two Versions

For starters, I want the whole enchilada. And it’s not because I’m a control freak. I want consistency in the marketplace. If you keep your e-book rights, there will be two versions of the same book running around. See, you won’t get my edited version of the manuscript because you’d be profiting off my hard labor. If I don’t have those rights, then you don’t have the right to the file. This means that you’re stuck with your version. If extensive edits were done, this could be a pain to recreate. But the end result is different from what you turned into us. Hence, two versions. So which version will readers prefer?

Negative Impact

I’d like to think that our editing makes our books superior to the original versions. If you retained your e-book rights, then you’re stuck with the original version. So let’s say someone reads the e-book and thinks it’s drek. Very often people who buy e-files will also buy a physical book – perhaps as a gift. If word travels around that the book isn’t that great, this could negatively impact our reputation and our physical book sales. I’d faint over sinking thousands of dollars into a book only to have sales impacted by a version that’s beyond my control.

Remember, I’m in it to win it – and that means making you as successful as possible. So if I seem a bit barky over killing a book deal over the e-book rights, at least you’ll better understand my motivations behind it.

3 Responses to Separating e-book rights from print rights

  1. NinjaFingers says:

    What about publishers who sit on e-book rights, though? (Devil’s Advocate here)

  2. You mean they have the rights but won’t put the e-book out there? I’d make sure the contract has a drop dead date on it…meaning they have to have it out there by a certain date or it revers to the author.

  3. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by craig brown, Suzannah W Freeman. Suzannah W Freeman said: Separating e-book rights from print rights: […]

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