A respectful question to authors using traditional publishers

… “Do you realize how much are you paying for the services provided by your publisher?”

For a middle-aged writer, a publishing contract in today’s standard form will likely last well over 100 years. The book’s US copyright will last for the remaining years of the author’s life plus 70 years thereafter and so will the publishing contract. Copyrights in other nations are of similar duration.

Under a typical publishing contract, the author will be paying others over 80% of the retail revenues from ebook sales and licenses. If print books continue to be a mass market product for the next 100 years, the author will be paying others 85-95% of retail revenues.

Of course, the author won’t be writing checks to these other parties. They’ll pay themselves before the publisher sends any money to the author, but the financial result is the same as if the author were writing the checks.

Those percentages are fixed under a standard publishing contract signed today and, regardless of what happens in the future, nothing in that contract obliges the publisher to change the royalty structure included in the contract until it terminates along with the copyright in 100 years.

Virtually everything about today’s book business other than stories and storytellers will evolve in 100 years. Does it really make sense for an author to contractually commit her stories to an organization that will almost certainly cease to exist in a form she would recognize before that contractual commitment expires?

from The Passive Voice,
A Lawyer’s Thoughts on Authors,
Self-Publishing and Traditional Publishing

Tweet or share this:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *