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Old 08-18-2010, 05:28 PM   #1
abookreader
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MacMillan Asks Authors for Backlist eBook Rights

In what is probably a direct response to the Wiley Agent as Publisher news, Macmillan sent out an email over the weekend asking authors to amend their contracts to include ePub rights on backlist titles.

The big issue here doesn't seem to be that MacMillan has made a play to tie up the ePub backlist rights of several authors. The issue appears to be that they contacted the authors directly, circumventing the Agents and Attorneys of several. Hopefully not many authors will go for it without first consulting somebody knowledgeable.

http://www.teleread.com/2010/08/18/m...e-book-rights/
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Old 08-18-2010, 05:45 PM   #2
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If I were an author, I would insist on my eBooks not going out of print. Take kind of a "use it or lose it" approach. Maybe demand periodical promotional efforts as well.

That is to say, I would not agree to tying up the eBook rights for an extended period merely for a lump sum, without requiring the publisher to act on the book's behalf in the future.
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Old 08-18-2010, 09:03 PM   #3
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Interesting read on backlist related topics here:
http://www.michaelastackpole.com/?p=1626
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Old 08-18-2010, 09:15 PM   #4
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Just say no.
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Old 08-18-2010, 10:10 PM   #5
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Nothing in the article indicates that MacMillan is offering an advance. In which case, what's the point in just signing the rights over to them?
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Old 08-18-2010, 10:26 PM   #6
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I think that if they want to win the backlist rights, they should *win* the backlist rights---they should offer the authors a better deal. It's a free market. If they don't have the rights, it's the author's ball game and they will look for the best deal. If the publisher offers it, great. But if someone else is, why should the authors sign with the publisher?
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Old 08-19-2010, 05:00 AM   #7
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Don't you think the agency model pricing rigidities will mean that authors will be given the same conditions by any of the Cartel Five "competitors"? What's the incentive to change then? If the Big 5 will offer authors the same conditions anywhere, and the small publishers will give you worse ones, authors will choose the Big 5.

Last edited by Logseman; 08-19-2010 at 05:02 AM.
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Old 08-19-2010, 05:16 AM   #8
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Trying to sidestep the agent on an issue that is clearly within their remit is a very low blow and Macmillan deserves a drubbing for this.
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Old 08-19-2010, 08:23 AM   #9
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Egads. A publisher presumes they have ebook rights (Random House), they get a drubbing. A publisher doesn't presume they have ebook rights and requests them, and they get a drubbing.

I agree authors should talk to their agents and lawyers first, but I don't see it as a big deal to send the letter directly to the writers. If you're foolish enough to sign a binding contract without contacting your agent / lawyer first, that's your own fault.
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Old 08-19-2010, 10:18 AM   #10
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If you have a contract with your agent, it is probably a violation of that contract to make any direct deal with a publisher. Macmillan's going directly to an agented author is a very serious violation of protocol. It reeks of "trying to pull a fast one."
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Old 08-19-2010, 11:14 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by J. Strnad View Post
If you have a contract with your agent, it is probably a violation of that contract to make any direct deal with a publisher. Macmillan's going directly to an agented author is a very serious violation of protocol. It reeks of "trying to pull a fast one."
At Macmillan I suppose they refer to it as "business acumen".
If whoever came up with this scheme is sending out their CV in the next few days we will know how the top brass views it holistically.
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Old 08-19-2010, 04:33 PM   #12
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Isn't Macmillan the publisher that refuses to sell ebooks to libraries?
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Old 08-19-2010, 04:41 PM   #13
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Isn't Macmillan the publisher that refuses to sell ebooks to libraries?
It's one of them.


Here's what their CEO has to say about it...
Quote:
"That is a very thorny problem", said Sargent. In the past, getting a book from libraries has had a tremendous amount of friction. You have to go to the library, maybe the book has been checked out and you have to come back another time. If it's a popular book, maybe it gets lent ten times, there's a lot of wear and tear, and the library will then put in a reorder. With ebooks, you sit on your couch in your living room and go to the library website, see if the library has it, maybe you check libraries in three other states. You get the book, read it, return it and get another, all without paying a thing. "It's like Netflix, but you don't pay for it. How is that a good model for us?"

"If there's a model where the publisher gets a piece of the action every time the book is borrowed, that's an interesting model."
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Old 08-19-2010, 05:41 PM   #14
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I don't pay anything for borrowing a paper book from the library either. What he really means is "Libraries only have to buy ebooks from us once." or maybe "We don't make repeat sales from ebooks since they don't wear out."
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Old 08-19-2010, 05:52 PM   #15
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"If it's a popular book, maybe it gets lent ten times, there's a lot of wear and tear, and the library will then put in a reorder."
Dude apparently doesn't actually read many books, if he thinks 10 readings is enough wear and tear to re-order. (And he doesn't know how libraries work, if he thinks most books get replaced when they get worn out, instead of bumped to make room for new ones.)

Quote:
"With ebooks, you sit on your couch in your living room and go to the library website, see if the library has it, maybe you check libraries in three other states. You get the book, read it, return it and get another, all without paying a thing. "It's like Netflix, but you don't pay for it. How is that a good model for us?"
Sometimes, after people read a book from the library, they want to buy their own copy. Macmillan apparently isn't interested in selling books to people who read in libraries. And sometimes, after people read a book for free, they buy the next one by that author or in that genre from the same publisher.

While I get really tired of the "one purchase should mean one reader, or maybe two if that reader is married" approach to ebooks, I am always amused by the arrogance of publishers or authors who think their books will be read hundreds of times if they're allowed to be included in e-libraries.

Because apparently, he thinks that he'd be losing hundreds of sales per book (or maybe just dozens of sales per book) by allowing libraries to carry them. I wonder if he'd remove his company's physical books from libraries if he had the option of doing so.

And he'll have to watch out; soon, libraries are going to start carrying ebook *readers* and loaning those out, with books loaded on them.
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