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Thursday, January 24, 2013

The New Hybrid Author?

print published by Simon & Shuster
ebook published by Colleen Hoover

In case you haven't heard (from Hugh Howey's blog or Jane Friedman's), indie rockstar and NYTimes Bestseller Colleen Hoover has landed a print-only contract with Simon&Schuster. This follows on Hugh's ground-breaking print-only deal last year, where he turned down three rounds of offers from NY publishers until they offered a print-only deal where he could keep his e-rights.

Is this the new hybrid author?

Maybe. It makes sense for publishers to distribute print and authors to distribute erights - why? While publisher's print distribution system may be antiquated in some ways (especially the return system), they are still better equipped to sell print copies than the author on their own. That's why it is, at least for now, still the dominant way that print copies are sold. On the other hand, authors are more efficient at distributing ebooks, mainly because they can price lower because they don't have to carry the overhead of a publisher.

Jane says print-only deals make sense because (quoting Joanna Penn):
"leaving e-rights in the hands of a strongly selling author is smart  because publishers can expect that author to remain more engaged in marketing."
Well, yes. But this smacks of a rationalization of an economic decision already made, a realization made after consulting with the calculator and finding that publishers were leaving a lot of money on the table by not landing a print-only contract with a successful indie author. Because really - the "skin in the game" conclusion could have been reached long ago. Then again, sometimes money makes things clearer.

I think this signals a broader change where authors hold onto and manage more of their rights directly (not just erights and print, but audio, film, graphic novel, foreign translations, etc). I see indies making inroads into exploiting all these rights on their own, or in some cases through an agent with connections to those worlds. And not just rockstars like Hugh Howey and Colleen Hoover, but midlisters like myself.

What are your thoughts? Is the print-only deal the way of the future?

22 comments:

  1. I bet it is! At least for the smart authors. :o) <3

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  2. I think we'll see more and more of it, and is definitely the ideal way to go! Even with middle grade too...in the future.

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  3. This is the first time I heard of this model. It does sound ideal.

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  4. Very interesting stuff. :-) I think it's vital for both authors and publishers to find creative ways to coexist and thrive in the eMarket. There's certainly some financial reasoning involved on the part of the publishers. You're absolutely correct in assessing they are cutting themselves out of the money pie completely by not at least getting print rights.

    In general, it seems publishers are saying, "We cannot, or are unwilling to, alter how we do business with electronic rights. So you can have those, and we'll take these." Frankly, all they'd need to do is make eRights equitable to what an author can get on their own, and authors would sign on. But I guess publishers are unable to do that for whatever reasons.

    It works for authors too, of course. No matter how big of an indie name you are, you can't market, distribute, etc. paper books as effectively as a big publishing house. And, although they've certainly taken a hit, paper books are still very much alive and kicking. However, I think it would behoove a publisher to consider altering their eRights strategies to the point authors are enticed to work with them. The paper market seems doomed to dwindle further as the world grows more and more tech reliant.

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    1. There's been a call for sometime for publishers to give better erights... and that's not happening. There's been a wall of resistance to changing the basic contract offered to authors... until now. This crack in the wall of resistance isn't really a crack. It's a breach. As Steven Pressfield says in his analysis, "Simon and Schuster didn’t raise the eBook royalty for Hugh Howey from 25% to 30% of net receipts to lure him to do a deal with them. They didn’t even go to 50%. They walked away from eBook entirely."

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  5. I think it could be the future. I'm pretty sure that publisher's didn't want to give up half the money cake, particularly if their half of the cake (the paper half) ended up being the smaller half. But self-pub ebook successes have proven that the advantages of a publisher are negated with ebooks... but not with paper. And since neither form seems to be going anywhere, this sort of rights split seems inevitable (and has been delayed only by publishers trying to maintain a bigger piece of the pie).

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    1. Steven Pressfield does the calculation here, showing how the print-only deal still makes money for publishers - and shows further how EL James (50 Shades of Grey) author would have actually made MORE by forgoing the RH deal and just selling erights. So on both sides of the equation, the print-only deal makes sense for the indie superstars.

      The question becomes, how far down the foodchain does it still make economic sense for publishers to do print-only deals with successful indie authors? Once the resistance to the idea is worn down, and people get out their calculators, I think it could quickly move forward. After all, publishers have been taking chances on much smaller print runs for much more risky authors than ones with proven fanbases for a long time - it's pretty much been their whole business model.

      As Pressfield says, "This physical copy only deal is a game changer. It’s nothing short of revolutionary." My main question is how fast and how far it will go.

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  6. It is the best of two worlds, I think...

    But... is somebody can tell me, please, why there is -- now -- a lot of e-books that are sold more $$$$ than the print version? Sometimes dollars more... I don't understand this one.

    Please, enlight me. Ya I know, authors wants to make more $$$ but, isn't-it ridiculous?

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    1. Trust me, Numa, it's not the authors setting those prices. When authors set prices (as indie authors are free to do), the prices are much lower. Why? Because they sell more books that way.

      Those prices are set by publishers, largely to protect print sales.

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  7. It could be the newest fad...interesting!

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  8. I hope so, Susan! What made me decide to go indie was the fact that I rarely (pretty much never) shop at B&N, and if most of my book-buying comes from Amazon, why on earth would I want someone to pay an exorbitant amount for my book? I think print-only deals are brilliant, and it keeps the e-book prices low, which keeps the readers happy :)

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  9. Very interesting. I think we'll see other different arrangements as time goes on.

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  10. There also is the realization that not all indie authors want to stay indie or they don't mind giving up all the rights. One negotiation at a time.

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  12. I'm always interested to see the big pubs response to these shifts in the pub world. And it's exciting to see authors having choices/ control when it comes to their writing careers after so many years of it being just one way.

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  13. To me, it seems like the best of both worlds. I'd be hard-pressed to give up my digital rights going forward because I see now what I can do for myself. A print-only deal seems like the stuff of dreams!

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  14. I think another advantage of that sort of deal is that when the print copies goes out of print, the author can continue to sell the e-book and they have all the rights to it!

    Personally, that's the sort of deal I'd like, as I can't understand £7.99 for an e-book. A print book, awesome, I'll happily pay that. One has to print it. But for an e-book? I'm not paying their internet bills for them! ;)

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  15. If there's one thing I've learned from the past, it's that the future does not like to be accurately predicted. So I don't usually try.

    But this has been helpful as I begin taking a side project I'm finishing and start looking to publish it through traditional channels. (My first two books are selfpub.) Thanks for the interesting analysis.

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  17. I think this is a great idea. Especially since it means the ebooks will remain at a lower price. :D

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