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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Digital rights

Digital pitfalls in your publishing contract

More people than ever are reading books on dedicated e-readers.

On the latest two Sydney-Wellington flights and the intervening cruise, I noted far more people reading on tablets and Kindles (Kindles in particular) than on actual books.  At a rough estimate, e-readers outnumbered print books and magazines two-to-one, but any error would be on the e-reader side.

People just love their e-readers (again, Kindles in particular), and the plus side of it, for both publishers and authors, is that it means that more books are being read. This digital development also means, however, that for authors there are new hazards to watch out for before signing that contract.

In the current New Zealand Author there is an excellent article by MAGGIE TARVER, discussing these pitfalls.  Point by point, this is what she covers:

TERM. It's a rapidly changing environment, and no one knows what the digital publishing scene will be like in two or three years. Don't sign away your digital rights for the full term of the contract. They might be worth a lot more money (ie., a bigger royalty share) next year.

ROYALTIES. Publishers typically offer about 20%. Don't take less than 25%. And specify the term.

AUDIO E-BOOKS. Watch that the digital rights clause doesn't impact on your audio book rights, which are typically worth a 75% royalty.

E-PUB AND MOBI. Make sure your contract stipulates that the digital format will be compatible with all e-readers. PDF just doesn't hack it, these days.

DIGITAL PUBLICATION DEADLINE. Give your publisher a deadline for putting out your book in e-format. As I know to my cost with the Wiki Coffin mysteries, you can wait, and wait ... and wait for your book to be available on Kindle et al, while the fans agitate and the publisher pays no attention.

OUT OF PRINT. Make sure that your book is officially OP (and therefore ready for you to reclaim) when the PRINT edition is no longer being issued. Don't find yourself in an Island of the Lost-type trap, where the publisher still deems it in print even though only the digital version is available. And, of course, just as in the old days, make sure that you have the right to reclaim the book as soon as it is deemed OP.

APPS. I still find this rather mysterious, but Maggie Tarver recommends that you make sure that all apps are negotiated separately. As far as I can tell, it's rather like the clause covering comic book rights in the old days.

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