E-Books present the author new dilemmas

I’ve been talking with some savvy online folks about bringing my out of print books back into “print” electronically. And bringing out TFAOAFGND as an ebook or app. Which got me to thinking about why any author would want to have an old dead-tree type publisher (ODTTP) (not naming names here) buy the e-rights to a book and publish what would essentially be a pdf of said book.

First thing is what appears to me that most ODTTPs have their heads so far up the back end function of their digestive systems that they can’t see past their teeth. I’d like to be wrong on that.

If you’ve got a savvy e-publisher who can do sparkly and interesting things with your book, why wouldn’t you want that in your corner?

The second thing that occurs to me is getting paid. Given that there is essentially no such thing — far as I know — as returning an ebook, why should you, the author, wait six months to get paid? Why shouldn’t that payment — your share of the sale — hit your account within days? Yes, I understand that there might be advances to be earned out, but after that, why should you have to wait? Seriously. I’m not talking instant gratification. I’m talking having your money to use to earn money, given that there is no interest paid on the 3-month-plus float that most publishers require.

The ghosted books I have written and on which I earn royalties have an accounting period that closes on June 30th. I usually get a check on the 15th of October. Having worked in the industry, I know that there are different accounting systems — usually for authors that actually don’t need the money as much as I do. But the six-month sales period, followed by a three-month accounting standard used to be pretty completely standard. Somebody tell me if that’s changed.

I’ve been sitting on my first two novels — I have the rights to both — to republish when I have TFAOAFGND in print, e-book or otherwise. I can’t see selling the rights to a ODTTP for a paperback royalty of 7.5% or lower when I could sell them myself through Amazon or other on-demand-type publishers for a considerably better take. The upfront cost would be mine, but the payoff would also be mine. Only good reason I could think of to take that kind of royalty would be a stupid amount of money as an advance that would never earn out. Except for financial planning purposes, I’d rather have the money over time, as regular income, instead of in a tax-me-to-hell lump sum. (Not that anyone is offering, mind you.)

I’d as much like to start a discussion on this as just throw my opinion out into the e-abyss. Comment, or email me.

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About Steve, i.e., him

Stephen Stark is an award-winning novelist and bestselling ghostwriter. His fiction and nonfiction has appeared in numerous publications, including The New Yorker, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, Poets & Writers and in many other journals. He has been a fellow and taught at the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, and won an NEA Literature Fellowship in fiction. His novel, Second Son, was a New York Times Book Review Notable Book of 1992, and a New and Noteworthy Paperback of 1994.

Tell me what you think. Seriously.