>Although we’re going on hiatus for the next week due to the holiday, I wanted to comment on the ongoing Writers Guild strike. I found the link below regarding the Writers Guild (WGA) strike quite interesting. Thus the trigger for this post.
Like authors of print books, the WGA is fighting for their fair share of “royalties.” As with all blogs and YouTube videos, things can easily be twisted to any one point of view. Even though I’ve never liked unions (bad personal experience many years ago), I have to support the WGA in their fight to receive more residuals from the people they write for. The WGA fight will quite likely become a fight writers of print books will engage in sometime in the next 10-15 years to increase the royalties they earn for eBook sales of their mass market books.
I’ve heard plenty of NY published authors tout the fact that they earn more on their mass market books and their foreign rights than on eBooks. I don’t doubt this. I am fairly confident their eBook royalties are a mere pittance compared to those print monies.
However, once a precedent is set, it’s extremely difficult to change. This is why mass market authors should take a hard look at this WGA strike. Earning only 6-8% (although I’ve heard higher figures for some authors) off one’s mass market print book placed in electronic format when the publisher has no paper costs, no warehouse costs, etc. means the publisher is earning a hell of a lot more over time because the book can remain available pretty much forever, unless a writer has a time limit on the publisher’s rights to the book (Simon and Schuster recently tried to write in perpetual rights in their contracts, and I’m not sure where that stands).
While it will probably take another 10-20 years for eBooks to impact the book industry significantly, there’s no time like the present to protect our interests as authors. I believe ignoring current eBook royalties with large publishers is a significant threat for future works of published authors and those to follow. One point to note here is that eBook sales doubled from the first quarter of 2006 to the second quarter of 2007. (International Digital Publishing Forum) If the current trend continues, then we’re likely eBooks jump from the current $8 million figure to $15-16 million in the next five years, if not sooner. If that trend continues, then in 10 years we’ll be looking at somewhere around $20-22 million (but I think the amount will be higher).
The precedent we set today on eBook royalties for mass market books is something every print author should look at closely as opposed to saying their current eBook royalties are just not bringing them the money they’re earning off print. Twenty years from now when eBooks are a significant part of an author’s royalty statement, I don’t think it will be as easy to change that 6-8% royalty rate then as it would be now. It will be a harder uphill struggle. Sort of like the one the WGA is fighting now.
If you’re interested in helping out the WGA, visit the United Hollywood Blog to buy a dozen pencils to send to the big guys in TV entertainment. Just some food for thought.