Monday, January 04, 2010

New Year, new discussions of e-book rights!

by Miriam

I agree with almost everything Jonathan Galassi says in his Op-Ed piece in Sunday’s New York Times about the fact that books, even the ones penned by authors who are considered literary geniuses, are not the product of just one individual spewing brilliance at the world. I go back to my oft repeated point that in this new era of e-books, blogs, vlogs, and all things digital, we’ll still need agents and publishers to act as gatekeepers, shepherds and midwives. My only quarrel with the piece is, of course, Mr. Galassi’s somewhat disingenuous (he is a publisher, after all) implication that Random House (or any other publisher) should be automatically “involved” in these e-book rights (meaning that they would control and derive revenue from them) because of their work in producing the original book. If, as he says, e-books are just another format of a book (like audio and translations), then these rights should be “in play” when a book is sold. And, if the author retains those rights, he or she should be able to dispose of them in any way they see fit without having to involve the publisher of the original work.

What do you say?


  1. Hmm, this is interesting. Could we compare to this to the film industry? After a film hits theaters, who retains/controls the rights to distribute the movie as a DVD or download? This is a head scratcher for me.

  2. In the spirit of "everything is negotiable," isn't this the same as any other clause of a contract. That is, writers, agents, etc. talk about first North American rights or soft cover rights or audio book rights (which is probably the most direct comparison). Then lets talk about international rights - are those rights controlled by the author or by the first American Publisher? Movie writers gave away their rights in favor of a "work for hire" situation some time ago (talk to Mack Sennett and others). I would think the author retains the rights unless explicitly outlined in the contract. Just one man's opinion.

  3. You need to read this post from thriller writer Joe Konrath where he points out that he would be making around $15k extra per year if he had held onto the eBook rights to his novels rather than turning them over to the publisher.

    There is a reason even successful authors are considering self publishing.

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