Negotiating Author Payments in the Digital Age
When it comes to author negotiations, Florrie Kichler has it relatively easy.
“As a publisher, I do the reissues of classic children’s book series,” Kichler says. “Most authors are dead.”
Of course, even with writers who have shuffled off this mortal coil, there are still issues of rights and payments, and negotiations with families or estates. As the president of Indianapolis-based Patria Press and president of the PMA, the Independent Book Publishers Association, Kichler has an excellent vantage point on the challenges faced by publishers when negotiating contracts, whether with those living or dead.
“I don’t offer advances, but I do offer a percentage of royalties, as most publishers do,” she explains. “We sign contracts with an author or [a] family who owns rights to the book. We pay based on a sliding-scale percentage as sales go up.”
Kichler offers six percent of the net proceeds she receives for sales of one to 5,000 copies, eight percent for sales of 5,001 to 10,000, and 10 percent for sales over 10,000. She says her percentages are probably less than the industry average, but that this is necessary because of the risk she takes in reprinting books that may be decades old.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Kichler’s model highlights the fact that there is no one-size-fits-all formula for author contracts. Genre, print-run size, the extent of electronic rights involved and, of course, the notoriety of the author all come into play when deciding how much a writer should be paid and whether an advance is warranted.
Formulas for royalty payments no longer follow tried-and-true standards, confirms Jonathan Kirsch, a Los Angeles-based attorney specializing in publishing, copyright and trademark law who represents book, magazine, newspaper and electronic publishers, as well as authors and agents. He is the author of “Kirsch’s Guide to the Book Contract.”