Negotiating Author Payments in the Digital Age
Many times, authors take issue with unlimited electronic use because of legitimate concerns about piracy, says Amorette Pedersen, publishing director, media tech and security at Elsevier Science & Technology Books.
“Given our various lines of product, we find it interesting that authors also vary in their approach to e-product,” she says. “Some endorse it and want us to exploit every e-revenue opportunity we can. Others fear it and worry about copyright and piracy issues. We have had to address these varying concerns prior to contract negotiations, during negotiations and with our royalty reporting. This is an ongoing education process that involves ensuring them of the legal steps we take when it comes to piracy.”
Unlike larger publishers, who may compete with other companies for the right to publish certain works, Colvin rarely finds a need to pay advances to authors.
“We work with a lot of first-time authors who typically are not asking for advances,” he says. “In the cases where they do ask, we offer nominal advances. We will offer [authors] very good discounts on [purchasing] their books, and, if there’s a book we’re [especially] interested in, we may increase the size of the royalty considerably. We have done that a few times.”
Colvin says that he offers authors, many of whom are being published for the first time, a fair deal in light of the risks taken on the number of books he can expect to sell.
Joe Wikert, vice president and executive publisher in the professional/trade division at John Wiley and Sons Inc., has argued on his “Joe Wikert’s Publishing 2020 Blog” (www.JoeWikert.com) that offering writers a “bad deal” is not in a publisher’s interest.
“Publishers realize that author advances are just like any other part of a transaction: You get what you pay for,” he blogged last June. “No publisher wants an author to walk away from the negotiating table feeling like they’re not getting what they deserve on an advance. Why? The publisher wants—no, needs—the author to be properly motivated throughout the project. Anything short of that will compromise the results.”