Author Royalties in the Hot Seat
What does all this mean for publishers looking to negotiate contracts amid all these seismic shifts?
A publisher "has to understand that we need to agree on an e-book royalty that the author is happy with, and that may change. It may have to migrate upward," Ellenberg says. "They can't just simply say, 'OK, this is what we are paying,' and we're going to dig our heels in. We have to look carefully at what the e-book royalty is going to be."
Beyond this, Ellenberg says, authors are looking for what they have always wanted—support for promotion and publicity, and a very high level of professionalism throughout the process. "You want the book to be properly edited. You want to see a gorgeous cover on it. You want to see that a publisher is able to get the book into all possible outlets in an economically sound way and pay royalties," he says. "The basic process hasn't changed that much. In fact, if anything, authors will continue to complain that what's happening is they're being underserved by the lack of editorial involvement and the lack of publisher support.
"In some ways, the smoke is obscuring the fire in that I believe the digital market is only about 3 percent of the total market … so it's gotten all the noise, but a lot of what we need to do is still be successful print publishers and make sure we have a successful print distribution market," he says.