e-Book Traps

Slow down for a minute. I know e-books are the next great thing in publishing. However, the market is growing fast, Amazon is hungry, literary agents are changing, and publishers are struggling. Author’s need to understand that there are e-book traps.

First, let’s start with those of you who have been published traditionally. In all standard publishing contracts, it states that the publisher has “electronic rights.” Does that mean the publisher has rights to your e-book? No. Google a recent court case: Random House vs Rosetta Books. “Electronic rights” are not “e-book rights.”

This is causing a major problem with publishers. Nora Roberts, Stephen King, and James Patterson have 100% rights to their e-books. The publisher has nothing. That means all the books that have been printed, can be published as an e-book, and all money goes to the author.

Let me warn you about Amazon. Self-publishers claim that your (printed) book on Amazon is a great thing. Traditional publishers use Amazon as their primary source. However, Amazon has a trick up their sleeve that publishers have yet to make public, because there’s nothing they can do about it.

Amazon is slowly taking off the “Buy Button” from all printed books. Why are they doing this? Because, Amazon wants customers to purchase Kindle books instead. Why won’t your publisher do anything about this?

Well…they can’t.

Amazon wants to own 100% of the publishing market. They are making side deals with literary agencies to take down both traditional and self-publishers. Small publishing houses are weak and about to fail. Amazon wants publishers to fail, so they can control how author’s publish. (Sounds like a Wal-Mart way of thinking.)

Meanwhile, literary agencies are thrilled. They can start an imprint and sell e-books directly to Amazon and forget about publishing deals. Agents haven’t been making any money and publishers refuse to change, so this was inevitable.

To make things worse, publishers will not give more than a 25% royalty to author’s, despite the publisher making more on e-books than printed books. Author’s should receive 50%. Anything less is an insult.

Agents are looking out for the author and will not convince them to sign a deal, unless the 50% margin is reached. When that does not happen, the agent says, “No publisher will give you a fair deal. How about you sign with our imprint instead?”

Author’s, do not fall for this trap. It is a way for agents to take their 15%, plus an additional percentage for publishing you. If you are not careful, they can even charge you for “additional expenses.” Which means, they are dangerously close to becoming self-publishers. You should ask this question, “Are you a literary agent or a publisher? Because you cannot be both.”

There is an exception. If the literary agent has unsuccessfully searched for a traditional publisher to give you a decent deal, and they want to get your name and book out in the market, and they are willing to take only their 15% fee in the process, then sign the contract. In this case, the agent is looking out for your best interests. They are concentrating on marketing and making a name for you. If you sell 5,000 books, then the agent can better negotiate a contract to have your book printed with a publisher.

Is everyone in the publishing industry evil? No. Please listen to me, because this is important. In every industry, there are traps, scams, and those looking to make a buck. However, author’s need all the help they can get from legit professionals. Here is why:

* Publishing lawyers, literary managers, agents, and traditional publishers need talented authors to succeed. Those that care, will do everything in their power to protect you.

* The publishing industry is changing faster than ever. You cannot possibly keep up with the latest. You do not know all the inside deals. I see at least forty deals a day that impact many authors. If I wrote fifty blogs a week to update you on the latest trends, it would not be enough.

* You cannot compete with King, Roberts, Steel, Grisham, and Koontz, unless you have a heavy bat in your corner. (In fact, you need an entire team.)

* Professional’s review, edit, market, and protect your work. They have read your entire manuscript and want to sell it to millions of readers. (Call your self-publisher and ask if they read your book. In fact, ask if they read one page.) You need people that believe in your words, not your money.

* How many sales reps do you know at Barnes & Noble?

Publisher’s are going to change. They will begin to offer a 50% royalty. Also, your e-book titles will have better success, if published by one house. Don’t give up on traditional publishing just yet.

I see author’s bashing traditional publishers and literary agents everyday. It’s because the author cannot break through just yet, so they have to blame someone. (And the author refuses to think their novel or marketing plan needs a little work.)

Despite all the rejections you’ve received, if you finally wrote a book that Random House wanted, would you still bash the publishing industry? Of course not. So take responsibility for your own work and have faith in yourself, rather than blaming the world if you have fallen short.

Keep reading. Keep improving. Keep adjusting your marketing plan. Continue to meet others in the publishing industry. Hire a literary manager to guide your career. Write another novel. When you are done, write another.

Do not tell me that no one is giving you a break. Keeping fighting until you are signed by a reputable literary agent and publisher. If you lose the fight today…then start again tomorrow.

Ron Knight

Author of “2-10”

Preview: www.upauthors.com/authors/ronknight

Literary Manager: Melissa Link

Contact: melissa@scbranding.com  

Ron Knight

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  1. Ron, I so enjoy every post. Sometime I just have to say thanks for your words and encouragement. When I started dealing with the publishing world, I thought, “this can’t be that hard” but I have grown to have a new respect for all authors. I applaud you and your blog. Wonderful information and wonderful words of encouragement. Thanks.

  2. Hello, Mr. Knight,

    I’m curious. You stated “Small publishing houses are weak and about to fail.”
    Are you including small e-publishers (royalty houses, not self, vanity, or POD publishers) in that assessment?

  3. I didn’t know that ‘electronic rights’ are not the same as ‘e-book rights’.

    And it’s good to have an idea re royalties.

    Thanks for the post, Ron.

  4. Ron Knight says:

    Amazon feels that “Small publishing houses are weak and about to fail.” I hope to God that all publishing and small businesses fight through the tough times. POD publishers are thriving, because authors are willing to pay them. All traditional publishers are struggling, but not finished. Anything with an “e” in front of it, is doing well. (e-publishers, e-books, e-services, etc…)

  5. I appreciate this article. I’ve been a self published author for a little over a year, and have most recently had an awful encounter with an established author who’s also a publisher. He published an interview I wrote up and didn’t give me any credit for it. The sharks out here in this literary world (and world period) stink. I’m learning as I go along, and want to say that I appreciate the advice you choose to share, it’s refreshing and I’m grateful.

  6. Fascinating article. Thanks for that. I work with a small publishing company, newly established, and since our inception in January we have published 20 “unpublishable” books – terrific writing just outside the mainstream. We read and edit every one, then go wild trying to promote them. We believe in what we’re doing, and we do our very darndest to help the author – basically, we’re working for nothing.

    I have also just recently been signed by Berkley for a two book deal, and understand – or am beginning to understand – both sides of the argument. It’s complicated, intimidating and confusing, and I’m really glad folks like you are out there helping us clarify.