Author & Publisher Strategies

Authors Guild starts full-court press for Google agreement

Roy Blout Jr., president of the Authors Guild, has published a plea for support of the Google Books agreement he helped negotiate, arguing that the deal is being held up over fears about a “‘Monopoly’ of Orphans.” He argues that Google’s monopoly on scanned out-of-print books would be only over those books for which the rightsholder cannot be found, and points to the success of the Authors Registry, a non-profit the manages overseas photocopying rights, in finding 80 percent of rightsholders they seek. He signs it, in his signature Blountian way: “Unmonopolistically yours.”

I have problems with the settlement, because it sets a standard in revenue sharing for all books that will eventually be scanned and sold through Google Books that may shave away more of the tiny sliver of revenue currently going to authors when applied to copyrighted works. The math always works against an author, so this agreement should be combined with a move by the Authors Guild to separate e-book and online rights from paper publishing rights systematically, so that authors receive a higher share of online revenue because publishers have substantially lowered cost and risks when taking an author’s work to digital formats.

Book and Reading News

Publetariat Vault launches paid rights listings

PubletariatThe Publetariat Vault, a new database of authors and the rights they want to sell is launching. After a 90-day free trial for the first 300 participants, and a 30-day free trial for all who register after that, authors will pay $10 monthly to have their works listed. The idea is to let author who have built some traction in the marketplace connect with publishers who can accelerate their sales. It will aggregate reviews and sales data, among other information in authors’ listings.

I would strongly suggest Publetariat Vault’s creators consider reversing the model, so that searchers who want to contact an author pay a small fee to Publetariat. Or make the transfer of rights the pay service. Anything other than paid listings, which is the old classifieds model.

Craigslist killed the paid listing business, making revenue on a small percentage of its listings. That allowed people to populate the listing database with enough free ads, which drove traffic, that it became self-supporting from fees for real estate and job listings. There’s no reason Craigslist couldn’t offer these same kinds of listing free to authors (think about it, Craig).

This database seems to be aiming to compete with writers’ agents, who normally shop rights to works new and old, as necessary for a share of the author’s income from the resulting deals. It could also help agents find new authors with finished works. But I am skeptical of any service for authors that costs $120 a year up front. Interesting idea, though, if the economics are made right. Will be interesting to see what comes of this.