RWA vs Epublishers

An interesting confrontation between the RWA and the world of epublishing, defended here by agent and author Deidre Knight.

RWA’s current stance on e-books is that a publisher must offer at least a $1,000 advance in order to qualify for legitimacy. Never mind that many digital authors far exceed that amount in royalties, or sell more than 5,000 copies of print editions of their e-published titles. The problem with RWA’s simplistic criteria is that it ignores one crucial fact. Our industry is changing radically, with traditional publishers seeking innovative models for overhauling their distribution and content.
Meanwhile, let’s talk about RWA’s position that e-published authors who make more than $1,000 in royalties are a rare exception. As an agent, I have seen a fair number of statements for clients writing for Ellora’s Cave and Samhain. The majority of these writers have passed that $1,000 benchmark within the first few months. I’m sure some of the smaller e-publishers sell fewer copies of titles, but lumping all e-publishers together and stating that most of their authors don’t earn $1,000 a title is misleading. It’s like comparing royalties earned at St. Martin’s Press to those from a tiny print publisher of romances. All print publishers are not created equally any more than all digital publishers are.

If RWA truly wants to protect authors, then it’s time to join the 21st century where the rules of the digital market are changing daily. As I write this, a new initiative between and Simon and Schuster was just announced, a partnership to bring digital content to members of this emerging community. Considering the priority that print publishers are obviously placing on developing digital content, for RWA to disavow e-publishers is a disservice to all their members.
...Consider, too, that e-publishing can be a tremendous beginning point for many authors, leading to even bigger careers with mainstream publishers. Within my own agency, I signed on e-authors such as Rhyannon Byrd, Dakota Cassidy, and Joey Hill, and in each instance, their track record in e-book format caught New York’s attention, as did the reviews they’d earned.

Not only did I sell digitally published authors to houses such as Random House, Penguin Putnam and Harlequin, but their e-readership followed them to print, launching them with a huge built in advantage in such a tough market. In many cases, authors who begin with e-publishers choose to continue writing for those companies, even as they forge ahead with traditional New York houses. Surely, RWA can see the value in these examples, and how e-publishing could potentially benefit their members.

As a third generation entrepreneur, I’ve learned firsthand that you either change with the times by adapting to the market or you are left behind. When the automobile first came along, buggy whip manufacturers saw themselves as being in the whip business, when they should have understood that they were in the transportation business. We are now in the literary content business, and the physically published book is only one of several delivery formats, yet another “device” to hold, much like the Sony Reader, the Kindle, or your iPhone. Like the buggy whip manufacturers, RWA must modify their organizational model or be left behind…their membership along with them.


J.L. Johnson said…
Excellent post!

You are so right, things are changing and I've read more than one blog in this business stating that overall, the publishing industry is very slow to accepting change. Mind you, the digital media is growing faster than a virus at times. Sometimes it blows my mind how fast it's come in such a short period of time.
Lars Shalom said…
i dindt understand this