In a much linked piece, Harper Collins is trying to radically reshape their business model by
making all of their new imprints titles available as online downloads, eliminating the returns option for bookstores and substituting profit sharing with authors rather than the classic cash advance.
This is all big stuff and at first glance?
Well, it's too soon to tell.
But getting rid of returns on their new imprint, so far limited to twenty five titles annually is a gutsy move and in a limited way, not a bad idea. It would remove an expensive and carbon heavy element of the trade, and it would remove a scenario not uncommon around our place, whereby a hot title is not in stock at the publisher because Chapters/Costco/Wal-Mart have all the copies. They'll get returned in massive quantities in a few months as the fever cools, but it means missed sales at independents.
I've no opinion on author royalties, but it is ridiculous for publishers to be in a position that makes them need to overpay a front rank author just to keep them; and then not make any money from the exercise.
Now most of that is their own fault, and the natural outgrowth of a feast or famine publishing model that starves everyone but the top three or four horses (most of whom can't write for beans anyway).
Now the other side if aptly stated here:
"Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, a literary agent, said: “I’m not cynical about it, and I’m open to ideas, but I think it’s too soon to say what the validity of it is. These words seem fine and interesting, but how does it benefit the author and how do we find our readers?”
That's not part of the equation here, and this is something we small shops have always been able to do. No one goes to Wal-Mart for books, and increasingly authors are going to end up needing some help to get that novel done.
Interesting times, and not an ideal time to be an author in this scenario.
Posted by Dave