Personally, this is something I haven’t had to think about as I have not sold digital rights to a publisher. However, Michael A Stackpole has something to say about it in his post 9 Must-have Clauses for Digital Rights Contracts and I found his comments interesting.
It wasn’t too long ago that publishers didn’t have to worry about anything other than printing rights. From what I’ve heard, very little royalty was given to the author. I remember one author saying, this was about 10 years ago, she received less than $1 for every book sold. At the time I was shocked by this news as plainly the amount of work that goes into a manuscript was surely worth more than that. Yet thinking about it now, I can see that she didn’t write for the money, she wrote to be read.
Anyway, ebooks made an appearance and it would seem that publishers still didn’t bother with digital rights because who’s going to buy them anyway? This left an opening for the authors to step in and take control of their own ebook sales. I have no idea if this opportunity was grabbed by authors or not but they would have been crazy not to.
Now publishers are realising their mistake and have started to include digital rights in the contracts. Why? Because it’s more money for them. And the author will continue to get some meagre royalty for all their hard work. However, that’s beside the point. My problem with this is that the ebooks will be sold for the same price as the paperback, or perhaps slightly less.
To me this is outrageous. I feel strongly about this. Ebooks should be at least half the price of the printed version. For heavens sake, there’s no paper, no ink, no postage, no storage. And don’t give me all that rubbish about the amount of work that goes into setting up an ebook. That’s crap. There’s no more work setting up an ebook than there is a paper version. I know. I’ve done both.
Sorry, I’m going off on a tangent. I believe ebooks in the hands of traditional publishers is a bad thing. Yes, sell publishing rights, but all authors should hold on to their own digital rights and, for a change, start making some decent money from the sales of their work.