More About That HarperCollins Plan

New HarperCollins Unit to Try to Cut Writer Advances

Ms. Friedman said the new group, which will initially publish just 25 titles a year, would offer “low or no advances.” Mr. Miller, who was most recently president of Hyperion, said he hoped to offer authors a 50-50 split of profits. Typically, authors earn royalties of 15 percent of profits after they have paid off their advances. Many authors never earn royalties.


At HarperCollins, Mr. Miller said he was considering offering both e-book and audio editions of the hardcovers at no extra cost to the consumer.

Emphasis added by me.

So wait a minute. Just what exactly is going on here?

1) No advance to writer

2) No clear definition of what will constitute the “profit” that will allegedly be split 50-50

3) No word on how often profit (formerly royalty) statements will be issued

4) And based on that last item, the contract will include non-print rights too?

5) And these non-print rights will generate no income for the writer?

Does HarperCollins expect me to believe that the person reading for the audiobook will be doing it for free? If not, then why should the writer’s words go for free?

I can already tell this entire thing stinks.

HarperCollins should not get anything other than print rights.

If they’re expecting a writer’s work on what’s basically consignment, they don’t also get to tie up other rights that could bring in money.

Especially with HarperCollins already declaring two of those other rights — audio and e — will not be generating income for the writer!

I know there will be people pointing out that ebooks have been given away for free by Baen and sometimes other publishers (and even writers themselves). But this entire HarperCollins plan is a different animal.

Print books will be sold on a non-return basis.

That tells me that bookstores are going to be very, very conservative in their orders.

This means the odds become even greater that readers will not find a printed edition of a book to buy — so they will wind up “settling” for a free electronic copy.

I can foresee a huge market distortion happening here: 10,000 print copies sold, 100,000 ebooks given away for free.

Print publishers are not known for going back to press after a 10,000-copy run has sold out.

And as for that “split” of profits: Let’s not forget that HarperCollins will most likely not accept unsolicited submissions.

Basically, all manuscripts will be through agents.

Agents who collect 15-20%.

So after the “50-50” split, a writer will be left with 30-35%. But that’s of the alleged 50-50.

Depending on how that split is made — what costs the publisher first deducts as “overhead” — a writer could actually wind up with no more than a straight 15% — which means a standard royalty but without an upfront advance.

Lastly, given the price range stated for proposed print books — a high end of $20 — this means HarperCollins will be seeking “McBooks.”

Easy-to-digest transitory faddish nonsense.

Stuff along the lines of Thin Thighs For Your Cat or Lost Secrets of the Law of Attraction.

It will be an imprint of junk.

Nothing here is revolutionary.

It’s just the latest twist on how to screw writers.

Explore posts in the same categories: Books - Other, C.O.A.T. - Other, eBooks, Writing

3 Comments on “More About That HarperCollins Plan”

  1. SKFK Says:

    The article said that e-books and audiobooks may be offered “at no extra cost” rather than “at no cost.” I took it to mean that if you buy the paper book, you have the option to get the electronic and audio versions of the same book free. Of course, the cost of producing e-books and audiobooks will have to be taken out, shrinking the “profit” even further.

  2. mikecane Says:

    How can they distinguish between who bought the print book and who didn’t? They’re not going to ship these things with an enclosed CD-R!

  3. SKFK Says:

    “They’re not going to ship these things with an enclosed CD-R!”

    Why not? Optical media is cheap, so cost wouldn’t be an issue. They’re talking about hardcover books, so added weight of a CD for each book would be negligible.

    Of course, they can also make e-books and audiobooks downloadable, but install lots of hoops to jump through in order to prove that you actually bought the hardcover, and add tons of DRM on top of them. Hey, they said “no extra cost to the consumer” not “no extra hassles to the consumer.”

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