Authors Guild on Wylie Agency & Amazon Deal: ‘Bargain-Basement eBook Royalty Rates Will Not Last’

By Jason Boog Comment

augui.gifThis morning the Authors Guild weighed in on last week’s bombshell news story. In a statement, the Guild said they “applaud” the Wylie Agency for striking an exclusive deal with Amazon to publish 20 eBooks through the literary agency’s brand new Odyssey Editions imprint–selling the books exclusively through the Amazon Kindle Store.

The Guild reasserted its position that publishers do not have eBook rights to an author’s work unless “expressly” granted by the writer. Read the entire Authors Guild alert here. The Guild wrote: “It’s fine and proper for these authors and their heirs to exercise those rights, and we applaud the Wylie Agency for finding a way to make it happen.” UPDATED: The Guild also speculated about the actual royalty rates being paid to authors.

The Authors Guild memo pushed for higher royalty rates for digital books: “Bargain-basement e-book royalty rates will not last. Low e-book royalty rates will, as e-book sales become increasingly important, emerge as a dealbreaker for authors with negotiating leverage. Publishers will, inevitably, agree to reasonable royalties rather than lose their bestselling authors to more generous rivals and startups. We suspect publishers are well aware of this and are postponing the unavoidable because it seems to make sense in the short run. We believe this is short-sighted.”

The Authors Guild memo also noted that “serious potential conflicts of interest” could arise. The memo concluded: “A major agency starting a publishing company is weird, no matter how you look at it. This sort of weirdness will only multiply, however, as long as authors don’t share fairly in the rewards of electronic publishing. Publishers seeking to manage this transition well should cut authors in appropriately. The sooner they do so, the better. For everyone.”