In a simple, direct statement to members today, Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild, criticized Random House for the “regrettable” decision to assert control of authors’ digital rights: “E-book rights, under older book contracts, were retained by the authors,” wrote Aiken.
The letter referred to a letter sent by Random House CEO Markus Dohle to agents, laying out the company’s eBook plans. His note asserted control over the digital rights in “the vast majority” of the publisher’s backlist.
Aiken responded: “It’s regrettable and unhelpful that Random House has chosen to try to intimidate authors and agents over these old book contracts. With such a weak legal hand, it would be well advised to stick to its strength — the advantages that its marketing muscle can provide owners of e-book rights. It should also start offering a fair royalty for those rights.”
The letter also advised writers about their eBook possibilities: “If you have an old book contract in which you haven’t granted e-book rights, patience is likely to pay off. The e-book industry is still young — there’s no need to jump in. And we strongly suspect e-royalty rates are at a low-water mark.”