Round up #142: flat rate royalties, eReaderIQ worked for me

Round up #142: flat rate royalties,  eReaderIQ worked for me

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

eReaderIQ saved me $25

I frequently recommend

eReaderIQ

to my readers. I think it’s the best resource for Kindle owners on the internet. One of the useful features is that you can list a book there, and get a free e-mail when it goes down an amount you specify.

I listed

Universal Horrors (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shoppin*)
by Tom Weaver, Michael Brunas, John Brunas

a long time ago. I was a big fan of Famous Monsters of Filmland and have watched a lot of the old horror movies (Frankenstein, Dracula, the Mummy) from Universal…multiple times. The book is supposed to be a good history…but the digital list price is $29.99. I’ve had it on my Wish List, and thought I might get it as a gift…but when I got the e-mail from eReaderIQ that it had dropped to $3.99, I bought it.🙂

My Significant Other is out of town for a few days (those are always difficult days) helping our adult kid move, so it was good to have a special book to read.

This is a book I’m not going to do with text-to-speech in the car, because of all the pictures I want to see.

I’m about 5% into it, and while it is certainly an important work with good documentation, I’m a bit disappointed. In writing about the Lugosi Dracula (1931, and the one that really kicked off the sound cycle of Universal Horror), the authors adopt the all too common position of “If you were educated like us, you wouldn’t like it.” I want to be fair, so I’ll quote them:

“The flaws inherent in Dracula are so self-evident that they are outlined in nearly every modern-day critique; only Lugosi freaks and the nostalgically inclined still go through the motions of praising and defending the film.”

There is nothing wrong with having an opinion and including it in your writing, of course…that can be done without condemning opposing opinions, though. I may have been old-fashioned in expecting a more neutral tone in a history.

Still, to be clear, I think the book is well worth it. If you need to get a gift now for someone who was a “Monster Kid” or otherwise is a fan of these movies (and Universal is starting them up again, as their own “Cinematic Universe”, a la Marvel), this is a great price! You can delay the delivery until the appropriate gift-giving occasion. Check the price before you click or tap that Buy button…it can change any time.

Great illustration of the value of eReaderIQ!

Judging a book by its Amazon-friendly cover

This is an interesting

Wall Street Journal article by Lucy Feldman

talking about how publishers are designing their covers to optimize sales on Amazon (which the article says now sells 45% of the books in the USA).

That means the book has to stand out in a thumbnail…maybe a couple of centimeters (one inch, roughly) tall.

The article has a great illustration with a bunch of current books which have yellow covers.

It makes sense…you could hypothetically have different covers for e-books and p-books (paperbooks), but that would reduce the impact of multiple exposures to the same item (often necessary before someone buys it)…and they aren’t talking about just e-books, but p-books bought on Amazon.

PrimeNow comes to Walnut Creek, CA

Amazon Truck

We don’t live in Walnut Creek (across the Bay from San Francisco and farther east than Oakland), but I do work there sometimes.

This Amazon delivery truck was recently spotted there…probably connected to

PrimeNow

just starting up delivery there.

That means that I could hypothetically be at work, and order, say, a Nylabone chew toy for the dogs and get it within two hours…at no additional cost beyond our Prime membership.

Remarkable!

If we suddenly find out we are going to a party and need a gift, we could have a

Fire TV Stick with Voice Remote (at AmazonSmile*)

in hand in two hours…one hour, if we are willing to pay $7.99 (I haven’t checked, but I assume that’s available in Walnut Creek).

There’s what looks like a weekly 50% off section, and I get $10 back on the first order.

This feels like a game changer…

Kindle for Kids bundle on sale for a limited time

The

Kindle for Kids Bundle with the latest Kindle, 2-Year Accident Protection, Blue Kid-Friendly Cover (at AmazonSmile*):

which is the basic Kindle, plus a cover, plus a better warranty than you usually get…and it’s $89.99 right now.

With royalties, is flat where it’s at?

How authors get paid may seem esoteric, but it has a huge impact on what you read.

Not every author makes their living writing…but for the ones that do, how they get paid, and how much they get paid affects not only whether they write at all (or give it up and get a different sort of job/income stream), but what they write.

Back in the pulp days, authors might get a penny a word…and the same pulp magazine wasn’t going to publish five stories from the same author in the same issue.

That meant that authors might write in a wide variety of genres and under a number of different pen names, just to get as much published as they could.

For example, Robert E. Howard, best known for Conan the Barbarian, wrote boxing stories (I’ve read some…bought them with a misleading cove, but I did enjoy them), Westerns, detective stories, comedies…even “spicy” stories.

When an author (often through an agent, traditionally) licenses the rights to a publisher, it’s for a specific format or formats. One publisher might have the hardback rights and another one might have the paperback rights (less common today than it used to be).

E-books are a relatively new format (Amazon turned it from fringe to…somewhat mainstream in late 2007), so new negotiations and new rates are involved.

That’s all been pretty confusing and in flux. What is the right royalty rate for an e-book? Should it be based on the suggested retail price (the list price), on what was actually paid for it, or on the profit? What about an advance…should that be like a hardback?

Oh, a couple of quick term definitions. A royalty is something paid to the author for each book sold (I’m keeping this simple). An advance is something paid by the publisher to the author before the first book is sold. The publisher then keeps the royalties from sales until they equal the advance. That’s usually something for either well-known, “brand name” authors, or perhaps a celebrity who doesn’t usually write books (someone involved in a scandal might get one). The advance may happen before the book is even written…which might allow the author to not have another job while writing it.

Different pay method are being explored and suggested.

This

Publishers Weekly article by Rachel Deahl

looks at the idea of a “flat rate” across formats…authors would get the same rate for a sale, whether it was an e-book or a p-book.

I have a tough time seeing how that would work. Oh, I suppose it could work if it was all based on profit, not list price or sale price. Otherwise, the publisher has different cost burdens for different formats.

Authors would generally not want something to be based on profit, because you effectively have to trust the publisher on that. Many an actor who took a percentage of the box office was surprised when somehow, a blockbuster movie didn’t make any profit.😉 The studio might charge expenses (like sets and costumes) for a whole franchise to a single movie’s costs, for example.

I had something like that happen to me.

I was managing a game store…hadn’t been there long. As the manager, I got a bonus based on the holiday sales. I was doing well…yes, I was working 120 hours a week (I didn’t want to make my assistant managers work 80 hours a week on their salaries, so I opened and closed the store all the time), but my Significant Other and I figured we had a hefty bonus coming.

Well, I could do the math. I said, “What happened?”

Owner: “You bought the bags.”

Me: “I bought the bags?”

Owner: “We have four stores, right? We rotate which store buys for all four stores each quarter. This quarter, your store did…and being the holidays, there were a lot of bags.”

That was a surprise!

Authors and agents don’t want surprises.

In the article, they talk about maybe a 50% royalty rate for e-books.

That brings up the challenge for publishers.

Authors can independently publish through Amazon, and by meeting certain not complicated guidelines, get seventy percent.

That means that publishers certainly don’t have all the power in the relationship.

Amazon’s terms are very clear, generally easy to understand for a newbie. They revolutionized the pay cycle, with authors getting paid more often.

Right now, authors who already have successful relationships with traditional publisher are understandably reluctant to switch away to something which is still developing.

New authors, especially agentless ones, won’t have the same reluctance.

Then there is the whole issue of subsers (subscription services), but that’s a ride to take another time.😉

What do you think? Can traditional publishers continue to offer services to authors which are worth the writers getting lower royalties? If you have PrimeNow in your city, why do you ever go to a store for something it carries? Will we see the end of intricate book covers? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

All aboard our new The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

 

11 Responses to “Round up #142: flat rate royalties, eReaderIQ worked for me”

  1. Allie D. Says:

    “I may have been old-fashioned in expecting a more neutral tone in a history.”
    I think it is totally new-fangled to expect a neutral tone in a history. But that’s just me!🙂

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Allie!
      🙂

      Touche!

      Certainly, classical histories could be very judgmental. Perhaps I should have used the term “reference” rather than “history”…that’s what I was really anticipating.

  2. Allie D. Says:

    I’ve read a good bit about copyright on ILMK; I’m surprised that you don’t mention it in your questions re: royalties and/or alternative ways to pay writers. To me, the topics go hand in hand.
    (Do I have a solution? Not even close. I’m a decent researcher, I think, and I’m fascinated…but copyright issues continue to confound me.)

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Allie!

      I’m not quite sure what I could have said about copyright (this time…as you note, it’s a topic I enjoy and have addressed many times) that would impact this. Tell me a little more…

      I would start here: without copyright, essentially, my entire post is irrelevant.🙂 That doesn’t mean that authors couldn’t make a living without copyright, but it would be much more difficult. Copyright is the legal basis under which an author can object to someone else commercially using their works without permission (presumably diluting the market, making the works less valuable to the author, and therefore not encouraging professional artists to produce more commercial art).

      Certainly, some artists release works without regard to copyright. They may count on contributions from their fans, for example.

      One area where copyright can affect authors’ paystreams is Fair Use. It can benefit an author (clearly, the Fair Use defense of parody in the United States has made some people a lot of money), but it can also arguably affect the market for a work.

      What angles were you thinking? What confounds you? I’m not saying I can alleviate that, but I might be able to shed some light on it.

      • Allie Says:

        Hum. Bufo, you got me. Apparently copyright and ways&means of compensating authors only go together in my own head🙂
        I was pondering the fact that these are both monetary issues about artistic work that are essentially insoluble – meaning that I don’t believe there is a solution that will satisfy everyone.
        When I say that copyright laws are beyond me, I intend something similar. Death + 70 years. Where did that come from, and should it be changed? There is apparently no way to settle that, not a way that makes any sense whatsoever. I recently came upon a 2012 U.S. Supreme Court decision which ruled in favor of adopting a copyright policy for international books more in line with “international policies” – mostly Western European, of course, although this case was originally focused on a Canadian work. It was 10 to 2 in favor of changing United States policy to something closer to those already in place as international publication standards.There were 2 dissenting opinions, one of which, by Ruth Bader Ginsburg, argued that writers already had/have more than enough incentive for creative expression – which is the point of copyright as it was originally laid out in the Constitution. (This is a very simplified summary.)
        I also attached it – again, mostly in my mind😉 – to ebooks vs paper books – Supreme Court cases are not easy and not short. This 2012 decision was based on a lot of information which was gathered in about 2008…but in those 4 years, ebooks had totally changed the landscape. Authorship and publication is in this gray area between ebooks and paper books… and then I feel hopeless! (Not PERSONALLY hopeless – except in that I spend an awful lot of money on books – hopeless for the state of publishing today – I should note here that I spent some time working for one of the “Big 5”, but that was before kindle and ebooks had come into play as a moneymaking proposition.)
        Now ebooks and other online technology is moving so quickly that it’s difficult to even make a court decision that would be relevant at the time it was reached.
        Does THAT make sense? That’s the best I can summarize.
        And then, back at copyright, the death + 70 years is inherently unfair – for example, Fitzgerald died at 44 and his work is essentially out of copyright. Hemingway – who was slightly younger than Fitzgerald, taken under FSF’s wing and pulled Hemingway into Scribner’s in the first place, bringing Hemingway’s work to his own editor the great Maxwell Perkins (sorry, I’m a Jazz Age person!)… but Hemingway died so many years later…and his copyright was actually renewed *after* his death.
        One question I can’t find a good answer on is how copyright can be renewed at seemingly any point (within the 70 years) by a spouse or descendant – after the author has died – which suddenly adds another 70 years to the whole thing…. So in my example, Hemingway /his family received compensation for far longer than Fitzgerald and his family.

        So all of this (and more) has already been on my mind, and I read your post and got that hopelessness again – the apparent lack of fair and decent solutions about any kind of compensation for authors.

        The thing that most confounds me most, at the moment anyway, is how a work can be out of copyright, in the public domain, and somehow go back into copyright. This seldom happens, but it has happened, and I am not sure a) WHY they would be allowed to do this, and b) the terms – such as, do they get another 70 years from the date of re-copyrighting these things? I don’t know. I try to research and I get information that is either oversimplified or incorrect or both…but then I get to the actual laws as laid out in the Constitution and its many additions (such as the 2012 case I cited above), at which point I generally give up😉 I’ve had a difficult time finding information that is in between these two extremes.

        Sorry, I think this is now longer than what you wrote. And it is in the wrong place because you’re right, your post is about royalties and advances and such, and now here I am back on copyright.
        Also sorry for being rather disorganized. I had too many reactions all at once, and I posted quickly before thinking it all through.
        But hey, your post got me thinking, and that’s the point, right?? Best to you!

      • Bufo Calvin Says:

        Thanks for writing, Allie!

        Your comment deserves a more thorough answer than I can do tonight…I’ll throw in a few things, and then respond more later.

        I have said before in the blog that I think “Life+” is inherently unfair and ageist, and I’m surprised it hasn’t been challenged legally on those grounds. A 90 year old who publishes a book is likely to get a lot less value out of the copyright (for the author and the author’s descendants) than if a 19 year old publishes one. That seems like it should be actionable.

        There is no renewal in the Life+ system in the United States. Life+70 only applies in the USA to books first published in 1978 of later. Renewal only applies to books in the USA from 1923 – 1963.

        This is a great site on copyright…I particularly recommend the diagram and calculator…

        http://www.publicdomainsherpa.com/index.html

      • Allie Says:

        **Of course the “Big 5” did not really exist at that point, either; not as a widely used term anyway.

      • Allie D. Says:

        Bufo – I just saw your reply, with the link – thanks! I’ll bookmark that one.
        I realize I made things waay to complicated for comments on a blog -Thank you for your tolerance🙂

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Allie!

      I’m not quite sure what I could have said about copyright (this time…as you note, it’s a topic I enjoy and have addressed many times) that would impact this. Tell me a little more…

      I would start here: without copyright, essentially, my entire post is irrelevant.🙂 That doesn’t mean that authors couldn’t make a living without copyright, but it would be much more difficult. Copyright is the legal basis under which an author can object to someone else commercially using their works without permission (presumably diluting the market, making the works less valuable to the author, and therefore not encouraging professional artists to produce more commercial art).

      Certainly, some artists release works without regard to copyright. They may count on contributions from their fans, for example.

      One area where copyright can affect authors’ paystreams is Fair Use. It can benefit an author (clearly, the Fair Use defense of parody in the United States has made some people a lot of money), but it can also arguably affect the market for a work.

      What angles were you thinking? What confounds you? I’m not saying I can alleviate that, but I might be able to shed some light on it.

  3. Joe Bowers Says:

    Hi, Bufo,
    I, too, was a fan of Famous Monsters as a kid. Forrest J. was one of the coolest people ever. Appreciate your references to him and the magazine. Brings back great memories.Thanks for the heads-up on the price break on the Universal horror book, I ordered it to my Fire tablet.
    Those Amazon trucks have recently been making most of my Prime deliveries here in red hot Arizona, not specific to PrimeNow. They previously mostly used a service called OnTrac but seem to have taken the job over with their own fleet. The address labels now have the code Amzl instead of USPS or UPS or whatever.
    Hope you are well in absence of your SO!

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Joe!

      Ah! Another Ackerfan! 🙂

      I thought those trucks wouldn’t be just for PrimeNow…which is probably using contract drivers anyway, at least for “last mile”.

      I’d say I’m okay. I’m glad I have the dogs, and I’ve gotten to do some annoying things with them, which is nice for my SO not having to be there.😉 I took them to the vets (a bit of a challenge with my cane and two dogs), and today, I vacuumed the house (they aren’t fond of the vacuum). I’ve jokingly speculated before that dogs may not like the vacuum because it vacuums up the smells…imagine if somewhat could suck the sights out of your house and you couldn’t see anything!🙂

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