Where do authors fit in to all of this? As I mentioned, eBook royalty rates may be different for eBooks than for print depending on what each author and publisher have negotiated. There’s some drama on this side of the battle as well, with some authors and agents wanting to keep royalties at 50%, especially for backlist titles that don’t require much financial layout on the publisher’s part. Random House and other large presses want to standardize royalty rates at 25%. Whether authors or publishers get what they want in this will also go a long way in determining eBook prices.
DAW author Jim C. Hines is happy with his eBook royalty split, which is the same percentage as his mass market paperback split. He hopes that prices stay under $10, though he’s not against higher costs for earlier access or extras included with the purchase to justify the higher price. In the end, he thinks the whole thing should be “cheap and easy” for consumers.
Tor author John Scalzi suggested tiered pricing on his blog, similar to the hardcover/trade/mass market paperback scheme that’s presumably along the lines of what Macmillan hopes to implement. “Would it work?” Scalzi asked. “Hell if I know. But that’s not to say it (or some other pricing scheme) is not in a publisher’s interest to try.”
Regardless of where they fall on the question of royalties or cover price, authors have been speaking out loudly against Amazon’s move against Macmillan. “I don’t necessarily agree with 100% of what Macmillan wants in terms of eBooks,” Hines told me. “But I think this is something that needs to be negotiated and sorted out, as opposed to Amazon declaring itself God of e-books and issuing proclamations from its mountain.”
Scalzi was even more blunt: “This asinine jockeying over electronic book prices has very little to do with what’s actually good or useful for anyone other than the manufacturer of a piece of hardware… who also happens to be a book retailer.”
It’s not yet clear if the winner in all this will be the consumers or not. That may depend on behind-the-scenes wrangling between Macmillan and other publishers and Amazon. However, you can bet that the likes of Barnes & Noble, Sony, and independent booksellers (both eBook and brick & mortar) are thinking of ways to take advantage of this schism.
A few authors already have, as evidenced by this tweet from Night Shade author Paolo Bacigalupi: Looking for an ebook while Amazon blocks Macmillan? Webscriptions.net sells The Windup Girl for $6, DRM-free.