Late last week online I saw several articles about the new HarperCollins imprint which is trying a different publishing model. The headline blared, "New HarperCollins Unit Cutting Advances; Refusing Returns" Now there's a way to get some attention!
The article about this new unit in The New York Times contains a ray of hope for authors. While there is little or no advance, the publisher hopes to offer authors a 50-50 split on the profits from the book. “Typically authors earn royalties of 15 percent of profits after they have paid off their advances. Many authors never earn royalties.” Yes, I’ve read 90% of nonfiction books never earn back their advance. A 50-50 split provides hope that authors can earn consistent income from their publishers—provided the book sells which is always a big caveat.
The other area of innovation involves not allowing returns for retailers. Many authors are unaware that booksellers have books in their stores on consignment. If they don't sell in a period, then they are returned to the publisher for a full credit or refund. This policy is a hold-over from the Great Depression according to Making The List by Michael Korda. Retailers complained about the risk of book publishing even then and the policy was established--and it has not been reversed. Can you think of another major product which operates in this way? I applaud HarperCollins for attempting something different about this long-term challenge for any publisher.
My entries about The Writing Life are going to be thin (if at all) for the rest of this week. Early tomorrow, I'm headed to New York City and a series of meetings for the rest of the week. I'll be speaking at the Grand Hyatt next door to Grand Central Station on Saturday as a part of the American Society of Journalists and Authors conference. I'm on a panel about blogging and it should be fun. I'm certain I will learn some new things that I'll come back here and capture.