It was confirmed to me a few days ago by Cambridge University Press (CUP) that my royalties on the e-versions of my Cambridge English Reader titles would be 20% rather than 15% of receipts, as originally agreed.
This feels very much like a step in the right direction, though a few more steps would be welcome! My other publisher, Trifolium Books UK, pays me a much larger percentage of the receipts from e-books, and I hope that, as publishers come to grips with new e-markets, this practice will become more widespread.
Long ago (!), when books were only paper, I worked in publishing and experienced all the steps in the procedure as a commissioning editor, a publisher, and a writer. I know that book budgets were then based on the estimated sales receipts. Development costs of the content had to be within a certain proportion of the overall projected receipts. This budgeting model must by now have changed, as the number of e-copies grows and the number of paper copies, upon whose price the budget was based, shrinks.
And yet many e-books cost the same as the paper version. The development section of any book budget will still be necessary, but the paper, printing, transport and warehousing of the paper books must be a far lower part of the overall costs for most books by now. With this in mind, it is strange that the e-version of so many novels is the same price to the consumer as the paper version, and that the authors are still getting such low royalties.
From my experience in the independent publishing sector, this is unjust. If the e-book is priced logically (i.e. lower), far more copies sell. The receipts rise and the profits with them. There’s more for the publisher and more for the author. Why are so many mainstream publishers still not adjusting their prices to the e-book market?
It seems that, as part of their huge internal re-organisation, CUP and their collaborators have in fact been working on this and begun to adjust. I thank all those concerned for this, and hope it is just the beginning of a general trend…