Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Shaken and Definitely Stirred?

We are starting to see a shift in backlist authors and agents now starting to take control of their digital rights and separate these out from the print ones. Rights reversals are going to be a significant battleground as publishers on one hand try to shoehorn them into their POD and digital programmes and savvy authors demand better terms, or separation.

Today, the Ian Fleming estate acted and declared that they will publish the digital rendition of his 14 James Bond titles under Ian Fleming Publications. The brand is strong enough to make this route sensible and also to ensure that it isn’t exclusive to any one party. The reported response from Penguin in today’s Bookseller was that they would walk away from the print licence renewal in two years and would not renew the relationship without digital rights included. The estate has taken a wise gamble, knowing that there will probably be a number of players hungry enough to acquire the print licence and they may not be the obvious major trade houses.

So a big book brand has declared its intent, but who else has the brand and clout to be so bold? Also who else hasn’t been digitally tied up already?

We read that JK Rowling, the author who once declared a hatred for ebooks could be a contender and that could be a real digital winner and is definitely a brand. Are: Tolkien, Christie, Dahl, Dr Seuss, Blyton, Robbins, Miller, Kerouac, Authur C Clarke, Vonnegut tied up or digitally free today?

The question also is also whether today’s contracts separate out the termination or reversal clauses for digital and physical or lump them together and whether print is local whilst digital is world rights? Some would suggest that a term contract term makes sense for digital whilst inventory, sales or royalty may work better with respect to print and POD.

As we said only yesterday in our article ‘The World is not Flat – it’s Digital’ there is a need to revisit rights in a digital world. It’s now important that everyone can benefit from this new and exciting channel and has the opportunity to revive back list works perhaps to a new audience.

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