Wednesday, December 28, 2011

2012 Digital Perspectives: The Author

It is easy to predict that 2012 will see us celebrating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, see the US presidential elections and enjoy the London Olympics, but it is not so easy to predict the winners and the losers of each and every Olympic event. When it comes to complex issues such as; the stability of the Euro, Syria, Russia, North Korean we often recognise that they are influenced by many forces that are even more difficult to predict.

In digital publishing we can obviously see trends and understand the direction in which issues are heading, but identifying individual milestones, their relevance and timelines is often impossible. The other issue is that we all may look at the same issue, but see it from a different perspective. That doesn’t mean that we are right or wrong, we just see it differently. It’s like looking into the same house through what are often different windows – it’s the same house but we all see different rooms and perspectives.

We have written a series of short articles titled, ‘2012 Digital Perspectives?’ which we shall publish this week. These will look at what we believe are the short term issues, challenges, potential game changers and outcomes across the digital publishing value chain. Today we look at the creators – The Author.

2011 often demonstrated that Authors were starting to ‘do digital for themselves’.

Many authors continue to be tied to relatively new digitally inclusive contracts, but many of those who had retained their digital rights or reverted their back list rights, started to realise that it is easy to do it themselves and potentially earn more as a result. Some choose Amazon, Pubit or Smashwords whilst others took a more conventional route with the likes of Open Road. Some separated their back and front list and realised that they do not need the ‘digital serfdom’ of perpetual licences with fixed royalties and where the vast majority of earnings go elsewhere. The challenge authors and their agents now face, is how to avoid those digital handcuffs. It like taking on a business lease, you want break clauses, rent reviews and a fixed term deal and not life plus 70 years in a marketplace that is still in its infancy and unpredictable.

We envisage that more published authors will ensure old physical rights are reverted and that their digital rights are treated separately to the physical ones. Many may still choose to be tied to their print publisher and many will treat their digital rights separately, but all will be doing so with increasing digital market awareness.

We believe that at least one trade publisher will wake up and see the benefit of offering a significantly better digital royalty deal on back list and potential digital orphans in line with the likes of Open Road. We envisage that this will be tied to a fresh approach to proactively promote back lists and not just place them on virtual shelves. As publishers become more aware of the need to be seen as a trusted business partner, we seen ‘Author care’ becoming the ‘flavour of the month’ and offering greater transparency of information to authors and maybe even speedier digital royalty payments.

Promotion and marketing authors within a growing social direct marketing network will remain a significant challenge. This isn’t just about engaging with current fans but finding new ones and growing the base. It is also about publishing collaborations to create genre groupings which cross publishing houses and channels.

The key driver for change is digital awareness and we see increased media coverage on digital author options being a major catalyst.

We are not only in a digital age but also and importantly we are now entering a golden age for writing. Accommodating this creative explosion of new as well as old material is the real challenge. Managing authors expectations and ensuring that they are fairly rewarded and recognised is now the goal for all.

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