Many of you will have seen the fuss that exploded on Friday over the announcement that a major US agent, Andrew Wylie, has launched his own ebook imprint. If you didn’t, there is plenty of material online, for example here, here, here, here and here.
You may also be wondering how this relates to what I am doing with Wizard’s Tower. The good news is that obviously ebooks are a burgeoning market (though it might have been wise to get in earlier). But does this mean that the big boys are going to move in and destroy my business plan? I don’t think so. The main reason why the publishers have got themselves into such a panic over this is that Wylie is threatening to take away ebook rights for some of their best-selling authors. He, and they, are not much interested in the midlist writers that I want to help. I don’t see a problem there.
The other controversial thing about Wylie’s deal is that he’s planning to publish only on the Kindle. The idea that ebook publication should be tied to a particular hardware platform does not appeal to me in the slightest. I may have to offer books on a limited selection of platforms because it costs time and money to support lots of different formats, but priority will always be given to open source formats that you can read on a wide variety of platforms.
8 thoughts on “The Wylie Announcement”
With Amazon’s announcement this week that ebooks surpassed print books for them, I can understand wishing to deal with them, but..exclusively? Golly. That kinda limits the audience unnecessarily, I’d think.
According to the Guardian’s story on the Amazon news, ebook sales surpassed hardback sales, not all print sales. Also, hardbacks are invariably expensive items whereas many of the Amazon ebook sales were for items under £1; that’s rather like trumpeting that the burger bar sold more than the restaurant next door yet referring to them both as “eateries”.
Amazon still haven’t said how many Kindles they’ve sold.
My guess is that Amazon have offered Wylie preferential terms. They want to try to freeze Apple out of the business, and keeping Wylie’s high profile clients off the iPad will be attractive to them.
There’ll be tears before bedtime on this one (I hope). I doubt Apple will take this lying down. The phrase restraint of trade comes to mind, among other things.
A restraint of trade case seems unlikely. Some of Wylie’s authors may be upset at only being available on Kindle, but they can always get a different agent. But if a supplier of goods chooses to limit the markets through which they will sell there’s nothing economic laws will do about that.
Long before ebooks were a practical reality, there was this kind of statement on the copyright page of at least UK-published books: “No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the publisher.” (In this case, a 1985 Triad/Granada reprint of JG Ballard’s 1975 High-Rise).
Wouldn’t this mean ebook rights were generally with a publisher by default? If not, why not? Random House seems to think they still have the relevant rights; they’ve ‘written to Amazon already “disputing their rights to legally sell these titles”‘ according to the Guardian article you linked to.
(Ballard’s estate is now with Wylie, though none of his books is on this first list).
Whether a publisher has rights to publish ebooks depends entirely on the contract they agreed with the author. They can’t simply acquire rights by writing something in the book that says they have them.
And if publishers really believed that they have ebook rights to everything that they have ever published then they would not be busy trying to conclude ebook rights deals for the back catalogs of big name existing authors .
I suppose I assumed that such copyright notices simply reflected the facts pertaining in the original contracts signed. At the very least, it seems Random House think they have some sort of electronic rights that are being bypassed in some arguably un-legal manner, and presumably Wylie has reasons for thinking otherwise.
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