Monday, February 22, 2010

You Need A Reserve For Returns For eBooks Like You Need A Hole In Your Head

STATUS: I had a To Do list a mile long but I buckled down and just concentrated on it. The fact that I only got 70 emails rather than my usual 120+ today made a big difference in accomplishing what I did.

What’s playing on the iPod right now? HEY, SOUL SISTER by Train

It’s been awhile since we’ve talked about contracts. I know. Your favorite thing but to be honest, contract language is ALL I’ve been thinking about for the last 3 weeks since Apple made their big iPad announcement, Amazon pulled the links for Macmillan titles to flex some muscle, and publishers such as Macmillan and Hachette moved solely to an agency commission model for the sale of eBooks. (See sidebar tags for “publishing contracts” and “electronic books” to get up to speed on these past events.)

The hardest part about being an agent right now is figuring out what dang language to put in the contract when terms are changing, literally, every week.

But today’s topic is a no brainer when it comes to contract terms that need to be revisited in light of the ever-changing eBook landscape.

Publishers, in the old school world of actually selling physical copies of the book, like to hold a reserve for returns on any given title. This reserve is usually specified on the royalty statement (although some publishers do not include that info and then we as the agency have to specifically request it). Because publishers sell books to booksellers who can then later return them for full credit or refund, they have to hold a certain percentage in reserves to account for the possibility of all these returns. Publishers like to hold reserves on each specific edition of the title.

Got that?

But here’s the interesting thing. Some publishers are holding a reserve on the eBook edition.

Right. Explain to me how somebody would return an electronic book. They can’t. eBooks are non-returnable so why would a publisher be holding a reserve for returns on an electronic edition?

What a good question. They shouldn’t be. So now we’ve implemented policy here at the agency to make sure that no reserves are being held for eBooks on any past contract where that was not specified (which means we are having to ask when each roy. statement arrives and make sure reserves are not held). Oh what fun!

And on future contracts, we are including specific language that no reserves will be held on the electronic edition. And yes, if you don’t specifically raise a ruckus about this, some publishers are holding a reserve on the eBook (not all, mind you, but some are).

Oh, I’m going to be ranting about this kind of stuff all week so stay tuned. Those of you who are agented authors, aren’t you glad somebody is worrying about this stuff on your behalf?