Sunday, 23 December 2012

Swoon - you may when you read the contract

SW♥♥N will be launched next spring by MacMillan Children's Publishing. It sounds a bit like a YA version of Authonomy; writers will load their unpublished novels, and other members will vote on them. The inducement is that MacMillan may publish successful books. 

Anyone like me who has experience of Authonomy will view this project with a jaundiced eye. Writers are a desperate lot, and many will do anything for a chance of publication. This means it is very easy to attract them to a site run by an established publisher, and very difficult to stop them gaming the system. Another problem is that editors think they know better than readers, and tend not to put much faith in the wisdom of crowds, even when that is what they set out to do. Plus these sites are time-sinks, using energy that would be better spent writing or self-publishing.

For the 'lucky' chosen authors, this is what they will get:

Once a manuscript is chosen by the community and the SW♥♥N Reads publishing team, the author will receive a $10,000 advance and a standard royalty-based publishing contract for world rights, including the following royalty rates:
  • Hardcover – 10% of list price
  • Trade Paperback – 6% of list price
  • Paper Over Board – 8% of list price
  • Mass Market Paperback – 6% of list price
  • E-book – 25% of amount received
  • Graphic Book – 6% of list price
  • Electronic Graphic Book – 10% of amount received
  • Audio – 10% of amount received
  • Digital Audio – 20% of amount received
  • Multimedia/Gaming – 10% of amount received
So other people will take between 90% and 94% of the profits of each print book, leaving 6 - 10% for the author. For ebooks, which cost nothing at point of sale, the publisher takes three quarters of the 'amount received'. They will own world rights, and modern publishing contracts take the rights for a very, very long time.

Stingy and mean are words that come to mind. Exploitative, that's another. It's depressing to think that plenty of writers will view this as an opportunity.


  1. I'm not surprised no one has commented yet. 6%, 8%! I mean - what can one say? Well, that's not full of *s.

  2. I think everyone is too exhausted by Christmas preparations to work up much indignation.

    I only did because I'm a terrible skiver where Christmas is concerned.

  3. What does the publisher do in return for the lower returns? Do they provide editing? Most important - do they provide promotion?

  4. M, a publisher will provide editing and formatting, and in the case of print books, get it into bookshops, though not necessarily all of them. These days unless the publisher expects your book to be a best seller (and in this case he has paid you a big advance) any promotion will be minimal, and you will be expected to promote your own book.

    Judging by how the ebooks published by Authonomy are doing, Swoon's authors would be better off going it alone.

  5. Although the percentages for the author all seem low, at least one could argue that the publisher incurs some costs for all the forms listed...EXCEPT E-book!

    I truly have to scratch my head when I see that kind of blatant unfairness. Or should I call it by its rightful name: GREED?

    It's almost as though the publisher thinks writers are completely clueless as to the fact that E-books require virtually ZERO investment on the part of the publisher. Really, how can the publisher possibly justify keeping 75% for E-books? I don't get it.

    Lexi, sorry I'm not up on this (I tried Authonomy, too, but abandoned it in short order when I realized it was more about getting votes than actually writing), but what do you mean by "Judging by how the ebooks published by Authonomy are doing, Swoon's authors would be better off going it alone"?

  6. Under Scott Pack, Authonomy epublishes chosen books with the promise of a print edition if they do well. No doubt Swoon will do the same. A gamble with a low stake.

    Yesterday I looked up on Amazon UK and US three books published by Authonomy, The Qualities of Wood, Brotherhood of Shades and More Tea, Jesus? (I think these are the only ones they published last year, but Authonomy's publishing barely figures on Google.) The highest ranking for any of them was 86,000, which means they are selling very few copies. If these authors had self-published, they could have joined KDP select and done free promotions, been in KOLL, and experimented with price. I don't see these books promoted anywhere except Authonomy.