The Financial Times has an interesting article (free registration or Google News search required) covering controversial literary agent Andrew Wylie’s possible further plans. Wylie caused publishers to see red when he took twenty backlist titles whose e-book rights were not covered by contract and published them via Amazon. Wylie says that he is trying to promote the importance of unifying the print and digital revenue streams.
In an interview, Mr Wylie said he preferred to negotiate a deal with publishers that combined the print and digital rights, but had failed to reach a satisfactory compromise after nine months of discussions with all large publishing houses.
“If we do not reach an accord, Odyssey will grow. It will not publish 20 books, it will publish 2,000 and have outside investors and make itself available to other agents,” Mr Wylie told the Financial Times this week.
Other publishers point out that Wylie’s choice of titles is effectively limited since he is restricted to books from before the mid-1990s, when e-books were explicitly written into publishing contracts. So for current and recent books, those revenue streams are effectively united.
On the other hand, all rights from a number of books more recent than that will have reverted to the authors upon going out of print, meaning that those authors will be free to take the e-book versions to whomever they like. And if they’d like to get higher royalty rates for those books that have already earned out their advances, Wylie is offering them a place to go. (Or, of course, they could start their own e-publishing house, as Lynn Abbey, C.J. Cherryh, and Jane Fancher did with Closed Circle.)
Of course, as other agents have noted, since Wylie broke the territory with his controversial e-publishing deal, traditional publishers have suddenly become a lot more willing to make concessions in the matter of royalties for backlist titles.
In a related note, a FuturEBooks piece on the new Kindle coincidentally sheds some more light on the Wylie/Amazon deal:
It was Wylie who approached Amazon, according to [Amazon executive Steve] Kessel, and he was keen to stress agents should work with publishers to digitise backlist. He denied Amazon was proactively approaching agency houses for an Odyssey 2.0 type deal although we have heard differently.