On The Guardian’s self-publishing blog, Molly Flatt takes a look at the controversy surrounding some of the traditional publishers’ new digital-only imprints. She brings up the uproar over Hydra’s contracts that were viewed as exploitative, but also discusses Little, Brown’s “Blackfriars” imprint, and Harlequin’s “Carina,” which offer contract terms more akin to traditional publishing. The message seems to be that authors should not be afraid of a digital-only imprint because it is digital-only, but should look carefully at the terms it offers.
Author Amy Bird tells Flatt that Carina gave her all the editorial and marketing support she would have expected from a traditional publisher. She is not getting a huge advance, but she is getting a royalty rate of 50%—and she’s not being asked “to get [her] cheque-book out.”
The amazing thing about digital for me is that I submitted my novel in late February, and it will be coming out in mid-July. Going digital is not for everyone, but for people like me, who have been tweeting, reviewing and blogging for years, it feels natural, exciting, and, frankly, kind of cool.
Of course, writers have been able to publish their own works digital-only for some time, if they are willing to take on the work of putting it in usable form themselves. And they would still have to be accepted by one of these publishers if they wanted the publisher to put the work out for them. Also, it still seems a bit early to me to foreclose on the possibility of paper print runs, at least for books that will have more than niche appeal. There are still plenty of people out there who won’t read anything but paper yet, and their money spends just like anybody else’s.
But it is worth taking the article’s message to heart: if you’re going to go with a digital-only publisher, just as with any publisher, you should review the terms before you sign anything. And perhaps don’t tar all such publishers with the same brush as a more exploitative few.