Simon & Schuster has entered a deal to start publishing books by self-publishing star author John Locke. There’s not so much that’s new about that in and of itself—after all, just a few months ago several publishers bid on works by self-publishing star Amanda Hocking. But something that is new, the Bookseller points out, is the terms of the publishing agreement: Simon & Schuster is just taking the print books and creating a new imprint to do it, and Locke will continue self-publishing his own e-books.
Not only does this mean S&S is splitting print and digital rights—something publishers have been so reluctant to do in the past that they sued when RosettaBooks wanted to do it for backlist titles—but given the pricing Locke puts on its e-books it would seem like a rather risky move for the publisher.
For S&S, it is surely a gamble. One of the major reasons Locke’s books sell is because he prices them cheap at $0.99 (49p); S&S must be thinking hard about the size of the print runs and the right price point. US mass-market paperbacks are generally priced around $8.99, which may be a bit too steep for Locke’s fan base.
For 99-cent books, the royalty Amazon offers is only 35%, not the 70% much-beloved of self-publishing authors—but even so, 35% is still a greater percentage than the 25% publishers have balked at offering.
Will more publishers follow suit and allow authors to self-publish their own e-books while they concentrate on print? It seems unlikely, but in today’s turbulent world of e-publishing, who can say?