Wednesday, August 31, 2011

John Locke's Simon & Schuster Deal

I'm just fresh off the plane and I know I need to talk more about bios but something occurred that I've been waiting for so long on that I have to post on this.

Simon and Schuster signed John Locke to a print-only deal. This is HUGE for indie authors that are having success in the ebook world, and quite frankly it was something I didn't think I'd see.

I love that traditional publishers are starting to think outside the box and this is a win-win-win for all parties involved (readers, Locke, and S&S). Now, of course it took someone who could sell 1,000,000 books in less than half a year to get such a deal but once one pebble falls, others are sure to follow.

Bottom line...traditional publishers really shine in the bookstore model, so having them do what they do best, while giving the author freedom to play with ebooks (where the big-publisher really doesn't bring any "value add" and in fact can be a deterrent as their prices can be pretty high) is something that really makes sense to me and is a great advantage for the author.

I'll be keeping my eyes out to see if more of these "creative" deals start springing up. Just one more reason why there has never been a better time then now to be an author.


JD said...

I think it's an interesting sign, but I worry that publishers will simply adopt a double standard: a generous contract for authors like Locke, another for the rest of us. In the last two years Big 6 contracts have become more and more restrictive. As they become more afraid, the contracts have become more of a rights grab.

--Joe D'Agnese

Robin Sullivan said...

JD - I agree with you - but not sure this is "new" - big authors always get better contracts then mid-list authors. Yes there has been some rights grabs but I'm starting to see things getting a bit easier for authors - Examples are some of what I've heard about Thomas & Mercer contracts and my own first hand experience with Michael's Riyria Contract with Orbit. There is reason for optimism as the publishers MUST change Standard Operating Procedures to keep top talent,

Renee Pinzon said...

I think this new development is fascinating. I'm sure I'm not the only one who thought that this type of deal might be the next logical step for a publishing house to offer. But overcoming "the way things used to be" is difficult for any industry. I assumed it would take a little longer than it did for the first big publisher to come around.

These are very exciting times to be a writer!


Hunter F. Goss said...

One of the things I see is something Dean Wesley Smith writes about fairly often: the shift of control from the publishers to the writers who actually produce content.

This deal of Locke’s with Simon & Schuster just goes to illustrate the magnitude of that shift so far. And while we don’t really know any of the numbers involved, it’s going to be interesting to see just what happens as that shift in control continues.

Jim Bronyaur said...

Perhaps the big publishers realize that they still have an edge right now with paperbacks? In terms of taking the risk for printing, distribution, etc.

Good for John. And you know what? Good for S&S too. It's time to embrace change. It's time for the new.

Stephen T. Harper said...

The willingness of traditional publishers to recognize the division in customers between paper and digital is really interesting. It seems like a big admission. makes sense of course, but it seems like a big thing to acknowledge, especially this early.

alshia m. said...

"but I worry that publishers will simply adopt a double standard: a generous contract for authors like Locke, another for the rest of us. "

By the 'rest of us', what do you mean? Traditionally published midlist, self-published writers, or your average traditionally published writer? I think maybe for self published writers like John Locke, there will be more of a shift of power. Not so much for traditional writers because they are slaves for the publishers. They'll accept 14% on digital ebook royalties on their work and be glad to get it. They don't own the rights to their own work anymore, publishers do, so therefore publishers own those writers.

If you want to talk more to me about this I'm at :

Robert Bidinotto said...

You're right, Robin; this is another big crack in the dam. I applaud S&S for being savvy enough to realize that they have to make major contract adjustments if they're to attract or hold top talent.

Consider what this announcement will do to the rest of their stable of bestselling authors. I know of two superstars within the S&S ranks, one of whom already groused publicly on his website about the lousy royalties of ebooks compared with print editions. His complaint seemed misdirected on that score -- as if the solution was for readers to buy more print books. But the Locke deal ought to open his eyes and those of other bestselling S&S authors, prompting them to demand similar deals.

And how could S&S refuse their biggest names, and risk losing them to Thomas & Mercer?

In short, this is a very big deal indeed -- another falling domino that is going to start a mass collapse of others. The result can only be better deals and more options for authors.

Hooray for Mr. Locke!

PJ Lincoln said...

I think it's a step in the right direction from Traditional Publishing. I think they're starting to understand that they're going to have to adept or go the way of Borders.

When all the dust settles, I hope the average writer still has access to publishing and the chance to earn as we are today. In other words, my fear is that Amazon will become a monopoly and instead of the 70-30 split it would be much, much less.

wannabuy said...


But Amazon isn't a monopoly and by all indication is losing US and global market share. Globally, Kobo and Sony have been far more nimble. In the US, B&N managed to do very well, in particular with female readers. (But the *vast* majority of Nook color owners I know are male... shows our individual 'pockets' often do not align with the larger market.)

There has been quite a bit of worry about what Amazon will do. But they will always have to look over their shoulder at Apple, Google, Kobo, and Sony.

Oh, Amazon could lower rates. But they need authors too. And they use books to sell diapers, movies, TV, toys, etc. Bezos will use books as a 'gateway drug' to his retail 'ecosystem.'

This is a case of the horse is already out of the barn. With tablets there will always be another competitor lurking out there ready to grab authors at Amazon's expense.

And JA Konrath already had blogged articles on authors selling their and other books from their blog pages.

This isn't like a brick and mortal store that is a forced gateway for customers. Until the tablet market settles down, this will be too dynamic; tablets won't settle down for 3 to 9 years!


Michael J. Sullivan said...

@Renee - you have a better crystal ball than I! I really didn't think anyone would sign print without ebook - but I'm glad to see it happening.

Can't agree more about these are interesting times.

Michael J. Sullivan said...

@Hunter - I'll take a little different "take". It's not on "producers of content" - its on "those selling well" (i.e. have a following)

Michael J. Sullivan said...

@Jim - I too applaud S&S taking a "big picture view". I'm not convinced it will work out for them. People paying $0.99 for an ebook is different than people paying $7.99 - $12.99 for paper. I'm not sure they'll make out well - but Locke certainly has a ton of fans - many of which I'm sure would like to share their love for Donovan Creed with non-ebook friends. Having a million books sold is a BIG pond and if they skim just a bit from the top they may prove me wrong.

Michael J. Sullivan said...

@Stephen - My experience is many publishers still believe that an ebook will cannibalize a print sale. (I don't agree with this as ebook readers (for the most part) rarely buy paper...once you go ebook you don't go back as it were).

Robin Sullivan said...

Crap - just realized that I was somehow logged in on Michael's blogger account not mine -all the above comments from Mihael are really me ;-)

Robin Sullivan said...

@alishia - it is true that authors often sign bad contracts because they have no negotiating power. By self publishing first (or having a huge social media following) you have a real bargaining chip that you can parlay to better terms. Without such a trump card you are seriously outgunned though I'm afraid.

Jim Bronyaur said...

Robin, I've thought about the pricing issues too...

There's a couple thoughts that come to mind for me:

(1) how long is the average John Locke novel? Perhaps they can double up stories to enhance to appearance of the book? Two crime stories have similar tastes.

(2) good marketing... put on every darn cover "Sold 1 Million Ebook Copies - FIRST TIME in Print!" Something that will make someone who doesn't own a Kindle say, "wow, I need this book!"

But going from $0.99 to a paperback price... that's scary. But I'm sure S&S did their research before hand. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm kind of interested in this purely for the fact that several hardcore self-publishing advocates have, essentially, jumped ship and went to a traditional publisher as soon as an offer was made. I can't help but feel there's a bit of hypocrisy on those authors parts, but, obviously without knowing the full details of the deals it's impossible to know the reasons. Just interesting is all.

This is a development that I for one will be watching with interest, in particular I'll be interested to see how those authors attitudes towards SP may or may not change over the coming months / years.

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