Saturday, May 28, 2011

More on Thomas and Mercer and recent deals

As I've said many times before - there are many paths that lie before the author. Big-six is the dream of most, and with some valid reasons, but it has come with some pretty high price tags (52%/14.9% ebook royalty share, rights that are hard if not impossible to reclaim, and clauses that can limit future writing by the author). I mentioned in a post a few days ago that I suspected that the Thomas and Mercer contracts were "author friendly" based on the people who have placed pen to paper to them namely: Barry Eisler, Joe Konrath, and Blake Crouch.

Well it would appear that my suspicions are true. Here is a quote from Barry himself:

A last thought: while I certainly am guided by self-interest, I am also profoundly motivated by the desire to make publishing a better industry for readers and authors (again, see the Marketing page of the For Writers section of my website). During the course of our negotiations, I worked hard to persuade Amazon to jettison various legacy publishing provisions that gain publishers little and that authors loathe. It's a huge credit to Amazon that they listened to my arguments and changed their template accordingly, and it's satisfying for me to know that other authors will get the benefit of the more enlightened template I helped forge -- both from Amazon directly, as it expands its publishing wing, and from legacy publishers, who will be forced to compete with Amazon's more enlightened terms.
The main thing for me is that authors have more options now than we've ever had before. Self-publishing is one of those options, and it's a great one. But as new possibilities emerge, I'll consider them, try them, and perhaps integrate them into my overall strategy. Why would anyone do anything else?
I'm glad to see that my suspicions were indeed correct. As I said before the self-publishing revolution is benefiting all authors - those that continue to self-publish, those that go with small presses who are now making good livings doing so (Yeah Marshall Thomas, Nathan Lowell, and Michael Sullivan while still with Ridan), and those going to traditional as the contracts must and are changing.

My mantra remains the same...there's never been a better time to be an author!!


Nicholas Kotar said...

It's nice to hear that Barry Eisner is showing such an altruistic side, when he makes sure we all know that he had the consideration of other authors in mind when he made this latest decision to sign with Amazon. Of course if there weren't six figures at stake, would he be that altruistic? ;) Sorry for the cynicism. But honestly, this is all really good news, and I hope this helps with Michael's contract as well! Good luck with that, by the way, Robin.

Cathy Keaton said...

I see... Eisler was thinking of changing things in the industry for future authors by taking this deal. He may have just done something extremely profound.

Melissa Douthit said...

Hi Robin,

I just recently read the updates on your blog (your recent posts.) I've been busy publishing my own book. I didn't know that about Barry Eisler. I think that's great. He is a smart guy. Also, your post on e-book vs. print was great! And the one on the conference. I love the fact that you are reporting what is happening when others can't be there to see it. Thank you!

David Gaughran said...

For further evidence that self-publishing is benefiting ALL writers, you should see Joe Konrath's interview with James Rollins today.

Rollins was considering self-publishing a short story, and his trade publishers cut a deal and made him "co-publisher", splitting the royalties after costs are recouped.

Fascinating stuff.

Donald Wells said...

@David Gaughran
I bet those costs will never be recouped.

David Gaughran said...


You would want a tight contract, for sure.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Nicholas Kotar - While I get what you are saying, don't miss the forest for the trees. Is the T&M deal a good one from Barry - Yes. Will it also be good for other authors who sign with big publishers - I think so. This industry bases a lot on precedence and seeing a new upstart publisher writing author friendly contracts will put pressure on the others to follow suit. It's all good.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Melissa - thanks glad you are finding the site useful. I'm not feeling well - but I'll try to get more of what I learned from BEA out soon!

Robin Sullivan said...

@David - Yeah I saw that but took a little different take on it. Here was a publisher that was not as "enlightened" and T&M that was restricting Rollins. Sure he got 50/50 but if they were more like T&M he could have done whatever the heck he wanted to. Progress is being made though - and that is a good sign.

Robin Sullivan said...

@Donald - yours and mine first thoughts went to the same place. What is the price tag they determined for "costs". Since this short will only be in ebook the cover and editing costs were not absorbed by the print version so the "cost" (at the rates that the big publishers pay) might be pretty large - that's why I'm not a big fan of "net" accounting - unless it something easily measurable like the sales - discount rate.

David Gaughran said...


I think you're right but his hands might have been tied by the upcoming print release of the novel the short story is related to.

If he played hardball with his publishers, they could have rolled back some of the push.

But, either way, I still think it's noteworthy that a Big 6 publisher would agree to co-publish with a writer, effectively splitting the royalties.

Not as good as the T&M deal, for sure, but a move in the right direction.

Kate said...

I saw your comments on the Barry Eisler deal on Kindleboards, so I knew you'd have some commentary on it that I could read. :)

I think my kindleboard comment stands, that more and more writers are realizing they are the commodity. A recent blog with Jennifer Crusie and her pal Barbara (two very big trad pub authors) brought this home to me. This gets bigger and bigger every day. It may take a while for a grass roots movement to rush an industry, but when it does, WATCH OUT.

Sooner or later, the big publishing houses will have to change. They will have no choice at some point, and my guess, based on all the non-indie authors talking about it, it could happen as soon as another year.