As we embark on 2014 there are questions I find myself asking and, through speaking with other agents on the phone and at the AAR committee meetings, it seems this is a growing concern.
How do we monitor and audit e-book royalties?
Now that the judges have laid down their decisions and both the Agency Pricing Model and the List Pricing Model are allowed for pricing e-books, the same book can be sold at different prices with different pricing structures at the same time.
As most publishers report e-book sales on net revenue, we have no way of knowing what structures are being used. With price promotions rampant as a way to promote e-books (something I push for with my books), we do not even know the different prices each book was sold at during a given royalty period.
How do we unravel this tangle to be able to analyze our authors' royalty statements and be sure that all sales were reported correctly? Do the publishers even know they have accurate information with the reports they are receiving from their vendors? Unlike days of old there are no Reconciliations To Print because there is no need to do print runs of an e-book.
While we as agents do not yet have the answers, it was encouraging to hear from other members of the AAR that we are asking the questions. The Royalty Committee is meeting with publishers to make the case for increased transparency in their reporting of authors' royalties -- across all formats -- as well as improved statements, and will be canvassing publishers to understand how they account for and report subscription model royalties. The Contracts Committee is investigating how various boilerplate clauses are involved in this issue, and if there is anything that needs to be brought to the attention of the membership. The International Rights Committee is looking at how our structures will then translate around the world.. The Digital Rights Committee along with the Programming Committee will be looking at understanding the ups and downs of e-sales through metadata (see evening program in March) as well as liaising with the Royalties Committee on the newest animal - the subscription model.
It is times like these where the agenting community is vital because, with our extensive work with a myriad of publishers worldwide, we have a unique and useful perspective.
I look forward to exploring these questions and hopefully finding solutions as the year progresses. But most of all, I appreciate knowing that I am not alone in the quest to make sure authors are the best served and informed that they can be.