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Acquisitive Klebanoff targets UK agents
17.06.11 | Philip Jones and Charlotte Williams
E-books pioneer Arthur Klebanoff has made a targeted approach to UK agents over backlist digital rights, with agents calling his 50% royalty rate a "very positive" alternative to working with traditional publishers.
Klebanoff, who founded New York-based digital publisher Rosetta Books in 2001, met UK-based agents last week and addressed a meeting of about 65 agents organised by the Association of Authors Agents on Monday.
Klebanoff is looking for backlist titles where digital rights are unassigned, with a view to acquiring both world rights or US rights alone. He said Rosetta was offering a royalty more than double that on offer from large print publishers—a 50% net royalty payment for up to 2,500 copies sold and then 60% after.
"The UK e-book market will grow rapidly and catch up with the e-book market share in the US—perhaps as soon as [within] two years," Klebanoff said. "An important part of the e-book market is top quality backlist titles. UK agents are in a position to be world leaders in backlist e-book licensing.”
In his presentation to agents, Klebanoff claimed Rosetta was due to make royalty payments in 2011 of $1m, having secured rights to close to 500 digital titles. He said that under the wholesale model, authors will receive as much as double the amount promised by agency terms.
Curtis Brown c.e.o. Jonathan Lloyd called Klebanoff an "interesting player" whom the agency already does some business with. Lloyd said: "We're talking to everybody at the moment. We have a list of books which are in print in the UK, which have not been sold in the US, and that is an interesting category."
Peter Straus at Rogers, Coleridge & White confirmed Klebanoff had spoken to RCW. "It's important to listen to all viable opportunities as the market changes," he said. "We need to stay on top of all different options as the terrain shifts."
Agent Luigi Bonomi of LBA said Klebanoff's offer was a very positive option for agents, who might lack the marketing clout to make a success of turning publisher themselves. He called for publishers to introduce a flexible royalty rate on digital books.
Klebanoff, who is also in the hunt for original works, warned UK agents against publishing their own clients. "A lot goes wrong in digital space. Authors will get angry. If they get angry at their agent because their agent is their publisher, the agent can get fired," he said.
It was revealed yesterday that the AAA had reached a "consensus" at their a.g.m. on Wednesday that it was not a conflict of interest for agents to turn publisher.