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Simpson splits from Random over e-book royalties

Touching the Void author Joe Simpson has split from long-term publisher Random House following what he describes as a "huge dispute" over e-book royalties.

The author has co-founded venture DirectAuthors.com in order to release digital versions of his titles, bringing out a 25th anniversary e-book edition of his famous mountaineering memoir Touching the Void at £5.99. Simpson now plans to release the rest of his back catalogue electronically, including titles This Game of Ghosts and The Beckoning Silence.

As well as leaving Random House, where he was published by Jonathan Cape and Vintage, Simpson has parted ways with agent Vivienne Schuster of Curtis Brown.

In a YouTube video posted to accompany news of his plans, Simpson criticised "ridiculous" royalty rates, and said: "I had a huge dispute with my publishers. . . they thought they could bully me into accepting 25% [royalties] . . . If there are any authors out there in a similar situation; look at your contract, stand up for your rights, don't be bullied."

He said the split was "a great shame" but declared that authors "don't really need them [publishers] as much as they would like us to believe. OK they have all the influence over book marketing and publicity . . . but they don't need to take 75% of your royalties to do that."

A Random House spokesperson said: “We were disappointed to have not been able to reach an agreement with Joe about his e-book publishing, however we continue to publish his books in physical format.” The spokesperson said the publisher had no further books under contract from Simpson.

Schuster commented: "Despite our best efforts I regret that we could not reconcile Mr Simpson's grievances with Random House's e-book policy."

According to Nielsen BookScan figures, the author was worth £105,000 to booksellers in 2012, down 38% year-on-year. The mass market paperback edition of his latest book, the novel Sound of Gravity, hit shelves in July 2012 and has sold 960 copies to date according to BookScan.

DirectAuthors.com is also planning to publish titles by other authors, including a book from Derek Redmond, the athlete whose hamstring famously snapped during a race at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.