Earlier this week we reported how uber agent Andrew Wylie was holding back digital rights because he didn't like the deals on the table, and wasn't particularly taken with "machine"-makers like Apple. My colleague Ben canvassed some UK agents to see if they had similar views, and the responses are in this week's new-look Bookseller (get a copy for yourself here).
Georgina Capel of Capel & Land welcomed Wylie’s comments, saying she thought he was “completely right and completely brilliant on this”. She said: “We believe 50% is the right royalty rate and in most cases we are asking for 50% on backlist titles. We are not agreeing to anything less than 25% on new titles, and we believe it will be 30%–35% soon.”
David Miller of Rogers, Coleridge & White said Wylie was in “a unique position” because his list is heavy on high-profile literary estates, but added: “I will not be surprised if companies emerge that will look to acquire digital rights in backlist titles just as Open Road is doing in the US—you can equate them with the paperback houses of 50 or 25 years ago.”
Publishers thought differently. Michael Bhaskhar, digital publishing manager at Profile, said Wylie’s threat to bypass publishers raised difficult questions about the work a publisher puts into editing the text and promoting a book. “Publishers are going to want to protect their investment,” he said. One publisher, who preferred to speak anonymously, described Wylie’s comments as “outrageous and greedy.”
This is a debate, or battle, that is only just beginning. A year or so ago we got some heat for a piece we wrote about Random House 'digging' its heels in over digital rights (i.e. offering less than what agents thought was standard), but I expect to see more of this as agents consider the deals on the table don't go far enough.
Tom Holland, chairman of the Society of Authors, told us that publishers needed to behave equitably, or else it would have “disastrous effects” on the industry. We'll see.