Daunt's flat rate discount "could hit author royalties"

Daunt's flat rate discount "could hit author royalties"

Waterstone’s proposed higher discount, flat rate terms for publishers, put forward in exchange for scrapping promotion fees, could hit author royalties, according to agents and the Society of Authors.

Contracts vary widely, but typically contain a high discount clause which kicks in at a particular discount level, after which the author receives a diminished proportion of the headline royalty agreed with their publisher. Up to three levels of discount can feature, with the royalty received by the author getting smaller at each level. High discount clauses tend to come in at around 50%–65% discount. Waterstone’s is believed to have been asking some publishers for discounts of around 59%–60%.

Agent Carole Blake warned that the effect on authors could be “significant”, depending on how vigorously their contracts had been negotiated. It could also affect authors on multi-book contracts negotiated several years ago, she said. “But if would be good news if it turns Waterstone’s around,” she added.

Society of Authors general secretary Nicola Solomon said: “On new contracts, we’ll be advising people to bear [Waterstone’s new flat rates] in mind and to look closely at high discount clauses and see what they mean for you. We’ll be watching closely, but people do not have standard contracts.”

Simon Trewin of United Agents said he was in favour of any development which helped bookshops tailor their offers to their local community. He said: “Waterstone’s is just a tiny part of the market and what matters is the volume of books that goes out there. You have to look at the totality of earnings – very few books are leaving the warehouse at standard discount.”