New SoA chair urges e-book rate rethink

Falco creator Lindsey Davis has become the new chair of the Society of Authors, vowing to continue the push on e-book royalty rates championed by her predecessor, historian Tom Holland.

The author of the long-running Roman detective series said she planned to "throw herself into" the two-year role, and promised that copyright and e-book issues would feature at the top of her agenda.

Davis said: "Naturally I follow the well-warmed footsteps of my King Wenceslas predecessor Tom Holland and believe we should claim 30% e-book royalties, and that higher than that would be right. It is important that we remember that when we signed our e-books away it was with a review period of two years—and those two years are now up. We must make the publishers review it."

Davis also urged authors to get involved with all aspects of the publishing industry, saying that it was a “sorrow” to hear that many were not interested in how the business works. She said: “Indifference is endemic in general society, and I hate to hear anyone who writes saying: ‘Oh, I never bother about contracts; I leave all that to my agent.’ Famous names have done it; they should be ashamed.

"I believe that an author who produces books which readers enjoy should be able to earn a living from their work. The main communion is between author and reader, but in practice we need agents, publishers and even the media to facilitate this; they should be treated with respect, therefore—though they should not be allowed to treat their authors badly."

Falling advances have left authors hard-hit since the recession struck, Davis said. "But as long as I’ve been published, which is nearly 25 years, we’ve felt we haven’t had a great deal. There’s always been a mood of ‘it’s never been as bad as this’, and we’ve managed to survive. I try to be optimistic."

Davis urged more writers to join the Society of Authors, which currently has a 9,000-strong membership. "We have many initiatives to increase numbers,” she said. “Just this week, we announced an [affiliation] initiative with the Historical Writers’ Association, and we’re in talks with my beloved Crime Writers Association and the Romantic Novelists’ Association, too. It would be nice if we can all band together, because we’ve got shared roles and ideas."