S&S signs up to SoA's special sales rules

S&S signs up to SoA's special sales rules

S&S UK has signed up to the Society of Authors seven-point plan to ensure special sales do not affect writers’ earnings or damage the publishing market.

The society’s chief executive, Nicola Solomon, wrote an open letter to publishers asking them to “reassure authors” by following the plan, published in The Bookseller and circulated to publishers on Thursday (3rd August). Ian Chapman, chief executive and publisher of S&S UK, has since emailed Solomon to praise her plan and said: “I’ve taken the liberty of sharing it with the business and we’ve taken on board the seven steps you outline below.”

Special sales deals are often struck with non-traditional outlets such as The Book People and The Works, which sell titles at high discounts and offer lower financial returns for authors per book than sales through more traditional channels. The SoA is campaigning for authors to have the right of approval over special sales, for such sales to have separate ISBNs and be recorded on Nielsen Bookscan, and for publishers to monitor more closely how discounted books are distributed. The steps were suggested for sales where the purchaser pays a very low price per copy by paying up front and “firm” for all these copies. The SoA acknowledged the benefits of such an arrangement but expressed concern over “competition”.

Solomon said: “It is clear some heavily discounted titles intended for export or book clubs are being leaked onto Amazon Marketplace. Paperback copies are usually available on Amazon from other sellers well before they are available from the publishers, often on publication of the hardback. Authors receive very low royalty rates on such sales, much less than on a full-priced home market sale of the book.”

Last month, Philip Pullman blasted the deep discounting and suggested a potential return of the Net Book Agreement with the debate intensifying as other leading figures debated what could be done.

The society offered “seven simple steps” to ensure authors’ rights were protected. The steps include: “consult and involve” which should give the author a right to approve every special sales deal, “inform” to ensure writers are not misled by contracts and “share the hit” whereby authors’ royalties are based on net receipts so the percentage rate payable should not be reduced when the discount increases. Solomon also asked publishers to “protect” authors by ensuring books are sold in the channels they are intended for, urging them to “differentiate” between special sales editions and full-price in quality and finally, to “monitor” sales on Amazon which appear “suspicious”. She also asked for publishers to “record” information on sales and print runs to ensure information was effectively collected.

Chapman told Solomon that S&S already incorporates many of the steps mentioned, in an email shared with The Bookseller. He said: “I’ve taken the liberty of sharing it with the business and we’ve taken on board the several steps you outline below.

“Happily, the special sales function here at Simon and Schuster already incorporates these steps into our standard working practice, which is, I’m sure you’ll appreciate very gratifying.”

He added: “We’re committed to supporting our authors and protecting their works.  We feel that continuing to follow these seven steps in relation to special sales will ensure that we maintain author profitability long term.”

Bookseller Tamsin Rosewell, from Kenilworth Books, praised S&S for it’s commitment to the plan weeks after initiating the discussion over the possible return of the NBA. She tweeted to her 3,000-odd followers on Friday (4th August) from her @autumnrosewell account: “Excellent news that @simonschuster has agreed to follow the 7-point plan laid out by @Soc_of_Authors.”

For more information, visit societyofauthors.org/Where-We-Stand/special-sales.