Author Topic: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan  (Read 7793 times)  

Offline Michael_J_Sullivan

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Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
« Reply #75 on: June 08, 2017, 09:41:37 AM »
The tone of this thread is really... interesting. Michael J. Sullivan was one of the first indie fantasy writers, if not one of the first indies in general, to really take off and leverage their indie success into a much wider business model. He's always been incredibly transparent about how and why he conducts his business the way he does (look in this very forum to find out why he signed with Orbit to begin with), and been an invaluable resource for hundreds of indie writers dating back to at least 2013. I don't see buyers remorse here, or anyone complaining. He's simply writing a letter to his fans and fellow indies explaining why they won't be able to find his books in B&N, Powells, etc. anymore.

Thank you for that. I was a bit surprised to see comments about me being bitter in this post. It's certainly not reflective of my feelings, and my intention on posting was to help others and I'm not sure why so much negativity is being expressed.
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Offline Craig Andrews

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Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
« Reply #76 on: June 08, 2017, 09:56:47 AM »
Thank you for that. I was a bit surprised to see comments about me being bitter in this post. It's certainly not reflective of my feelings, and my intention on posting was to help others and I'm not sure why so much negativity is being expressed.

You're welcome, Michael. It was watching your success and listening to your interviews on the old Adventures in Sci-Fi Publishing Podcast that gave me the confidence to step into the indie game in the first place. I think a lot of the negative posts in this thread came from a simple misunderstanding of the chain of events, so I wanted to chime in with my 2 cents (though I'm probably up to at least a dollar now :-)) and help clear up any misunderstandings. Anyway, thank you for coming back to the Kboards -- it's been a while.


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Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
« Reply #77 on: June 08, 2017, 10:06:30 AM »
Thanks for coming back and responding, Michael. I've enjoyed your books and the workshops you and Robin run in the DC metro area. Looking forward to your next work.

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Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
« Reply #78 on: June 08, 2017, 10:54:17 AM »
I think I misunderstood the OP. So, please, someone correct me if I'm still misunderstanding.

Michael decided that, as great as they are, Del Rey did not offer an additional $200k worth of brand enrichment.

So, he didn't refuse a $200k deal, he refused to share the $400k he already had contractually in hand.

Right?

Offline Jerry S.

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Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
« Reply #79 on: June 08, 2017, 11:08:46 AM »
I think I misunderstood the OP. So, please, someone correct me if I'm still misunderstanding.

Michael decided that, as great as they are, Del Rey did not offer an additional $200k worth of brand enrichment.

So, he didn't refuse a $200k deal, he refused to share the $400k he already had contractually in hand.

Right?

Michael can clear this up better than me, but I think it was this:

1) He had the previous $400k audible rights deal where he left $200k on the table.
2) He learned from that deal that he was leaving a lot of money on the table
3) In his NEW deal, he negotiated the audible rights right off the bat for 7 figures
4) Since he had done #3, he later learned that Del Ray was now prevented from entering into print contract negotiations with him (by RP).

He's not trying to back out of the $400k deal. That's already baked in.

He's just saying that that $400k deal made him realize how much money there was to be made and he wised up with his next contract.

And because of him doing that, he found out that RP is not even going to consider contracts that do not include the audible rights.

Which is why he is no longer with Del Rey.

Which is why he posted in Reddit (to clear the air and also to educate)
« Last Edit: June 08, 2017, 11:50:25 AM by Jerry S. »

Offline Cassie Leigh

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Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
« Reply #80 on: June 08, 2017, 11:14:19 AM »
Actually, I think there was one more step to it.

1. Audio rights originally sold for only $2,000
2. When the contract was renewed it was for $400K
3. Because of how trade deals are structured, all subright sales done by the publisher are split 50/50
4. What wasn't a big deal when it was $2K became one when it was now $400K
5. Knowing his value had gone up, Michael sold the audio rights to the next series himself for seven figures
6. Publisher refused a print deal because audio wasn't available

Michael, how do you think they'd handle a potential hybrid author who has put their books into audio?  Does that mean that any self-pubbed series that's already in audio and locked up for seven years because of audio terms is no longer a consideration for a print deal with one of the Big 5?


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Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
« Reply #81 on: June 08, 2017, 11:18:26 AM »
Thanks Jerry. That was not clear at all from the OP.

But I'm still confused, I have no idea what the lesson is here. Given that publishers want ALL of the rights...

Do we horde our rights for maximum leverage or parcel them off to the highest bidder?

Offline Usedtoposthere

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Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
« Reply #82 on: June 08, 2017, 11:27:23 AM »
Thanks Jerry. That was not clear at all from the OP.

But I'm still confused, I have no idea what the lesson is here. Given that publishers want ALL of the rights...

Do we horde our rights for maximum leverage or parcel them off to the highest bidder?
Depends where you are, how much power you have, and what your own priorities are, surely.

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Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
« Reply #83 on: June 08, 2017, 11:58:50 AM »
Depends where you are, how much power you have, and what your own priorities are, surely.

But that wasn't the point of this thread. Michael said he wanted to educate (I think that's how he said it) and others have thanked him for his transparency and for sharing.

I don't know what has been shared. Publishers have always wanted as many rights as they can grab, for as little as possible. That's not breaking news.

So, the business options appear to be:

Do we horde our rights for maximum leverage or parcel them off to the highest bidder?

What's the lesson? What am I missing?

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Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
« Reply #84 on: June 08, 2017, 12:04:43 PM »
But that wasn't the point of this thread. Michael said he wanted to educate (I think that's how he said it) and others have thanked him for his transparency and for sharing.

I don't know what has been shared. Publishers have always wanted as many rights as they can grab, for as little as possible. That's not breaking news.

So, the business options appear to be:

Do we horde our rights for maximum leverage or parcel them off to the highest bidder?

What's the lesson? What am I missing?

That in the past he was able to get a major traditional publisher to give him a not-including-audio deal, and now that same publisher is totally unwilling to consider such deals. He feels the industry's stance on the issue has hardened. For people considering seeking a traditional deal, it could be useful to know that selling audio off separately is probably not going to be possible.




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Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
« Reply #85 on: June 08, 2017, 12:07:05 PM »
What's the lesson? What am I missing?

I think the big change is that the big publishers not only want audiobook rights as part of a deal, but they've now made them non-negotiable. Previously, you could work up a deal without them, now you can't. It's a policy change, and anyone dealing with (or expecting to deal with) any of the big publishers should be aware of that.

ETA Ninja'd.  ;D
   

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Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
« Reply #86 on: June 08, 2017, 12:09:36 PM »
That in the past he was able to get a major traditional publisher to give him a not-including-audio deal, and now that same publisher is totally unwilling to consider such deals. He feels the industry's stance on the issue has hardened. For people considering seeking a traditional deal, it could be useful to know that selling audio off separately is probably not going to be possible.

I think the big change is that the big publishers not only want audiobook rights as part of a deal, but they've now made them non-negotiable. Previously, you could work up a deal without them, now you can't. It's a policy change, and anyone dealing with (or expecting to deal with) any of the big publishers should be aware of that.

ETA Ninja'd.  ;D

Thank you.  :)

Offline MattHaggis

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Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
« Reply #87 on: June 08, 2017, 03:12:11 PM »
That is not at all what those of us who objected said. I never said he didn't deserve the money. I was trying to say there is no "evil publisher" here and "white knight indie."

And yeah, long memory here, character matters. I hold 2 things to be irrevocable flaws:  plaigarizing someone or keeping money rightfully owed to authors.

The amount of money someone makes doesn't make me suddenly think they are amazing, wonderful, smart or clever. Are any of us lining up to take advice from (insert megasellling book here that collectively people think is crap)?. No. The idea of 'well that's a lot of money so it must be okay" gets us a ton of really shady business practices in our peers.

I am so tired of oh the big people don't post anymore... Plenty of talented and caring people still post on Kboards, and evey time that's whined about people are being rather rude to those still here. The reality is a lot of fortunes in this business are made by screwing others over or breaking rules or laws because someone doesn't get caught.

And yeah going back yesterday and rereading what happened with Rirdan press and Ann Crispin.... I am just galled people are sitting here acting like it was mean old kboads that made the Sullivans stop posting.

Perhaps you'd care to explain how your view of one person's character is transferable to a completely different person's character.

Offline NeedWant

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Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
« Reply #88 on: June 08, 2017, 03:29:14 PM »
Some of the responses in this thread are another example why some successful authors no longer post here.

I'm the first to admit that I pay closer attention when successful authors share data and give advice, but this idea that just because someone is successful they're above being questioned is harmful. If an author (successful or not) is that sensitive that they can't handle others not praising everything they say, then a public forum is probably not the right place for them.

(Note: I'm talking in general terms here. I'm not talking about Michael Sullivan specifically.)

Offline AliceW

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Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
« Reply #89 on: June 08, 2017, 03:56:33 PM »
I'm the first to admit that I pay closer attention when successful authors share data and give advice, but this idea that just because someone is successful they're above being questioned is harmful.

So much this ^
A lot of people on the k-boards sung the praises of Rebecca Hamilton because she's "successful" and how many people had their KDP accounts banned because of her methodologies or have lost large amounts of money? I also listen when authors far above me share their results, but I also question methods and practices to determine what sits with me ethically and how I chose to run my business.

I find it disturbing that some k-boarders are now gloating that they have [quieted] experienced voices in this thread who were sharing their dissenting views. A shame that some people cannot engage in discussion with multiple POVs but feel they have to be rude to and insult those that don't follow the pack mind.



Edited ... because the post Alice is referring to here is gone. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca
« Last Edit: June 08, 2017, 05:53:52 PM by Becca Mills »

Offline Usedtoposthere

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Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
« Reply #90 on: June 08, 2017, 04:20:31 PM »
So much this ^
A lot of people on the k-boards sung the praises of Rebecca Hamilton because she's "successful" and how many people had their KDP accounts banned because of her methodologies or have lost large amounts of money? I also listen when authors far above me share their results, but I also question methods and practices to determine what sits with me ethically and how I chose to run my business.

I find it disturbing that some k-boarders are now gloating that they have [quieted] experienced voices in this thread who were sharing their dissenting views. A shame that some people cannot engage in discussion with multiple POVs but feel they have to be rude to and insult those that don't follow the pack mind.


Edited ... because the post Alice is referring to here is gone. Drop me a PM if you have any questions. - Becca
I will speak for myself. I sell well and do very well in indie publishing, and I have for years. BUT I am nowhere near Michael's level, and I've never had to make those kinds of decisions. I do have some hope of one day having to do that, though, so I was grateful for the information he shared about his decision-making process in this.

The thing is--I'm not qualified to have a "point of view" about Michael's decision-making process. I'm not in his shoes. OK, maybe I would have taken the money and run. I guess I could say that, but I'm not sure how helpful that is to others. What I can do is take in the information about publishers' hardening stance on audio rights, just as I was very interested to hear that Annie B sold her print-only rights in this market for a very good sum. Useful information, I hope, someday. (Well, not the print stuff, not in romance, but still.) In fact, I've recently made some decisions on the basis of things I've learned about the audio market due to just this kind of sharing.

And I just don't see any reason to make comments about somebody's character in a situation like this. This isn't a case of somebody who's flogging promos that skirt TOS or engaging in bad behavior that hurts authors. This is somebody sharing his decision-making process about a particular publishing decision.

What some are objecting to here is not the discussion of "what would you do?" but a nastiness of tone from a few posters implying that Michael somehow doesn't "deserve" to make any more because he does well. It's awfully hard to see that tone stemming from anything but envy. There can also be an attitude that somehow an author doesn't know her genre or the market, or that she isn't any more qualified to comment on it than anybody else, which is, well, kinda laughable. Look, if somebody's making mid-six to seven (or eight) figures a year--they're probably doing some things right. But THAT attitude is what makes some successful authors not want to post here. I know I ran up against some of this recently in one of the very few threads I've started. It isn't many folks, but it's some, and it can leave a bad taste in your mouth. I saw it with Hugh Howey, I'm seeing it in this thread with Michael, and in my smaller way, I've come across it myself. It kinda stinks.
« Last Edit: June 08, 2017, 05:54:26 PM by Becca Mills »

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Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
« Reply #91 on: June 08, 2017, 05:18:34 PM »
Thanks for the well-wishes. It has been a long time since I've been in and around kboards, and it's good to be back. I recommend this forum to so many authors I talk to - you guys have a great community here.

Nice to see you back here, man.  :)
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Offline Michael_J_Sullivan

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Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
« Reply #92 on: June 08, 2017, 05:41:55 PM »
It's also worth noting that quite possibly, a publisher can negotiate a fatter deal for the audio rights than an author can. In fact, quite probably.

No, I can't see any way in which a publisher can get a better deal than myself. The more "hands in the pie" the smaller the author's share.  With my first two contracts there are 4 people: Audible, Recorded Books, Orbit and myself -- my share is 3.5%.  In the deals that are done directly with audible the author gets 15% (I actually get more than that but I'm not at liberty to say my exact royalty). But even at the "standard rate" that's 428% than when a publisher is involved.

Aren't authors doing deals right now directly that only give them 40% of the audio, anyway?
 

The only 40% royalty that I'm familiar with is when an author self-publishes with ACX AND assumes 100% of the production costs AND agrees to exclusive distribution with Audible. Most authors can't afford the $10,000 or so upfront costs so they take a deal where they split the costs with the audio producer and that takes them to 20%.

The reason the Harlequin authors sued a few years ago was not because they only got 50% of a sub rights deal (the standard percentage), but because through fairly devious means, they got far, far less.

Yes 50% of sub rights is actually 3.5% of income produced.  Audible takes 65% and the audio producer gets 35%. Of that 35% the main publisher can get 15% - 20% of the audio producer's cut.  And then they share that with the author at a 50/50 split.  So the ACTUAL royalty to the author (if you don't count the agent's fee) is 50% of 20% of 35% = 3.5%

And if everybody was so determined to include audio in the deal and actually do the deal, why couldn't Del Rey or Sullivan buy the rights back from whoever? 

The print/ebook is generally considered the "main right" and the "audio is the smaller piece of the pie. While my audio sales are stronger than most, that's still true in my case.  The print/ebook sales are about 60% and the audio is about 40% (Most authors are 90%/10%).  My print/ebook sales on a per book basis for the first books of that series were at about 40% of what the audio company was offering me.  So to "buy back" that right from the audio company they would have to offer "pony up" much, much more money than they were already paying. And since I only get 50% they would have to double that offer for me to "make the same money.  So, for me to get the same money from "just Del Rey" by them assuming the "Audible Studios amount" would require them to raise their advance by 600%.  There is NO WAY they could afford to do that.

At the same time, Kensington recently bought some of Marie Force's romances that have already sold many copies in ebook and paperback, strictly self-published, to do its own print run and mass distribution.

So...I think this Del Rey thing is specific to this author's situation and to Del Rey, not to all trad publishers.

Kensington is not in the big-five (nor is it's parent St. Martin's) the "independent presses" like Kensington are being more creative than the big-five in their deal making, I'm actually starting a conversation with Kensington. The policy that I'm warning about is specific to the "big-five" which seems to act in a very "cartel-like" manner. In other words, they all insisted on ebook+print several years back. They all insist on 25% of net for ebook royalties, and I suspect if they haven't already we'll soon see that all of the big-five will adopt the "auidio" or "no deal" policy.
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Offline Michael_J_Sullivan

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Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
« Reply #93 on: June 08, 2017, 05:42:57 PM »
I think you're misinterpreting what he's saying. My read is that he's discussing why he's not going with Del Rey for his books, using audio as the pivotal reason. There doesn't seem to be a lack of professionalism, rather an understanding of value and business sense. Good for him for understanding his leverage.

Yes, that's the way I see it indeed. Thanks for the show of support.
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Offline Michael_J_Sullivan

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Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
« Reply #94 on: June 08, 2017, 05:47:13 PM »
Yeah, that's how I read it as well: as information sharing about the shrinking likelihood of being able to sell a book/series to a big publisher without including audio rights. He got a sweet audio-not-included deal with Del Rey for the first three books in a series, was really happy with the deal and with Del Rey, and expected to be able to get the same deal for Books 4 and 5, along with a new series, but the publisher is no longer willing to do it. He's FYIing people about that. It seems like good info to have, for authors who are in Michael's league and might be contemplating deals like this.

Yes, exactly.

Of course Del Rey needs to make money, but they may have to adjust their current approach, given authors' ability to walk away from the table, as Michael has done. That might mean giving authors more than 50% of the take when contracted audio rights are resold. Or maybe Michael is an outlier, and others won't walk away. Who knows? Either way, I think it's interesting news.

To be 100% clear I didn't "walk away" I wasn't able to set down at the table. The post was meant to tell authors that they may be in a position to HAVE TO give up audio + print + ebook for a big-five deal...but it was also a cautionary tale that if they did sell their audio rights first (a technique I had used successfully before) then you may be orphaning your print/ebook rights from the traditional publishers.
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Offline Michael_J_Sullivan

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Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
« Reply #95 on: June 08, 2017, 05:50:25 PM »
Agreed. And thanks Michael, for sharing your experiences. You certainly don't have to.

You are welcome. One of the reasons I shifted from self to traditional was to get an accurate picture of what goes on behind the scenes. I've heard all kinds of stories, but the only way to be 100% sure is to see things for yourself. I've always made a point of sharing what I've found, whether that be a career-killing non-compete clause, the fact that the "out of print" thresholds are ridiculously low, or that there is now rights-grabs going on with audio.
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Offline Michael_J_Sullivan

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Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
« Reply #96 on: June 08, 2017, 05:58:29 PM »
At the risk of repeating myself, I'm not seeing how getting no income from no rights is ever better for the balance sheet than getting some income from some rights. Sure, RP would have gotten more income from including the audio rights, but it's hard not to see the outcome they ended up with as a net loss.

I must say that I scratched my head at this one as well. They are already making a very good profit on my current books in the print + ebook rights. There is no reason to suspect that won't continue to do so with the last half of the series. So why wouldn't they take "some profit" even if they can't get "it all."

I think the thing you have to realize is the "no exception policy" will result in many, many, many contracts WITH audio rights attached and letting go of my "good" but not "earth-shattering" income pales in comparison when stacked up against all those other contracts.  People on this sub are already incredibly savvy about self-publishing, but many traditionally published authors are not.  For them, the thought of turning down a deal to go self is nearly unthinkable. Plus, they probably don't even realize what the value of their audio rights are.  After all, the only reason I knew this is I sold them first.  So, the end result is. Yeah, we'll lose the profit on Michael and a few authors that realize their audio is lucrative, but we'll be "handed over" (sometimes with no additional advance, sometimes with a small additional advance) a lot of audio income because authors will HAVE TO turn it over.  And if all the publishers play the same ball, there will be no where else for the authors to go except for "independent publishers" or self-publishing.

Since my original post went live, I heard from another author who had a $400,000 print+ebook deal and a $250,000 audio deal. As the paperwork was in process, the CEO told the acquiring editor that audio would have to be part of the deal.  The agent of this author said, "Okay, fine.  Then you'll be giving us $650,000 right?" They said, "No, but we will increase it to $500,000).  So the author would have to lose $150,000 from what they had originally expected from this book.  In the end the deal fell apart. But it further confirms that (a) the big-five (this one was not PRH), is insisting on audio and (b) they are not willing to increase the advances to the FMV of those rights.
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Offline Michael_J_Sullivan

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Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
« Reply #97 on: June 08, 2017, 06:00:59 PM »
But is this anything new?

Considering they were fine with no audio for the first books in the contract, the fact that audio was a "deal breaker" for the ending books in the series...and that it isn't anything they can even negotiate (due to mandates from the corporate level) seems "new" to me.
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Offline Michael_J_Sullivan

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Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
« Reply #98 on: June 08, 2017, 06:04:06 PM »
the whole thing ended quite badly. I'm not sure why it matters in the context of this thread, though.

I wouldn't agree with the characterization that it "ended badly." Robin realized that she spread too thin and couldn't continue operating that way so she reverted the rights, helped the authors get their books setup to sell on their own and paid everyone 80% - 90% of all sales. I think that it "ending" was unfortunate, but I don't know how she could have made the transition any better, nor do I know of any other publisher who offered such impressive royalties to their authors.
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Offline Michael_J_Sullivan

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Re: Why Del Rey and I will be parting ways - from Michael J Sullivan
« Reply #99 on: June 08, 2017, 06:08:29 PM »
Any business minded author should do a similar analysis. I think it's great he's sharing how much other audio publishers are offering. His audio rights are worth more than signing away entire rights, knowing he won't have bookstore access. That tells you how much the audio market has expanded. That's incredibly helpful information for him to share.

Thats exactly why I shared..so that other authors can (a) be aware and (b) factor in the increasingly valuable audio rights before they just "hand them over."
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