Trusting Eachother

Eliminating the risks in digital publishing.

Most publishers are so busy marketing print books that they can’t put their mind around selling multiple versions of the same books. So, they partner with companies who specifically market digital copies of their titles. Unfortunately, many publishers relate to their digital licensees and vendors in the same way they relate to the traditional book-selling channel. They are most concerned with how many units will be sold or how much royalty revenue will be generated. This isn’t a bad thing by the way. But, there can be so much more value gained by working together with your licensee than by standing an arms length apart.

At my company, we’ve put together a program that allows us to take out all of the risk in digital book publishing. Our Pre-Publication Program allows us to offer digital books before we produce them. Users place pre-orders that are only processed if and when the proposed project is completed, ensuring that there is enough interest to justify the significant investment required to produce a title. We have offered a variety of titles as pre-pubs, ranging from small public domain titles to recent multi-volume sets. In some cases the titles offered were withdrawn when it was clear there wasn’t enough interest to support the project. While we’d like to be able to produce every title, we consider even the withdrawn offerings a success: we identified projects where the return on investment would be weak and were able to re-allocate our resources to projects users wanted more.

This program has been great for our publisher partners too. We don’t sign a contract with them until we know we have enough buyers to pay for our development costs. When we know there are enough, we feel good about signing a deal and the publisher knows exactly how many units we will sell the day we ship the digital product. In many cases, this eliminates the need to pay royalty advances. We simply pay royalties on each pre-order we receive and send that lump sum to the publisher the same day we ship the product to the customer. Each book we license from a publisher is a success for us and for them. We never waste time on books that our customers don’t want.

If you haven’t started yet, it’s important to take your first step to begin publishing digitally. And if you’re a rights manager, you need to work today to ensure you have grasp on the wide variety of issues relating to digital book licensing. Don’t be afraid. Take risks. Partner with experts. In no time at all, you’ll be an expert yourself.

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