9 Must-have Clauses for Digital Rights Contracts

I knew it would happen. It had to happen. There is money to be made and whenever there is money to be made, people will rise up to make it. I don’t, in this instance, refer to hardworking authors, but the parasites who are looking to make a fast buck by making low-rent investments in properties they believe they’ll be able to exploit.

To what am I referring?

Digital rights to authors’ backlists. There are a variety of individuals—traditional publishers included—who are buying up the rights to backlists for little or no advances against royalties, with no firm schedule for publication, with no distribution deals in place, and with little or no expertise in how to actually create an ebook. And yet, writers who have complained for eons about how badly they are used and abused by publishers, are turning around and selling off these assets for a pittance.

This is what the landscape looks like right now.

Traditional publishers are offering 25% of the NET on electronic sales, zero for advances, with no pub dates attached. If any publisher made such an offer for a paper publication, they’d be laughed out of the marketplace, pure and simple. While the royalty might sound great, the lack of an advance, and the lack of a publishing window means the publisher has zero investment in getting the product out in a timely manner. They’re snagging the rights so they’ll have something to sell at some point.

By way of example, three of my novels are now available for the iPhone: A Secret Atlas, When Dragons Rage and The Grand Crusade. Random House sublicensed the electronic rights to those books to ScrollMotion, Inc., the creators of the Iceberg reading apps. The App itself has several screen shots to help sell it, the first being a picture of the cover of my book. The next three screen shots show the interface, and provide glimpses of text which I did not write—and would never have written on my worst day on the job. I hope no one mistakes it for text from the book.

The pre-2009 contracts with publishers grant authors 50% of the NET, which is a better deal, but this is still the NET. Let’s look at A Secret Atlas for a breakdown here, shall we? The App costs $6.99. This means that ScrollMotion, Inc. is paid $4.89 per copy sold (70% of retail price). I don’t know exactly what ScrollMotion, Inc. is making on the deal, but let’s assume 10%. They send $4.40 on to Random House. And then Random House sends half of that, or $2.20, on to me. (Under the new 25% royalty deals, I’d only be getting $1.10.)

In three to nine months after the sale.

Conversely, selling the same book for $5 myself off my website, I’d make $4.55 per copy. Immediately. Selling it myself via the Kindle, I’d make $3.50 in sixty days. Selling through the iBookstore directly I’d make the same as the Kindle deal, and selling through third parties, I’d pull at least $2.50. So, by controlling the rights myself, I’m going to make out better than the best deal anyone else is offering me.

Authors are now being faced with choices that are not easy, but they need to ask one question whenever offered a backlist deal: “If it is that valuable to them, how valuable is it to me?” By way of example, last month alone, ebook sales for Talion: Revenant via the Kindle, earned me over $400. That may not seem like much, but if someone is offering a token amount of money, like $1K, to snap up the rights to books, and yet one can turn around and make almost half that in a single month, you have to be crazy not to think about doing this stuff yourself.

If your reply to the above is, “But I don’t know enough about computers to be able to make an ebook,” stop and think about it this way. Making ebooks isn’t rocket science. It’s easier than dealing with copyedits on a novel, and you’ve done that. And this is a job that will pay you back. Instead of being happy someone is giving you a fish, this is your chance to learn to fish; and who’s going to be more motivated than you to let your fans know your books are available again?

If, on the other hand, your reply is, “I don’t want to learn how to make ebooks,” well, fine. Just don’t turn around and complain about how you’re being handled in the ebook realm.

Realistically, here are the things to demand in any ebook contract:

1) A cash advance equal to an estimate of the first two years royalties. (If this amount cannot be calculated because “this is a new market,” then don’t go for the deal. This person is speculating. Let them do that with someone else’s work.)

2) A 6 month window for publication of each book under contract. (Estimated time to prepare a book as an ebook is 20 hours from scan to publication. If they do not have the staff or equipment for this, don’t go for the deal. It’s a hobby for them, not a business.)

3) A sunset clause on the contract, preferably two years, after which the contract will be renegotiated at the author’s option. (The technology is changing too fast for you to be locked into a long-term contract without hope of renegotiation.) It is a seller’s market and will continue to be so as new formats and platforms develop, so royalties to authors will increase, not decrease. Do not get locked into a longterm contract for peanuts.

4) Clearly define which formats are to be used. At this time there are three: Epub, Kindle/Mobi and PDF which should be provided. All other formats, including smart phone apps and gaming console applications, should be treated differently and negotiated for in good faith. (Think of formats as foreign languages and this all becomes very clear.)

5) Copies of all files, including source files, are to be delivered to the author for his use beyond the life of the contract. Copies of the books should be DRM free, and the author has the option to make “review” copies of said books available for the purpose of publicity.

6) Electronic rights to the books are limited to one language only (i. e. English). Translations and electronic publication of translations are to be negotiated separately.

7) Where there are multiple books in a series, the negotiations should include royalties on a per volume basis and on an omnibus basis, with the publication of an omnibus edition being mandated.

8 ) Royalties should be calculated and paid every 60 days (within the Amazon and Apple pay windows).

9) The files will be made available to the author to sell from his own webstore, with him paying the publisher the equivalent rate as Amazon, with accounting every 60 days. (Because electronic sales are inherently immune to audit, only by selling work directly can an author have any idea of a) true sales figures and b) failure-to-deliver rates which might address why bandwidth-per-file figures do not match sales perfectly.)

I’m sure I’ve missed out on a couple of provisions that should be included. I know many of these will be considered dealbreakers by publishers. So be it. If they want to sell ebooks, they have to have ebooks. I know they can get them from someone else, but if they want mine, they’ll find I’m not giving them away.

And, quite frankly, no other author with enough neurons to form a synapse, should either.

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44 Responses to “9 Must-have Clauses for Digital Rights Contracts”

  1. Andrew Timson 16. Aug, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    Mostly, those seem reasonable. As a reader, #4 seems potentially troublesome to me, for two reasons:

    1) It prevents the publisher from offering the title in new formats. A few years ago, such a contract would have read “MS Reader, Mobipocket, and PDF”; to sell ePub, or even arguably for Kindle, would have required going back to the author for renegotiations. (Though I agree that multimedia applications should be distinct from just a straight-up novel.)

    2) It forces the publisher to sell each format as an individual item, instead of offering the book “buy once, read anywhere”. (Webscriptions takes the latter approach, which is very handy as a reader. When I migrated from a Pocket PC to an iPod Touch, I didn’t have to convert all my books; I could just redownload them in ePub, or whatever the latest-and-greatest format is.)

  2. C’monnnn.

    [squint, disbelieving stare, stub cigar out on phonebook]


    (Just prepping you for the negotiating process.)

  3. Andrew, I’d argue that clause #4 doesn’t do what you suggest it does. First, a publisher can/will negotiate to provide work in whatever formats they think sells. I suspect they will find that selling a bundle of multiple formats and allowing customers to come back and download new formats won’t be that much of a problem. I mean, I can do it with the software I use. If they can’t, well, get better software. I think they can afford that.

  4. First, I agree with the Mobi/Kindle and ePub, but I disagree with PDF. Why would you want PDF if you can have ePub? You’d sell them through the same outlets anyway, so I doubt that you’d make more money by offering that format. Adobe Reader itself handles ePub! Acrobat is a prepress format; I suppose if the author has a print deal with the publisher, then stipulating PDF distribution is reasonable. Publishers cannot report royalties within 60 days. That’s way too much overhead and entails advancing money to authors, because many distributors do not pay within 60 days: Sony, for instance, at least in our experience. Demanding all the files for personal use is unreasonable. I pay a lot for an eBook cover and am not going to give it to the author for free, nor should the author retain rights to our edits without negotiation (though I am flexible in such negotiations). While it is not rocket science to make an eBook, it is not effortless either, especially to make a good one. If there is an extensive index, eBook production may take a very long time. I once spent dozens of hours hand-linking an index of several thousand entries. If you fully automate the process, you get crap. I would not turn over the eBook files to the author for redistribution, just as no print publisher would turn over the prepress files for redistribution, not without some buyout. A sunset clause, publication window, reasonable royalty-reporting and remittance, and favorable percentage are all good advice.

    You are very correct that authors can assume more power over the publication process and digital-rights negotiation in view of recent developments and that it’s unconscionable that publishers would squat on eBook rights.


    Bob Kruger

  5. Bob,

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

    Discussions of whether or not PDF is needed as a supported format can rage. I don’t support it for longer work, but for short stories I do. Folks have printed pieces out and gotten them signed. Even just printing out the title page for an autograph works.

    I would disagree that publishers can’t do their royalty accounting in 60 days. Amazon and Apple manage it. If they can do it and report to publishers, why can’t publishers do the same for authors? If they are selling ebooks, it’s all automated, yes? And if you negotiate the clause such that payments are passed through sixty days from payment from third parties, you’re covered. Sales your firm does directly pay in this sixty day window, third parties are passed through–a provision in many contracts even today.

    I would also disagree that the epub and Kindle files are akin to pre-pub files for print. I think they’re the plates from which new copies are made, and publishers have offered authors the opportunity to purchase the plates for years (even though current technology makes them useless, and has for years). Could there be a reasonable price negotiated for same. Yes. This may be a moot point. Hackers will shortly figure out how to strip DRM and make the files available anyway.

    To your point about art, thanks for pointing out an oversight on my part. I did not want to suggest that authors would be able to use artwork a publisher produced without permission of the artist.

    I think the point about retaining rights to “[your] edits” puzzles me. The text belongs to the copyright holder. If you agree with a sunset clause, then you also agree that after a specified period, the author can take the text elsewhere. I’ve never heard of a publisher claiming that the author only has rights to the text he submitted prior to editorial input.

    It’s great to have a dialogue about this sort of thing. I suspect a lot of words and works will run through the mill before something that works for everyone becomes concrete.

  6. >And if you negotiate the clause such that payments are passed through sixty days from payment from third parties, you’re covered. Sales your firm does directly pay in this sixty day window, third parties are passed through–a provision in many contracts even today.

    Yes, this seems reasonable.

    >I think the point about retaining rights to “[your] edits” puzzles me. The text belongs to the copyright holder. If you agree with a sunset clause, then you also agree that after a specified period, the author can take the text elsewhere. I’ve never heard of a publisher claiming that the author only has rights to the text he submitted prior to editorial input.

    Honestly, you’ve caught me here. I agree that the edited text is the author’s and it’s far too nitpicky to declare otherwise, no matter how much editing was done. We do not track edits for the most part. However, a few of our editions are re-edited from the original print publication by the author in cooperation with an advisory editor we employed at his request who helped him compare texts and resolve logical discrepancies that arose from the re-edit, and the author agreed to compensate us in the event that he ceased publication with us. It would have been better, maybe, to merely get a single, extended contract to ensure we had time to cover costs, but that’s how he wanted it done.

    I believe we are going to see close author-editor pairings as authors or author-editor co-ops assume more of the publication role. I may be very wrong in this, but it’s a future I’d like to strive for — helping to raise the profile of editors and empowering authors to be largely their own publishers until they need extra help.


  7. Mike,

    This is an outstanding post, and I have to say it’s really nice to see such thoughtful replies in the comments section.

    Even though I work in roleplaying games rather than mainstream book publishing, I knew it would be of interest to others in the game industry and I tweeted about it (@GMSarli) as soon as I saw it. A lot of this doesn’t necessarily apply to what I do because I tend to either do work-for-hire or publish my own stuff. Still, a lot of it would be very helpful to keep in mind if working out a deal with another publisher to make a print run of a book. (Green Ronin has done this in the past, and I’m sure there are others I’m not thinking of.)

    I would be interested in hearing your opinion on how roleplaying game publishing will interact with the emerging digital publishing world, since you have experience both there and in mainstream publishing. In many ways, RPGs have been ahead of the curve (PDFs have been widely distributed for years), but the industry as a whole seems somewhat hesitant to adopt epub and mobi formats.

    I know that some layout issues can cause problems (e.g. tables), but these can be overcome with a bit of ingenuity (e.g. you can use embedded images to preserve table formatting). Because of this, when I publish my e20 System rulebook (e20system.com), I’d planned to include epub and mobi formats as part of the download package along with pdf. Still, the fact that others aren’t yet jumping on that bandwagon makes me wonder if there’s some critical detail I’m overlooking. What are your thoughts?


  8. So how about a share price clause where relevant – as in, your company goes under X value, all rights revert to me?

  9. Mike, I agree with most of what you’ve laid out here with one exception, which grates at me every time I hear you talk about eBooks.

    THE thing screwing up the works of the eBook world is DRM. You say above that eBook formats are “just like languages.” You are incorrect.

    If I decide to change ‘devices’ with my paper books (get new glasses), I don’t suddenly need my English books to become German. The same cannot be said for DRM-protected eBooks, which are not only not portable across existing or future devices, their nature prevents any portability.

    You suggest that we should ‘get better software’ to convert from one format to the other. If WE (consumers) were able to do that, YOU (author) wouldn’t need a clause that says that eBooks delivered to you will be DRM free.

    Until this DRM thing gets straightened out, many of us will sit on the sidelines. I’ve already spent a mountain on money on MS-Reader LIT books that won’t work on any of the current eBook devices. It’s silly to continue down such a road. It’s frustrating that people who advocate eBooks so strongly aren’t honest about the problem to the point of discussing it openly and regularly.

    Cheers — Larry

  10. I have published a couple of friends, mostly as a favor–what’s my deal? I take 15 percent, pay quarterly, deal can be terminated at any time by either party. I retain any cover or formatting I did (though I can’t use them if the author terminates). Pretty simple.

    Granted, if I did it as a business I’d tighten things up but even getting entangled with a “publisher” might be bad, bad news. I think the authors who will be int he worst shape in 5 years are the ones who have all the material licensed to other people today.

    Thanks, Michael, and Bob. T%he co-op model seems to be the way of the future. Actually, why shouldn’t the AUTHOR be handling the money and giving (small) percentages to editors, designers, formatters, and even publishers. The author will still be doing far and away the bulk of the work.
    Scott Nicholson

  11. Excellent thought-starter! And superb comments-thread.

    One of the key clauses that needs to be worked out is that of geographical restrictions.

    I live in South Africa. And almost ALL ebooks I look for nowadays are geo-restricted. About a year ago, this wasn’t the case.

    As I see it, the reason geo-restrictions are so prevalent is that dinosaur publishing houses are interpreting their foreign distribution rights clauses in ways that are harming authors, harming readers, and eroding ebook sales.

    If I were signing a deal with a publisher, I’d absolutely insist that my ebook must be available in ALL markets, with NO geographical restrictions.

    This is a very simple contractual issue. Not a legal issue. Not a territorial issue. As we all know… contract law supersedes common law.

    Authors need to start fighting against the boilerplate rubbish they signed back when they were young.

  12. Wow…what a great post and a great discussion. I have to say I personally agree with all of this. This is where it is going. As a devoted ebook reader I would love to buy directly from the writers. I know there are a few writers out there these days that are currently trying to buy back the rights to their back lists so they can sell ebooks directly from their own websites. Some of these people have large back lists that are out of print and publishers are doing nothing with them. So getting their rights back means they can get the books back out to the readers. I have repurchased a number of books in electronic format simply because I WANT to have them on my Kindle. Why the big publishers are NOT embracing this revenue stream is mind blowing to me. But they certainly seem to be struggling with wrapping their heads around the reality of ebook commerce. It will pass them buy if they don’t wake up.

  13. Larry, I’m suggesting that formats be treated like languages for contract purposes–to render the problem of formats into language that writers can understand by drawing a parallel to their current contracts, nothing more.

    In theory, Stanza will take all of your .lit docs and transfer them over to epub. http://www.lexcycle.com/ is the URL. I make no claims on it working, but it’s worth a shot.

    And, just so you know, I don’t do my books with DRM, and when I upload things to Amazon, I click the box that eliminates DRM. I do feel your pain.

  14. I doubt you’d ever get that particular clause into a contract for a variety of reasons (a stock split could take the price below that threshold, for example); but including a bankruptcy trigger to the sunset clause is a great idea.

  15. Gary, Talking to folks at Gencon and Origins, I think the problem is exactly what you noted: charts. I showed a couple of folks how they could be made into graphics and slotted in, and that seems to allay fears. Hopefully more gaming companies will come along and do things in epub because of it.

  16. >So how about a share price clause where relevant – as in, your company goes under X value, all rights revert to me? –Blue Tyson

    Several agents we’ve worked with insist on a clause that rights revert if we were to file for debt protection.

    >Actually, why shouldn’t the AUTHOR be handling the money and giving (small) percentages to editors, designers, formatters, and even publishers. The author will still be doing far and away the bulk of the work. –Scott Nicholson

    Yes, exactly, Scott. However, the big difficulty in the brave new world is marketing. I have been working on a new business plan for two years to address this problem. My solution is a community-publishing model — and I hope to launch a site based on it this year. I should be able to share particulars within a couple of months. I expect other companies to adopt it thereafter.


  17. Susan Kerstern 18. Aug, 2010 at 10:31 am

    I would like to know what you think of using Smash Words as an ebook producer. You edit the book, set up the formate and publish it with them and you take 70 % percent of net sales. They use all formats and deal I believe with Chapters, Coles, Barns and Noble to just a few.

  18. Fascinating and useful article about this new world, thank you.

  19. Name (required) 19. Aug, 2010 at 5:32 am

    You should also include georestrictions, or lack of thereof.
    People outside USA or UK also want to purchase the book. Why chase potential customers away?
    When rights were negotiated for print version, georestrictions did make sense, because you might want to sell publication rights also to publishers in other countries. With e-books, georestrictions are highly counterproductive.

    If an author thinks that preparing the book for sale as an e-book, and handling the sales itself is too difficult, he should just go to Smashwords. Also self-publishing on Amazon is very, very easy and you get 70% of the price. And Amazon and Smashwords not the only options and are not mutually exclusive. You should use those facts to hit all those publishing dinosaurses over the head.

  20. I was directed to your site from a link on Teleread and appreciate the important ideas raised in the main post and the thoughtful comments.

    While I agree that several of your proposed must-have points are reasonable in theory and need to be addressed more aggressively by authors and agents, I think it’s also important to underscore that many of these points **will be** (not might be) dealbreakers with large and mid-size trade publishers (and many university and smaller presses), or will be undermined by a noncompete provision. Authors need to be careful that what they’re given with one hand isn’t taken away by another.

    I also agree that royalty reporting in the traditional publishing industry needs to be modernized, but I don’t see that happening soon. Having participated in many royalty reporting cycles at various publishers in the past 20 years, I’ve learned that it can be a far more complicated process than most authors understand, and this is especially true when a publisher is accounting for multiple formats (hardcover, paperback, audio, electronic) and multiple streams of licensing income. That’s not to say that authors can’t understand the process, or that the process shouldn’t be improved; only that, if the demand is that the publisher make an exception to its well-established process solely for you, or for a small subset of authors, the chances of it being received favorably are nil.

    I’d also like to note for some of the commenters that clauses giving the author the right to demand reversion in the event of a publisher’s bankruptcy or reorganization can in many circumstances be meaningless. A publisher’s contracts with its authors constitute assets–after all, they’re the foundation of the publisher’s business–and in the course of legal proceedings these assets will often be frozen until all the details of the financial and business arrangements are resolved and approved by the bankruptcy court. In spite of this, many agents still demand such a clause on behalf of their clients, and a few have learned the hard way that it doesn’t gain them much if those circumstances come to pass.

  21. Not having used Smashwords, I have no first-hand knowledge upon which to base an opinion. I know of other authors who swear by the service. If it works for an author, that’s great. My only caution is with anyone who is offering you a percentage of NET, since all sorts of charges can we worked into lower the NET.

  22. I didn’t mention georestrictions simply because I don’t think there should be any. Just go with languages and be done with it. (I realize that some nations may require such restrictions for the purposes of collecting taxes. Once they work that out with the US government and the IRS starts collecting for them, then I’ll feel compelled to address that issue.)

  23. Lisa, thanks for sharing your thoughts on the subject.

    To your points: I am well aware that many of these clauses might well be dealbreakers. My feeling, never hidden, is that authors can do better for themselves, so if the deal can’t be done, that’s great. All authors would be free to negotiate these points to their advantage. I just want them to know they’re out there and should be considered, since there are authors who are giving away the farm with little thought at all.

    I’ve also heard that accounting is too complex for royalties to be done on a quick basis. I also know this is a smokescreen for companies who are holding authors’ money in trust, and making money off that capital. I’ve had contracts where I’ve had royalties figured on 60 days, 90 days and the current bi-annual plus three months basis. As I noted in comments, if Amazon (and Bookscan) can compile sales data quickly, publishers can resolve their accounting quickly. If they can’t, perhaps they deserve to go out of business. I would also note that I have contracts that have mandated 30 day pass-through of income from subsidiary rights. If publishers can manage that, they can manage the other. And this doesn’t even begin to touch on the benefit of holding reserves against returns, which would be eliminated with ebook sales.

    The bankruptcy reversion clauses are a curious thing. I know of many licensing agreements with companies like, for example, Lucasfilm, where the rights to a property are reverted immediately in the case of bankruptcy filings. Perhaps a court could turn around and freeze those assets in the face of such a clause. What I do know is that since authors don’t have such clauses in their contracts, we don’t get a chance to test this stuff. I know of cases where things have gone down exactly as you report them, with an author’s property being held hostage by the court to pay off other creditors—the authors often being last in line. And perhaps most authors wouldn’t have the resources or will to fight to get their books back if this unhappy turn of events occurred. Still having such provisions in a contract could be useful, and I don’t see any reason not to put them in.

  24. You’re right that there shouldn’t be geo-restrictions, which is why you need a clause in the contract preventing them.

    You have to be careful because even if you specify world-wide rights the publisher can on-sell the digital rights to a given region, creating geo-restrictions where there were none.

  25. Hi Mike,
    Thanks for the response. I know you don’t have DRM on your stuff and it’s appreciated. But we need more pushback from spokespeople like you. The publishing world won’t get far by treating all of us as pirates any more than the music industry did and they’re doing just fine now that they’ve removed DRM.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but DMCA makes it illegal to break DRM protection and thus Stanza won’t convert DRM-protected LIT books.

    To address a comment from one of your African readers, I found that roughly 3/4 of the books I’ve purchased from Fictionwise over the years are no longer available from my “bookshelf” there due to regionalization nonsense (I’m in Canada). Just another example of the industry wanting us to pay ‘agency’ pricing and yet they’re really not selling us a book; they’re renting it to us without telling us. I hated to do it, but I’ve stopped buying eBooks and won’t resume until this mess is straightened out.

    Thanks again for the great dialog.

    Cheers — Larry

  26. Mike, I just read your comment on georestrictions. I don’t think it has anything to do with taxes. It’s a reflection of worldwide media distribution. You sign a contract with Random House USA, not Random House World. The people who don’t like Fictionwise selling Random House eBooks to Canada are the people in the Random House Canada building, who take all the Random House offerings, slap a new cover on it, and sell it at an inflated price over the US price for the same book.

    Governments have nothing to do with it. It’s just another place where old distribution/contracting models are bumping up against this global access we all have at our fingertips these days.

    Cheers — Larry

  27. I guess I didn’t make my point on georestrictions clear:

    1) They aren’t necessary. I don’t think they need to be addressed by a clause in the contract because they just should exist. This means, in my opinion, any clause dealing with georestrictions should be stricken from contracts.

    2) Because I don’t think they should exist concerning digital product, they should not exist. Since they should not exist, the ONLY thing I can think of that might cause/create georestrictions would be governmental regulation. I do understand why they exist NOW, which is why i know that they’re silly in the digital age.

  28. I’m not a lawyer and I’ve not read the entire DCMA. There was an exception to the DCMA issued in July 2010 that allows for the breaking of DRM on ebook files if that DRM interferes with book to sound (read aloud) functions. I’m not sure that a defense of “I wanted to listen to the books because my sight is going bad” would work as a defense if one were caught. However, I am fairly certain that if DRM was broken for a personal-use transfer of LIT files to EPUB, chances of prosecution would be zip.

    I would also point out, it is entirely possible that, after a lengthy court battle, provisions of the law could be ruled unconstitutional.

    Please note, I am not advocating piracy in any way. My personal feeling is, however, that if you bought a license to read a book, you ought to be able to read it. (And note, even when you purchase a physical book, you’re only purchasing a license to read it, you don’t actually own it.)

  29. Actually, if I purchase a physical book, I absolutely do own it. I don’t own the creative content, not exactly, but I own the (physical copy of the) book. If you came and removed it from my possession, you’d be stealing it. I can loan it out at will and use it for absolutely anything I like given only that I do not exceed the bounds of fair use.

    You might find this baffling, but when I buy a book of yours, I emphatically did not buy a license to read it. I don’t need a license to read it. That’s what libraries are for and when you get right down to it, piracy is little more than the world’s greatest public library.

    Seriously, have you wondered why print books, CDs, and DVDs are still going strong despite their demonstrable obsolescence and the ready availability of their content to anyone who knows how to use google?

    Here, you’re suffering from the same delusion as the publishers. What they’re selling, what you’re selling, isn’t really what you think of as a book at all. It’s actually merchandising. People enjoy ownership.

    So don’t tell me I’ve got a license. I don’t want a license. I want a *book*. I want to be able to say I own The Dark Glory War and Natural Selection. That’s what I *paid* for.

  30. I agree with JediBear. I try to avoid DRM books, with the exception of the free ones as that is exactly what they are worth, zero.

    There are enough DRM free books out there to satisfy my for the rest of my life, no matter how long that is as they grow faster than I can read. My present read is from Baen, others are from Steve Jordan, smashwords, feedbooks, Lulu, and a host of others who are not so paranoid as to restrict their sale of books. I really don’t understand why Barnes and Noble don’t want to sell books to Kindle owners. I think they suffer from Mental Myopia.


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    […] a must-read post about digital backlists over on Michael Stackpole’s blog. I learned at least 5 different things. I knew it would happen. It had to happen. There is money to […]

  8. 9 Must-have Clauses for Digital Rights Contracts | Stormwolf.com « Mike Cane's xBlog - 19. Aug, 2010

    […] via 9 Must-have Clauses for Digital Rights Contracts | Stormwolf.com […]

  9. Mentoring « Djmills's Blog - 21. Aug, 2010

    […] One is Michael A Stackpole. He has an interesting blog up on his site at the moment and well worth reading on 9 Must-have Clauses for Digital Rights Contracts. […]

  10. fritz freiheit.com blog » Link dump - 23. Aug, 2010

    […] 9 Must-have Clauses for Digital Rights Contracts | Stormwolf.com (Publishing, Rights, Ebook) […]

  11. Industry News: 8/26/10 | RWA-WF - 26. Aug, 2010

    […] Stackpole blogs about 9 Must-have Clauses for Digital Rights Contracts. It’s a must-read post for authors with backlists. “There are a variety of […]

  12. Weekly Round Up – 08-28-10 :Maurice Broaddus - 28. Aug, 2010

    […] 9 Must-have Clauses for Digital Rights Contracts – “There are a variety of individuals—traditional publishers included—who are buying up the rights to backlists for little or no advances against royalties, with no firm schedule for publication, with no distribution deals in place, and with little or no expertise in how to actually create an ebook. And yet, writers who have complained for eons about how badly they are used and abused by publishers, are turning around and selling off these assets for a pittance.” So Michael Stackpole educates us. […]

  13. Digital Rights Contracts « My Writing Archive - 13. Mar, 2011

    […] rights to a publisher. However, Michael A Stackpole has something to say about it in his post 9 Must-have Clauses for Digital Rights Contracts and I found his comments […]

  14. Ebooks: How Many Are We Really Selling? | Stormwolf.com - 13. Apr, 2011

    […] & Noble, and any other site that makes a reasonable offer. In one post here, I even lined-out the Nine clauses I felt every ebook contract should […]