Update on UBC Press royalties/e-book

I had a very pleasant chat with the Assistant Director/Editor for UBC Press this a.m. about the e-book issue. For those of you not in the loop, I have a non-fiction book, Lament for a First Nation, and discovered on my  last royalty statement that UBC Press had published it as an e-book without my knowing. E-books were not covered in my contract. Adding insult to injury, they paid 1% royalties to me.

She apologized profusely — apparently the 1% royalty was a mistake (it should have been 10%) and while an addendum to the contract specifying e-books had been sent to authors in June for their review and signature, I didn’t receive it because UBC had sent it to the wrong address. (I’ve had the same address for 20 years but somehow, it had been changed on UBC’s system). Despite not having a signed contract, the publication went ahead and e-books were sold.

Good thing this press isn’t running NASA; that’s quite a string of errors.

But they do happen, and often in this kind of cluster formation, so the apology is accepted and now the question is what to do next.

UBC Press is trying to set 10% royalties as the industry standard for an academic press. I think it’s a little low, when there are no distribution costs involved (and particularly when they got the first 500 hard cover books royalty-free under their standard contract).

Once I decide what to do, UBC Press’s accounting department will either send me the adjusted royalties or the entire amount they’ve collected, since they’ve published the book without permission. I’ve told them they can go ahead and keep the book on-line for now while I mull over what to do.

That said, I’d have to think about whether I want to take on the hassle of doing an e-book myself.  I only have my original manuscript, not the edited version, as back in 2006, we were still using hard copies for everything, including galleys/proofs. (I do sound like a geezer, don’t I?) That means it would have to be revised and I’m pretty tired of revisions. On the other hand, I really like the idea of keeping the e-book rights and almost any e-book publication that I handle myself will pay me a considerably higher royalty than 10%.

Anyway, she’s going to send me the contractual addendum which I’ll look at it, and I’ve asked her to let me know of any other issues that might exist under the contract should I exercise the e-book rights myself. Obviously, if I do an e-book and price it low, that would undermine the hard cover/paperback sales, so I want to be fair to UBC Press  if I go forward on my own.

I’ll take some time to make an informed decision but I’m glad to find out it was a mistake rather than indifference, if that makes sense. And, as always, an apology goes a long way.

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5 Responses to Update on UBC Press royalties/e-book

  1. Wow, that is definitely a “cluster.” Good thing you were on the ball and had a good look at that statement.


    • Peggy Blair says:

      Thanks. But that seems to be how stuff happens, isn’t it? That said, I’m always impressed when people are willing to step up to the plate and say they’re sorry. I had a nice email after our chat, thanking me for my patience in sorting this out. I think most of us will forgive almost anything if the people we’re dealing with are willing to acknowledge their mistakes and are eager to fix them (something I tried to train negotiators to do, not always successfully, over the years).


  2. Simon says:

    10% is very low, seems to me. But I also get the, “Oh no more revisions…” (boy do I ever get that), and the desire to move on to something else. Given that the rights are yours, you may consider “shopping it” around a little – see if there’s anyone who wants to handle that last edit and publish for you; with, hopefully, better terms.
    Anyway, I know you’ll make the smart decision and what’s right for you 🙂


    • Peggy Blair says:

      I may just keep the e-book rights and leave the heavy lifting for later. The contract has no reversion of rights, so if I give them up, they are gone forever. Maybe self-pubbing will be come easier as e-books take over the market. I’ll keep you posted!


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