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.