Thursday, March 3, 2011


This is the 2nd of 4 posts leading to our conversation about e-book pricing. How does territory influence price? Because territory defines your potential audience/market, and you need to know your market - its size, where it is, and what’s involved in reaching it - in order to position and price your product.
Last week I posted my guiding principle for genre fiction business decisions: “I am a storyteller. For me, audience is everything. To gain audience, I need distribution. To grow audience I need increasing distribution.”
The distribution and access to a truly global market that e-books offers is, to me, the single most exciting aspect of the digital sphere.
To properly understand my excitement, you have to get your head around this fact: For every 1 English-language (EL-) book reader within the US, there are between 2 - 6 EL-book readers outside the US.
Translating that to numbers (guestimate round numbers to illustrate): If there are 100 million potential EL-book readers in the US, then there’s 300 - 700 million potential readers for your EL-books globally.
That’s a very attractive extension of market, of potential audience. Yes, the uptake of e-readers is slower outside the US, but it’s not neglible and eventually, with the ultimate demise of off-set print runs of genre fiction EL-p-books (unknown years from now), e-books + POD will be the globably accepted norm for genre fiction.
In Queen Victoria’s time, the sun never set on the British Empire.
We can now translate that to: the sun never sets on our audience. At any minute in the 24 hours, someone somewhere could be downloading your book.
In terms of audience, to me this is nirvana.
For self-published e-book authors: you are sitting pretty. Assuming you’ve ticked the right boxes in uploading, then your books published via Kindle will be available to readers globally. Note: prices vary over the 10 Kindle territory stores, and are apparently set by Amazon outside the US (based on some convoluted algorithm that no one else seems to know, but presumably to cover different internet distribution costs?).
For the traditionally published, if neither you nor your principal publisher (US, UK or wherever) have sublicenced your works for print editions in any other EL-territory, then you, too, should have the respective e-books up in all the 10 Kindle territory stores, uploaded either by your principal publisher (if they hold World EL-rights), or by you if you have retained the other EL-territory rights.
For traditionally published authors whose works *are* sublicenced to other EL-territories for print editions, life is significantly more complicated, because EL-publishers globally have tied EL-e-rights to EL-p-rights on an EL-territory basis. Example: If your US publisher has sublicenced your work to a UK publisher for a print edition, then the UK publisher also claims the e-right in the UK (and possibly elsewhere).
I have never been a fan of territorial e-rights. The internet is a global market, not one bound by artifical “virtual” borders. That said, I can understand the traditional publishers’ reasons, which can be summed up as “protecting their existing print businesses.” 
Because of EL-territorial restrictions, a US-traditionally published author who wants a print deal in the UK has to allow the UK publisher to have the e-rights in that territory. As a result, US-trad-pubbed authors with UK print editions lose $ on their UK e-books, and so do their US publishers, although the US publishers will make up the loss by conversely sublicencing the US editions of UK authors’ works from UK publishers. 
You can swap any other EL-territory for US or UK above, and that statement holds true.
The only reason any traditionally published author accepts this situation is because of the exercise of the linked p-book rights in, for example, the UK, and weighing the benefits of that against the loss in e-books. Remember the “pragmatic hat” I mentioned last week?
To illustrate from my own situation, as well as my US editions (p- and e-), I am published in 2 separate EL-editions, one in the UK, and one in Australia/NZ. This was and will continue to be a *good thing* while the major format in those territories remains print, which it will for many years yet. I have gained and continue to gain exposure and readership I wouldn’t otherwise. Definitely. On balance, I do not - could not possibly - regret that my US publisher made those deals.
Of course, once print is no longer the dominant format, my attitude will change. That, however, may not happen for more than a decade.
In addition to the loss of $, the author with EL-e-rights exercised by different publishers in various territories also has to contend with a range of associated headaches.
For example, currently each of my EL e-books (30+) are uploaded 3 times, by 3 different publishers, to Kindle alone, covering the 10 Kindle territory stores (same book, 3 uploads from different sources, spread over the 10 stores - sometimes there can be uploads from different publishers to the same store). Multiply that over all the different platforms, and the chance of someone slipping up or some technical glitch sneaking in increases dramatically. It is therefore necessary to check, and keep checking, to ensure books are put up in a timely manner in each territory and on each platform, and harass where necessary, and keep checking routinely to make sure they stay up. Who has time for this?
In terms of getting books in front of our e-audience, territorial exercise of e-rights has to be the most inefficient system anyone could possibly have devised.
The catch of course is that in terms of getting print books in front of our global EL-audience, the only way is via territorial EL-publishers. And print is still by far the biggest market in any EL-territory.
IMO, what we need with e-books is what I have heard the Spanish publishers are (wisely) claiming - global language rights. They will publish e-books in Spanish globally.
With global language e-rights: for every e-book published, traditionally or self-published, there would be a global right available for licencing in every language. You wouldn’t sell a French-Canadian right and a French-France/Belguim right. You’d sell one global French-e-right, and that publisher would be able to distribute globally, servicing French-language readers wherever they happen to reside on the planet. 
Aside from improvement in $ and transparency in accounting, the efficiencies for authors and agents are staggering. For each language, you and your agent have only one publisher and translated edition to deal with.
Self-publishing authors can move most quickly into dealing in global-language e-rights (unless you also want trad-p-book deals in specific territories).
My prediction: once print is no longer the dominant format in the UK (the 2nd biggest established EL-territory after the US), there will be no place for territorial e-rights with new works. 
Ultimately, we will end with global language e-rights, each exercised by one publisher globally - to the immense relief of authors, agents, and readers everywhere.
That said, until the market in the UK tips, trad-published authors with UK print deals will have to bear with the inefficiencies and frustrations of selling e-books by territory.
For the traditionally published: Are your e-rights being exercised as global-EL, or have they been carved up into territories? If the former, are you happy with the outcome? If the latter, do your views/experiences differ from mine?
For self-published authors: Are any of you already moving on licencing other language rights as global rights? If so, how are you finding the experience? Also, what are your feelings about the prices Amazon puts on your books in the other 9 Kindle stores - or can you specify the price in those Amazon-defined “territories”?
Two more posts to go before we focus on pricing.
Topic of next blog post: will be posted in comments below on Sunday.
Next blog post: will be posted next Friday
CAVEAT: Nothing posted on this blog, or in its comments, should involve commercially sensitive information. Contracted authors please exercise due diligence in your comments.
All blog posts by the author should be viewed as opinion and postulation. I can guarantee my opinions will alter to reflect changing facts.


  1. Stephanie wrote:
    > Of course, once print is no longer the dominant format,
    > my attitude will change. That, however, may not happen
    > for more than a decade.

    Was the "more than a decade" meant globally? If so, I agree. But FWIW, I suspect print will lose dominance in the U.S. in only 3-5 years--if it even takes that long.

  2. @ Cate - I thought as you did, until I saw the figures in my next post. Now...I'm not so sure.

    More next Friday.

  3. Next week's topic, up on Friday:


    This post will examine the data, as distinct from the hype, on how and where the US audience buys genre fiction books.

  4. I think global languagte e-rights only makes sense. I've never been a fan of territorial restrictions, although they certainly made sense in a strictly bricks and mortar world.

  5. I read an article today in which a spokesperson for Mills & Boone stated that e-book sales have surpassed their paperback sales. I was stunned!

  6. @ Amanda - it's really hard to know how to interpret that. If it was M&B specifically (not Harlequin), then that's likely the category lines only, not MIRA or their other single title business, and presumably only sales in the UK, and their presence in physical stores there has been dwindling for decades. If it was M&B sales in the UK, then that's perhaps not surprising. Do you have a link?

  7. As a reader, geographical restrictions on ebooks are the single most frustrating thing EVER. As an example, I really wanted to read Loretta Chase's Last Night's Scandal when it came out last summer. I am in the UK. I could buy the print book either from and pay international postage; or even from and get it delivered free. The one thing I was not allowed to do was buy the ebook. It's as if publishers don't think my money is good enough. By actively putting barriers between readers and their books, all they are doing is reducing sales and increasing piracy. I did not download an illegal copy but the temptation to do so when you are forbidden from purchasing a legal one is extremely high.