Wednesday, February 17, 2010

E-Publishing, an online interview with Rob Rosenwald of Poisoned Pen Press

Last week, the tussle between Amazon, Apple, and the six New York publishers was hot news. It seems now, seven days later, unless I’ve missed something, the temperature has dropped. I’m certain, though, that it’s just brewing below the surface.

I thought it would be interesting to ask a publisher what his/her take on the situation was, so I contacted my own publisher, Robert Rosenwald of Poisoned Pen Press. He kindly emailed back with answers to my questions. Here they are, and I’ll quote his first sentence: “All my answers are strictly based upon PPP and do not reflect what other publishers do. And my prognostications are strictly mine and not the word of the Delphic Oracle.”

Not the Delphic Oracle? Drat. My next questions were going to be about the stock market.

How are publishers paid? We usually get direct deposit though some still send checks.

How do you see this changing? It will all be via direct deposit.

How are authors paid? Every ebook has a royalty record, just like the print books do. We have a single royalty record for ebooks and all digital sales, regardless of whether it be or Sony or B&N or any other, get accounted for in that record. When it is time to pay royalties that record will print out along with the other royalty records and a check will be generated.

How do you keep track of the books sold (for example, people TELL me they're downloading my book to Kindle). How do you keep track of this and are there ways of checking the numbers? Each ebook vendor has a website where we interface with the vendor. At the website are reports. When we receive a payment it covers a specific time period and we go to the website and get the sales report that matches that time period. We then pull those data into our accounting software in order to reconcile the sales to the receipt. One of the data we keep track of is number of units sold, the other is the net amount we receive.

What are your big concerns right now? Finding enough time to keep up with the data that needs to be dealt with and the enormous volume of email questions that it all generates.

Where do you think the industry will go? In three generations 99% of all books will be digital. In two generations 60% of all books will be digital. In one generation 25% of all books will be digital. The longest holdouts will be photographic books and coffee table books. It will probably take two generations before the quality of a digitally rendered photograph and a device convenient and inexpensive enough to display it will be generally available. We'll see trade fiction be 90% digital in less than 50 years.

What will happen to Digital Rights Management? Hopefully it will go away. It's a waste of time and an annoyance and is too easily defeated to be a deterrent to anything other than legitimate usage.

Am I even asking the right questions? No idea.

Thanks, Rob, for sharing your knowledge, especially considering the enormous volume of data and correspondence you have to plow through.


Ann Elle Altman said...

Thank you for asking a lot of my questions.


Rick Blechta said...

A very interesting blog entry. Thanks to both you (for thinking of it) and Robert (for taking the time).

The one thing that really troubles me is that we're all going to be more beholden to the resellers honesty, and I hate to say it, but I am pretty skeptical that this is a good position to be in.

With paper books, you can verify easily how many were sold. With e-book sales, you only have the reseller's records to go by. I know computers pretty well and it would be a snap to have your software accounting only register every other book sold, for instance.

What can we do, though, but rely on others' honesty?

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