Amazon speaking to UK agents over e-book rights
05.03.10 | Benedicte Page
UK literary agents and authors have been approached directly to sell e-book rights to Amazon as it builds its Kindle e-book arsenal ahead of the UK launch of the iPad. US e-book publishers including Rosetta Books are also approaching UK agents and authors to buy backlist e-book rights, with Rosetta favouring an exclusive Amazon deal as part of the package.
Meanwhile, Amazon is pressing UK publishers for more e-book availability, which is still limited in many cases by ongoing disputes with agents over royalty rates.
“Amazon is not happy with the launch of iPad and relationships with publishers are getting more aggressive,” said a leading London agent. “They [Amazon] just want content, but publishers and agents are still battling over what these terms mean. It doesn’t make sense to have a blanket e-book royalty rate of 25% of net receipts, especially with a backlist title which has simply been digitised.”
Publishers have “missed a trick” by making authors anxious, he said. “The whole debate over Google has intensified the feeling among authors that they are being conned. It is shaping up to be a stand-off.”
Kindle content acquisition manager Justin Renard is one of those approaching UK agents to investigate e-book availability. Renard’s profile on the LinkedIn website says he works “closely with literary agents and bestselling authors to increase selection on the Kindle store at Amazon.com”.
A second UK agent said the approaches were being made by Amazon department Kindle Evangelist. “The way they represent themselves is, ‘We are following this big author, he/she is not available in e-book form, why not, can I do anything to expedite that?’ You may say ‘E-book rights have gone to Random House’, in which case they’ll accept that. But if you say ‘No deal has been done’, they might try to be more proactive—engineer a way to encourage the marriage [with the publisher], or even look to acquire the rights themselves.”
Rosetta Books c.e.o. Arthur Klebanoff said he was “talking to a range of British agents” although he currently had no new signings to report. “We are an independent company, we distribute our e-books through all major e-tailers, and periodically we explore with Kindle the possibility of trading a promotion for a brief exclusive launch window,” he said.
However, Derek Johns of A P Watt said: “To limit yourself to Amazon and Kindle would be crazy.”