Monday, April 20, 2009

We're Thinking of Starting Our Own Writer's Strike...

To begin my rant... last week I was in a music CD store where they sell used CDs. The clerk told me that they pay a royalty to the artist for the secondary market merchandise. Finding this unbelievable, I called around to other second hand intellectual property merchants and I couldn't find another one who does this. I even doubt that the first one was telling the truth, but who knows.

Actors, as well as the writers who write for them, get royalties every time their ad is shown, or their tv program is broadcast, or their video is sold...this may bring to mind the writer's strike of 2007-2008, in which the Writer's Guild of America went on strike against major production companies to demand an increase in royalties from DVD and online downloads. Eventually they came to an agreement siding with the writers.

With this in mind, why doesn't an author get a portion of their secondary sales? Why does the bookstore get rewarded with a full refund for damaged, mistreated, mispackaged, over-ordered books?

Bookstores "display" rather than "stock" books in their stores (on consignment); thus meaning bookstores are allowed to make irresponsible buys or damage the merchandise with no repercussions (they can return overstock for full credit virtually forever). Bookstores get the largest percentage of the final take on a book sale no matter how it is published (traditional versus independent) -- 40% of the retail price. If they paid for merchandise they damaged, it wouldn't be so bad, but they don't.

And these bookstores that take trade-ins or buy backs -- wouldn't you think that on the second hand books they take in, (which I BET they return to publishers as damages on occasion), they would need to pay a royalty?

It's tough enough to be a small publisher, with all of that, but then have to deal with the wholesalers that require publishers to have an open return policy no matter who damages the books or how many they over-order.(Wholesaler takes 55% [and publisher pays shipping], wholesaler then sells to a bookstore at a 40% discount.) If you do the math here, you'll easily see that the big loser is the one who spent a large part of their life writing the property that is being juggled among the profit takers.

If the printed book is to survive, it should be a booklover's mission to make sure that the publishers and authors who create the masterpieces get paid their fair share -- just like actors do when some broadcast medium shows a movie or tv program (or ad) that includes them in it or a musician when they play a song on the radio.

Publishers and authors who foot the real bills in publishing could use some industry changes. Sooner rather than later.

End of rant, but frustration continues...

Lisa Pelto, President
Concierge Marketing
and Publishing Services

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