Yes, it’s another attempt to re-invent book publishing. A fine thing. Experimenting is good. Many things about this industry seem irrational; then again, many of those seeming irrationalities turn out, on examination, to be adaptations to intractable conditions, and thus not so irrational after all. Still, times change, technology changes, public desire changes, and it’s good to try new stuff. Brave new initiative? Evil power grab? Depends. Don’t know.
Mr. Miller, who was most recently president of Hyperion, said he hoped to offer authors a 50-50 split of profits. Typically, authors earn royalties of 15 percent of profits after they have paid off their advances. Many authors never earn royalties.Actually, as any 23-year-old editorial assistant could have told the New York Times, hardcover authors typically earn royalties of 15 percent of the list price of sold copies. Profits have nothing to do with it; the authors get the royalties whether or not the publisher made any profit at all. The claim that “many authors never earn royalties” is likewise a bit off; the author’s “advance” is in fact an advance payment of the royalties that the publisher expects the book will earn, usually in its first year of publication. But that’s a minor and defensible error, nothing compared to the eye-poppingly ignorant claim that authors are paid based on a percentage of profit.
It’s a shame that the New York Times has such limited resources that it can’t afford to hire reporters or fact-checkers who know anything about trade book publishing, an industry whose largest companies are, of course, headquartered in Tibet, Antarctica, and on the far side of the moon, thousands and thousands of miles from the 43rd Street headquarters of the New York Times.
(Thanks to Constance Ash for noticing this.)