Virtual Publisher thoughts

For about two weeks now, ever since I stumbled into the whole indi publishing bit, I’ve been considering running a business. I’ve got it on scraps of paper, so let me toss it out here for comments.

Semi-indie publisher. Electronic and POD publishing.

80/20 split of gross: I get 20%, the author gets 80%. Yes, that’s wildly different from “normal” publishing, and how am I going to cover my costs? Well, follow along.

If I accept, my total responsibilities for that 20% are copy-editing, cover selection, formatting, and getting it into the international (english speaking) electronic and print market. Marketing will be of my publishing house, not of your work specifically.

Oh, yes, an important digression. I do not now own the copyright. What I’m getting is an exclusive license to sell the item. It will be good for two years, with option to renew on mutual agreement.

But what about the other stuff a ‘real’ publisher offers? What about ‘real’ editing? What about marketing MY book? What about translating it for various international markets? (etc., etc.)

Simple: you’re going to pay for it. Not blindly, however.

I tell you the cost of that activity; a flat fee in almost all cases. If you agree you pay for it out of your royalties; I take 30% (leaving you with 50%) till the activity is paid. You have the option of paying off early. If my license to publish your work expires you owe the remainder within 60 days.

The “almost” is one thing: cover art. There are three general possibilities: I’m solely responsible, you’re solely responsible, or we share responsibility. If I have any responsibility, whole or partial, I intend to get art for hire for which the artist will get 5% of the gross. If I have whole responsibility it all comes from my share. If we share responsibility it all comes from your share. If you’re providing the art you pay for it, whether by flat fee or share is up to you. With a caveat: I insist on a document that says you have permission to use the art, that it’s not stolen or derivative.

What would I accept? shorts, longs, and everything in between. A place for and reason to finish alll those stray almost-finished NaNoWriMo (but not registered to them) novels.

Shorts will be electronic-only unless they go into anthology/compilations. I will ask permission before doing that; I consider it a ‘derivative’ action requiring another contract. If it goes into anthology each story gets an equal share of the 80%. Each story’s author is responsible for ‘extra’ costs to which he agrees – and if he doesn’t agree he doesn’t get the benefit. Oh, one exception to the equal bit. If I use an anchoring novella and a set of shorts, the novella author gets multiple shares.

There’s also another book I want to start publishing in this concept; art books. It’s a bit different, but I think it would work. Essentially, I put out a call for submissions of art-work, probably in relation to a particular subject. At the deadline I take the best x and make a contract. I get license to use of the selected items for my book. I get the image (in very-high quality), the title-creator-comment, and a brief artist bio. I take 20% of gross revenues, the artists split the 80% just as for story on a per-image basis. The cover art would be one of the pictures, voted upon by the artists in some fashion, and would count as one more image for the split. (In other words, the “best” picture as selected by the artists gets the award of one more share.)

Whew, that was long-winded. Bottom line, I think the whole new-pulp industry has the ability to create opportunities for more than just authors.

Pitfalls? The biggest revolve around attorneys. I want an IP attorney to make a good general contract for each of the three types of books: single stories, compilations, and art. I need to have an attorney for the almost-inevitable lawsuit of some sort. It is most likely I’d start as sole proprietor and if it crossed a certain threshold I’d change to LLC.

Oh, speaking of IP. One reason for licensing is that I intend the author and artist to retain responsibility for IP lawsuits. It’s your work and your responsibility; I received it in good faith. If your work is invalid due to IP I WILL pull it, period, to prevent further damages. Existing damages are yours to eat.

Returns. No. Return for exchange due to damages, yes. Return because you don’t want it and want your money back, no. Return for credit, no. Notice that’s going to apply to print only.

For those who’ve read this far, it’s a thought experiment. Yes, I’m considering it. I’m really open for comments. And if, by the way, you think you’d be one of the authors let me know either in comment or email (see over to the left) — it, too, will have an impact.

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