50 /50 Split is Better Than Recording Artists Get! Long Live Authors!
Spotted in the middle of the Random House announcement regarding a new “business model” for digital book content, under which the publisher will sell books to web retailers on a pay-per-view basis, was a promise to split revenues evenly with authors.
Since standard trade contracts generally stipulate a 50-50 split for digital permissions between publishers and authors, Random House will pay trade-book authors two cents each time someone reads a book page, with the retailer paying four cents per page-view. Those pennies could add up very quickly for writers with even a small audience—a 350-page novel would theoretically net its creator $7 each time it is read—and could eventually blur the line between traditional publishing and “self-publishing” if writers elect to bypass publishers altogether, instead selling their books directly online.
The permissions arrangement for e-book viewing represents a dramatic improvement over standard author royalties—which generally top out at 15% for hardcover books, 7.5% for paperbacks. The Random House proposal is also a sweeter deal than is the norm for recording artists, who, according to estimates, generally receive between 10 and 15 cents for every song downloaded through Apple’s iTunes store, which typically retail at 99 cents. By contrast, a 20 page e-book segment, with a suggested retail price of 99 cents, would net the writer 40 cents.