Robert Miller, president and publisher of HarperStudio, advocates his ideas in the article Re-thinking the Publisher/Author Partnership, as a reaction to M.J. Rose’s editorial Publishers Must Change the Way Authors Get Paid from the previous week.
Miller applauds Rose’s stance in involving authors in the marketing of books, but disagrees with her proposed solution of having authors “paid a higher royalty in exchange for their marketing efforts”. This is because he believes that the author is equally responsible for making full effort in marketing as the publisher, but it is difficult (if possible at all) to translate the “effort” into corresponding share of profit (if there is any). Consequently, the authors and publishers will not find this solution very plausible. With the vision to establish a “sustainable publisher/author relationships”, Miller takes a step further and suggests that publishers and authors be “equal partners” and share profits equally. This possibly tackles the aforementioned issue of calculating effort, and builds up responsibility on both sides.
While Miller’s suggestion of a fifty-fifty share has received some positive feedbacks, I do not see how it can work out so ideally, at least in the short term. One paradox in this proposal of adjusting publisher/author relationship is that most authors have a limited understanding of the publishing business, and it is the publishers who will suffer most financially if the books fail. I do sympathise with the authors who work whole-heartedly on their books, and I agree that they should receive the share that they truly deserve. While the industry certainly needs to rebalance the publisher/author partnership in order to motivate all practitioners, we will probably need to modify the contract case by case when it comes down to doing business.
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