News & Reviews
Publishing brawl Round 2 -- The Wylie Agency dishes Mailer,
Nabokov eBooks with Amazon
By BPM Smith
The Wylie Agency
announced that it is launching a new eBook division
Odyssey Editions in an exclusive deal with Amazon that allows it to
sell a bunch of old school novels via Kindle. Naturally, it resulted in
yet another brawl between Big Publishing and Amazon with a twist --
Amazon has a major literary agency with some 700 clients on its side.
Some titles on
the backlist: Vladimir Nabokov's
"Lolita," Saul Bellow's "The
Adventures of Augie March," Philip
Roth's "Portnoy's Complaint," Ralph
Ellison's "Invisible Man" and Norman
Mailer's "The Naked and the Dead."
First reaction: Sweet, these are some phat novels we could not read
electronically until now. Bring on my favorites like Louis Ferdinand
Celine, Jorge Luis Borge, Charles Bukowski,
Ernest Hemingway and William
S. Burroughs. Classic authors re-launched in a contemporary
the masters get introduced to young readers who embrace technology more
than old books.
Second reaction: Punch-out with brick and mortar pubs to begin in
Bam! Random House
threw a right cross at The Wylie Agency saying they will no longer deal
with them "until this situation is resolved." Boom! Macmillan’s
CEO countered with a left hook FU note on their website.
Does The Wylie Agency care? Founder Andrew Wylie
said, "I’m going to think about it a little bit." I doubt he
is stressing much over this. He’ll just take business elsewhere. If
several major pubs do the same then we can ring the bell for another
round in the ongoing fight matching Big Publishing
Other agents could eventually jump into the ring, resulting in a true
Battle Royale. Wouldn’t surprise me to see that because literary agents
have been grumbling about the slim eBook royalty rates that publishers
give authors for years.
What if agents decided to cut out traditional pubs and bring their
authors straight to eBook format? After all, when a big pub pays a 25%
royalty vs. the 75% authors receive when going on their own, does the
math make sense? For big name writers who already have a following?
At the end of the day this is yet another example of an antiquated book
industry unable to figure out new technologies. Mind you, it’s been
years since eBooks came along and they still haven’t figured out WTF to
do about it because the industry moves like a slug on salt. The
original contracts with these backlist authors didn't even consider
future technologies, so they're not covered in any lawsuits per se.
My bet: Either Wylie backs off or the courts will eventually decide,
when we’ll cue up Michael Buffer announcing: "In the red corner, The
Wylie Agency!... in the blue corner, Big Publishing!" If so, the
WORD’N’BASS odds will open at even money. After a long give and take
fight this bout could result in a KO loss for Big Publishing.
WORD’N’BASS.com Editor BPM Smith
is a Drum & Bass DJ, deputy editor for a global financial news
wire, and author of the "gritty and engaging" novel "Bistro de Mars,"
which is currently seeking agency representation. E-mail queries,
gossip or shout-outs to editor (at) wordnbass (dot) com.
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