Books publishing first on Kindle
As an agent, I’m starting to get a lot of projects pitched to me that have already been published on Kindle. Do publishers look at that any different than they do being presented a book that is already published by any other method? I was pretty sure I knew the answer to that, but I decided to survey a number of editors to see for sure. I phrased my question to not lead the answer in any manner.
I simply asked, “May I bother you with a question? I’m starting to get a number of people pitching projects to me that have already been e-published on Kindle. How does that affect you looking at a print project for the same manuscript? I’m surveying a few editors on it looking to frame a response. Hopefully this presents the question in such a way as not to lead the answer in any manner.”
I got about the response that I was expecting. I wondered if a Kindle version would be considered the same as any self-published book and the answer appears to be that it is.
For your information the responses are breaking down like this:
7% say it would not matter to them either way.
20% say they would consider a self-pubbed or Kindle but the odds would be against them.
57% said they would not buy one that had been self-pubbed or e-pubbed or would have to have the e-rights in the contract which most agree Amazon are not going to give up in most cases once they have a book on Kindle so for all practical purposes that is a no.
Finally, 17% said they would consider it but only if significant sales numbers could be demonstrated.
Over 300 editors in both the mainstream and Christian market participated in the survey. Many thanked me for raising the question and wanted to see the results which I did send back to them. A few said it was a developing issue and a problem they were wrestling with.
Some individual responses that interested me included:
“This sparked an interesting discussion. Basically, we’d view a Kindle edition as a self published version. For now, it’s going to be harder to benchmark what makes a successful Kindle sales number. And if we were to take a book that had been pubbed on Kindle (and its ebook kin), we’d expect electronic rights to be part of the package that we’d be buying, so previous ebook editions would have to go away prior to our publication.”
“An interesting new development ... our current stance on that is we won’t look at a manuscript previously published, whether it is self-published, ebook, or with a foreign publisher.”
“We use Kindle and Nook editions in a huge way, both in promotions and sales. To have a competing (and unedited) edition out there would create problems, especially since Amazon will not remove a book from their site once it’s been published.”
“An interesting question, Terry. And thorny. We won’t publish a book without acquiring electronic rights, so I’d recommend pulling the book from any sites before submitting it. Like any self-pubbed work, we’d want to know how widely it’d be distributed. So we would want to know how many downloads, it’d received.”
“I think it would be a strike against it. Not necessarily a death blow. If the proposal were to show, for instance, very strong Kindle sales and if the proposal included perhaps a follow-up book not yet published on Kindle, that might help overcome the strike against it. I think with every proposal that has something about it that might possibly bring a no vote from the committee, the author needs to offer something that counters that one strike. If he or she does so successfully, it might still work.”
“Generally we are not interested in taking on anyone that has already put their books online. One of the reasons is that in order to present that book to buyers of the major chains, our distributor has to present it at least six months before the book’s release. Those authors that are so anxious to release their books online don’t realize they are, “shooting themselves in the foot,” so to speak because once that book is released, it becomes a backlisted book and the buyers don’t want anything to do with it.”
“If sales are strong, that could help. It could also help that the author may now have a sense of what it takes to publish a book. On the other hand, previously published can be difficult to pick up. Depends on the project. Thanks for asking!”
“In most cases I wouldn’t buy the book, but in some cases I’d buy it and subtract the reasonable ebook revenue percentage of overall sales from my offer.”
“Since we don’t contract for print rights only, if a title is already published in any format, it usually precludes us from contracting at all. We do take some reprints (contracting both print and electronic rights), but usually from established authors who already have a readership and on titles that we feel will do well regardless of the fact that they have been previously released.”
“It probably wouldn’t affect the way I evaluate a manuscript much. It probably doesn’t hurt, but it doesn’t really help, unless it was clear the Kindle version had become a runaway success. If we decided to pursue the project, we’d request that the self-published version be pulled off Kindle so that it could be replaced with the final version.”
“My answer would be no, not interested unless the author/circumstances were really unusual. It would really confuse the publishing process if there was a previous Kindle edition out there while we were trying to market our own Kindle version and other e-books. Knowing Amazon, it probably isn’t easy to withdraw a title from sale either, so requesting that the previous Kindle edition not be sold would be complicated as well.”
“For us it would not necessarily be a barrier. Strong Kindle sales might indicate a market based on strong word of mouth. For us it would depend on the author and the platform the author brings. It would have to be exceptional to rise from the e-slush pile, however, if it had only so-so sales on Kindle.”
“Fair question, Terry. The sticking point would be the e-rights—we pretty much aren’t doing deals these days unless we can have e-book rights. There are, of course, ways around this, just as there are if an author has self-pubbed a book. But we would have to really, really want to acquire a book to go thru the contractual hoops needed. I’m not sure all of the authors who are happily e-pubbing with Amazon realize that they are perhaps cutting themselves off from the possibility of “mainstream publishing.”“
“This is a good question and one that I’ve been thinking about for a few years, first with respect to self-pubbed books and more recently e-pubbed books. My short answer is that for review purposes, I view these as reprints more than original, unpublished manuscripts. Although they probably haven’t saturated their respective markets, they have already had a presence in the marketplace which may have an impact on our ability to create a “new” book.”
These opinions and discussion are helping us frame responses to incoming submissions and have a lot to do with the way we approach the handling of e-book rights in contracts. But I believe it is still an evolving issue and surely bears watching.