«A Report Prepared for the Association of Canadian Publishers By Diane Davy President Castledale Inc. Association of Canadian Publishers 174 Spadina ...»
One of the senior rights people interviewed cautioned that this should be done judiciously as it can kill first serial rights. However, another said that the sales of first serial rights were rare and really only applied to known fiction authors or topical, high profile non-fiction.
Standards will continue to evolve in this area as publishers, creators and agents feel their way and as the opportunities and pitfalls become more
apparent. It was evident, during a professional development day hosted by the ACP, that publishers very much want to do the right thing for their creators but also realize that they need to be able to exploit new sources of revenue in order to survive in an industry where margins have declined.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OPTIONS:
• Once a year contract review seminar.
• Seminar, possible in partnership with Access, that explores the evolving electronic marketplace with speakers representing creators, publishers and other industries.
• Add ‘contract mentors’ to the mentorship program. This would allow publishers to access a lawyer specializing in the industry for an individual review of their creator contracts.
NB: The consultant recently talked to a lawyer working in the field, who suggested the following. The ACP could commission the development of a pro forma ‘template’ contract that could be posted on the ACP website for input by the community at large. This concept, coupled with the mentorship program, would provide publishers with the best of collective industry and company specific advice.
Ownership of Digital Copies:
Task Force Q: Should Canadian publishers own digital copies of their complete lists?
The short answer is yes, whenever possible. The general ‘best business practice’ that is emerging for publishers is to digitize and own their own backlist digital files in order to maintain the fullest degree of control over subsequent sale or licensing of rights, and to ensure that the digitized content is of high quality.
Google and other electronic aggregators/distributors, who offer to digitize publishers’ lists for free, generally do not provide the publishers with a copy of the electronic file. Additionally, companies that are doing mass digitization of collections are often producing low quality digital copies.
However, with limited time and people resources, many publishers find the whole process intimidating and not a current priority.
Possible solutions may be to act collectively or to partner with existing organizations. This will be discussed in greater detail later in the report.
Task Force Q: How will publishers contact authors or estates of authors of pre-digital books in order to purchase or clarify electronic rights? Should Access Copyright and Copibec assist in this process or should publishers do this work themselves?
Several publishers interviewed have addressed this issue. The publisher of a major university press has been successful in getting sign-on by all but a small fraction of a large backlist. He works with many of the electronic asset distributors (from NetLibrary to Google) and needed consent to enable him to do so. The press sent mailings to backlist authors, with consent forms. There were only a few queries or rejections. He cites the example of one professor/author who was wary of having his work on NetLibrary for fear of piracy but, after the publisher urged him to try the system himself, he came back satisfied that his rights were protected and signed up.
In another example a children’s publisher wanted to test a prototype, on-line, promotional project which offered site visitors the opportunity to download selected pages, organized by theme and age level, from various books. The goal was to encourage sales by allowing customers to sample small portions of books that were no longer heavily promoted elsewhere.
The publisher sent creators a detailed letter outlining what they were doing and what they hoped to achieve. To their surprise there was no negative feedback and, in fact, several authors wondered why their works hadn’t been chosen.
Using these examples as a template, the recommended process would be to handle the acquisition of electronic rights for pre-digital books by developing a clear, concise information piece that explains what you are doing and why, with the emphasis on the potential benefits to the creators (exposure, promotion, sales of hard copies, % of new revenues, etc.). Send it, with a permission/addendum to contract form, to backlist creators. Be prepared to deal personally with inquiries, comments, refusals, etc. Obviously, it would be best if possible to have personal conversations with backlist authors with whom you are working currently.
In instances where a publisher feels that the usage is covered in existing contracts (e.g. promotional use) it may be sufficient to advise creators of what you intend and why.
This is, once again, a time-consuming process for resource-strapped companies that are generally struggling to get through the immediate work at hand. This might also be a good area in which to use internships. Also it may be worth reminding publishers that Access Copyright may be able to help locate authors that publishers have trouble finding.
The world of electronic rights is evolving to be as complicated as all the other rights that publishers deal with. Thus, the answers to the above questions will depend on the specific situation --- and we don’t yet have a full understanding of all that technology will offer.
Currently, most of those dealing in distributing electronic content are doing so on a non-exclusive basis, with the originating publishers retaining ownership.
Thus, a company can place its digital content on-line with Google, Amazon, NetLibrary, Ebrary, etc. or it can allow its ebook content to be sold through eBooks.com, eReader.com, etc.
However, the fluidity and openness of the market at this point may be a function of the extreme competition (Google, Amazon, Yahoo and many others) that is going on as large and small players jockey for position. There is some fear that if any one of the majors (e.g. a Google) becomes too powerful, it will begin dictating terms in the same way that Apple iTunes did in the music field.
WORKFLOWThere is a lot of focus on the possibility of enhancing revenues through the exploitation of digital content, but less on electronically streamlining and automating the publishing processes that will be fundamental to positioning companies to take advantage of all future opportunities in the digital world.
At the recent BookNet Technology Forum, the Adobe representative, Bill McCoy, said that, in his opinion, this was the most important area on which to spend time and resources. Essentially his message was ‘get your house in order now so you can increase efficiency and be prepared to take advantage of new digital opportunities in the future’. This report seconds that recommendation.
Most publishers have done some of the work, generally in the interface between creator/editor/designer/production/printer. There has also been a lot of work done, both by individual publishers and by BookNet, on the supply chain function, from the creation and refinement of standardized bibliographic data, through the order processing interface between retailers and publisher, to the tracking and reporting of sales data.
Several ACP members are working on implementing full or partial service packages with software solutions companies like Acumen (e.g. Kids Can, Anansi, Heritage House), Klopotek (e.g. Lorimer, UofT, UBC) and Anko (Dundurn). Others have developed their own proprietary systems (e.g. UofA) or are working with larger companies who have a track record in the area (e.g. M&S with Random House).
Large, multinationals have an edge in that they have the money and people resources. Their experience can help inform the smaller and mid-sized companies.
Following is an examination of some of the standards that are emerging
across the industry:
Editorial/Production Creators/Editors: Front end dominated by Word (de facto standard) Design Quark is the current standard but may be being overtaken by Adobe InDesign which has been more responsive to customer service and affordable/flexible pricing. However, when a publisher has most of its backlist files in Quark there may not be much of an incentive to change over, particularly as it is not yet a seamless process to migrate Quark into InDesign.
Moreover, when a publisher is selling international rights and supplying digital files to the buyer, the international standard still seems to be Quark and, in fact, often older versions of Quark. One of the children’s publishers interviewed regularly delivers both a Quark file and a PDF as part of any international sale of rights.
This is an area where time will tell and, of course, newer technologies may emerge that renders older ones obsolete.
Mark-up XML is the ‘glue’, the mark-up language that is used to ‘translate’ one software program to another (e.g. Quark to PDF).
Production PDF’s are the defacto standard and most printers are requiring that final files be delivered in PDF. If the file is delivered in Quark or InDesign there is often a supplementary charge to convert that file to PDF. Or alternatively, there is a discount if the PDF file meets the printer’s requirements.
Some printers offer technical and training support to help publishers prepare their files in the best way. For example, Freisens, a wellrespected Canadian printer, offers SmartPrep®, a prepress workflow package that automates the creation of PDF files, ensuring that all files meet Friesens’ specifications. They also offer on-line guidelines for preparing electronic files (see http://www.friesens.com/Bookplant/EPP/PEF.asp).
Transcontinental Printing offers what they call The Digital Workshop (http://www.transcontinentalprinting.com/en/services/default.aspx?idmenu=214). This is a set of online collaborative tools that allow the publisher to conceive, build, manage and monitor print books from concept to distribution.
Taskforce Q: Should publishers be concerned with making backlist works available in Print-On-Demand form? In downloadable e-book form? Both?
Distribution of Digital Files The PDF format is also the basic format for subsequent distribution into the various digital channels from ebooks to Google as well as for Print on Demand. However, various companies have variations on the theme necessitating an added step to convert the basic PDF to whatever the end user (e.g. Amazon, ebooks, POD, etc) needs. Many of the companies working in the field (e.g. Gibson, Lightning Source, etc.) include this conversion/adaptation service in their package of services offered to publishers. Larger publishers with sophisticated internal systems may also have the ability to do so.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OPTIONS
• Short, practical traveling seminar that shows best practices in getting from the creators ms. to the most universally acceptable PDF that can be adapted to other formats. Common problems, solutions, case studies. (NB This could be offered with a follow-up, consultation option that would allow publishers to access experts for a one or two-day session to work with their team in-house.)
• It may be possible to do in partnership with printers. Freisens seem particularly devoted to training its own staff (in cooperation with Red Deer College) and also offers in-plant training opportunity to others. It may be worth approaching them to see it they might partner on a training opportunity.
Print on Demand (POD) Print on demand technology continues to improve and to offer more formats and better quality. It does offer options for short runs but is generally still too expensive on a per unit basis or too limited in the formats offered to work in any substantive way for most trade publishers. Academic presses in particular use POD for reprinting expensive texts that continue to be used for courses but not in great numbers. The technology can also be very appropriate for short run genres like poetry.
BookNet researched the possibilities of ganging up printing from various publishers to achieve better economies of scale. However, the very nature of Print on Demand is to respond quickly to fulfill a specific need rather than to wait until a critical mass of titles accumulates. This coupled with the fact that trade publishers use a wide variety of formats and trim sizes, makes it unlikely that a POD consortium would make sense, other than to take the burden of administration off the shoulders of individual publishers.
However, this is an area where I think future technological advance may ultimately provide huge economic benefits for the industry. If and when short run printing can achieve acceptable unit costs and greater flexibility it can substantively change the economics of the industry, eliminating the waste of over runs and perhaps even putting an end to the entire system of returns.
Automating Internal Operational/Administrative Workflow The operation of a publishing house requires the development and maintenance of many, overlapping systems and functions, from scheduling the book production process through paying royalties to reviewing and analysing sales results.
This basic operational management is an unglamourous side of the business but the side that can make or break a company, regardless of the brilliance of its publishing program.
There have been several major collective initiatives in this broad area, including BookNet’s Supply Chain project and the work done around the investigation and adoption of software solutions like Klopotek and Acumen by a number of publishers.
Discussions with publishers who are implementing these systems indicate that it is a huge investment of time and money at the front end with the payoff to come with increased efficiencies and capacity at the back end.