[Politech] Fiction author replies to Politech in defense of reasonable copyright terms [ip]

From: Declan McCullagh (declan@private)
Date: Wed Oct 12 2005 - 14:30:43 PDT

You can see some of Carolyn Jewel's books here (an Amazon.com link):

Previous Politech message:


-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: [Politech] Write a letter to the editor of the 
International Herald Tribune on copyright? [ip]
Date: Wed, 12 Oct 2005 07:51:21 -0700 (PDT)
From: F. Parsons <faeparsons@private>
To: Declan McCullagh <declan@private>

  They were,
> essentially, to abolish 70 year copyright for
> cultural works and replace 
> it with a 1 year usufruct right.

Oh, for crying out loud. I am the author of (so far) 5
works of fiction, so I have some strong feelings about
copyright (and Google Print). Typically, it takes
YEARS to build a readership that will offer an author
the ability to consider quitting the day job. Why?
Because, absent some notoriety or sales phenom a la JK
Rowling, authors need a backlist of titles in print
and earning royalties so there's money coming in while
he/she is writing the next book.This is most certainly
not a trivial accomplishment. Most authors who earn a
living from their fiction (and they are the exception)
survive on royalties from their backlist. not the
advance money for books not yet published.

Many, if not all,publishers survive on profits from
backlist titles. They aren't surviving because of
sales  of new books. This scheme would allow
publishers to continue profiting from backlist titles
while completely cutting out the author.In fact, this
is nothing new. Back in the 1800's, authors had little
choice but to sell the copyright outright for a one
time fee (for today's equivalent of the mass market
work of fiction, typically about five pounds, very
roughly, about $500 US today.) If a book proved
popular and/or continued selling for years, too bad
for the author. He or she never saw another penny. The
royalty arrangement in which copyright is retained by
the author came about because this structure was
inherently detrimental to the author.

As an author, here's what I imagine if publishers
didn't have to pay royalties to authors after one
year.Teeny-tiny print runs with little or no
publication and worse distribution.  The author's
sell-through sinks to career-killing levels. Twelve
months later, put the book into distribution and
voila. Pure profit for the publisher and an author
with no hope of ever making a living and little
incentive to write more books.

There seems to be some notion that authors write a
book and sit back and watch the money roll in.
Sorry.The average advance on royalties is about $6,000
and dropping fast.Even if you're writing 2 books a
year (pretty hard if you're working full time at a day
job as most fiction authors do) can you live on
$12,000 a year?

The benefits of retaining copyright are what allows
authors to maybe, someday, make a living doing what we

Carolyn Jewel
Politech mailing list
Archived at http://www.politechbot.com/
Moderated by Declan McCullagh (http://www.mccullagh.org/)

This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.3 : Wed Oct 12 2005 - 15:05:53 PDT