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January 20th, 2010:

Authors Get 70% Royalty from Kindle Sales

Wow. This is big: Amazon just opened up an option for Kindle author/publishers under which royalty rates are 70%. (Some analysis here; ignore Jeff Bezos’ open mouth.) We’re now closing in on the sort of royalty structure that reflects the realities of ebook economics: No paper, no ink, no physical warehousing. (Server space is way cheaper than maintaining pallet loads of print books out in meatspace somewhere. Trust me on that one!)

To qualfy for the new royalty rate, author/publishers (funny how the two are now blurring together!) must satisfy a few requirements:

  • Ebooks must list for between $2.99 and $9.99
  • The ebook list price must be at least 20% below the cover price for the printed book.
  • The ebook is made available everywhere that the author/publisher has rights.
  • Author/publishers must agree to accept the full list of Kindle features–current and to come–without quibbles, pointedly including text-to-speech.
  • Although Kindle won’t demand an exclusive, an ebook’s price at the Kindle store must be at or below the price at other ebook retailers from which the ebook is available.
  • The 70% rate applies to in-copyright works only. Reprints of public domain material do not qualify.

It’s no secret what’s going on here: Apple’s not-quite-top-secret tablet is really a game-changer ebook reader, and having seen how Apple basically created and still rules the market for individual music tracks, Amazon wants to make sure it retains its hard-won early lead in ebook retailing. This is certainly the reasoning behind Point #4, which basically prevents author/publishers from cutting sweeter deals with other ebook stores like Nook and whatever retail mechanism Apple eventually puts together.

If I hadn’t had to update my assembly book, my SF titles would be available for the Kindle by now, and this makes the effort all the more urgent. Looks like I have a lot to do this year–and maybe now I can expect a little more money in the bargain.