What are My Rights Worth?

How to put a value on rights to your book.

People generally have two major goals in mind when they choose to become a writer-to attain recognition and to generate income. One does not necessarily include the other.

To be an author has long been considered a rather noble profession. While it has been said that practically everyone has a book inside him or herself, it is the author who makes that statement reality, with such finesse and craft as to give that book a marketable value. For some, writing is a means of storytelling, purely for entertainment. For others, it acts as an instrument of persuasion or teaching. Non-fiction books tend to command a higher price, for at their conclusion, it is assumed that the reader has gained knowledge that commands a certain value. Perhaps fiction readers have gained a value in their heart.

That brings us to the author himself. Certainly, the better he is at his craft, the more desirable his finished work will be. That desire determines the market value of his work.

A book entitled “How to Make Billions on the Internet” written by Bill Gates would have considerably more market value than a like title written by, for example, a junior executive at a new dot-com. However, that is not to say that the Gates book would teach the reader more, however that perception would prevail and make it more desirable, thus it would be likely to sell more copies.

Now we arrive at the means of selling those copies. Using the same example book, this subject is obviously aimed at the Internet niche. The potential market is every person on the planet with access to the Net. The same title, in paper form, would have a market of every person, who happens to have Internet access, happens to walk into a distributing bookstore and happens to see that title on the shelf. Certainly, publicity would play a part in propelling that reader to the bookstore, but proper marketing would reap far greater rewards when aimed at those dedicated Internet users. Case in point; Stephen King’s “The Plant”-a serialized book which has yet to reach a satisfiable conclusion. It was sold in small sections, requiring the reader to return to purchase as each new section was announced. While it might be said this was a psuedo exploration into the human psyche gauging response to command, nonetheless the book netted Mr. King millions of sales, and most of those within 48 hours of release. Could that same scenario have been duplicated had the reader been required to travel to a bookstore to make each section purchase? That is quite doubtable. Thus, here you have an example of selling “instant gratification” at its most lucrative return.

What all this is intended to show is that the value of each marketable format of a book depends largely on the author and the subject matter. An author today has many means of getting their work to market, whether it be through traditional publishing, or one of the increasingly more attractive e-publishing, print-on-demand, or audio presentations, etc. The traditional publisher will negotiate for the entire rights package. The author may choose to hold back certain rights, choosing a publisher that can best exploit each format.

The author must determine the value of their work, in every conceivable market open to them. They may have a personal affiliation, such as a university, social or professional organization, which guarantees them, for example, 5,000 units sold. In this case, they should self-publish or use print-on-demand and maximize their profit per book sold. If the author is in the enviable position that Stephen King commands, he should find an appropriate e-publisher, which in this case would be one that has the greatest ability for fulfillment-as delivering millions of copies of downloads within 48 hours is no small task.

However, if an author writes childrens’ books and wishes to exploit the multi-media opportunities of creativity, they should choose an e-publisher who understands and routinely produces these types of books, generally on CD.

So, what are your rights worth? Only you can know for sure. If you don’t recognize your position automatically, you’d better locate an agent who can.

Copyright 2001 Kim D. Blagg
Kim Blagg is president of PageFree Publishing Inc. (www.booksonscreen.com). Her multi-media e-book, How to Find a Husband in Your Basement is available from online booksellers, as well as the company website.

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