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View Full Version : JK Rowling to Self-Publish Harry Potter e-books?



dgaughran
06-23-2011, 02:50 PM
When e-books became the #1 format in the AAP figures released in April, I predicted that a major international bestseller - a household name - would switch to self-publishing by the end of the summer.

It looks like we won't have to wait that long. Here is the article from The Bookseller:

http://www.thebookseller.com/news/j-k-rowling-prepares-take-harry-potter-digital-pottermore.html

And here is analysis from a UK agent:

http://futurebook.net/content/scarred-life

Her Pottermore announcement is any moment now. More details and reaction then, I would imagine.

dgaughran
06-23-2011, 03:09 PM
She just made the announcement.

The e-books will be exclusively available from Pottermore.com from October.

She's not just keeping 70%. That will be more like 95%. Smart move.

It seems she is "publishing in partnership" with her existing publishers. No exact details of that.

We will have to wait and see what the rest of this "interactive reading experience" is like. Sounds interesting.

Old Hack
06-23-2011, 03:23 PM
As I understand it, this isn't exactly self-publishing. To quote a Twitter friend: (http://twitter.com/#%21/sarahw/status/83855175562969088)


Pottermore may be the exclusive ebook outlet, but Scholastic is a partner - and will receive a royalty on sales of US digital editions.

Exciting though this is for Potter fans, even if Scholastic weren't involved (and apart from my friend's tweet I have no evidence that it is), this would hardly be an average self-publishing project.

How do you think this will affect writers without Rowling's profile, Dave? And how do you think this is a significant development?

Momento Mori
06-23-2011, 03:38 PM
It isn't self-publishing but it is an interesting step to by-pass Amazon and Apple as retail outfits, thereby denying them any share in the inevitably large Potter ebook market and retaining complete control over pricing and distribution for Rowling and her trade publishers (who, even if they're not getting a huge percentage of the sales, will still be laughing to the bank).

MM

dgaughran
06-23-2011, 03:38 PM
According to the press release she is "publishing in partnership with her existing international publishers".

Although the extend and/or full details have yet to emerge. Sony have also been metioned as a "partner" of Pottermore.

I should mention it's audiobooks too, which is a not-insignificant market.



How do you think this will affect writers without Rowling's profile, Dave? And how do you think this is a significant development?

As you said, it is hardly the average self-publishing project. That's for sure.

What effect will it have on writers without her profile? Depends which writers you are talking about. If you are talking about the average unpublished, self-published, or trade published writer, I would say the effect will be zero.

The bigger fish may be examining the deal with interest, but that's only my hunch.

Is it significant? Sure. How significant? A lot will depend on the terms of the deal, and they are not clear yet.

I think we can presume that whatever way the deal is structured she is getting more than 25%.

I would say Amazon et al are not too happy - for now at least the e-books and audiobooks will be available exclusively from her website.

More details here:

http://myfavouritebooks.blogspot.com/2011/06/pottermore-revealed.html

dgaughran
06-23-2011, 03:44 PM
It isn't self-publishing but it is an interesting step to by-pass Amazon and Apple as retail outfits, thereby denying them any share in the inevitably large Potter ebook market and retaining complete control over pricing and distribution for Rowling and her trade publishers (who, even if they're not getting a huge percentage of the sales, will still be laughing to the bank).

MM

Whether it's "self-publishing" or not will be a matter for debate.

Her company, Pottermore, is said to be publishing in partnership with her existing publishers. We can argue whether that is self-publishing, co-publishing, or whatever. But until the exact details emerge we are just guessing really.

I agree that the part about selling direct to readers is very interesting indeed.

Momento Mori
06-23-2011, 03:53 PM
dgaughran:
Sony have also been metioned as a "partner" of Pottermore

Sony are building the website and I would guess (but don't know) that they'll take responsibility for the ongoing running and maintenance of it (although given their experiences with hackers recently, I'd be worried about their ability to keep it secure).


dgaughran:
As you said, it is hardly the average self-publishing project. That's for sure.

For some versions of the book, it might not be self-publishing at all. For example, while it seems that she is self-publishing UK versions (on the basis that ebook rights weren't granted to Bloomsbury), I would be surprised if she was doing that for translations.

What does interest me is that she's throwing in new content here for the ebook versions, which is a smart move to encourage the fans to buy them.

MM

dgaughran
06-23-2011, 04:00 PM
It seems that Bloomsbury, Scholastic, Sony, OverDrive, and the rest of her international publishers are all involved at some level.

It seems that Sony helped build the site (presumably the "interactive reading experience") and OverDrive created the shop to sell the e-books.

It also seems there will be 18k of new material available on the site's launch, which is a third of what she has written. What that is, or how it will be available (i.e. is it just part of the site or will it be available for purchase) is unclear.

What is also unclear is the exact involvement of all those publishers.

One clever move is that this is going to hoover up all the email addresses of every Harry Potter fan out there. Some readers will gain early access to the site and "help shape it" prior to October. To be considered, you must submit your email.

This is very smart. If you are going to sell direct to readers, a giant mailing list of every Harry Potter fan will be quite useful.

Momento Mori
06-23-2011, 04:03 PM
dgaughran:
Her company, Pottermore, is said to be publishing in partnership with her existing publishers. We can argue whether that is self-publishing, co-publishing, or whatever. But until the exact details emerge we are just guessing really.

But ... guessing is fun! :)

No, I agree. I'll be interested to see how it goes in October (and even whether the site will survive the initial interest on launch date).

MM

dgaughran
06-23-2011, 04:08 PM
Guessing is fun!

Ok then, in the spirit of that, and based on what little we know so far. How do we classify this?

Obviously, it's not straight "self-publishing" if her publishers are involved on some level.

But, at the same time, it's not your average trade deal either.

We saw something kind of similar, albeit on a much much smaller scale with James Rollins short story "The Skeleton Key" a couple of weeks ago.

He wanted to self-publish, but his publisher cut a deal and they "co-published" the story, splitting the net royalties down the middle.

Now, if I was to guess, I would think this is not a 50/50 split. This is just speculation of course, but I would imagine it's tilted in Rowling's favour.

So how do we classify this? A very lucrative (for the author) trade deal? A form of self-publishing? Co-publishing?

dgaughran
06-23-2011, 04:22 PM
Scholastic just issued a statement.

"Scholastic is proud to be a key partner in the Pottermore project, including connecting teachers and parents from our school and online channels directly to ebook sales via Pottermore and providing marketing and promotion support...Scholastic will receive a royalty on sales of the U.S. editions of the ebooks."

http://www.sacbee.com/2011/06/23/3721781/scholastic-statement-on-jk-rowlings.html

It seems Scholastic are getting a percentage in exchange for "marketing and promotion support".

That sounds a little more like self-publishing to me. Opinions may differ. And, of course, it will depend on the nature of the deals with the other publishers and/or Sony and OverDrive.

EDIT: And of course her agent.

misslissy
06-23-2011, 04:42 PM
Can I say that from my understanding, the extra 18k + words will not be part of the ebooks but part of the site? (It's her way of giving back to one of the most loyal readerships in the world). And Sony and JKR partnered with a separate design firm to design the site. That's my two cents. Also, I heard that the e-books will be DRM free, which is something else interesting.

I got that info from these two:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jun/23/pottermore-website-jk-rowling-harry-potter
http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2011-06/23/pottermore-details-in-depth?page=all

Terie
06-23-2011, 05:38 PM
Obviously, it's not straight "self-publishing" if her publishers are involved on some level.

But, at the same time, it's not your average trade deal either.

We saw something kind of similar, albeit on a much much smaller scale with James Rollins short story "The Skeleton Key" a couple of weeks ago.

He wanted to self-publish, but his publisher cut a deal and they "co-published" the story, splitting the net royalties down the middle.

Now, if I was to guess, I would think this is not a 50/50 split. This is just speculation of course, but I would imagine it's tilted in Rowling's favour.

So how do we classify this? A very lucrative (for the author) trade deal? A form of self-publishing? Co-publishing?

I'd bet it isn't 'self-publishing' at all. I would be extremely shocked to learn that JKR put any of her personal money into this.

I kind of like 'co-publishing' and was also thinking 'partnership publishing'. Sounds as if several publishing organisations funded it, rather than a single publisher.

dgaughran
06-23-2011, 05:45 PM
I'd bet it isn't 'self-publishing' at all. I would be extremely shocked to learn that JKR put any of her personal money into this.

I kind of like 'co-publishing' and was also thinking 'partnership publishing'. Sounds as if several publishing organisations funded it, rather than a single publisher.

I think this will probably be a matter for some debate.

The Bloomsbury statement isn't very clear, but the Scholastic statement says that they will receive a slice of the royalties (of US sales) in exchange for "marketing and promotion support".

If we can take that as-is, what does that make it?

Alitriona
06-23-2011, 05:46 PM
Can I say that from my understanding, the extra 18k + words will not be part of the ebooks but part of the site? (It's her way of giving back to one of the most loyal readerships in the world). And Sony and JKR partnered with a separate design firm to design the site. That's my two cents. Also, I heard that the e-books will be DRM free, which is something else interesting.



Yep, that's how I read it too. The extras will be part of the site.

I have to be honest and say I never for a second imagined I would hear of JK self-publishing. For the record, I still don't believe I have.

misslissy
06-23-2011, 05:55 PM
The Bloomsbury statement isn't very clear, but the Scholastic statement says that they will receive a slice of the royalties (of US sales) in exchange for "marketing and promotion support".

If we can take that as-is, what does that make it?
I think it was co-publishing. Because if J K Rowling did own all the digital rights then by no means did she have to use Scholastic (or Bloomsbury) for that matter in this. I think it's more that they've built good relationships and she wants to keep that up so she's allowing them to be in on this. Let's face it - J K Rowling is one of the most powerful authors in the world with one of the most dedicated and unique fan bases in the world. She could have sold the e-books on her own and not included them at all and been just fine, in my opinion. I see this more as a gesture of good will on her part.

shadowwalker
06-23-2011, 06:01 PM
Yes, the extra material (according to all reports I've read) are part of the interactive website. E-versions of the original print books will be available for purchase - but only through Pottermore. So the only thing they're doing (JKR and her publishers) is cutting out the booksellers for the ebook versions. That is not self-publishing.

dgaughran
06-23-2011, 06:31 PM
As an aside - there will be no DRM on the e-books.

misslissy
06-23-2011, 06:36 PM
As an aside - there will be no DRM on the e-books.

Which could be a big game changer I think.

dgaughran
06-23-2011, 07:01 PM
Just to get away from the debate about how to classify this deal for a second, I think it's interesting the tightrope that Rowling is walking with the website itself.

Warner own the rights to movies and games from the Harry Potter world, so she describes it as an "interactive reading experience" where you can relive "Moments" from the book. Sounds awfully like a game to me, but I would say she threw them a bone or two. They are another "partner" in this whole project.

misslissy
06-23-2011, 07:14 PM
I was reading though that Warner Brothers' stands to lose the most from this deal. And yeah, she is walking a fine line, but what are they going to do about it? I'd highly doubt they'd sue her - don't want all of Harry Potter's fandom hating them and I would imagine boycotting them.

James D. Macdonald
06-23-2011, 08:06 PM
Whether it's "self-publishing" or not will be a matter for debate.


What was it when Edgar Rice Burroughs founded his own publishing company to publish his Tarzan (and other) books (after he was already the richest, best-selling author in America)?

What was it when Mark Twain founded his own publishing company (after he was already the richest, best-known author in America)?

I'll tell you what this is: The latest salvo in the Publishers v. Amazon wars.

dgaughran
06-23-2011, 10:12 PM
This is how Publisher's Weekly see it:

"Although some are likely to see Rowling's decision to be her own publisher for her e-books as a significant one for the industry at large, Potter is a unique franchise."

They didn't use the words "self-publishing", but they might as well have.

Anyway, whatever the most accurate label is, I don't think that's most important part of this news.

Amazon must be fairly peeved. The Kindle is their all-time bestseller. #2?

The Harry Potter books.

Capital
06-23-2011, 10:41 PM
Amazon must be fairly peeved. The Kindle is their all-time bestseller. #2?

The Harry Potter books.

Good for Rowling, good for HP fans. HP e-books deserve better than to be dumped into the Kindle Store. I hope more well-known authors do this. Probably for a different reason, but whatever helps Amazon clean up their act.

Edit: spelling, was foamin' when I wrote this.

MattW
06-24-2011, 12:36 AM
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/23/harry-potter-ebooks_n_882754.html


Tom Turcan, chief operating officer of the new venture, Pottermore Ltd., said Rowling wanted "to make the books available to everybody, not to make them available only to people who own a particular set of devices, or tethered to a particular set of platforms."

misslissy
06-24-2011, 12:37 AM
Good for Rowling, good for HP fans. HP e-books deserve better than to be dumped into the Kindle Store. I hope more well-known authors do this. Probably for different reason, but whatever anything helps Amazon clean up their act.

Plus it just makes sense logistically for her, she has a wider market than only people who use Kindles or iPads or the Nook or anything else. By making it DRM free, it is going to allow her to open it up to everyone, which I think is smart. Sure, Harry Potter fans would still buy it if it was say Kindle only, but it's creating a wider market by making it not one device only.

ios
06-24-2011, 02:27 AM
(snip)

http://www.sacbee.com/2011/06/23/3721781/scholastic-statement-on-jk-rowlings.html

(snip)

That sounds a little more like self-publishing to me. Opinions may differ. And, of course, it will depend on the nature of the deals with the other publishers and/or Sony and OverDrive.

I read the two articles before and this one, and it does sound like self-publishing. But in a way, it also seems different. Like the exact opposite of commercial publishing--instead of a company taking on a book by an author and giving the author royalties, the author (or rather her entity) is giving the company royalities in exchange for services provided.

But most likely it is self-publishing rather than anything else, since it sounds like she (her publishing entity) is doing the "hiring" or "contracting" for services provided.

Jodi

misslissy
06-24-2011, 02:35 AM
Like the exact opposite of commercial publishing--instead of a company taking on a book by an author and giving the author royalties, the author (or rather her entity) is giving the company royalities in exchange for services provided.

This is kind of what I was saying before. I think it's out of her goodwill and the relationship she has with these companies that she's letting them benefit from this. Because really she has the rights and the readership to go it without them.

dgaughran
06-24-2011, 02:38 AM
The language in the Scholastic statement is interesting. Instead of them paying the author royalties, the author is paying them.

In any event, this is how I see it working.

OverDrive build the store that sells the e-books (and operate it). They get paid a percentage.

Sony build the interactive reading experience that drives people to the site, captures their data, so they can be sold e-books on a regular basis (and other stuff). They get paid a percentage of the e-book sales as payment for their investment.

All the international publishers (including Scholastic), promote the e-books in their territory, link to the website from their sites, and drive traffic there. They get a percentage in exchange for these services, and in exchange for the rights to use the edited MS, the covers, and any translations.

James D. Macdonald
06-24-2011, 02:40 AM
Does she have the time and the skills (and the desire) to manage a large website?


The language in the Scholastic statement is interesting. Instead of them paying the author royalties, the author is paying them.

In any event, this is how I see it working.

OverDrive build the store that sells the e-books (and operate it). They get paid a percentage.


How is this different in any way from what I've been doing for years with my books in commercial publishing?

misslissy
06-24-2011, 02:44 AM
Does she have the time and the skills (and the desire) to manage a large website?

I'm fairly certain she has the time. Because, to my knowledge, she's not working on any new writing and she's not holding down a job (I'd imagine it would be very hard to hold down a normal job when you're a celebrity like her) not to mention, it's not like she really has a need to if she's smart about her finances. She may not have the skills (this I'm unsure) but from everything I've read, it sounds like she wants to be, is, and we be very involved with this world of Pottermore.

dgaughran
06-24-2011, 02:47 AM
Does she have the time and the skills (and the desire) to manage a large website?


I can't access the Pottermore website, but I saw a list of the team running the company. Some pretty serious names with experience in large-scale interactive video-on-demand websites.

The website is registered in the name of her literary agent.



How is this different in any way from what I've been doing for years with my books in commercial publishing?

Because, from my understanding, her company - Pottermore - is publishing the e-books, and selling the e-books.

Scholastic's own statement describes them as a "key partner" who will receive royalties in exchange for marketing and promotion support.

That doesn't sound, to me, like they are the publisher in the normal sense of the word.

Capital
06-24-2011, 02:50 AM
How is this different in any way from what I've been doing for years with my books in commercial publishing?


My understanding is that she holds the rights to her books, while with typical traditional publishers deals, the publisher holds rights. If this is correct, there is just this distinction, but no other difference to the bottom line. Which is why I, personally, don't care what her decision is called... self publishing, epublishing... quidditch puslishing... doesn't matter.

To me, the big news and the big difference is that she is standing up to the likes of Amazon and not allowing them to sell her story, even if, arguably, she could make more money by letting them have it and picking up the usual royalties.

misslissy
06-24-2011, 02:53 AM
To me, the big news and the big difference is that she is standing up to the likes of Amazon and not allowing them to sell her story, even if, arguably, she could make more money by letting them have it and picking up the usual royalties.
Either way, she will make a ton of money. Because of who she is and what she's created.

James D. Macdonald
06-24-2011, 02:59 AM
Dave, there's really only one source of money. That's the readers who bought the books. Everyone gets a percentage of that.

Rather than (in Ms. Rowling's case), "OverDrive build the store that sells the e-books (and operate it). They get paid a percentage," you could say of me, "Barnes & Noble build the stores that sell my books (and operate them). They get paid a percentage."

It's all a percentage of the money that the readers pay. Suppose, for every one of my books, I got 100% of the cover price, kept 15% for myself, and paid the editors (developmental and copy), the proofreaders, the cover artists, the production people, the publicists, the marketers, the bookstores, the distributors, and so on royalties out of the rest. It's the same, in all practical ways. All that changed was the labels.

Ms. Rowling has re-invented commercial publishing. Including the part where Henry Holt came up with the idea of selling his books through every bookstore, rather than only selling them through bookstores that he owned. (Holt also came up with the idea of hiring a commercial printer to print his books, rather than using a press that he owned.)

This looks to me like everything old is new again (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=963o0wHwhEU).


My understanding is that she holds the rights to her books, while with typical traditional publishers deals, the publisher holds rights.

I still own the rights to everything. I just lease 'em.

Capital
06-24-2011, 03:17 AM
I still own the rights to everything. I just lease 'em.

Sorry - I'm still unclear on the terminology.

Would it be fair to say that the small (and IMO insignificant) distinction is that you are leasing the rights out, while JK doesn't?