Thursday, December 6, 2007

Do Aspiring Editors Know Enough (or Care) About E-Book Rights?

Earlier this week, Publishers Weekly e-book blogger David Rothman called attention to a startling discovery by a publishing veteran teaching a graduate-level publishing course: Of the 30 students Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti polled, none of them had ever downloaded an e-book or owned a PDA. Rothman extrapolates this to mean that young aspiring editors are more interested in the content ("nurturing future Hemingways") than the new and future forms of content delivery.

Rothman invites readers to prove him wrong. But most of the commenters just proved his point. For example, one said "Why is it the editor's job to deal with E rights? I'm a young editor, and I have yet had to deal with rights other than registering copyright on a book. Is it really the EDITOR's job to deal with subrights and such? Granted, it just may be the way my company deals with things, but the editors here aren't involved in rights issues. Yes, I'm aware of the issues, but I'm not the one going out and making deals. Are we expecting the editors to do a bit of everything now?"

My two cents on this is that if you want to move up to be an acquisitions editor and beyond, you'd better understand rights issues, especially electronic rights. Acquisitions editors often find themselves in the position of explaining parts of the publishing contract to potential authors before they will sign. And rights are a big part of the contract. So you need to know enough about them and how they work to be able to ease a skittish author's mind that they're not giving your company their first-born.

Then there's the other five percent of authors, the ones who know enough about rights to be dangerous, or have a lawyer advising them. You need to know what rights are important to your company so that you don't end up giving them away in a negotiation. And these days, you should never let go of your electronic rights. Any request from an author to keep these rights should be a deal-breaker.


Angelle said...

I think the phenomenon has two roots. One, rights are complicated, and tend to make the head hurt. It takes commitment and dedication to figure them out as a young editor when you still have so much else to figure out. The whining though, the whole "Why is this my job?" -- that has got to go.

Secondly, I am not surprised none of them own a PDA - they are in the early career stages of publishing, where many people work for love rather than money. I could not afford life-enhancing gadgets until I'd been in the business nearly a decade.

Lori Cates Hand said...

OK, time for me to confess: I've never owned a PDA, either. Good old pen and paper work fine for me. :)

Angelle said...

My own confession is that by the time I could afford a PDA, I no longer wanted one! I spent the gadget budget on a turbo laptop with big back wheels instead.