One totally overlooked aspect of this is that the Big Six are actively nailing down authors for the Long Tail. I am intimately aware of several contracts that give the publisher eternal ebook rights as long as a laughable minimum royalty is achieved...$50 earned in six months in some cases, $200 or so seeming to become a new standard. Authors should be outraged. I have suspicion part of this high ebook pricing is to get more time to rope authors into these eternal deals and build up a huge catalog of ebooks while only paying authors 10-20 percent forever.
And it's an issue authors really don't want to talk about, and publishers certainly won't. Authors are getting screwed worse than anyone, however this goes. I understand many authors are reluctant to reveal contract details. But I can say with Kensington I simply licensed my work in the US for seven years, getting a shifting percentage for various formats. For ebooks, it's a 50/50 split of proceeds, which actually is fair if the publisher is backing you in print. It was fair to me at the time. I would certainly think differently now, especially about the seven years, and especially if the titles are not made easily available as ebooks at reasonable prices (only one is currently available for Kindle). The way I look at it, my partner publisher and I have lost (and are currently losing) a ton of easy money and potential audience. How can that be good for either of us?
We're taught to be so grateful when we get a book deal, and that we are so lucky, we shouldn't question anything. And, I know the delirium of getting accepted can leave one not worried about the fine print. Even as much as two years ago, I thought electronic rights were no big deal, and I think these are matters of personal perspective--because I read on a computer all day, the thought of doing it for leisure just gives me a headache. I didn't foresee screens without backlighting. I didn't grasp the convenience that would cause people to want a library of 1,500 titles on their hand-held, portable readers, or that they would vastly expand their subject areas, genres, and interests.
Authors who are signing pittance royalty deals on their ebooks are really going to regret it, and I think it's going to be a factor in the Great Kindle Wars of 2010 when a few megasellers break ranks. I still seek print deals and good partners because I believe that's the success model of the future. Yet I also value myself enough not to be a lifelong indentured servant who is not fairly compensated.
By the way, did I tell you I had a new ebook out?