Author/publisher contracts specify royalty rates in the craziest way imaginable. This is because they consist of archaeological strata of legal boilerplate, accumulated over decades and haggled over by publishers’ lawyers and authors’ agents. Contract law is essentially a defensive scorched-earth battleground where the constant question is, “if my business partner was possessed by a brain-eating monster from beyond spacetime tomorrow, what is the worst thing they could do to me?”
And so we have constant re-use of legal boilerplate that’s decades old. “For sales under 10,000 copies, a royalty of 10% will be assigned based on the undiscounted suggested retail price. From 10,001 to 15,000 copies, a royalty of 12% will be allocated … from 15,001 up, a royalty of 15% will be allocated … for copies sold at less than 40% discount off SRP, the full royalty will be paid; for copies sold at discount of 41-50% 80% of royalties due will be paid: from 51%-65% 50% of royalties will be paid: above 65% 40% of royalties will be paid.” You can think of it as a stack of IF () THEN () ELSE () statements switched off the number of copies sold and the discount the wholesaler extorted for taking them off the publisher’s hands.
Charles Stross, “Things publishers can’t do (yet)”, Charlie’s Diary, 2013-03-19
March 20, 2013
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