Thriller novelist Barry Eisler has served as one of the leading examples of popular writers moving away from traditional publishing. First, he turned down a $500,000 deal from St. Martin’s Press. Then he signed with Amazon to publish his next book. Now, Mr. Eisler just gained much more control over the course of his career.
Coming on the heels of releasing his new novella, London Twist, the author also announced that the publishing contracts for his first eight novels have been “amicably terminated,” and all rights have reverted to back to him. So what does this mean exactly, and why is this news so important?
Mr. Eisler’s first novels were published by traditional New York houses. So long as those books continue to sell—and sometimes even when they don’t sell or fall out of print, depending on the contract—the author is legally obligated to the company that owns the right to publish their books to give them a cut of their royalties. The author may have some input on how their books are marketed, designed, and titled, but final decisions most likely rest with the publisher. This last part is particularly true on price point. Most authors have zero say on how their works are priced to readers.
What makes this news important is that Mr. Eisler has negotiated with his previous publishers for them to release their right to publish his earlier novels, which grants him the freedom to either publish them independently or bring them to another publishing house—in this case, Amazon. The author said in his most recent newsletter.
As for the first eight novels, I’m thrilled to be publishing them with the titles and covers I’ve always wanted (see above). Why have I changed the titles and covers? I thought you might ask…
What’s really great is that with my rights reverted, the Rain books will finally be available in digital outside the United States. This is a huge win for Rain fans in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere—especially at a price of US $4.99 (or foreign currency equivalent). If you care about more people reading, as I do, then you’ll want books available everywhere, at low prices, as soon as possible, in as many formats as possible. Anything else comes at the expense of readers, authors, and the general public. There’s a better way, and I’m proud to be part of it.
Congratulations to Mr. Eisler for 1) finally achieving the outcome he has been working toward and 2) continuing to serve as an example of how authors can navigate between the worlds of legacy and independent models.
If you’re interesting in hearing his thoughts on the current state of publishing, I recommend reading he and Joe Konrath’s book Be the Monkey. It’s a transcribed discussion between the two authors on their disappointment with the current state of publishing and why both chose to go independent.
Once again, it’s nice to be reminded that authors now have options. If you don’t like the terms traditional publishers are offering, they are not the only game in town any more. There has never been a better time for authors.