Will Unglue.it’s Unorthodox Pitch Appeal to Publishers?

In Discussion by Edward Nawotka

Rights are publishers’ primary assets and relinquishing them up for fixed fee may not be immediately appealing.

By Edward Nawotka

Eric Hellman at Books and Browsers 2011. Click to watch the video.

Today’s feature story discusses an exciting and innovative new business, Unglue.it, which asks an author or publisher to accept a fixed sum of money from the public for the unlimited use of an e-book. A simple and profound idea.

Authors are likely to be excited by Unglue.it’s pitch. After all, the idea of receiving a fixed fee for the rights to a book is not foreign to them — it’s what they do when they routinely sell rights to publishers.

But for publishers the situation is different. Rights are publishers primary assets. Once a publisher purchases the rights to a book, digital publishing makes it relatively low maintenance to keep the title ‘in print’ in perpetuity. Publishers make an awful lot of money from backlist sales. And you never know when a book might just become a hit.

So what could motivate them to work with Unglue.it? There are some situations where this makes sense, such as a small publisher who needs to acquire working capital, or perhaps when a publishers going out of business and will be willing to strike a bargain. But a healthy, viable, profitable publishers may be far less likely to be enticed, at least until the model proves to be a boon in a way that we can’t yet foresee.

Let us know what you think in the comments.

About the Author

Edward Nawotka

Edward Nawotka is the Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. A former foreign correspondent, he has covered the book business exclusively since 2000, serving as daily news editor for Publishers Weekly and columnist for Bloomberg News.