Michael W. Perry wrote:
There’s a fix for this problem for online book and ebook sales that’s not that complex and that would also let authors and publishers develop useful marketing data. In a nutshell, it’s legally mandated notification of all sales on perhaps a weekly basis. Given today’s technology, it’d cost the retailer almost nothing.
Each week, the author/publisher would get a notification of all sales and returns down to the zip code of the purchaser and including the exact date and time of the sale. No names and address, but more than enough information to spot sales that aren’t being paid.
Suspicious that you’re not getting paid? Get someone distant to make a purchase. If it doesn’t appear in the notification, that’s all the legal ground you need for a full, legally mandated audit of all your book sales at the retailer’s expense. The law could also describe hefty penalties for such fraud.
Keep in mind that there is a big distinction between traditional publishing, where the publisher supplies copies of each book that’ll be sold, and both POD and digital sales, where it’s extremely easy for a retailer who is creating both the POD and digital copies to sell 1,000 copies but only pay for 800. How is the author or publisher to know? They can’t without mandated reporting.
Why should any retailer oppose such a law? The costs are so low, they could be justified simply to attract more authors. The only reason to object is if some sales are being done off the books, as some suspect. Honest retailers will be behind this 100%.
Michael W. Perry, there are several reasons this won’t work.
“legally mandated notification of all sales on perhaps a weekly basis”
The government isn’t going to get involved in one industry like this to pass a law. If this happened, other industries might be forced to follow. Can you imagine every retailer being forced to provide weekly reports to the creators of every product? The reporting would be far more onerous than all the tax reporting that is currently required of every business. Every retailer would oppose this.
“that’s all the legal ground you need for a full, legally mandated audit of all your book sales at the retailers expense”
Most contracts that include an “audit” section force the person requesting the audit to pay for that audit. And, nobody can randomly force a retailer to audit themselves based on a hunch about missing sales, nor to provide that person with the results. Only the government (or a pre-existing contract) can force a firm to be audited.
“Keep in mind that there is a big distinction between traditional publishing, where the publisher supplies copies of each book that’ll be sold”
Actually, many traditional publishers now use print on demand technology, which introduces a third-party into the process (the printer), or even multiple third parties. Not all traditional publishers pre-print and warehouse books anymore. Some of these firms (traditional and not) hire different printers all over the globe, making it even more difficult to provide fast reporting, and certainly not weekly.
“Why should any retailer oppose such a law?”
We have enough laws. Voluntary reporting would be nice but adding weekly reporting increases administrative costs, and those costs would inevitably be passed on to the author and/or book buyer customers. Monthly reports should suffice. Remember that the publishing division of that firm also prints/distributes copies to other retailers who would not want to do such reporting because it provides no benefit to them, and would only cost them additional administrative fees. They, too, would pass these fees on to the rest of us.
I think a better idea is for authors to simply research a publisher thoroughly before signing up, specifically looking for accusations by a few of their authors about unpaid royalties. New authors can weed out the questionable ones early on in the process to hopefully avoid getting ripped off in the long run.
Unfortunately, many folks don’t perform this very easy, yet so very important, step when shopping for a publisher.
- Do you want to REALLY keep 100% of your royalties?
- Do you want to REALLY self-publish your book?
- Do you want direct contracts with the world's largest Print on Demand printer as well as Ingram, the worldís largest book distributor, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Apple, and any other ebook retailer you choose?
All at a price LOWER than most POD publishers!