I’ve been having (and overhearing) a number of conversations about an emerging phase of the business: one in which publishers and authors are, explicitly, business partners. It’s cropped up when meeting new industry players and when old players are asked how they’re adapting to changing times. At the most fundamental level, I agree that treating authors as partners in this business is a smart and necessary decision. What worries me, particularly with digital-only publishing, is how we’re beginning to define this.
Does a partnership mean an equal share of the risk and an equal opportunity for reward? Possibly. But, in my opinion, that doesn’t necessarily reduce to a no-advance, 50/50 profit-share, pay for production costs scenario, especially at a corporate publisher. I, for one, am not averse to changing business models or averse to recommending that a client take some risks. What I am averse to, however, is accepting terms that on the surface imply an equal risk/equal reward scenario that are, in fact, unequal. Is this different for non-corporate publishers? Maybe; maybe not.
Look, we all understand that we’re in a for-profit business. So it’s easy to argue that the higher your profit margins, the better, but if you effectively lose your business partners in the process, those margins will not be sustainable—and we’ll all be in trouble.