Appropriately, maybe, lyrics from the Randy Newman song, "It's Money That I Love:"
It's Money That I Love/
It's Money That I Love/
(Spoken:) They say that money/
Can't buy love in this world/
But it'll get you a half-pound of cocaine/
And a sixteen-year old girl/
And a great big long limousine/
On a hot September night/
Now that may not be love/
But it is all right ...
On the surface, and as yet unproven, it appears that there is a problem in the publishing industry in regard to ebook royalties for the authors.
Several writers of larger sales stature than I have noticed that there seems to be a discrepancy or five in the reports from their publishers, to wit:
eBook sales have been underreported.
There has been some back-and-forth among us, and even with only a handful as a sample, the evidence, while sketchy, would seem to favor this notion. Money that should be in the writers' pockets isn't getting passed along in a timely manner. Or maybe not at all. A better look at it here.
This concerns me, of course, though less directly than it does some of my fellow scribes. That's because most of my ebooks are titles that a) I published myself, or: b) shared-universes, for which I don't get a piece of the electronic action. I do have a couple that were mine put up as ebooks by my publishers, and while it might not ding me as hard, the ding is apt to be much bigger for those who sell more books via traditional publishers' e-tie-ins.
So far, we are talking anecdotal, and I won't bandy about the stories, save a general happenstance: Say a writer has a series of books set in the same world. Some in print, some not, and the publisher puts one up as an ebook, the writer puts up a different title. The one the publisher puts up supposedly sells thirty copies, and the one the writer puts up sells three hundred copies.
Now there are reasons that this might be so, availability, for instance. But if a writer sticks up a backlist book that never did well that sells three hundred copies, and the publisher puts up one that is a current New York Times Bestseller and it sells that many, or fewer, you can understand how a writer might look at that and wonder. And if five or six writers all notice the same thing, that might indicate a pattern.
Maybe not. But: If it's a pattern, is it deliberate? Or is it poor accounting from hidebound publishers who haven't even figured out how to turn on their Kindles? Or is it a–gasp!–conspiracy!?
How do we check?
Well, here is the dreaded word: audit.
Most book contracts offer a passing nod to the writer's right to ask for a look at the books. Practically-speaking, this seldom happens, because the roadblocks are many, tall and wide. It has happened that a writer demanded an accounting and got it, but it is rare.
However, there are a number of writing organizations, each genre has them, science fiction and fantasy, mystery, horror, romance, etc. If several of these band together and truck on down to the publishers' houses, it is more likely that the bean-counters will be turned loose.
If there's no problem, then that's the end of it. If it is just pen and paper trying to run with the computers, the methods can be updated.
If it turns out that any significant amount of money has been withheld and directed into the wrong pockets? Then we are talking class-action lawsuit.
And probably interesting times.
The times, actually, are already interesting. Traditional publishers are losing sales on hardbacks, starting to seriously lose them on paperbacks, and making more every day on ebooks. Might be that somebody is robbing Peter to pay Paul, and if so, we need to know about it.