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JK Rowling to release ebooks without publisher
There’s a big announcement from Harry Potter author JK Rowling today and quite honestly the scope of everything she’s doing is pretty big. On the surface, she’s building an online community called Pottermore that will feature an online store and other interactive features that have been described as “illustrated environments” and not games. One of the big announcements is that she’s going to be releasing ebooks through Pottermore direct to her fans without going through a publisher. She has reportedly seven fantasy books along with an extensive repository of notes detailing the Harry Potter universe. According to Wired.com Rowling holds the digital rights to her creations (print rights held by Bloomsbury and Scholastic). Wired writes that a normal royalty for print books is about 10 percent per print book sale, 20-40 percent for ebooks upwards of 70% if published through Amazon. By offering her ebooks directly to her fans that percent goes close to 100%.
For publishers, there’s something that’s just as terrifying as Voldemort: losing the ability to sell the eBooks of a bestselling author. If it ever happened, and if it spread, it’d have a cataclysmic effect on their long-term prospects. In effect, it’s That-Which-Must-Not-Happen.
But today, it just happened. JK Rowling’s announcement of Pottermore.com, a social network for Harry Potter readers with game-like elements, also revealed that for the first time, Harry Potter will be available as eBooks. Not only that, but the books will be sold directly through Pottermore, without the aid of Amazon, Apple, or any other publisher or retailer.
Despite Adrian Hon’s negative assessment of the impact this will have on pubishing, I find it interesting that Scholastic released a press release stating they’re part of this project – specifically to help channel sales via Pottermore. Not sure how they as a print interest partner is going to gain from driving people to the website where the ebooks are available and presumably decrease print purchases.
Scholastic is proud to be a key partner in the Pottermore project, including connecting teachers and parents from our school and online channels directly to ebook sales via Pottermore and providing marketing and promotion support.
Lastly – what does this all have to do with cartoonists? First, this proves a couple of things. It’s important to establish yourself online and interacting with your fans. If you have the means start building a community that will attract fans. Secondly, retain as many of your creative rights as possible. Because Rowling kept the digital rights, she’s now able to keep a much much much larger piece of the profits as well as have control to use her creation as she wants.