I hope someone here understands this deal. I have read the information passed on to me by my agent's office and am worried about signing off on it.
First off, Google Books have annexed two of my books and I'm involved in this settlement deal.
Secondly, my agency suggests I accept the settlement arrived at by Author's Guild. This would give Google Books the right to publish my books when they go out of print, and pay me a small amount of money.
My instinct is to refuse. My reasons: out-of-print books should have their rights returned to me. How do I sell those rights when Google Books has published an electronic version?

I'm anxiously awaiting some expert advice. Thanks, guys.

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If many (most) authors do accept the settlement and Google Books become the main place that out of print books go, that will likely affect the market for those books quite a bit. What I mean is, once a book goes out of print and becomes a Google Book (for lack of a better term) then will many publishers stay in the business of buying rights to out of print books?

Now, if you wanted the rights to return to you so you could sell the books themselves that might be different.
Exactly. How do you mean it would be different? Rights do return to the author eventually -- I grant you there's quite a delay between the book going out of print and the rights being back in the author's hands. I have one oop hc and signed the papers to get rights back last year. My agent warned that it might be years before this was settled. Certainly plenty of time for Google Books to jump in. And I don't much like the fact that they'd be the only game in town.
So why is my agency recommending settling? Why is Authors Guild recommending this?
But if you are wrtting a series, don't you want to control the rights of your books? I mean, the series could be revived over and over (I'm thinking of Edgar Rice Burroughs here and all the series he wrote--which have come back to life over and over again in every generation since he first published)

You're potentially giving up a heck of a paycheck aren't you?
Yes. And I don't want to do this. (Besides, I resent Google Books).
Not an expert by any means; just another pencil pusher with an opinion. But first, a question or two.

Did they offer a respectable deal? Is it anything close to 20% of the original sale?

I ask because three acquaintances each found their first novel out of print, with the publisher unwilling to do another run despite excellent reviews, major awards and strong reader demand.

One waited, retrieved her rights, and found a new publisher after almost 15 years.

One fought a long negotiation through a good agent and sold again after 7 years.

One retrieved the rights, but has never resold. Her agent died, and she herself been on to other projects.

The way you describe the offer, it sounds as if they're trying to do to you what the producers are trying to do to SAG.

Hope you hang on for a deal you actually consider fair.
I have no idea if they intend to pay for future use (of oop books). They did not pay for the original, partial use.

The settlement is, I think, more a punitive matter for past use, and the amounts will be small and far in the future. Google makes this dependent on how much advertising and other revenues they collect.
To agree to the settlement seems insane to me. When an author produces a new book, the prevoius two or three are frequently on the order list, hauled back into print to pick up additional sales and used to enhance the visibilty of the new book. This is a common marketing practice that will disappear if the prevoius two or three are on Google Books. I don't think the revenues from google would approach the revenues from these complementary sales of previous issues. I know for best selling authors, I can have four or five UPC/ISBN's for the same title, brought back that many times to complement the newest releases.

This appears to be the big bully on the block exacting the lunch money from the authors.

This is my opinion. Another dagger in the heart for author revenues.

Right. Thanks. I'm still trying to get clarification from my agent's office (it's the weekend), but I'm absolutely opposed to letting them have oop editions.
I recommend every writer check out the information at the Author's Guild Web site. The complete settlement is there for reading. I spoke to a very nice attorney who represents the author sub-class. There are two ways your book gets on Google Books - from their illegal scanning of the work and through their affiliate program.

Many books currently under copyright appear on Google Books via their affiliate program, supplied by the publisher. Three cheers for the small print about digital rights. Those books are not part of the settlement. The attorney told me that, for the affiliate program, the copyright holder can email Google and request that all or portions of the text be suppressed. Google Books assured me that no book is completely visible. After 20 pages are viewed, the software prevents additional reading. While a person can scroll rapidly through an entire manuscript, supposedly a certain amount of time is considered a "view" and the count begins. Try it with your own book. I had no trouble reading 95% of my book. I remain in an on-going battle with Google over this.

Many more copyrighted works were scanned by Google when they scooped up entire libraries and digitized them in order to "give access to millions for research purposes." These works were the focus of the legal action.

As for the settlement, please note that the man who orchestrated the deal is a honcho with Bertelsmann, the Random House parent company. Publishers and Google are not in business to make authors rich. As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, Google got thousands of books for a mere $125 million. A very good deal for them and a lousy deal for writers.

Every writer must make a choice based on their own situation. If Google has already digitized a book on which the writer holds the copyright, the attorney recommended filing a claim. $60 and pennies in royalties is better than the alternative - which is zero.

The next question is what happens in the future. If we discover life on Mars, does that mean Google can sell views of my work to Martians with no compensation to me? It boggles the mind.
I haven't read the language so I can't say for sure, but my first instinct is no. I'm currently working with Michael Zapp's Legends to produce and sell my out of print works on the iPhone book app. Michael Stackpole is already doing so, and he tells me he is already pulling down enough to make his insurance premium every month.

We shouldn't give our stuff away if we have a reasonable chance of selling it somewhere. And with the new media, we do.
There you are. Mind you, I still have to clarify if my demanding my share of the settlement (my books were illegally scanned) requires me to permit GoogleBooks to scan all my oop books in the future.
Lincoln freed the slaves. No agent worth a damn will let you sign up for life as a vampire's victim.

I'm awfully glad to see Dana's information (it's news to me), and I'd think you might want to look up Corey Doctorow and John Scalzi on this topic as well.

Freedom beats thralldom every time. The big corporations keep looking for new ways to legitimize theft.


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