BACK OF THE ROOM BOOK SALES BY AUTHORS
Traditionally, publishing agreements have obligated the publisher to give a small number of free copies of the book to the author, and have allowed limited purchases of additional copies only (for the author(s personal use and not for resale.( These provisions are generally acceptable for adult fiction and similar types of books which are most likely to be sold primarily in regular trade channels, and which the author is unlikely to be able to sell in substantial quantities on his or her own.
However, for other types of books, a more liberal policy for purchases and resales by the author may be appropriate. Examples of situations in which an author might want to seek the right to purchase and resell copies of his or her book include business, motivational or health care books by consultants, speakers and others who regularly host seminars or other public presentations, and children(s books by authors who participate in readings, workshops or similar events. For these authors, so-called (back of the room( sales can result in substantially more revenue and professional recognition than is likely to be the case if the author simply leaves sales solely to the publisher. The publisher may also benefit, to the extent the author is reaching buyers who would not have otherwise purchased copies of the book.
Issues to consider when reviewing contract provisions for author purchases include the following:
- What discount will the publisher give to the author? If the discount to the author is substantially higher than a normal trade discount, it may permit the author to resell well below the list price, thereby cutting into the publisher(s sales in regular trade channels.
- Will the publisher pay royalties on sales to the author? A fair approach is often to pay a royalty for purchases by the author at the regular trade discount, but not to pay a royalty if the author is granted a deep discount.
- Will the author be at risk? The publisher will usually require that all purchases by the author be nonreturnable.
- Will the author be required to purchase a minimum quantity with each order? The publisher will often require that purchases be in lots that correspond to the number of books per packing unit received by the publisher.
- Where can the author resell? In most cases, the publisher will want to prohibit the author from reselling to any person other than a consumer. In other words, the publisher will prohibit sales to any wholesaler, distributor, retailer or other party that will resell the book.
- Will the publisher be required to sell to the author? The publisher will usually limit its obligation so that it will be required to sell to the author only to the extent it has copies available in inventory, after making adequate provision for anticipated sales to other regular buyers.
- Will the author assume responsibility for sales tax on sales of books by the author? In many states, resales to consumers will be subject to sales tax. The publisher may require the author to promise that he or she will assume full responsibility for all sales taxes due from sales by the author, and will indemnify the publisher against any claims for any sales taxes that might be due as a result of those sales.