Writer question: E-book rights?

A writer question I received this month, the answer for which I think anyone submitting to Tu will want to know:

I would like to submit my YA fantasy to Tu Books, but wondered if you accept submissions from books where the ebook rights have been taken. My book was recently accepted by an e-book publisher. I recently read an interview about Tu Books and its quest to publish YA speculative fiction with multicultural characters. This is something I have strive to do in my writing. May I mail my submission package to Tu Books or would you rather not see books where ebook rights are already taken?

Due to the way the industry is changing right now, Tu must be able to do an ebook edition of any book we publish. Things are changing fast, and with the drop in e-reader prices continuing to change the way people read, teens are becoming more likely to look for ebooks (not to mention crossover adult audiences who definitely look for ebooks). The release of (relatively) affordable full-color readers such as the Color Nook and the iPad means that younger readers, in smaller numbers, will be next. We’re seeing a lot of changes right now as we head into the holiday season—B&N, for example, is growing its ebook business even as it continues to have sluggish sales in its print book business. You can check out e-books from most libraries, too—books that return themselves without costing you a fine for forgetting to return them or not making it to the library on a particular day. As more libraries figure out digital curation, that segment will grow.

E-readers are unlikely to take over the ascendancy of print books in children’s and YA books anytime soon, but ebooks are definitely a growing market, and one that we plan to aggressively explore with Tu’s books. Therefore, manuscripts submitted to us absolutely must have ebook rights available.

Sorry to disappoint, but it’s something we feel strongly about.

3 thoughts on “Writer question: E-book rights?

  1. The right to publish in e-book form isn’t a “subsidiary right” like movie rights or game-development rights. Lots of people will pay to see a movie _and_ read the book as well; the one experience doesn’t perfectly substitute for the other. But someone who’s bought an e-book is very unlikely, except in certain very special cases, to buy the same work in printed form as well. For this reason we at Tor, just like you, regard e-publishing rights to be as central to our core business as the right to publish the book in more than one trim size. We would not buy a package of rights that gave the author the right to sell a 6″ x 9″ version to a competing print publisher, and we won’t buy a package that doesn’t include e-rights.

  2. Stacy,

    I agree with the fact that the publisher needs to have access to e-book rights along with print in order to make it a profitable business venture.

    But I do have a question . . . how does Tu, or Lee & Low Books, (I would love to hear from Patrick Hayden also since he chimed in) . . . plan to handle out of print verbiage in contracts? An e-book makes it a sticky issue because technically, it will never go out of print. Therefore, will Tu place time limits on the rights? Or a sales quantity metric so that when sales fall below a certain threshold the rights revert to the author?

    Just curious.

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