Random House has not reacted kindly to literary agent Andrew Wylie’s announcement Wednesday that his new publishing venture would produce exclusive Amazon.com e-book editions of 20 titles, including works by Vladimir Nabokov, Philip Roth, Ralph Ellison and John Updike.
Random House said it had already claimed the rights to the electronic editions of most of the books on the list. Its solution? Stop doing business with Wylie, who reps more than 700 authors including Martin Amis, Salman Rushdie and the Norman Mailer estate.
Mr. Wylie said he was taken by surprise by Random House’s move and was not sure how he would respond. “I’m going to think about it a little bit,” he said.
The dispute is partly about who owns the rights to publish the e-book versions of older books, whose contracts were negotiated before e-books existed.
It is also a dispute over how much digital royalty rates for authors are worth. Traditional publishers have typically offered 25 per cent of net proceeds. Authors and agents have said they should receive closer to 50 per cent.
Backlist sales are a major source of revenue for publishers.
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