How to fairly split revenue (if any) on sales of a self-published ebook?
May 9, 2013 2:19 PM   Subscribe

I'm a freelance reporter who just finished a multi-part series for a nonprofit news organization. Now I'd like to turn it into an ebook. I am not savvy about rights, commissions, etc., and neither is my editor/publisher. What do we need to know to negotiate a fair revenue split?

The earning potential of this ebook -- which is about one aspect of a subset of a specific industry in a single state -- is likely very small, or I'd be talking to a lawyer or an agent. Realistically I doubt we'll sell more than 20 copies, and I'm mostly interested in getting this published so I can add "ebook author" to my resume. (Though if I did make a few bucks I certainly would not complain.)

The editor I'm working with operates a one-person nonprofit that publishes news on this specific industry in this specific state. Unlike most publications I've written for, hers did not have me sign a contract spelling out rights associated with my work. I believe in the value of the work this news organization does, and have no interest in taking advantage of it or burning any bridges. I like the idea of this under-funded nonprofit making some money if this ebook sells.

Initially, I was going to propose a 50-50 split on ebook sales, but several people have suggested I'm selling myself short. I did about 90 percent of the work in researching this project, and all writing and formatting. The editor conceived of the idea, contributed about 10 percent of the research, compensated me fairly for my work (including a surprise bonus we did not negotiate when my work exceeded her initial expectations), and will promote the ebook when it is published.

So, what kind of revenue split seems fair? What else should we consider as we come to what's likely to be a very informal agreement about how to make this work?
posted by croutonsupafreak to Work & Money (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
70-30 in favor of you after Amazon get its cut. Or whoever your ebook seller is.
posted by dfriedman at 2:23 PM on May 9, 2013

Response by poster: dfriedman -- is this a standard split? Any chance you can cite an example of this split so I can show it to my editor?
posted by croutonsupafreak at 2:33 PM on May 9, 2013

I don't know that it's standard. But if you did 90% of the work you should get a disproportionate share of the revenues.

Look at this way: for every $1 in sales, you did $0.90 worth of work. If you suggest a 70:30 split, you're only claiming $0.70 of each $1 in sales. Your boss is getting a pretty good deal there.
posted by dfriedman at 2:35 PM on May 9, 2013

If you're freelance, it's quite normal for you to retain all the rights beyond first publication and electronic (i.e. online) rights. So, in theory, you don't need to split it with them at all. I've had newspaper columns published as a book and there was no split.

If you want to give them something, by all means do so. But it's kind of a gift you're giving them here, so you should think about it in those terms, rather than what you owe them.
posted by rhymer at 4:08 PM on May 9, 2013

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