How publishers are falling into the ebook void

Oh dear, another tale of a traditional publisher being mean to a star author over ebook terms and breaking up a happy home.

This time, it’s Joe Simpson, mountaineer and author of the classic Touching The Void, which has been a huge best-seller for Jonathan Cape and an acclaimed film.

However, when it came to ebook rights, which Simpson had fortunately been able to prove he owned, Cape, which had come under the aegis of Random House, offered the now standard derisory trad offer of 25% of royalties to the author.

It seems an amazing stance for a publisher to take where they have the choice of sitting back and taking a fair share of a perennially best-selling book or alienating their author to the extent that they get nothing.

Corporate meanies

It’s not a new story and it’s one that appears to be being repeated ad nauseam, with trad firms losing some of their top authors because of corporate meanness.

Simpson, understandably appalled, considered a reversal of that situation would be more applicable, along the lines of 75% to him and 25% to the publisher, but Random would not be moved.

Backlist publisher

He not only set up his own ebook publishing company, Direct Authors, to produce his backlist as ebooks but he is also hoping to help publish other authors.

He published the 25th anniversary edition of Touching the Void, which is available on Amazon and other ebook retailers and also direct through Simpson’s website at where he uses the great Ganxy service to process sales.

The 25th anniversary edition includes 50 pictures plus a link to a 10-minute video interview. It’s still selling well at $8.24 (£4.99) but I have to say the ebook cover could do with a rethink.

Simpson is writing a non-mountaineering novel which he will publish as an ebook but he also hopes to find an enlightened indie publisher to put out a print book.

You can read an interview with Joe Simpson in the How I Do It series on the Alli website.