Is he really suggesting a $0.00 advance?

“This might be too radical, but if a book hasn’t earned out, and isn’t earning much, the publisher could consider restructuring the contract with the author.  Erase the advance, and work out a profit sharing model that gives the author incentive to seriously promote.  Right now many authors are locked into contracts where they have a disincentive to promote in the vain hopes they might get their rights back.  Or offer the authors a chance at buying their rights back with reverse royalties.”

This is a quote from Bob Mayer, writing at the Digital Book World Expert Publishing Blog. You can find the article here. The quote is near the bottom of the article.

The reason I found this worth quoting is that Mr. Mayer proposes this move as an incentive for authors to promote their own books. The problem is, he recognizes that many authors with current contracts already have an incentive to get the rights reverted to them by refusing to promote their own book. Exactly how do authors benefit by having their rights reverted to them? By self-publishing and making four times the money per ebook sale and taking 100% of the profit for further print editions.

The question that isn’t being asked is: If publishers cut out the advance, what incentive is there for an author to go with a publisher rather than self-publishing? The skills needed to bring a book to market can be hired out. What does the publisher offer when they give no advance and then take the lion’s share of the profits forever after? They’re definitely not offering marketing, since this proposal is meant to be an incentive to get authors to do more of their own marketing.

This suggestion was offered as a solution to a problem that publishers have. It’s written from that perspective. The thing is, it would only end up convincing writers to go elsewhere. From the perspective of a writer it’s an entirely negative move. Do more work and we’ll pay you less, or maybe just far more slowly.

Hey, folks? Why not offer more money? More money has been a proven incentive for getting people to do things. It seems obvious to me that you could get authors to do a heck of a lot more marketing by raising their royalties.

I guess I just don’t know how to think like a publisher. This looks like more of the “we are a brand, therefore we have value” thinking.