Andrew Wylie, literary agent, returned for another Monday address to the BBC, this time as a participant in The World At One’s week-long series on the future of publishing. Mr. Wylie criticized publishers for giving 30 percent of potential profits over to what he called “digital device holders” like Amazon and Apple. “I think if they allow the digital distributors to set the music than the dance will become fatal,” he said, evoking a nightmarish vision of publishers dancing around like the ballerina in The Red Shoes.
“The demise of the music industry was brought about because the industry allowed itself to transfer the 30 percent profitability that existed in that industry to the digital device holder, Apple,” he said. “Publishers have now replicated that by transferring 30 percent, for no apparent reason, to digital device holders – Amazon, Apple, others.”
Mr. Wylie said that if publishers are going to transfer 30 percent of their profits to Amazon, Amazon should transfer 30 percent of Kindle Sales back to publishing.
“They have a device, it can’t be sold without publishing content,” he said.
He added that publishers should also offer authors a greater percentage of net profit to compete. When asked whether Amazon et al will eventually win over authors with the promise of high royalties to the extent that the publishing as we know it dies out, Mr. Wylie offered another vision of a horrible apocalyptic future.
“If you allow the digital distribution piece to take over the entire industry, what it wants is volume, and low price, and it’s prepared to lower the price to 99 cents in order to achieve support the volume,” he said. “At that point authors are working for 10 cents a copy. That’s not a supportable economic arrangement.”
He again pointed out the fate of the music industry, where musicians have to go on tour to support themselves. “It would be a fairly dire situation if writers had to give public readings in order to support themselves,” he said.
Then the interviewer asked Mr. Wylie what he thinks of his nickname, “the jackal.”
“I don’t dislike it, I don’t like it, it’s just there,” he replied.