July 30, 2010

The Jackal issues new threat; industry says ho-hum


What Andrew Wylie looks like after he hears a Stuart Applebaum quote

What Andrew Wylie looks like after he hears a Stuart Applebaum quote

Andrew “The Jackal” Wylie must be back from vacation — according to a Financial Times report he’s issued a new threat: “a broad expansion of his digital publishing business to include up to 2,000 titles if traditional publishers refuse to improve digital royalties.”

According to the FT, Wylie says he’s “failed to reach a satisfactory compromise after nine months of discussions with all large publishing houses.” Now, he says, “If we do not reach an accord, Odyssey will grow. It will not publish 20 books, it will publish 2,000 and have outside investors and make itself available to other agents.”

But he’s only doing it for holistic reasons, he says: “I am only trying to make a point in order to underscore the importance of getting the right terms with a view to uniting the two [print and digital] revenue streams.”

But it doesn’t look as if the big houses are taking the bait: The FT says other publishers such as Penguin have told it “that Mr Wylie has limited bargaining power because rights to e-book publication have been written into authors’ contracts since the mid-1990s.”

Nor did Random House — which seems to be a particular target of Wylie, in that his Odyssey Editions is launching with mostly Random House authors — appear to be shaking in its books: “Our position is unchanged. Random House will not do new business deals with a literary agency which sets themselves up as a direct competitor of ours with our titles,” said company spokesman Stuart Applebaum.

Dennis Johnson is the founder of MobyLives, and the co-founder and co-publisher of Melville House. Follow him on Twitter at @mobylives