Publisher's new contract would tighten clutches on authors' digital royalties

When publishers and literary agents haggle over authors' book contracts, the boilerplate is a starting point: a work-in-progress, by definition. But one publisher's plan for a new standardized contract, announced this week, suggests it's getting bolder about tightening its grip on authors' digital royalties.

Macmillan CEO John Sargent sent a letter to book agents on Monday outlining plans for a new contract, to take effect November 9, that affects all of the company's imprints, including St. Martin's Press, Henry Holt, Picador, and Farrar, Straus & Giroux. The contract sets a standard 20 percent royalty rate on net proceeds -- 5 percent lower the standard offered by other large publishing houses -- according to literary agent Richard Curtis.