December 15, 2009, 12:00 AM

‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ author shifts e-book rights to Amazon

Best-selling business author Stephen R. Covey has moved the exclusive e-book publishing rights to two of his books, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and “Principle-Centered Leadership,” from Simon & Schuster to Amazon.com for one year.

Best-selling business author Stephen R. Covey has moved the exclusive e-book publishing rights to two of his books, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and “Principle-Centered Leadership,” from Simon & Schuster to Amazon.com Inc. for one year.

The reason that Covey is able to move his e-book publishing rights is because he owned the e-publishing rights to the two books, says Sam Bracken, Franklin Covey global director of media publishing. The move comes not out of any dissatisfaction with Simon & Schuster, he says, noting that Franklin Covey will continue to publish books through the publisher.

Covey is making the two books available to Amazon through independent e-publisher RosettaBooks. Working with RosettaBooks, Covey will receive more than half the net proceeds the publisher took in from Amazon on its e-book sales. Most major publishing houses’ digital royalties are 25% of net proceeds, according to Publishers Weekly.

“RosettaBooks routinely offers authors 50% of royalties and more to superstars,” says Arthur Klebanoff, RosettaBooks CEO. Klebanoff declined to comment on the percentage Covey will receive.

The move enables Amazon to further assert its dominance in the e-book space, says Mike Shatzkin, CEO of Idea Logical, a consulting firm that specializes in helping publishers develop digital strategies. “Amazon is asserting its tight grip on the online purchasing of books and e-books,” he says. “And it increasingly has the power to elevate or bury a book with the online audience.”

Since Amazon’s e-book reader, the Kindle, uses a proprietary digital file format, e-books exclusive to Amazon can only be read on the Kindle and devices such as the iPhone, iPod touch and a PC that have an application that enables it to read Kindle-formatted books.

Bracken noted that Franklin Covey is also experimenting with self-publishing new books. For instance, today the company released a new book, "Great Work, Great Career," co-authored by Covey, that Franklin Covey self-published. The book and e-book will be sold exclusively through Amazon. “The publishing industry has changed quickly and our customers will no longer wait two years for a book to come out, they want it as fast as they can get it,” he says. “This is a chance for us to meet our customers where they are at."

The move also highlights the fact that a big name author can bypass traditional publishers and still reach many consumers, says Shatzkin. “If the author’s name is a brand and [he] has a platform to communicate with a core audience this becomes a viable alternative to working with a publisher,” he says.

Covey’s move could spur some prolific fiction authors to attempt a similar move. “That doesn’t mean that this will be universal, just that it will be more common,” he says. One downside to the shift away from traditional publishers, he notes, is the loss of an advance-which is a major sacrifice for authors, he says.

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