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Electronic publisher reduces royalties, ends contracts

MightyWords.com has terminated the contracts of thousands of authors it represents on the Web and cut royalty payments for the remainder, saying the moves are necessary to provide more marketable content.

Electronic publisher MightyWords.com has terminated the contracts of thousands of authors it represents on the Web and cut royalty payments for the remainder, saying the moves are necessary to provide more marketable content.

MightyWords said it currently has 10,000 titles, most from self-published authors who until recently could automatically upload manuscripts for sale over the company's Web site--in an arrangement that allowed them to split any profits 50-50 with MightyWords. With the contract terminations, the site will offer just 2,500 titles.

The company cut royalty payments from 50 percent to 30 percent with authors who did not have their contracts terminated. In addition, MightyWords will begin requiring authors to submit their work for review before it's posted and will set up a filter to flag obscene and hate-filled manuscripts.

"I think (MightyWords) is just facing up to the reality that a lot of self-published books see very limited demand and sell a handful of copies to friends and family, but they don't have a broader appeal," said Forrester Research analyst Dan O'Brien. "I think they're smart to shift gears and to focus on things that will sell."

Judy Kirkpatrick, MightyWords' executive vice president, said fewer than 5,000 authors will be cut off. She said that it is difficult to determine the exact number because many authors use multiple email addresses and multiple noms de plume.

The authors were notified of their termination last week. MightyWords publishes titles for free online, but the company said most authors haven't had much success on the site because they do little to promote their work.

Kirkpatrick said MightyWords is now committed to making titles available that are professionally edited, laid out and designed.

Kirkpatrick said the company found that site visitors are attracted to four categories of "need-to-know, must-have content": business, technical and computing, health, and fiction and nonfiction titles from established authors.

"We wanted to continue to make titles available for sale that people were willing to pay for," Kirkpatrick said. "Our focus isn't about information that is already in a book; they are titles that don't exist anywhere else."

Last month, MightyWords and Barnes&Noble.com struck a deal to sell digitally downloadable and printable e-books. Consumers have the option of downloading titles to the Microsoft Reader or Glassbook Reader as well as printing the books, which range from $3 to $100.