Julian Assange’s short-sighted book deal

From The Economist:

ScreenHunter_04 Dec. 29 12.16 The big news of the day is Julian Assange's book deal. The Wikileaks founder has secured more than $1m in advances for his autobiography from Alfred A. Knopf, a New York publisher, and Canongate based in Britain. A manuscript is expected sometime next year. “I don't want to write this book, but I have to,” Mr Assange told the Sunday Times. “I have already spent £200,000 for legal costs and I need to defend myself and to keep WikiLeaks afloat.” Struggling writers around the world are crying crocodile tears for this man. Woe is he and his handsome advance.

The deal is impressive, but there are signs that Mr Assange's rush to shake hands with big publishers was penny-wise, pound-foolish. As it stands, the contract barely covers his existing legal costs, which he says are approaching £500,000. Knopf will surely do its best to rush the book into print, but its cut of final sales will be considerable. A typical contract would give Knopf electronic rights and Mr Assange 25% of net profits. As the towheaded Australian already has a cult following, it might've been savvier for him to self-publish an autobiography and sell it via Amazon, which offers authors 70% of net profits for e-books sold in America (though the book must be priced between $2.99 and $9.99); Barnes & Noble and Apple offer similar royalty rates.

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