The debate about Kindle, electronic books, and the future of the printed word seems to be dominating the publishing landscape lately, especially among my agent colleagues. I don't want to dive into all of that again here, but I did want to mention an intriguing subplot in all of this, the e-book giveaway.
As you may know, some publishers have allowed readers to access either chapters or an entire book electronically as a publicity measure in advance of publication. This has been done selectively, and usually only for a short period of time. I haven't seen any convincing hard numbers yet, but early indications are that this has led to increased sales of the print edition. Intriguing, right?
A nuts-and-bolts issue relating to electronic giveaways is how to handle all of this contractually, assuming that this turns out to be a good publicity measure. Many publishing contracts give publishers free reign when it comes to publicity, which I've never liked. I try to limit any excerpts used by publishers without approval to either ten percent of the entire work or 7,500 words. I also try to add language that ensures that we'll negotiate a payment for my client if at some point publishers should receive moneys from these publicity efforts (i.e. the online provider agrees to share advertising revenue with the publisher). If electronic giveaways are the future of publishing publicity, than these are just a few of many points to consider in your contract.