The timing of Random House chairman Markus Dohle's December 11 letter to agents renewing the debate about who controls the right to publish the e-book editions of older backlist titles drew attention to another announcement: that bestselling business author Stephen R. Covey had moved e-book rights for two of his books from his print publisher, Simon & Schuster, to Rosetta Books, which will sell the e-books through Amazon for a year. “This had nothing to do with anything except with coincidence,” said Rosetta chairman and CEO Arthur Klebanoff. “But it obviously gets more attention particularly in the community because of everything else flying around.” Dohle's letter and the ensuing response from the Authors Guild has given Rosetta the opportunity to get some good press, highlighting the eight-year-old publisher's expansion into the e-book market.
Since its inception in 2001, Rosetta has focused on popular backlist books in which the rights were in the hands of the author. It started with 100 titles, many of which it still publishes, and is no stranger to controversy surrounding e-book rights. Random House filed a lawsuit seeking to block Rosetta from distributing eight e-books by authors whose printed works were published by Random “on opening day,” as Klebanoff said; they settled 16 months later with Rosetta paying Random a licensing fee. “From a business point of view, everybody was early [to start developing e-books],” said Klebanoff. “We thought in 2001 that the e-book space would be very robust very soon. Turns out it needed Kindle to get robust.”
Now that Kindle has reinvigorated interest in e-books, Rosetta has picked up more titles; it is currently up to about 150 titles, and business is up about 50% this year over last, according to Klebanoff. The company is in discussions with “dozens of agents,” Klebanoff said, has released 15 new titles recently, and has another 35 in the pipeline. For now, Klebanoff has his eye almost exclusively on Kindle, since it is the market leader. “My view—and a number of agents and authors share the view—is if you can get a merchandising package from the leader, that's a good thing.” Covey's books are benefiting from Amazon's marketing and publicity; as of press time, his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People was a rotating widget on Amazon's books home page.
The Covey deal—and many others—places the author's e-books exclusively on Amazon for 12 months, which Klebanoff noted is a short time in the current marketplace. He also said Amazon makes sense for Rosetta Books since the retailer is “by far the largest channel of distribution for deep backlist books.”