If agencies charge $510 for the right to print a picture in 1,000,000 copies of a textbook, how do they tell the customer who's producing a book on a specialized topic with a 20,000 press run that he should pay more than $11? That's getting down to micropayment prices.
In fact, some sellers are charging a lot less than $510 for 10-year rights to print 1,000,000 copies of a book.
Some have asked how I came up with the price multiples for higher circulations that I recommended in my article on Reasonable Pricing For Textbook Use. I started by looking at what publishers used to pay. I made the assumption that since costs of producing photographs, the general cost of living, and the prices charged for books have all gone up significantly, it is unreasonable that picture prices are significantly below what was paid in the past.
Then I developed multiples that would improve the situation for producers, while still being more than fair for publishers.
I do not know of anyone who is getting these figures now, but Corbis' list prices are not that far off -- assuming they actually charge the prices listed on their Web site. No one will ever get such prices if someone doesn't ask. Publishers will always say your prices are too high. They always want to pay less.
The best time to establish a better price is when you have a picture they really need and can't get anywhere else. At the very least, arguing that circulation should have a more direct relationship to price should result in somewhat higher prices.
It's also hoped that agents and photographers will begin to recognize how much they are being exploited.