Yesterday I posted a link about agents suggesting LGBT teens be 'straightened' up. It was a little unfair to tag it as bullying, since it's more an indication of agents trying to change the work they are representing to suit their market expectation. Now since we readers are the market, we're partially to blame for that apparent cynical industry attitude. Today, though, is guilt-free horror: let me introduce you to Kiana Davenport, who was recently subjected to a tantrum from her publisher. I spoke with Diane from Pitch University about this on Twitter, and she mentioned that she would be interviewing Kiana in the near future. I'll try to link to that interview if/when it's made public.
Anyway, let's get to the meat: Kiana Davenport writes in 'Sleeping with the Enemy: A Cautionary Tale', how her traditional publisher, one of the 'Big 6 publishers in New York', raged at her for daring to self-publish a collection of short stories that they had previously rejected.
In January, 2010, I signed a contract with one of the Big 6 publishers in New York for my next novel. I understood then that I, like every writer in the business, was being coerced into giving up more than 75% of the profits from electronic sales of that novel, for the life of the novel. But I was debt-ridden and needed upfront money that an advance would provide. The book was scheduled for hardback publication in August, 2012, and paperback publication a year later.
Recently that publisher discovered I had self-published two of my story collections as electronic books. To coin the Fanboys, they went ballistic. The editor shouted at me repeatedly on the phone. I was accused of breaching my contract (which I did not) but worse, of 'blatantly betraying them with Amazon,' their biggest and most intimidating competitor. I was not trustworthy. I was sleeping with the enemy.
I find this absurd. We're in a publishing world where these large publishers are becoming less powerful (and having to compe with independent press publishers and self-publishing). Can a publishing house like this afford to abuse a client to this extent? It's clear that authors, the actual source of the writing the publisher hopes to sell, are regarded with utter contempt. I don't see this as being a position that is financially viable in the modern publishing industry, where authors have more options.
So, here is what the publisher demanded. That I immediately and totally delete CANNIBAL NIGHTS from Amazon, iNook, iPad, and all other e-platforms. Plus, that I delete all Google hits mentioning me and CANNIBAL NIGHTS. Currently, that's about 600,000 hits. (How does one even do that?) Plus that I guarantee in writing I would not self-publish another ebook of any of my backlog of works until my novel with them was published in hardback and paperback. In other words they were demanding that I agree to be muzzled for the next two years, to sit silent and impotent as a writer, in a state of acquiescence and, consequently, utter self-loathing.
I'm utterly speechless. Kiana can't comment publicly on any of this as she is in legal proceedings, but I'll try to keep an eye out for the follow up. Hopefully there's a positive resolution for everyone.
If you missed the link to the article above, read it here: Sleeping with the Enemy: A Cautionary Tale.