Publishing Industry Bullies - Part 2 - A Publisher Makes Some Demands (via @BRAXTONRO)

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.

Publishing Industry Bullies - Part 1 - Get the Gays out of YA

This relates to two recent articles that highlight a really unpleasant side of the publishing industry. Considering the feasibility of self-publishing in modern times, compared to recent years, and the number of options available to authors, I would not have expected to see this. The first article was brought to my attention on twitter, and relates to reports of agents trying to convince authors to 'straighten up' their LBGT characters to make them more publishable. I called this article (and the next) examples of 'bullying' but that's probably a little broad:

In 'Authors Say Agents Try to “Straighten” Gay Characters in YA' , Rachel Manija Brown and Sherwood Smith relate their experience trying to sell their YA novel to an agent. They mention in the article that nothing more explicit than kissing occurs in the book, no different to the heterosexual characters.

An agent from a major agency, one which represents a bestselling YA novel in the same genre as ours, called us.

The agent offered to sign us on the condition that we make the gay character straight, or else remove his viewpoint and all references to his sexual orientation.

They explain it's not a singular occurence, and the acknowledge that this likely relates less to the agents' personal prejudices, and more to the marketability of a book.

This isn’t about that specific agent; we’d gotten other rewrite requests before this one. Previous agents had also offered to take a second look if we did rewrites… including cutting the viewpoint of Yuki, the gay character. We wondered if that was because of his sexual orientation, but since the agents didn’t say it out loud, we could only wonder. (We were also told that it is absolutely unacceptable in YA for a boy to consensually date two girls, but that it would be okay if he was cheating and lying. And we wonder if some agents were put off because none of our POV characters are white.)

I'm personally shocked at this, but I guess I live in a bubble and not the world of what is deemed sellable to mainstream audiences. I have to laugh that cheating on multiple partners is ok, but dating multiple partners consensually isn't.

Tomorrow's article is a more specific and even more egregious case of author bullying, relating to pitfalls of the 'hybrid' author, one who publishes traditionally and using self-published digital services.