Friday, November 18, 2011

Standing up for our rights or career suicide

One of the websites I love to read on a regular basis is Dear Author . Great website, thoughtful reviews, and always interesting information on publishing in general.

This week they had a brief article on an author suing her publisher for including promotional materials for other author's books at the back of her book. There was nothing in her contract against cross-promotional material, but she felt it went against the terms of her contract and because of this she has refused to hand in the third book in her three book deal.

There are lawyers involved, it's gotten ugly and for anyone interested, check out Dear Author's midday links for the details. Me, I read it and my immediate thought was this author is shooting themselves in the foot. Every other publisher will find out about this and would anyone agree to publish and author who had sued their publisher over something as common as cross-promotion. For more examples of this, see almost every Harlequin paperback.

I admire this author's self-confidence, her ability to speak out for something she thinks is wrong. I do think this is career suicide, but as writers, going through the critique process, through submitting to agents and editors, getting reviewed, there are so many ways our egos can be battered and I'm jealous of any author who can maintain their confidence through all of that.

Authors that will wait for the perfect agent rather than leaping at the first agent to offer representation, or can wait for the big deal rather than just accepting publication, the authors that believe inherently they are worth better treatment. Because I know I'm not that author and I wish I were.

Anyone think the above author was right in her stance? Would you have done the same?

11 comments:

Sinead M said...

Drat, my attempt to insert the link to the Dear Author page failed....

Molly O'Keefe said...

You are so right. I'm not the author who stands up for her rights. I look at that situation with the Sourcebooks author and I cringe. I judge her. The current mess with Harlequin - all these authors getting together and fighting for thier rights - I cringe. They're totally right - every author has to put thier line in the sand - I never ever do.

Lineless and slightly spineless - that is me.

Maureen McGowan said...

Oh, I have some opinions about this, but not sure I want to post them online.

I don't think authors should let publishers take advantage or walk all over them, but pick your battles people.

Maureen McGowan said...

PS. I think fighting for e-book royalties, especially with regards to a decades old contract where e-books weren't specifically mentioned, and therefore would be considered under the subsidiary rights at 50% is a battle worth fighting, perhaps... This? Not so much.

Eileen said...

Hmm. I was reading the comments and one person mentioned that maybe the lawsuit was just a pretense to get out of the contract so she could sell the books elsewhere in a better deal. Considering how low the advance was, it seems plausible.

Otherwise this seems ridiculous. Also I don't really see how cross-promotion hurts an author or why she should be compensated for it.

There are always clauses, etc., that we hate. Give me a couple of drinks and ask me about the part of my advance that I don't get until publication and you'll get an earful. My agent knows this and does her best to either negotiate that out of my contract or to limit the amount of money that is reserved.

Refusing to turn in a book because of a clause like that? I don't think so . . .

Now, also, it's all public. A quiet negotiation is always better than something big and splashy and noisy and embarrassing like a lawsuit.

Sinead M said...

I suspect in most instances similar stuff happens behind the scenes and we never hear about it.

But Eileen, that comment sounds so reasonable. Maybe they were looking for a way out of the contract and never expected to go public...

Eileen said...

I wonder. Especially with the agent's husband acting as the author's lawyer.

Maureen McGowan said...

It all smacks of inexperience to me. Husband as lawyer. Most lawyers who aren't directly involved in publishing or entertainment law find standard things in publishing baffling or appalling. And maybe they are... but that's how they are.

And she had a very inexperienced agent, too... Who's gone bankrupt now? FWIW I know an author who was with that agent and agent e-mailed her 3 years ago to say she was giving up agenting, so author should find a new agent. Then agent was clearly still agenting. At the time I thought it was a cowardly way to fire a client. Now I wonder if said agent hasn't been on the verge of collapse for years. (That's the bit I wasn't sure I should post online...)

But as much as it smacks as inexperience or naivete, perhaps she was being smart as a fox to get out of a contract. Still don't think it's smart. I mean, what's one book in a long career, especially when said publisher has already put out books 1 and 2 in same series. I would have sucked it up, finished out the contract, then moved on. But that's me. And I'm sure there's much about this we don't know.

Stephanie Doyle said...

Okay - so I had to read the Dear Author article before I could comment...

Suicide. Period. A couple of pages at the end of the book - which is completely common in publishing - and probably means you'll be cross-promoted as well - that's what you are fighting over?

And I agree with Maureen - a lot of times people here about things in publishing and are baffled.

That said the publishing world is a small one. These actions don't go unnoticed.

I'm not saying - don't stand up for yourself - I'm saying make sure you stand up for yourself for the right reason.

Eileen said...

Curiouser and curiouser, isn't it?

Kathy Holmes said...

Very interesting... I agree with Maureen - choose your battles.

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