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Indie Author Goes Traditional – A Cautionary Tale

10 September 2011

A long time ago, Passive Guy blogged about Kiana Davenport. Thanks to a tip from visitor, Elle Strauss, we’re going to talk about a strange big publishing story and how Kiana is caught up in it.

Following are excerpts from Kiana’s blog:

As an  author  struggling to survive in these recessionary times,   I made a decision eight months ago.  I joined the legions of writers who are now electronically self-publishing backlogs  of their writing.  I did this in innocence and exuberance, and a need for income. And yes, I did it out of ignorance,  never dreaming that the  reverberations of that decision  would  cost me my credibility  in whatever is left of  the world of  print publishing.

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.

. . . .

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.

. . . .

Most of the stories in both collections had  each been published several times before,  first in Story Magazine,  then again in The O’HENRY AWARDS PRIZE STORIES anthologies, the PUSHCART PRIZE stories anthologies, and THE BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES, 2000, anthology. And, over  several years both collections had been submitted  to each of the Big 6 publishers in NY.  I still have their rejection letters,  including one from the house I was now under contract with.

. . . .

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.

. . . .

It became crystal-clear to me  that the issue wasn’t a supposed  ‘breach of contract,’ on my part, but the publisher’s fear and loathing of the  profoundly threatening Goliath, Amazon.  Since CANNIBAL NIGHTS in no way ‘resembles’ or would ‘injure’ sales  of the book I had sold them (an entirely different subject matter) I was not in breach of my contract.  I stood firm, and refused to capitulate.

Last week,  I received from their lawyers an official letter terminating my contract with them, “…for permitting Amazon to publish CANNIBAL NIGHTS, etc….” and demanding back the $20,000 they had paid me  as part of their advance.  Until then, this publishing giant is holding my novel as hostage, a work that took me five years to write.  My agent assures me I am now an ‘anathema’ to them.

. . . .

This is not a tale of woe.  Its a cautionary tale,  a warning to other writers.

Link to the rest at Davenport Dialogues

If you had any doubts about any of Kris Rusch’s descriptions of publisher misbehavior in the post that appeared about an hour ago, Kiana’s story should lay those to rest.

Many agents will tell authors they don’t need an attorney. Passive Guy was very pleased to see Kiana has one advising her about her contract. From Kiana’s description, it doesn’t look like her agent would do her much good.

Since Passive Guy does not have all or even most of the information about this matter and hasn’t examined Kiana’s contract, he will not try to do a long-distance analysis in detail.

Speaking generally, as publishers view this sort of thing, it does appear somebody from the publisher really screwed up. Kiana is careful not to mention her publisher’s name, but a little internet research reveals that it was Riverhead, an imprint of Penguin.

As PG has discussed, it has become common for publishers to truss authors like a turkey with contract provisions that prevent the author from writing anything — sometimes until the book is published and sometimes forever — without the consent of the publisher.

It seems clear somebody at Kiana’s publisher forgot about inserting that clause or it would have been the first thing Kiana heard about.

One of the recurring themes of traditional publishers, the agents who live in their ecosystem and authors who have a deep emotional investment in the way things have always been done is that by signing with a big publisher, an author is assured that his/her book will be handled by experienced professionals who will guarantee a quality product.

What is professional about an editor repeatedly shouting at an author over the phone?

What is professional about a paranoid rant accusing an author of “betraying them to Amazon”?

What is professional about screwing up a contract, then trying to make the author pay for the screw-up?

What is professional about hauling out the lawyers to intimidate an author?

 

Big Publishing

78 Comments to “Indie Author Goes Traditional – A Cautionary Tale”

  1. Hollister Ann Grant

    I feel for Kiana. This sickening story shows how everything is backwards from the way it should be – a publisher is just a distributor to a retailer, not a Hawaiian God that feasts on human sacrifice.

  2. All of that for a lousy $20k? Wow, there’s some seriously poisonous stuff happening in those halls if that editor couldn’t see or recognize the absurdity and absolute idiocy of his/her actions.

    Any editor worth their salary would know that previously published material by any author is an opportunity for marketing and promotions. You gather that data–did those collections sell well? Who bought them? Can we utilize that fan base in any way for the new novel’s marketing?

    • Jenni, I’m with you as you’re spot-on. This is an absolutely nonsensical attitude being shown by the “Big Six” publisher in question that’s short-sighted at best, utterly stupid at worst. I really don’t understand this, or appreciate it, either.

      Ms. Davenport, I wish you well and I hope your lawyer is victorious in court. (And if I had any money whatsoever — like many writers, I don’t — I’d buy a copy of one of your e-books, just to spite them.)

      • I agree with both of you. Any smart publisher will welcome someone who has already established a solid author platform (ex: Amanda Hocking and St. Martin’s). The publishing companies who behave in the manner that Penguin has here are the companies that will die off simply because they are too stupid to know how to change with the industry.

      • Spot on, Barbara. I’ll do the same and buy one of Ms. Davenport’s indie books. I’ll also happily boycott major publishers who treat authors like crap.

  3. That’s a horrible tale. I hope Kania’s attorneys kick some serious butt.

    Over the years I’ve heard horror stories. Publishers who use option clauses as weapons that ensure a writer can’t EVER write for another house. Publishers who use basket accounting to withhold royalty payments. Killing projects without letting the writer know the book was never going to be published, then when the writer finds out, she has to sue to enforce the contract. Dumping a writer who’d been plagiarized because the criminal happened to be a best seller and the victim was a nobody. Those were whispers and rumors and low conversations behind closed doors after a room had been swept for bugs. Everyone was afraid to stand up publicly and tell the world what was going on.

    Publishers get away with this because writers have been afraid. Hell, I’ve been afraid to rock the boat. Not anymore. It’s time to shine a light on poor behavior and subject the miscreants to the scorn they deserve.

  4. Unfortunately, I think we may see more and more psycho reactions from people in traditional publishing as finances get tighter.

    It sometimes seems that Big Publishing is caught in a time warp in which they don’t understand that authors have blogs and word of dirty deals is going to leak out.

  5. By any standards, the publisher’s actions are nuts. Rationally, they should’ve been grateful that the author was out beating the bushes, building up her audience, to which the publisher presumably could have sold more books. My takeaway from this story? Publishers have been fudging their numbers for decades; however bad the numbers we’ve heard about how things are right now for the traditional publishers — and those numbers are horrendous (64% drop in paperback sales from last year, etc.) — it’s very likely that the actual numbers are even worse. As in cataclysmic worse. As in “We’re not sure we’re even going to be here next year” worse.
    I’m beginning to wonder if the actual reason that Jeff Bezos doesn’t drop the nuclear bomb of a below-cost, sub-$99 Kindle is that he doesn’t want to destroy the supply chain of product to Amazon.com. In other words, he’s keeping the traditional publishing industry on life support so Amazon can go on selling their books, for as long as the trad pubs can keep staggering on, dead man walking style.

    • Interesting theory about why Amazon doesn’t kill off the trad pubs, K.W.

    • I’ve been with my primary publisher since 1982. (Not one of the Big Six.) I’ve been with a top agent since 1982. My agent says Bezos wants to wipe out all brick-and-mortar bookstores. My publisher says ebooks will the the saving of the publishing industry. Heck, my publisher put a clause in the contracts about electronic rights decades before other publishers did–probably because a science fiction/fantasy house is going to be more aware of the potentiontial for future publishing forms. I find it interesting that my agent believes one thing, and my publisher another, when their goals–maximizing potential sales–are the same.

  6. I’d love to know which publisher, simply for prurient reasons, but I imagine she can’t talk about it. Seems to me the publisher breached the terms of the contract and she should be allowed to keep the advance.
    Or are there clauses in contracts that say – if the publisher breaches this contract for any reason you must return the advance?

    • Julia – I haven’t seen any publisher brazen enough to include a clause that allows it to breach a contract and still require the author to return the advance. The right of the publisher to demand an advance be returned is totally dependent on contract language, but my guess is that it’s pure bluster in Kiana’s case.

    • Good question and thank you PG for answering it.

  7. The word “professional” gets tossed around a lot online, and I think it has a different meaning to some. I think many consider “professional” to mean “the way things are frequently done in a profession” rather than a proper code of conduct that honors a profession. So, I’d bet you that some would view the described author-bashing and intimidation as professional even while many others would not. Or, as I see quite often in disagreements, it’s the author who was unprofessional first so all behavior is justified. (I’m sure the reverse is true in the author to publisher direction in some cases, by the way.) It’s sad since I’d agree that none of the things you point out are good, professional behavior.

    Still, I find myself more concerned with the underlying issues than the professionalism. Sometimes, I wonder if the misbehaviors aren’t a distraction ruse to begin with….

    • Greg – You may be right. My standards of professionalism come from a broad background in both business and law. I’ve been in tough negotiations and nasty lawsuits, but I and those on the opposite side have conducted ourselves in a professional manner even while we have conflicting interests.

      The more I learn about the publishing business, the odder and more out-of-step with the broader business world it seems. In many ways, the freakishness of publishing make it less likely that many organizations or people will survive the disruptive forces that are remaking the entire book business.

  8. I’m honestly unsurprised by this. I figured it was a matter of time, particularly with all the contradictory information out there from industry professionals. (Self-publish first; you’ll demonstrate that there’s a market to the agent/publisher! Don’t self-publish; you’ll ruin all your chances of landing an agent/publisher!)

    If I were her, I’d take a good look at my contract to make sure 1) I hadn’t breached my contract and 2) the publisher had contractual ability to terminate the agreement and demand the advance back. Unless the answer to both those is “Ooops,” I think I’d wanna sue.

  9. I agree, Passive Guy, that the crazy behavior is a side-effect of dwindling revenues. When money gets tight, people panic. It’s both sad and frightening to be on a sinking ship.

    Stories like this make me glad to be published by smaller, e-first publishers. 🙂

    • Daisy – It’s really not that difficult to treat people respectfully. As someone who has been in a lot of nasty litigation on behalf of clients, it’s possible to do so even under those circumstances.

  10. Shouldn’t the title of this article be Traditional Author Goes Indie – A Cautionary Tale?

    Or am I confuzzled?

    • Monique – She was traditional then indie then traditional-while-also-being-indie, which got her into this fight.

      • Oh, I didn’t realize she was trad who left trad to be indie who then left indie to be trad only to hybrid herself into this mess.

        Is that right?

        • Meant to add/clarify, that from her comments I got the impression that going indie only occurred after she’d signed on with the publisher.

          “As an author struggling to survive in these recessionary times, I made a decision eight months ago. I joined the legions of writers who are now electronically self-publishing backlogs of their writing.”

          That implied to me that she had never gone indie until after she’d been trad.

          Meh.

        • Monique – That’s my impression from reading Kiana’s bio at a couple of locations. I think her early books went out of print and at least some of her indie publishing involved her backlist. If you read my first blog post about Kiana that links to a post Joe Konrath did, she’s had some tough times in her life.

  11. This is such a discouraging story. But I really wonder if this kind of behavior is widespread. As I was reading Kiana’s harrowing harassment, I kept thinking, “I know who that publisher was–had to be!” Because a friend of mine had just as psycho an experience–though the disagreement was very different–and after many years of being traditionally published, I’d never heard of anything like it. Sure enough, Passive Guy, it was the one you mentioned. The good news–my friend came out just fine, thank you. With, not one, but two other publishers who were well-behaved, respectful, and generous.

    • Drew – I’m always happy to hear about publishers treating authors well.

      • Increasingly rare, I guess! But my real point really wasn’t that some are nice–just that this one’s so far out of line you can spot their tactics a mile away.

      • My editor is my publisher, and has always treated me extremely well. We’ve certainly had our disagreements over the years (30 years in 2012), but she answers my questions, explains about publishing decisions, keeps me up to date on every step of production, tells me sales figures, what publicity they plan, pays royalties 3-4 weeks before the contract says they are due, will pay the on-accept advance upon delivery, when other publishers won’t cut that check until revisions are completed. I stay at her loft when I’m in NYC, she takes days off so we can see the sights, buys all of my meals.

        But, again, she is also my publisher, not just an editor, so she needs to do no song-and-dance routines for higher-ups when trying to acquire a book, knows what they can and will do, makes her own decisions based on what she feels is best for the book. She even insists that the cover artists read the book before submitting concept sketches.

        This house is not one of the Big Six, but is a trad publisher, one of the few privately-held publishing companies left. Boy, does it make a difference!

        • It seems to me (having worked elsewhere in publishing) that the privately-held publishers are going to end up most likely to stick around. It seems that the larger publishers that have been sucked up into media holding conglomerates have had to become “cash cows” to support a whole host of other tangentially-related entertainment or retail/media industries that are much less profitable. Consequently, the publishing arms have to not only sustain themselves, but support a whole host of loss-leaders under the umbrella, which exerts downward pressure to the point that the publisher can’t take risks on unknowns, desperately searches for cost-cutters, and prays to discover the formula to make bestseller-lightning a guaranteed bet.

      • I am genuinely happy to hear when publishers treat their authors well. First, because it’s the way everyone should be treated and Second, because it’s smart business.

        If all publishers started treating authors terribly, the publishing business would be going downhill much faster than it is.

        The point of a story like this is not to paint all publishers with the same brush, but to point out that no publisher should treat an author in this way and how self-destructive such behavior is.

        The unfortunate fact is that financial stress brings out the worst in some people.

  12. I’m stunned by the whole story but especially by who the publisher was. I had a very good experience with them years ago when I almost signed a contract with them. Now I’m wondering if the deal falling apart was me dodging a bullet, the universe looking out for me.

    For Kiana, I hope the publicity has a great effect on her sales.

  13. As of 3:55 CDT, Sept. 10, CANNIBAL NIGHTS was still available through Barnes and Noble. I just bought it to support Kiana.

  14. Hard to know what the real facts are here, but based on this, it sounds like the publisher really screwed up. I’d say they breached, forfeited the advance, and no longer have any rights to the manuscript, but the devil is in the details. It would be great if she self-published the book and the publisher continued to make a big stink out of it. The more press the story got, the more books she would sell. It would put the publisher in a very tight corner.

    As for Amazon not wanting to anger publishers so it can keep selling books, I don’t think that’s what’s going on. Publishers desperately need access to Amazon. There’s no way they would refuse to sell through Amazon, and there might even be antitrust problems if they tried to freeze Amazon out as a wholesaler (which is essentially what Amazon is).

  15. Regardless of contract minutiae, this is not a good way for publishers to do business. Who is going to sign up with this publisher now? [I take that back; give a very big pot of non-returnable money, and I’ll sign right now!]

    There are more sensible small publishers out there, just as there are some complete idiots, but that pot of money would have to be BIG and GUARANTEED to get me away from independent publishing.

  16. The saddest part of this story is that it is so easy to believe it.

    The Trade Publishing industry is in chaos and people are behaving like drunks battling for the last lifeboat on the Titanic.

    The economy isn’t helping matters.

  17. Wow! How backasswards!

    BTW, I bought Kiana’s House of Skin a few months. She’s a fabulous writer.

  18. This just shows you how desperate traditional publishers are getting.

  19. My stomach hurt after reading this. It’s all so grade school. I don’t like you (reject the book). You find someone who does (Amazon and publish). Then, first kid finds you more attractive and demand you not be friends with the other kid.

  20. On the basis of the information provided, it is interesting to see that at least one major player in the market doesn’t have the smallest clue about its business. I guess asking Ms Davenport nicely to put an exciting add for her forthcoming book at the end of Cannibal Nights would have been too much of a creative effort…

    I don’t quite see how they could take the new novel “as hostage” after terminating the contract – how can they prevent her from publishing it independently?

    On the up side, at least I finally realized that Ms Davenport has a new collection out. My ignorance triggered thoughts. So, PG, please permit an off-topic question: Does anyone know about a service (sales platform independent) that readers and authors can sign up to and that informs readers if an author they are interested in has published something new? (I’m thinking of a very purist thing, simply the information that “author XY has published a new book, available here and here and here” – maybe one further option would be to be informed about specific author’s price changes.)

    • Stefan,

      This might be something you’re interested in:

      http://www.bookrooster.com/

      • Mellissa, thanks for the tip. But I suspect that’s not quite what I had in mind, as I’m not interested in writing reviews.

        Say, I’ve just read a book by Joe Shakespeare that I liked very much and I simply want to be informed when he publishes another book. Simple e-mail: “Joe’s got a new work out, it’s available in the following places: …” Same goes for his even more talented colleagues’ books. I don’t want to sign up on every single writer’s homepage or befriend them on whatever social network is in vogue (and I don’t want to receive all the promotional mails they are sending out) – one site should do the job to provide me with all the information I want.

    • [quote]I don’t quite see how they could take the new novel “as hostage” after terminating the contract – how can they prevent her from publishing it independently?[/quote]

      From what Davenport wrote about it, she has been asked to return the money paid to her so far. That money was an advance for the book, it seems that the publisher is holding the book until the advance is returned. Without seeing the specific terms of the contract involved it’s impossible to say, but I would venture that this was covered in the contract.

      One thing that we have to remember, no matter whether we think the publisher is right or wrong, is that big publishers have A LOT of lawyers, and they will have covered their own asses first and foremost.

  21. It seems clear somebody at Kiana’s publisher forgot about inserting that clause or it would have been the first thing Kiana heard about.

    Does it? Really? We only have her side of the story, we don’t have a copy of the contract or a copy of the contract termination. Surely if the publisher has terminated the contract they believe they have legal grounds to do so? I don’t know that I would say sending an official termination letter is an intimidation tactic, to my mind threatening to terminate would be intimidation.

    I think this case highlights more than ever why you need a lawyer (qualified in the correct field) from the start not just when things go wrong. Agent’s are not lawyers however good their tacit knowledge is.

    • You’re correct about none of us knowing what’s in the contract, Anika, and the contractual language lays out everybody’s rights and obligations.

      As far as a termination letter goes, if Kiana’s reports of the tone of the relationship are correct and if the VP publisher got involved, I don’t have problems imagining the VP calling the lawyer and telling him/her to send a nasty letter.

      If the contract provides that all litigation is in New York and the publisher believes Kiana doesn’t have much money, the publisher could potentially file suit or threaten to file suit in New York for return of the advance on the theory that Kiana would surrender because she can’t afford to fight.

      This is not at all the right thing to do, but it’s business hardball some organizations might play.

    • Yes! We have only heard one side of the story. There are always two. That said, I may sound like a shill for trad publishing, but I am about ready to go live with various e-novels that do not fall under the e-rights contract with my primary publishe, or my secondary publisher–who only re-released my books when we alerted them that we were filing for a reversion of rights. I wouldn’t think twice about publishing for e-readers any novels that were never purchased by publishers. Authors now have a tremendous alternative potential that will only make all us us stronger.

      As for what publishers will do because they don’t like something the author has done, here’s an example: An author wrote a very good novel told 1st-person by a black male protagonist. The publisher was VERY excited about it, thought they could promote a black author to make inroads into black demographics. This included a major book tour all over the country. When they learned the author was actually a white woman in her 40s, they cancelled the book altogether. It’s entirely foolish for a publisher to react to the extreme that Kiana’s did, but publishers do still hold the upper hand. They can say no. Nonetheless, I’ll bet Kiana’s work goes great guns in e-book format . . . success is the best revenge.

  22. From what is written here, it sounds like the Big Publisher wanted ALL the cake, and when the writer didn’t knuckle under to their unreasonable demands, the Big Publisher stalked off in a snit. I suppose the Big Publishers expect everybody to continue to bow before them. Poor form on the Big Publisher’s part – they should catch up with technology.

  23. I feel bad for her. I hope things work out in her favor.

    I have never seen an industry in such a hurry to hurl towards its own destruction. What a mess.

  24. I also just bought Cannibal Nights from Amazon. What a wonderful voice she has!

  25. Gee, I’m a little bit late to this party, but…

    Didn’t the publisher tell her “Give us the $20k! (…or use the money to [counter]sue us)”? You can pay quite a few lawyer hours with $20k.

  26. This is certainly interesting, and I’m sure it’s a very stressful time for all involved. But at the same time, as none of us here have seen the contract and are only hearing one side of things, I would say that we can’t really make assumptions here. That said, there are several instances where the situation may result in a termination, most likely some sort of non-compete clause.

    If we learn nothing else from this story then it’s to hire a good lawyer and pay careful attention to any contract that we are signing.

  27. Marisa A. Corvisiero

    Amazing. Although the publisher ‘went ballistic’, I think that you got off easy. 600K hits is a massive undertaking. Unfortunately, although you can do the cleanup, the internet is forever, and e-versions of self-published work often linger in that virtual ghostly world that most of us understand so little about. Contractually speaking, a good lawyer could have made a detrimental case against you if your book was still out there when you signed the contract. This is a perfect example of things I warn my clients about. I recently wrote a post on my blog about knowing what’s in your contract. Check it out if you’re interested. http://thoughtsfromaliteraryagent.blogspot.com/

    Thanks for the wonderful post! I may have to share this!

    Marisa A. Corvisiero, Esq
    Literary Agent and Consultant

  28. I am not surprised at the lengths a publishing house would go to inhibit a writer from gaining a financial footing in an overly populated industry.

    It really does pay to hire a good lawyer and a good agent.

    If I were her, the agent would go. Slap my hands for self publishing prior to receiving a big name publishing contract? You’re out the door!

    If her contract states that she was contracted for the current novel, not the prior ‘Cannibal Nights’ which they did not contract her for then by all means she she should pursue her right to keep the advanced monies for the sale of the current book and the publisher should honor the original contract which obviously did not include you can not have self published prior to this contractual agreement.

    The additional cautionary tale here, is that you should always read your contract first before you sign your name on the dotted line. I am sure she did thoroughly and unfortunately for her, she was on the level but the publisher was not.

    Research on that publishing house also helps. You have to approach it from a business mindset. Would you ever consider taking on a partner without first doing the leg work on their background?

    As writers, our life’s work is our bread and butter. We are not here to give it away for free.

  29. I bought Kiana Davenport’s “House of Skin” back when JA Konrath highlighted her as an indie author in need of support. She’s had a difficult life, and I was happy to help in that small way.

    It’s appalling to me that things continue to be this hard for her. I hope there’s some light at the end of the tunnel for her soon.

  30. How dare she publish before this publisher found her and rescued her from obscurity? Would they have demanded the same thing if she published with another publisher?

  31. Ah, I’ve been waiting for the publisher’s side of the story, and while Penguin hasn’t said anything, here’s commentary from the publisher’s perspective. Still all speculation, but gives some insight into their actions.

    http://aardvarknow.us/2011/09/12/competitive-e-work/

    • The article states “If these were print books we would understand in a flash that publishing two books prior to a contracted-for work would constitute a breach of contract.”

      Er, can someone clarify this for me? If the author had published two other books elsewhere, say with a small press, I don’t see how that would constitute a breach of contract.

    • Livia, I read that response several times, and I still don’t get it. The publisher’s perspective is they don’t just want the rights to a single book, they want to OWN the writer, too?

      Brian Difore says, “The author’s conspiracy-theory conclusion that this is about the publisher versus Amazon seems wrongheaded. If these were print books we would understand in a flash that publishing two books prior to a contracted-for work would constitute a breach of contract.”

      Excuse me? I’m not trying to be thick here, but is this honestly the AAR’s position? What about advocacy for writers? How about somebody’s ability to make a living?

  32. If I were a share-holder in a publisher that behaved like this, I would be tearing my hair out. Forgive me, but many comments about lawyers and details etc above are missing the point.

    Which is – has the publisher behaved in an effective way? My answer is no. They have laid out in the open a bullying mindset and covered themselves with bad publicity. They have put up a big red flag for prospective authors saying “Don’t sign up with us, unless you approve of slavery”.

    They have given the author’s book the best possible launch but will not see any of the profits. No business owner can look at this saga without recognising overt management incompetence, and careers will be damaged, at least.

    Authors will be reading the story and becoming very, very much more wary about contracts. I had been thinking that way anyway but now – try and sign me up and be prepared to draft a new, equitable approach into your contract.

  33. I appreciate the posting of this story. It saddens me to hear that this woman had a hard time and I hope at this moment, things are going better for her.

    It is through things like this that have made me, hopefully, doing my homework on the people I submit to. I have asked around in my RWA groups, I follow on Facebook and Twitter, and Googled what I could. I also have a lawyer on standby for when I am offered a contract, I will have her look at it. I hope things like this will keep me from having a story like this one.

  34. Thank you for posting this…it just futher solidifies my choice to be an Indie Author and Publisher!!!

    Lorena

  35. It very much depends on the contract language. I have a friend who is signed with Kensington, and my understanding from what she’s told me is that she can’t publish anything with anyone else unless A. they’ve turned it down first (even in another genre, even in genres they don’t publish) and B. she’s submitted all three books in the series she’s contracted with them first.

    When I was with a small press publisher, they only prevented me from publishing books in that same series (or same characters, same fantasy world, etc) without them getting first turn-down on it.

    Other presses place no restrictions on where else authors can publish.

  36. Also without seeing the contract I can’t say for sure but my guess is they can drop her but not recover the $20,000. My takeaway – this publisher has exposed themselves as not being aware of what it takes to be a success in the new publishing environment and good luck having any savvy author sign with them. Short stories are a PROMOTIONAL TOOL to an audience. If they don’t understand this basic concept she’ll do better to have the contract killed as this is not an organization I would want to tie myself to long term.

    • Yeah, I can see a debate on another novel as a competing work, but it’s hard to build a case that short stories would compete with a novel.

      • I’ve been trying to wrap my head around this situation, and I have to say I don’t get it. It’s true publishers don’t want you writing *any* kind of book once the contract is signed, as they believe it takes writing time away from the book they paid for. (My own trad publisher, with whom I’ve had a very good relationship for 29 years, mentioned the word “unethical” to my agent when I mused about writing a book for someone else during post-delivery downtime so I could get some on-sign money.) Publishers do get very hot and bothered by this. But for a very different book written and uploaded *before* the trad publisher purchased the new book just doesn’t make sense to me. I hope Ms. Davenport’s lawyer can make some headway with her (ex-) publisher.

  37. I truly understand the decision to boycott publishers you feel treat authors badly. But remember that this also hurts the authors who’ve worked so hard so deliver a well-written book readers can enjoy. An author lives and dies by sales numbers, and if those numbers go down, the publisher will drop the authors at some point. In the long run, a boycott harms authors’ careers, and makes no dent in the publisher’s bottom line. I think a better expression of disatisfaction and anger might be to write the publisher and explain how you feel, and why. Start a letter-writing (email-sending?) campaign. But do keep alive the careers of authors who have done nothing wrong.

  38. Does that editor kiss her mother with that mouth? Were I her employer, that phone call would have been a firing offense.

    PG, I’m wondering if this behavior comes under the heading of “restraint of trade?”

  39. Wow, I never would have thought it could happen, but, times are changing.

    I have at least one rejection letter for every book I have at Amazon as an e-pub (and one of them has several negative letters). I also have a book out to a traditional publisher, so, I definitely appreciate you sharing so I’ll have my eyes open if the publisher should decide to offer a contract.

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