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?