What recent publishing controversies say about the industry

From Nathan Bransford:

Controversy erupted in the publishing Twitterverse in a few different directions over the weekend.

. . . .

The incident that got most tongues wagging was that a prominent agency, New Leaf, parted ways with a significant number of clients very abruptly by email over the weekend without giving them help to land with new agents. I don’t have any inside information, but as best I could suss out it was due to an allegedly “amicable” departure of an agent, Jordan Hamessley, who only recently sent an email to her clients about summer plans.

The injustice of quite a few authors being suddenly left in the lurch (some mid-negotiation) tapped into the always-simmering frustration the writing community has with literary agents and the traditional publishing industry writ large.

(UPDATE 5/16: Publishers Lunch and Publishers Weekly have confirmed some of the essentials. Of Hamessley’s 45 clients, 18 were offered representation within New Leaf, 27 were left to find new representation, and NL president Joanna Volpe said they would handle contracts in progress. NL literary director Patrice Caldwell said, “There was no way to do this as quickly by calling people, nor did we want people to start sharing publicly about this before we told everyone.”

UPDATE #2 5/16: Agent Jordan Hamessley released a statement on Twitter disputing the characterization of the parting as “amicable”)

In my view, this case makes for a lens into the state of the broader industry. So buckle up for one writer’s perspective on where things stand in traditional publishing these days, why this incident reflects deeper issues, and what writers can do about it.

Link to the rest at Nathan Bransford

Why wouldn’t any aspiring author want a major literary agency represent them?

“There was no way to do this as quickly by calling people, nor did we want people to start sharing publicly about this before we told everyone.”

Do these agency people know how to send a heads-up email to all their authors at the same time?

How long have they been in the world of traditional publishing? A week’s worth of working experience would lead even a mediocre mind to conclude that the New York publishing business leaks like a sieve, especially when a breakup is happening.

PG will admit that there are not nearly as many heart-stopping thrills involved in self-publishing.

7 thoughts on “What recent publishing controversies say about the industry”

  1. SENDING an email to a bunch of authors at the same time does not guarantee any of them will actually read it in a timely manner, or even look to their own email when rumors start flying, but it would have CYA benefits.

    Agents are (reportedly) human – human foibles will follow. And since most of them seem perfectly comfortable giving their authors (questionable) legal advice (which they are usually not qualified to offer), little problems like this must occur all the time.

    Get a room (statement functionally equivalent to ‘what did you expect?’).

  2. What I’d like to know is what is the “writing community”?
    Does it, for example, include Mrs PG?

    • It depends on who’s talking, T.

      A traditional New York publisher has one definition of a writing community and Amazon has another, different definition. Mrs. PG has been traditionally-published, but decided to switch to Amazon’s self-publishing community several years ago. I forced her traditional publishers to return rights to her books to her, burning more than one bridge in the process.

      • Burning a Bridge to Nowhere is not a bad thing.

        The ghettoized category in which Mrs PG writes (which is about the ghetto walls erected by the publishers and the chain brick-and-mortar-oriented stores/distributors since the early 1980s, not at all about her books either in “approach” or “quality”) very much is a “nowhere” as far as commercial publishing is concerned. The publishers don’t see blockbuster potential there from the outside, so they’ve never learned enough to really, really comprehend that Lilian Jackson Braun is more profitable than David Balducci.†

        And the less said about publisher sabotage over the years, the better. At least indie authors never have to wonder about that (of course, self-sabotage is a problem throughout every single aspect of publishing, for every possible variant on “publishing” including indies…).

        †You’ll just have to trust me on this. Let’s just say that the royalty statements are filled with both bad math/interpretations and bad data. And not just for these authors.

  3. Why wouldn’t any aspiring author want a major literary agency represent them?

    People who have watched TV and movies about authors, agents, and editors. Manual typewriters, long lunches, and weekends in the Hamptons.

    I once visited Cabot Cove myself to see how real authors live. It was about twenty feet long.

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