Do you ever get an email and you feel like Alan Funt is hiding in the bushes? Ohh… sorry, probably showed my age there. Think… Ashton Kutcher on his acclaimed television show, Punk’d.
In any case, I woke up today under the assumption that it was just an ordinary Tuesday. However, it would seem that I was way wrong. I signed onto Facebook and I was alerted to a new…we’ll call it ‘drama’ that’s going around in the publishing world as of late. Unlike most dramas in the publishing world, I usually scan over the information just so I can be aware of what everyone is gossiping about, but rarely do I stop to comment, much less form an opinion on the topic. That was until today. There was something about the parties involved that prevented me from merely walking away as an uninterested party. What was that reason you ask? Well, here’s my point of view on things from an outside observer’s perspective…
It would seem that a certain author, who I will refer to from now on as “Author X” is involved in a legal dispute with one of Author X’s publishers. Apparently the dispute centers around something referred to as FRoR (Future Rights of Refusal). From the information I saw, it appeared that this publisher offered Author X a contract on a book, but felt the writing and/or story fit better under a different imprint than the one Author X preferred it to be in. For those of you who don’t know what imprints are, they are basically a way for readers to help ascertain which books fit into certain categories, i.e. ménage, shifters, BDSM, etc. Some publishing houses do have much more specific imprints and/or guidelines, but this is to just give you an idea.
Now, let me fast forward a bit so I can bring you all up to speed. From what I read this
author did not accept the contract and after 90 days (the time frame which is normally applicable during the FRoR) Author X took her story and self published it. Here’s where things get a tad messy. Author X did not verify with her publisher who held FRoR to confirm that she was able to self publish said work. Then it would seem that said publisher took actions to protect their interest in the characters which they held the FRoR on.
So there you have it. There’s a legal dispute that is between Author X and said publisher. You think this would be the end of the story. But, wait… there’s more!
We all know there are always two sides to every situation, so I will give you both sides to this coin from my perspective. First, I have no qualms with said publisher and I have no skin in this game. I do however, have a history (albeit a small one) with Author X which does lend to my opinion on this topic. You see, a little over a year ago I shared one of her new release links on both Facebook and Twitter. Then I went so far as to tag Author X in the post. It wasn’t too long before I heard from Author X. I’d say maybe only an hour or so passed before I received quite a baffling private message from her on Facebook. Author X chided me, in quite a condescending manner for tagging her in a post without first letting her know ahead of time. Apparently, Author X hadn’t bothered to go see what it was that I tagged her in, but instead decided to school me on professionalism and how my actions were in “poor form” (actual words she chose) to not let her know beforehand. Umm…what?!?! You’re mad that I helped promote your new release to my thousands of followers and friends without first notifying you? Oh the horror!!! Clearly I was completely out of line!! *rolls eyes* Anyway, after I deleted the posts, thus removing her being tagged, I informed her that I was only trying to help out a fellow author (again…how dare I?) which I do from time to time. She then apologized and tried to pull the foot which she had jammed in her mouth out, but sadly failed by continuing to be condescending and explain how she was such a busy and prolific author that she gets confused sometimes. A word to the wise, if you’re going to try and apologize for being rude and arrogant, you might want to try doing it without lavishing yourself with compliments. It might just be considered in… “poor form”.
Now, back on topic… I don’t get involved in these types of disputes between publishers and authors for one very important reason. That being, because I am a firm believe that every instance is as unique as the parties involved. Case in point, I’ve had poor experiences with other publishers, but I kept those experiences private because they were my experiences, and my dissatisfaction with them may not be someone else’s dissatisfaction as every situation is different. You might be asking yourself why I’m getting involved in this dispute then. Well, I’d be happy to answer that question for you! Allow me to explain…
I received an email this afternoon from Author X. Imagine my surprise when I opened said email and read the lengthy request for my help. What?! You want my help? Umm… yeah, let me think about that. Back to what I was saying, Author X was very clever to add an email confidentiality disclosure to the bottom of her email warning me that any sharing of her email could be considered illegal. Eeeks! Soooo glad I read that warning! However, in the long email Author X claims that she would like my assistance in spreading the word on her situation with readers and authors on various avenues such as blogs and message boards. She even goes on to state in her email that I may include the information within her email to do so. Huh? So, wait… let me see if I’ve got this straight. You, who previously attempted to school me on professionalism, is now asking for my help in a situation that you’ve gotten yourself into? To add to that, I’m being warned in the confidentiality disclosure to not share anything she sent me, but then she contradicts her requests by asking me to use the information she’s given me to help better her cause? Umm… I may have forgotten to mention this, but Author X is basically asking me to help her in a cause which would negatively affect my book sales and future relationship with said publisher. Further, I’d like it known that I don’t claim to be a psychic, but something tells me that if I was drowning and in need of a life preserver, Author X wouldn’t so much as throw me a rope. This may seem like a harsh assumption on my part, however, I remind you that the only time in four years that Author X has said two words to me was to put me in my place for doing something nice. Outside of that I’ve not heard a peep from her. And now she wants my help? Riiiiiiight. Let me get right on that!
Here’s the problem as I see it, and please know that this is only my opinion and I am by no means a lawyer, a judge or even an expert of the topic at hand. However, speaking as a published author who has dealt with several houses and contracts over the years, I offer the following:
Author X has a publishing house which holds FRoR over her characters in a book, and they have offered her a contract for a book which contains said characters. Which means they have not refused the book. If Author X is under the assumption that they have refused said book – which honestly in this case I don’t know how she could have been – then Author X has an obligation to the publishing house and to herself to confirm her assumption. No smart business deals were ever based on assumptions. Every reasonable business minded person will tell you that unless you have it in writing, you don’t have it. However, even with this being my opinion on the subject it still wouldn’t have been any of my business. At least not until Author X decided to send me an email asking for my help.
So, to summarize I offer you all this….
The publishing world is a business. And like with all businesses, there are contracts. Those parties involved in said contracts are legally bound to uphold their end of that legal agreement. If an author has chosen not to do so then that is on them. Business is not some touchy feely, hand holding trip to Grandma’s house where you can do something wrong and you’re given a kiss and a cookie. Not at all. There are consequences involved in the actions you take. And if you find yourself in the unfortunate predicament of Author X, I ask you to do the right thing and not attempt to form a mutiny against the publisher you’re disgruntled with. It is a selfish act wherein you are asking others to take the heat (possibly financially and professionally) for your bad judgment.
It’s a big old scary world out there, so never bite the hand that feeds you!