Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Kiana Davenport's publisher demands she stop self-publishing

I "met" Kiana Davenport a while ago online and recently read about her battle with one of the Big 6 publishers. On August 25th, Kiana blogged about her ordeal on her blog post: Sleeping With the Enemy: A Cautionary Tale. As an author, I was horrified by how her publisher treated her and by their unfair and unrealistic demands, which directly affect her income. As a publisher, I just don't get their thinking...or lack of it.

Here's a recap:

Kiana signed with a major publisher in January 2010 for a novel that was to be published in 2012. She had self-published one book before even signing the contract with this publisher. In July, she self-published another title. Both  are collections of short stories, many of which had been published already in other anthologies.

As an author, I know that most traditional publishers aren't interested in previously self-published works, or works that have been published numerous times. Kiana's chances of having her major publisher take these collections would be slim to none, based on my observations and experiences.

When her Big 6 publisher discovered the two self-published works, "they went ballistic," states Kiana in her post. "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."

Here's where I think this editor suffered from Alzheimers. Amazon is NOT the enemy to a publisher. They are an important PARTNER. Most publishers are happy when their books are sold through Amazon, which is responsible for a huge percentage of book sales. Yes, Amazon offers self-publishing opportunities. Not everyone wants that, as is evidenced by the number of manuscript submissions we get now with barely any advertising--and we're a NEW publishing company.

Kiana's publisher then demanded that she "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."

It would be different if her publisher had already secured the rights to that work, but they hadn't. As for deleting Google hits, I'm not sure where they found this editor, but it concerns me that a major publisher has hired someone who doesn't understand the Internet, how it works or Google hits.

So why has Imajin Books taken Kiana Davenport's side? One major reason: authors should be free to earn income with their other works if a publisher hasn't already secured those rights. PERIOD. And they should be free to publish any damn way they want to. Does this shock you, hearing this from a somewhat "traditional" publisher like us?

Here's why we think this publisher is being unreasonable and farsighted:

1. A happy author is a huge plus. Make your authors happy and they'll produce more publishable works.
2. Authors need to earn income to be able to continue doing what they're doing. Earning money will make them happy and productive, which will make US happy.
3. No publisher should have the right to tell an author they cannot seek other forms of publishing, including self-publishing--unless they have secured the rights to every work the author produces, in which case I sure hope the author didn't settle for less than a 5 million dollar advance.
4. Her publisher is completely missing the boat on the potential for more sales. If Kiana is reaching a wider audience by promoting her other books, some of that audience will spill over to her traditionally published book.
5. The more prolific a writer is, the more people want to read them. This means more sales overall and more money for her publisher. Doh!

In short, Kiana's publisher is being narrow-minded and paranoid. They need to step out of their tiny box and start moving with the tides. The industry has shifted. Old models aren't productive or prosperous as they once were. Get with the program...or get out!

What does this teach writers:

Do your homework and don't skimp on getting an entertainment lawyer to go over the contract with you. Make sure you understand what you can and cannot do with your other works. Ask if you can publish elsewhere or self-publish and get this in writing, or at least make sure your contract does not restrict you. When in doubt, ask. There are no dumb questions.

Don't discount ALL traditional publishers. Not everyone thinks the way Kiana's former publisher does. Some are far more forward-thinking. At Imajin Books we embrace our authors' successes, no matter where else they are published or if they choose to self-publish as well. We've even signed contracts for previously published (traditional AND self-published) works.

Kiana, we'd be happy to consider publishing your works. And you can self-publish other works on the side all you want.

As far as I'm concerned this whole situation is just one more nail in the prehistoric coffin of old-school traditional publishing models that simply don't work anymore, and it's time that authors are treated like the partners they are, not purely as cheap slave labor.

Cheryl Tardif,
Publisher at Imajin Books and Bestselling Suspense Author


  1. Wow! I coudn't resist flinging this over to Twitter and my face book page.

    Great post! So honest. Go get 'em Cheryl.

  2. Considering you're basing your response on only one side of the story - and the fact that you're fishing for Kiana's business - I'm not surprised by the rhetoric here.

  3. I don't think it's productive to impugn anyone's motives in posting their take. This blog isn't the first or the last to take exception to the ways large publishers do business. Everyone has an opinion, including me.

    Once we're able to hear both sides of the story, some will be able to say, "Well, now I can understand why Publisher X was so fussed about this." Others will take the new info as yet more evidence that the big houses are out to handcuff us writers.

    Let's let this play out and in grace, assign no bad motives to anyone until the whole story is known.

  4. It's not that everything is changing - it's that it already has...and will continue to.
    The publishing industry, in all of its formats and permutations is morphing into the digital age and our responsibility as authors (aside from creating content) is to make sure we look after our own interests first, our readers next and then we can look at the interests of the various delivery systems. Yes, that's what a publisher is - a delivery system. Too bad about the original regressive attitude of the editor but neither the editor nor the publisher will be around long in their current format.

  5. Ostarella, I'm commenting on a story that has been widely discussed in the blogger/news world. I'm entitled to my opinion, as you are yours. As an author and publisher, no matter all the details on either side, how this particular editor handled things is just not cool. As for me fishing for Kiana's business, I simply pointed out that my publishing company doesn't operate like the one she was with and that we'd be happy to look at her works. We would! We'd be stupid not to; we're a publishing company.

    Deb, it's never non-productive to evaluate a situation and deem it not good or not cool. There are a lot of people in this business that take exception to how standard traditional publishers do business. We can sit back and watch, or say something. I prefer to say something. And my comments were mostly generalizations about the old traditional model.

    Bob, yes, everything is changing in this industry and will continue to do so for a while. You're also right that a publisher is a delivery system. We help get authors' books out to the public, and it's hugely rewarding for me personally to see my authors' successes.

    I think what this story really tells us is that authors need to look carefully at all their options and ensure they are choosing the best one for them. For some that will be publishing with the bigwigs. For others, self-publishing. And for some, finding a smaller publisher that truly values its authors.