Sunday Morning Musings

by Amanda S. Green

It’s Memorial Day weekend here in the States. This is the traditional beginning of summer and, most importantly, a time when we remember those men and women who have given their lives in the service of the country.  So, let me take a moment to thank them – and their families and friends – who have made this ultimate sacrifice.

Now, onto business.

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about agents becoming publishers and the problems I foresaw with such an undertaking.  Let’s face it, when you sign a contract with an agent, it is with the understanding that they will go out and find you the best contract possible with a publisher.  They are your agent.  It is their responsibility to work for your best interest.  When the agent becomes a publishers, they are now wearing a hat that conflicts with their duty to represent your best interests.

Unfortunately, the trend is continuing.  It was announced earlier this week that Bloomsbury is forming a digital publishing arm that will partner with agents to publish their clients’ works.  Now, the announcement looks okay on the surface.  This enterprise is to focus  on those works where the author has died and the work is no longer in print.  But, it still begs the question of who is the agent working for.  If there is enough interest in the work to bring it out in digital format, then why isn’t the agent sending it out to digital publishers, both traditional (in this instance, meaning established publishers who regularly publish in both print and digital formats) and digital publishers?  How can they put the work up for auction and keep it fair without hiring a third party so the agent can blind bid on the publishing rights?

Now, I’ll admit that this announcement doesn’t come right out and say that agents are part of the “publishing” house.  But it specifically says it will be “partnering” with agencies.  Again, this partnership seems to be blurring, if not outright crossing, the line between representing the best interests of the author/client and the best interests of the agent.  I guess only time, and probably the courts, will tell.

Borders is back in the news.  Specifically, the creditors committee has objected to Borders’ request for an extension of 120 days to file its reorganization plan.  If granted, the deadline would be moved from June 16th to October 14th.  The objection notes some of the same concerns I wrote about last weekend.  But it basically comes down to the facts that Borders continues to bleed cash and isn’t cooperating with the creditors, leading to grave concerns about the future of the bookseller.  Considering the fact that Borders also wants to reject its “master licensing” agreement with Seattle’s Best Coffee in such a way it would allegedly infringe on SBC’s intellectual property, well, you can understand the creditors committee’s concerns.

Finally, I have to give a hat tip to one of the local newspapers here.  Imagine my surprise this morning when I was reading the Dallas Morning News and came across a book review and large excerpt on the front page of the entertainment section.  This is notable for a number of reasons.  The first is simply the placement.  Book reviews are usually relegated to the middle of the section on Sundays.  Second, this article and the accompanying snippet consisted of as much space as the entire book review section usually does — and did so without other reviews being deleted.  Third, as with so many papers across the country, the Morning News had stopped printing reviews and only recently (the last year or so) returned to doing so.  Finally, and this is the really exciting part for me, this front page treatment with snippet is the first in an ongoing series.  The paper is going to start spotlighting some of Texas’ best authors in this manner.  So, here’s a tip of the hat to the DMN and a heartfelt thanks from a grateful reader.

The floor is now yours.  What items in the publishing news have you seen this week that you want to discuss?  Or is there something from this past week or two that you’ve read that you think we need to talk more in-depth about?

4 comments

  1. Borders just keeps exceeding themselves. I no longer wonder how they got into this position in the first place. They seem to have a serious disconnect with the Real World.

    1. Pam,
      I think you are understating the problem. It’s not only a disconnect, but is a complete severing of any connection with reality. From their desire to pay bonuses to their executives to their demands that publishers and other vendors not hold them accountable to the continual bleeding of cash despite closing so many stores, I can see only trouble for their employees and for publishing as a whole if the court lets them continue down this path. From what I’ve read, there have been offers for some of their stores but Borders turned them down because it wasn’t for a complete buyout. It doesn’t matter that it would have helped lower their debt. It didn’t fit their plan, a plan they have yet to share fully with anyone outside the executive offices. Now it looks like they want to continue screwing whomever they can as they continue their swirl down the toilet bowl of bankruptcy.

      Such a shame.

  2. Re: Agents setting up as publishers

    I’ve heard of this happening, agents offering to release an author’s back list as e-books. It seems to me that you have a conflict of interest here.

    1. Rowena,

      That’s exactly my point. It is a conflict. If there is enough interest in putting out a backlisted title, the agent should be trying to get the best deal possible for their client, not for their agency. But it goes beyond just the problems of agents as publishers, there’s the length of time the title may be tied up with the agent and, therefore, their publishing arm. Some agents are now trying to sign titles to for the length of copyright…that’s right, length of copyright. Sorry, but that just offers too much of an opportunity for the writer to get screwed.

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