Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Sounding Off

This morning the popular publishing newsletter Galley Cat featured a story posing the question, 'Should Authors Take Their Publishing Complaints Public'?

In their article they spotlighted an author who leveled a charge against their publisher for not paying royalties correctly. That said, it appears to be a case of sour grapes as GC hinted that the author greatly inflated their sales numbers. While Nielson's BookScan doesn't lie, it also doesn't portray total sales numbers as every store doesn't report to BookScan.

So should authors take their complaints public?

I believe so...with a caveat - they'd better be sure what they are saying is correct or they are shooting themselves in the foot...or career.

If authors (including myself) hadn't spoken out about Triskellion then who knows how long that company would have limped along scamming authors? Trust me, I tried everything to settle with them amicably and the owners weren't having it. Sometimes public humiliation is the only weapon we have left and in the case of Trisk - it worked.

There are any number of examples such as the Trisk debacle - and who knows how many authors avoided the train wreck because those involved spoke out? Sometimes you have to stand up and risk taking a hit in order to do the right thing.


Monica Burns said...

Protecting one's intellectual property is critical However, like you said, there are caveats. In addition to the accuracy of the information, I believe one has to be incredibly professional in the presentation of facts when going public with a complaint. As someone who’s made blog posts of an irrational nature, it gives me insight as to how those types of posts fail to generate reader sympathy (and I really hate getting flamed, which is why I work hard to make logical, rational posts).

I've seen too many writers over the past three years who post their complaints in a way that makes me wonder how much of the complaint is the publisher's fault and how much of the complaint is the author acting as a diva. My guess is that a lot of those posts have been generated in a fit of anger and frustration, but first impressions are everything. Generating the support of others requires one to present information in a calm, reasonable manner so the author creates empathy for their situation and doesn’t have people questioning the accuracy of the info. I’m less inclined to believe an author who’s acting unprofessionally than one who presents their case in a rational, logical post.

I also need to know the author personally for an arbitrary acceptance of the accusation. I refuse to accept as gospel the complaints of people I don’t know without documentation supporting their position. And let’s face it, documentation of that nature is not easy to provide because emails can be easily modified or fabricated on both sides of the fence. That fact makes it really tough on authors who have legitimate complaints to substantiate their case.

What I find really irritating is when writers believe we're a sisterhood and we need to “band” together whenever one of them states they've been injured by a publisher. This is a business, and if one doesn’t read a contract carefully or balks at requested edits or doesn’t act the professional in general, my ability to sympathize is really taxed. I’m a cynic because I’ve been burned too many times in my life to trust that others don’t have some hidden agenda. Besides, there are always two sides to a story. When I make a judgment I try not to leap to conclusions. I work hard to base my decisions on hearing the other side or having personal experience either with other authors or the publisher.

Now when you have a large number of authors stating there’s a problem, that’s a different story. I immediately lean toward the support of the authors, but I still find myself a bit leery. If on the other hand, I know one of the affected authors well, my support is staunch. I know a couple of the Trisk authors well and when I learned about that meltdown, I knew I was getting the inside, detailed scoop without any exaggeration. It made me very sympathetic to the plight of the authors and eager to help if I was able.

The issue for me in going public with any publisher complaint is the ability to get people to believe you. Not everyone’s agenda is what it seems, and I know of a couple of divas who complained loudly, yet the complaints weren’t based on a whole lot of fact, yet they stirred people up into a frenzy.

J.C. Wilder said...

I agree - another caveat needs to be if the author in question hasn't cried wolf too many times. :)

Monica Burns said...

ooohhh! Excellent point. Forgot that one! LOL