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

Why writers need Imajin Books and what we offer

I received an email today from a writer who, like many others, is considering self-publishing, though the idea of a more traditional-style publisher is still appealing. He asked why writers who are blogging would need Imajin Books. And what did we bring to the table?

This was my reply:
I opened Imajin Books to other authors when I realized there is still a need for publishing companies that run somewhat like the traditional publishers and big guys. The key difference is that most of those publishers aren’t actively pursuing the ebook market and if they’ve dipped their feet in it, they aren’t paying attention to what readers want—ie. lower ebook prices.
At Imajin Books, ebooks are our #1 priority. They’re considered the primary right, with print being a subsidiary right. We sell far more ebooks than print.
We offer:
  • An opportunity for authors who have dreamed of being published by a ‘traditional publisher.
  • A small advance, but above standard royalties that are hard to find with another publishing company.
  • Marketing support – we do whatever we can to get our authors books into the hands of the public.
  • Trackable sales – with statements, you’ll know how many books you’ve sold so that when someone asks—and they will—you’ll have the answer or at least know where to go to find it.
  • Potential to be recognized as a bestselling author. Many of the lists do not consider sales of self-published titles.
  • Book cover design, with a professional graphic designer, and our authors do have some input.
  • Editors.
  • Formatting your book for ebooks and print.
  • We take care of ISBNs, barcodes and licensing art.
  • No upfront costs. The only thing you’ll ever pay for is ordering your own book stock. We never ask our authors to pay for any of the above. All investments our authors make in marketing are their own choices. We may recommend something, but there’s never any pressure and we do not sell any kind of marketing packages.
  • Marketing advice – we’ll give you ideas of how you can promote your book and strategies you can use to increase your readership.
  • We are a traditional publishing company (in the industry sense of the term), but we are anything but traditional.
Is Imajin Books for every author? No. If an author is considering self-publishing and knows the industry well, that may be the best decision for them. I have always been a strong proponent for self-publishing. But there is a steep learning curve that can take some writers a while to get through. Mistakes will be made along the way. Coordinating and finding editors, graphic designers and the right self-publishing method can be a daunting challenge for many. We eliminate those challenges.
We favor writers who are actively blogging and visible on social networks because it shows us they’re willing to step out of the box and go where the readers are. It shows they’re willing to do what it takes to market their books and not rely 100% on a publisher.
Going back to his question about bloggers, if a writer is blogging about their journey, the craft of writing, their book ideas or their lives, they are reaching an audience. That audience becomes potential readers if that writer then becomes published--whether self-published or trad. published. But if all they're doing is blogging a handful of times a month to their 20 best friends who follow their blog, the potential for new sales goes down drastically.

Marketing books takes boldness and creativity. That's what I personally bring to the table at Imajin Books. Anyone who's met me or knows me through various social networks can tell you that "bold" and "creative" are my middle names. Along with my nickname of "Shameless Promoter."

We welcome any questions:

Cheryl Tardif
Publisher, Imajin Books