So it's a Terry Goodkind week, huh? Um, OK.
First, there was this article by Alan Beatts. Off the news that Goodkind is self-publishing a book, Beatts uses the Borderland Books post to question Goodkind's loyalty.
To my eye the picture overall looks like Goodkind left Tor for more money (probably) and a bigger audience (by writing a main-stream thriller). He failed to get anything like the sales that his new publisher was looking for and either they kicked him to the curb or he broke the contract. The[n] he went back to his old publisher, who took him on. But then, not happy with them for some reason, he has now decided to self-publish.
Bear in mind that Tor, the publisher he's treated this way, is the company that gave him his start. Granted, publishing is complicated, being an author is hard, and that combination makes for some difficult decisions. But still, perhaps Mr. Goodkind is not the most loyal fellow on the planet.
(By the way, if you'd like to read a post that Beatts wrote about Borderland Books, you can find it at Tor's website.)
Claiming that an author was given "his start" by a publisher is an idea that might not sit well with authors.
The post seems to suggest that Goodkind owes something to his publisher. He doesn't owe them blind loyalty. He doesn't owe them a lifetime of work. He doesn't owe them Right of First Refusal (ROFR) for everything he ever writes ever. He doesn't owe them anything except what is agreed upon by both parties. Who signed a contract. For both sides. Perhaps Goodkind granted Tor ROFR for the next fifty years. Perhaps he granted them Lifetime Loyalty. If he did and he broke the contract for Lifetime Loyalty, he should be flogged. Or sued. Or whatever it is they do.
But if he signed a contract for three books and delivered three books years ago, then, um, isn't that fine? I don't know. I'm just a simple caveman lawyer, but it seems that if he said he's going to do a thing and then he does the thing, then you're done. Unless you want to agree to do another thing. Which he did. With someone else. Which seems fine, right? I don't know. I'm sure it's hella complicated. A new contract is a new contract, right?
To my eye, though, if you and a publisher sign a contract, then once the contracty agreements are completed, then isn't that the end of the contract? He still owes the publisher because the publisher "gave him his start"? Yeah. My ass.
Couldn't the publisher drop him? Or worse?
Look, let me explain something to you. You sign a two-book deal with a publisher. They promote you and pay you and all sorts of lovely things. Then, for reasons not caused by you or your publisher, the book tanks. Instead of selling out the print run of 50,000, you sell 25,000 copies of the book.
What is the publisher supposed to do? Your second book is already under contract. They agreed to publish it. And maybe they don't drop you right there. But maybe they just don't overly promote your second book. Which, of course, sells nine copies. Should they have been obligated to spend full-page NYT money on your second book when your first book tanked? Are they bound by loyalty? Or is it just the author who is bound to the publisher?
Publishing is a business. Writing is a business. If Goodkind wants to self-publish a book instead of working with a publisher, isn't that fine? Does he owe a publisher anything? Of course he does. He owes the publisher whatever it is he and the publisher agreed that he owes the publisher. And the publisher owes him whatever it was that he and the publisher agreed upon. That's why they sign contracts. That's what contracts are. If you're not sure, you can google it. It's on the internet.
From what Mr. Beatts says, Goodkind was in the middle of a three-book deal when he decided to go ebook/self-pub with this book. OMG, guys. Tor is totally going to sue him for this. Oh, wait. They're not? Everything is cool? Hmm. Someone should tell the internet bloggers.
It seems that Goodkind has books under contract with Tor, but not this book he is self-publishing. Or it was, but now it isn't. OK. So what's the problem?
There is no reason that a publishing contract can't include a prohibition against the author self-publishing anything without the publisher's permission.GAK! OK. I'm done throwing up. Wait, not yet. Hang on.
If I weren't a good Christian boy, I might say "JESUS GOD!" As it is, I'll just offer a HOLY HELL!
Are you kidding me? Of course there's a reason a publishing contract can't include that. It's smells predatory and unfair and unethical. But if both sides agree to a contract, isn't it fair by nature? No. Look up predatory lending and predatory contracts. (Always a good idea to have fantastic agent.)
If you've delivered two DragonBanger books of your three-book DragonBanger contract with HF Publishing and you have a YA story about a race car driver, why the hell would you need HF Publishing to allow you to upload it to Kindle? That doesn't have anything do with loyalty. It's in the contract.
If HF Publishing has Right of First Refusal in the contract, fine. That can cover books of the same genre, though sometimes it merely covers similar "novel-length" works. Saying contracts could "include a prohibition against the author self-publishing anything without the publisher's permission" is unworkable. Anything? Anything? Publishers can prohibit you from self-publishing a collection of letters to your puppy? If you write a series of urban vampyre romances for Trends Today Publishing, then you shouldn't be able to publish a book called "100 Ways to Baste Your Turkey"? Beatts isn't suggesting what publishers OUGHT to do, he explains in the comments. He's just saying there's no reason a contract couldn't include that. I disagree with that. I think common sense disagrees, too.
You enter a contract with a publisher. You're equals in that regard. You provide the writing, and they provide all the publishing
What's the next idea? "There is no reason that a publishing contract can't include a prohibition against the author's promotion of non-HFPublishing books without publisher's permission." So, Author, you want to promote books that we didn't publish? Where's your loyalty?
Publishers provide great, often immeasurable benefit to writers, and writers provide great benefits to publishers. Publishers and writers, when successful, tend to work their respective asses off. They are in this together, but they are under contract, not best buddies who get married. (Though they are not prohibited from marrying each other, depending on the contract.)
They think a best-selling novelist of symbologist thrillers can make them money. And if the author is late with a book, well, then people get fired. This is a business. Then maybe the publisher doesn't devote as much time, effort, or money to the next one. Not because the publisher isn't loyal to the author, but because it doesn't make business sense. And maybe the author signs a deal elsewhere, because the Anaheim Angels need a home run hitter. Or whatever.
To my eye, saying that the author "owes loyalty" to a publisher because the publisher "gave him his start" misses a key component of the publishing business -- you know, the business part.
Publishers, those that last, don't succeed because they believe an author is an A-OK kind of guy. They don't look at an author whose last three books have shat the bed and say, "Oh, I gotta pony up some more dough for that cat." They continue publishing because they were correct in believing that the author's contracted writing is a good investment. If that works out, then the two parties continue to work together. When publishers and writers make good decisions based on finances, they can afford to stay in business.
As an author, you have to make the decisions that work best for you. I can guarantee you that the smart publishers are making the decisions that work best for them. When those overlap, it's a beautiful world.
I've signed many contracts in my 42 years. I don't go back to Clyde's Auto Emporium because that's where I signed my first contract. I go back because that worked out pretty great. And Clyde (though it's Clyde's half-sister now, after the propane accident) doesn't offer me a contract because of my charm and good looks (though I wouldn't blame anyone if they did). We continue to enter into contracts because the contracts work for us. That's what contracts are.
Can you imagine if the publishing world tried to work based on loyalty?
Here's another Tommy Terribone thriller. You all hated the last three, but we're sticking with him.
Ah, sorry. Forgot the rules. That would never happen. The publisher is investing in the author. Only authors have to show loyalty, right? Beatts concludes:
Our society has generally been in agreement for centuries that when someone is willing to risk their money on something that may or may not be successful, they're entitled to all the profit that comes from that risk and that they're allowed to protect that profit within the law. Should publishers be held to any other standard?
I love it when our society agrees on shit for centuries.You know, except for slavery.
Oh, and the other Terry Goodkind news? He did a thing about an alleged ebook pirate.