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View Full Version : Publisher authors -- is this a conflict of interest?



Karen Junker
06-01-2011, 11:23 PM
I read a blog post the other day about agents who are also publishers -- the blogger felt that it was a conflict of interest.

What about publishers who are also authors? Is it fair for writers who submit to them to have to compete with the publisher's own books for publishing slots?

Chris P
06-01-2011, 11:29 PM
I edit a scholarly journal to which I have submitted articles. In such cases, I document my recusal from any decision-making process regarding my own article, and have an associate editor conduct my duties for that paper.

You do have an interesting point, however. I think it would depend on the size of the publisher (1 title per year versus 500) and if the company has enough staff to evaluate and develop the book independent of the publisher.

gothicangel
06-01-2011, 11:43 PM
I read a blog post the other day about agents who are also publishers -- the blogger felt that it was a conflict of interest.

What about publishers who are also authors? Is it fair for writers who submit to them to have to compete with the publisher's own books for publishing slots?

My experience of publishers who are also writers, is that they don't tend to be published by the same company they work for.

My personal objection to the agent-as-publisher is the apparent lack of publishing skill, rather than the actual act of publication.

Karen Junker
06-01-2011, 11:49 PM
My experience of publishers who are also writers, is that they don't tend to be published by the same company they work for.



I've seen a few epubs where the owners/editors are simply using pen names and being published by their own company. While I understand the reasons for using a pen name, I do feel that it's also a way of hiding the author's interest in the company.

Anne Lyle
06-01-2011, 11:57 PM
What about publishers who are also authors? Is it fair for writers who submit to them to have to compete with the publisher's own books for publishing slots?

I'm not sure "conflict of interest" is quite the right word. An agent is supposed to sell your book to publishers, so if he's a publisher himself, he could sell the book to himself and thereby be on both ends of the contract negotiation. Hence conflict of interest, because the agent is supposed to be your impartial "defence" against potential sharp practices by the publisher.

If a publisher wants to publish his own books as well as yours, that's not really any different than if he was publishing a family member's books or had a star client whom he prioritised over you - it might be irksome, but it has zero to do with your publishing contract. Hence no conflict of interest in the legal sense, as I understand it (IANAL).


I've seen a few epubs where the owners/editors are simply using pen names and being published by their own company. While I understand the reasons for using a pen name, I do feel that it's also a way of hiding the author's interest in the company.

There are certainly some dodgy "small presses" around who are basically some guy who started out in self-publishing and realised he could charge other writers for the privilege of doing for them what (little) he has done for himself.

Anna L.
06-02-2011, 12:06 AM
Hmm, lots of questions come to mind. Is this a case of an author who created a pub house because nobody wanted to buy their novel? If yes, might that mean the pub/author in question doesn't actually know what's marketable? Are all books marketed fairly or is the pub/author giving priority to his/her own work? Does this pub/author acquire his own work automatically, or does he submit it anonymously to other staff or what?

I'd go at it on a case by case basis. The important thing is to check that the publishers is ethical and you're going to be treated fairly.

Torgo
06-02-2011, 01:09 AM
Not a problem.

shaldna
06-02-2011, 01:54 AM
What about publishers who are also authors? Is it fair for writers who submit to them to have to compete with the publisher's own books for publishing slots?

My husband owns a small press. He publishes a lot of people's books. He is also a writer. But he doesn't publish his own books. He feels that it would be a conflict of interest and not the impression he wants to give to people.

I guess it all depends on the situation really.


EDIT: he also doesn't publish my books, just for the record. I write fiction and he publishes mostly film history and irish interest books. Even if he DID publish the sort of thing I wrote, I wouldn't feel happy about him publishing it because, aside from a conflict of interests, I would also face a lifetime of people saying things like 'her books were only published because she was sleeping with suchandsuch'

Momento Mori
06-02-2011, 02:02 AM
I think that it can be a conflict of interest and it's something I used to point out on the Bewares Forum because it comes down to whether the owner/author gets preferential treatment when it comes to marketing spend, distribution terms, cover spend, editing spend etc.

It comes down to doing research, not only on sales figures for the owner/author but also for other authors to see if anything sticks out.

MM

CaoPaux
06-02-2011, 05:05 AM
Exhibit A: Kunati (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=29961). Which, despite a great start, imploded because the owner favored his own books.

The BR&BC is rife with self-publishers-publishing-others. Mostly e/POD houses ranging from middling to sad, and often turning to vanity.

Kitty27
06-02-2011, 06:07 AM
This is a no-no for me. I'd worry about whether the agent is representing my books as a client or if he/she is busy hustling their books first. What if you're writing in the same genres as they are? Wouldn't this lead to having compete with your agent?

All sorts of drama can arise from a situation like this. I think an author entering into this would find things going all the way to left very quickly.

I'd avoid any agent who was dabbling in publishing.

Jamesaritchie
06-02-2011, 08:02 PM
Agent as publisher is much worse than conflict of interest, but writer as publisher? I see no automatic conflict, though I'd tread carefully.

rsullivan9597
06-02-2011, 08:43 PM
My experience of publishers who are also writers, is that they don't tend to be published by the same company they work for.

My personal objection to the agent-as-publisher is the apparent lack of publishing skill, rather than the actual act of publication.

I personally think they should select one or the other, either publish or agent but not both. But I also share Gothicangel's concern that many agents may not have the skills required - in particular I'm most concerned with the ability to market.

rsullivan9597
06-02-2011, 08:47 PM
I read a blog post the other day about agents who are also publishers -- the blogger felt that it was a conflict of interest.

What about publishers who are also authors? Is it fair for writers who submit to them to have to compete with the publisher's own books for publishing slots?

While not preceisely what you detail - its close enough for me to comment. I'm a publisher and one of the authors is my husband. Soon he won't be as he's been picked up by a big-six publisher but for now he is one of the authors.

Any authors who are brought on are aware of this and if they are at all uncomfortable then of course we would not sign them.

In a case where you are "locked in" to a contract this can be particularly difficult as once you sign your rights are tied up. At my company the authors are allowed to give notice and I'll remove their books from publication and revert their rights within 30 days. This way if they feel that they are not being treated properly they can seek an alternative.

happywritermom
06-02-2011, 09:26 PM
Agent/publisher? Sounds like a scam to me.
Publisher/writer? No biggee.

veinglory
06-02-2011, 09:28 PM
They are interests with competing elements. Some can arrange things so the conflict is minimal, others... can't or don't.