Some of you may have seen the news about Month9Books and the Georgia McBride Media Group, and some of the author experiences detailed in this great post. In short: authors were treated really poorly, and then worse if they tried to stand up for themselves. And though that post focuses on the YA market, obviously this also happened to authors in their adult romance line. I'm just glad I got out as quickly as I did. (More personal experiences detailed here.)
Now comes the news that GMMG is reverting rights to many authors, and suddenly it's okay to come forward with behind-the-scenes information on how unprofessional (I have more adjectives, but I'll leave it at that) GMMG is. Now also comes all the criticism that "authors should have known better," and "authors should have spoken out" so that others wouldn't be caught in the same terrible position.
Well, excuse me? I can (but won't) name several reputable agents, some from hugely respected agencies, who sold their clients' books to GMMG. And I could do that before I signed with them, because I did my research. If those agents "didn't know better"—how could I? And the writers who spoke out about Swoon Romance only had great things to say. Why? Well for some, that was their experience, I guess. For others, they had non-disclosure clauses and/or were bullied into not saying anything. But not only by GMMG.
Let's face it, an author coming forward to say something negative about a publisher is a little bit like a woman saying she was raped: no one believes you, and everyone says whatever happened is your own fault.
So now—after a constant stream of commands never to say anything negative (about an editor, a publisher, an agent, etc.) publicly because of how it reflects on you, because it's obviously your own fault, because you'll be blacklisted by the industry as someone who's hard to work with—now we're blaming authors also for the fact that they kept quiet? Tried to deal with the situation privately, behind the scenes, just like the industry constantly tells us we must?
Why didn't (and haven't, as far as I know) the agents who signed books to GMMG speak out? Probably because no one wants to be marked as that agent—the one who was duped even though according to others there were huge warning signs; the one who couldn't protect their client; the one who "didn't do their job."
And yet authors are supposed to have come forward and risked the backlash of the entire publishing community, without knowing whether anyone would corroborate their story or even listen? And let's not forget that even if a group of authors had come out with their experiences, people in publishing would have said that they're just a disgruntled group! That it's their fault their books didn't do well—not the actions of GMMG—and they were therefore bitter and casting blame on the publisher. Because that's the assumption in this industry: publishers are innocent until proven guilty beyond any shadow of a doubt in an arbitrary court, and authors expressing any discontent or even stating facts that don't reflect well on the publisher are disgruntled/drama queen liars.
So how about we stop blaming the authors—many of whom were bullied by GMMG, but all of whom were bullied into silence by the publishing industry—for the fact that they didn't share their bad experiences and risk their careers. Because the same people who are saying authors should have come forward sooner are the ones who preach the "if you don't have anything nice to say" gospel.
If you want someone to blame, then it's the industry's fault, for not standing behind authors and reminding them:
- that they have the right to walk away from a bad publisher just like a publisher can dump a problematic author
- that no publisher is always a much better choice than a crappy one
- that authors should also be considered innocent until proven guilty (of lying, of being a drama queen, of being a "problem" author, etc.)
- that standing up for yourself and your work isn't the same thing as "causing problems"
- that they have the right to stay quiet and move forward, rather than being tried in the court of public opinion