The Authors Guild weighed in today on Odyssey Editions, the Wylie Agency-Amazon imprint set to release e-books independent of traditional publishers. According to an email sent to authors, The Guild supports the agency’s right to sell backlist e-book titles, but does have concerns about “serious potential conflicts of interest”:
The most obvious of these (conflicts) is the possibility of self-dealing to the detriment of the agency’s client, the author. . . . A major agency starting a publishing company is weird, no matter how you look at it. This sort of weirdness will only multiply, however, as long as authors don’t share fairly in the rewards of electronic publishing. Publishers seeking to manage this transition well should cut authors in appropriately.
Publishers, naturally, have been none too keen on seeing their role circumvented—Random House announced a Wylie boycott, and Macmillan’s CEO wrote that he was “appalled.” But, the Guild noted, these publishers have not directed their ire at Amazon:
Few publishers have the clout to stand up to the online giant, which dominates every significant growth sector of the book industry: e-books, online new books, online used books, downloadable audio, and on-demand books (That Random House, by far the largest trade book publisher, has retaliated against the powerful Wylie Agency but not against Amazon, which must be equally culpable in Random House’s view, tells you all you need to know about where power truly lies in today’s publishing industry).
It’s worth noting that Macmillan has successfully stood up to Amazon in the past—so all publishers aren’t cowed by Jeff Bezos. But in this case, Random House’s move was to send Amazon a letter “disputing its right to sell the books.” That will show them. We hope it was sternly worded and not signed “Yours Always” or anything.
The Guild’s entire message is available here.