NINC: Coker Takes on the Kiana Davenport Issue

In a panel today at NINC conference, panelists were addressing ebook publishing by authors outside of traditional contracts and the potential impact on both traditional and ebook sales.

The main players:
Mark Coker, Founder and CEO of Smashwords
Don Weisberg, President, Penguin Young Readers Group
Kiana Davenport, Author who reported being dumped by Penguin after self-publishing a collection of short stories.

Note to readers: Before you read this, I want to say that Don has been great at conference and very forthright and informative. He does NOT work in the mass market division and is not responsible for (or necessarily aware of) the actions of Penguin.

Mark shared his opinion that offering short stories, novellas and collections as ebooks while waiting for longer works to release were a great way for authors to keep their name out with the readers and keep interest high for the coming works. He then goes on to say that he doesn’t understand why the situation with Penguin author, Kiana Davenport, was a problem. He says he is aware we’re only getting one side of the story, but he would like to hear the other side from the publisher.

(There’s a collective intake of breath in the room. I am delighted as now I won’t have to ask this question myself in the single session later on.)

Don states that he does not know all of the facts of the case. He states that if you are in a contract with the publisher and wish to do you own thing, that they have no grounds to stop you (unless it’s contractual), but that the preference for any editor would be that you tell them your plans up front so that they can help plan a successful strategy around what you intend to do. He encourages authors to ask themselves if the self-publishing they’ve planned will add value to or detract from their traditional works, both currently published and future contracted.

So still no concrete answer on the entire issue from the publisher side, but it’s clear that publishers would prefer, at minimum, to be notified and preferably involved in, an author’s solo pursuits.

From a business perspective, I totally understand their sentiment. If a publisher is planning a big release for an author, they’ve invested a lot of money. An ill-advised or informed author could potentially damage the success of their traditionally published book before it is even released.

The author side of me, however, says that no single business has the right to restrict the trade of an independent contractor. Unless, of course, you were foolish enough to sign a contract that allowed them to. If that’s the case, then I got nuthin’ for you.


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