Have you been following the uproar between author Keana Davenport and Riverhead Books, a division of Penguin? According to a NY TImes article yesterday,  Davenport signed a deal with that publisher to publish her novel, A Chinese Soldier's Daughter, scheduled for release next summer, and recieved a $20,000 advance. To help promote her work, Davenport pulled together a collection of award-winning short stories,titled Cannibal Nights, she wrote 20 years ago and self-published them them through Amazon.

According to the author, Penquin went "ballastic" and claimed she broke  her contract not to compete with them by publishing her earlier work through their competitor. They demanded she pull the Amazon book and somehow delete all reference to it on the internet.

Two things came to mind as I read this. First, writers who sign with publishers had better understand the language of the contract they're signing. Secondly, Penguin's reaction to the situation--as suggested by the article--is an example as to how rattled major publishers have become over the results of Amazon changing the publishing world paradigm.

What is your take on this conflict? Have you every been accused of sleeping with the enemy?

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For authors who don't understand their contracts, that's what agents are for. If they can't get agents then they can at least get someone who understands contracts to help them understand them. It's the author's fault if they sign a contract they don't understand.

I don't consider having a publisher sleeping with the enemy. I guess it's a matter of opinion. Some folks might say that an author signing a contract with Amazon is sleeping with the enemy. Some folks consider Amazon the big bad wolf the way some authors consider publishers the same thing.

Everyone's situation is different. There are a lot of commercial houses that allow authors to self-publish books on the side. You gotta know your contract. This woman obviously didn't understand hers, broke the terms of it and that's her fault. It's not the publisher's job to help her understand her contract, that's why you look to other professionals who will help you understand it.  But if she understood it and still broke it than she deserves what she gets. Contracts are made for a reason. She broke her contract and most authors are smart enough not to do that. Also everyone doesn't have the same type of contract or the same type of terms.


You also have the choice of not signing if you don't like the terms. Some authors do jump and sign contracts without understanding them but I don't feel sorry for them. A grown person should have the sense to make sure they understand something before signing it.


Most authors are smart and have commonsense to know they should have someone look over a contract before signing. If not then they are a fool because no contract, no matter if it's in the book industry or not should be signed if you don't fully understand it.

I think some people are seeing this woman as "poor little author victim" when she is not. She BROKE her contract and it's not like she didn't do anything wrong and Penguin reacted. If you break a contract, this is what happens.

Best Wishes!


I guess that is at the heart of the issue, Stacy. Did she break her contract? And what, specifically, was the language of that agreement. Did it preclude her from publishing other works not under contractual agreement with Penguin? On the other hand, If she did not break her contract, and simply was singled out for having published through Amazon, then I can see reason for concern. Maybe the facts will become known over time.
It's a little unusual that a book contract also prevents an author from publishing other books.  Perhaps there is a "first refusal" clause in it.  I've never had that problem.  I also assumed that two very different works were involved in this squabble.  However, I'll check out my future contracts for just that sort of thing.  It sounds unreasonable to the point of being unfair.  And, of course, if she was prevented from publishing her other works, she should not have signed.  That's an outrageous clause.

I'm getting here late, but what else is new?


I don't know if she broke her contract or not. If so, IJ is right; she should ot have signed. It's an outrageous clause.


Either way, Penguin is an ass. Publishers provide less promotional help each year. Ms. Davenport found a way to prime the pump for her more expensive book. Penguin should be thanking her, not suing her.


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