controversial books

Do We Care About How Literary Agents Feel?

There’s an interesting post over at Dystel & Goderich titled, “An Agent’s Responsibility.” It’s about Dara Lynn-Reiss, her book deal, and her article in Vogue. She’s the mom who allegedly used some pretty controversial methods while getting her seven year old to lose weight. I still don’t think there’s enough information out yet in order to form a strong opinion on this, at least not for me. I’d rather wait until the entire book is published and I’ve read it. I’m also a firm believer in not interfering with anyone else’s parenting skills. I’m not fond of hearsay either.

From the GalleyCat article:

The new book has the tentative title, The Heavy. David Kuhn from Kuhn Projects negotiated the deal with Marnie Cochran. The publisher described the book as “an experience that epitomizes the modern parenting ‘damned if you do/damned if you don’t’ predicament.”

I think the publisher’s description is something that would resonate with all parents nowadays. I see my own family dealing with issues like this on a daily basis. I have a nephew who is eleven and he has the potential to be overweight. My brother and his ex-wife work together to make him aware of this. It’s not always easy.

In these trying times of publishing, where self-published fanfic BDSM books are crossing into the mainstream and being dubbed as “Mommy Porn,” Jezebel is referring to the Vogue article as The Worst Vogue Article Ever.” I think Vogue’s worst article was when Hillary Clinton was running neck to neck with Barrack Obama and Vogue put up a piece about Bill Clinton having a new affair in order to sway the public against Hillary. We all know THAT wasn’t done by accident. So there’s very little about Vogue that would shock me anymore. They are in the business of selling magazines in a time when magazines are failing.

And then Mary Elizabeth Williams decided to chime in with her opinions. She raises some interesting points. I can just see the reviews and ratings popping up on goodreads when this book is published. I hope Ms. Lynn-Reiss is prepared for what is ahead of her. If she’s not, she’s in for an interesting learning experience.

Getting back to the original point. The Dystel & Goderich blog post questions whether or not agents have moral and ethical obligations with regard to various issues, and how they decide which projects to take on. I’m torn on this one. We’re living in trying times and the publishing industry is notoriously left wing liberal. They make no secret of this and never have. But not everyone in America is left wing liberal. And if agents are picking and choosing clients based on their own personal morals, ethics, and opinions, how fair is this to the reading public at large? And does this mean the public isn’t getting all the information and reading material they should be getting because the industry is swayed by personal opinions and people who don’t know how to be objective?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. Evidently, an agent decided to take on Dara Lynn-Weiss as a client and he/she didn’t let the controversial subject matter get in the way of a good business deal with an eager publisher. I’m not saying this is right or wrong. But it does make me wonder if there might be a little room for more objectivity in the publishing industry all the way around. I wouldn’t hold it against an agent for repping a client or a book like this. At least not in this situation. But I might think twice about the business ethics of an agent who turned down a book deal because he/she felt uncomfortable repping something that was controversial. Not everything is about sweet happy endings and celestial choir angels singing up above while the heavens open wide, especially in non-fiction. There are many interesting and controversial topics out there I might not agree with, but I also hate to think about what I might be missing because a literary agent decided he/she didn’t personally agree with the subject matter.