If I Were Paula Deen’s Literary Agent
There has been a great deal written and discussed about television personality and cookbook author, Paula Deen, in the past two weeks. And one of the things I was watching closely was what would happen with her upcoming cookbook with Random House, and how Deen’s literary agent would react.
In spite of how much I hate the N-word, and anything even remotely related to racism, I’ve tried to remain objective while posting about Paula Deen. And this post is strictly about books and publishing and I’m not offering any subjective comments now on Deen’s situation. But since this is a publishing related post and it deals with Deen’s cookbook, I did want to comment on Random House canceling her book.
Random House has canceled the publication of Paula Deen’s upcoming cookbook Paula Deen’s New Testament, as well as four other cookbooks Deen was on contract to write with imprint Ballantine, the publishing house announced in a statement Friday.
Random House was not the first to break ties with Deen, but they certainly did wait until almost the very end to see how things were going to play out. I’ve also read they allegedly may have canceled her books partly because major retail outlets have severed ties with Deen this past week, which basically means they might be worried they won’t have a place to sell the books once they are published. That’s only hearsay, and no one really knows if that’s a fact so I’m not linking to anything related to that. And it doesn’t even make sense to me because I’ve also read that Deen’s unpubbed cookbook rose to number one on Amazon last week because so many people wanted to show their support to Deen. And the fact is that people are supporting her in spite of how many companies are dropping her.
The book was scheduled for release in October, and in recent days pre-orders have raised it to No. 1 on the online bookseller’s sales ranks. Her 2011 cookbook, “Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible,” has risen to the second spot.
As an author, I know that Amazon accounts for a good deal of sales, and if someone can’t get something anywhere else they will go to Amazon…even if it’s a cookbook they can’t buy at Target or Wal-Mart. As a consumer I have done this many, many times when I’ve wanted something badly enough. As far as I know, Amazon has not refused to sell Deen’s books. At least I don’t think they have.
And if I were Paula Deen’s agent I would be looking out for the best interests of my client and doing what is right for my client. That’s what an agent does. I’m speaking strictly from a publishing POV right now. I’ve also been waiting to see what Deen’s agent would say about all this.
“I am confident that these books will be published and that we will have a new publisher,” Deen’s literary agent, Janis Donnaud, told the Associated Press.
Publishing is a business and agents work for/with authors. On a pragmatic level, no one can argue that point. Publishing is also about freedom of speech, whether you agree with what someone says or not. I find everything about what Alec Baldwin says repulsive, but I do think he has the right to say it. Evidently, there are many people who are supporting Deen, people of ALL races, who don’t think she got a fair deal. If that weren’t true the sales ranks on Amazon wouldn’t reflect these amazing numbers. And Deen’s agent can’t ignore that.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Deen’s agent didn’t advise her to self-publish the books. Other literary agents have found ways to work these things out as a partnership of sorts so there’s no conflict of interest. And it’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out. A publisher has every right to cancel a book if an author is in breach of contract for whatever reason (there are little clauses for things like this). But an author…any author…also has the right to get his/her books out to their readers as well. With all the options out there now for authors and literary agents, I think this might be just one more example in the future of another self-publishing success story.