Janis Donnaud

If I Were Paula Deen’s Literary Agent

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.

MTV Catfish; Paula Deen’s Agent; Silicon Valley Sex Scandal

There’s an article in this week’s Time Magazine about the MTV show Catfish. I do subscribe to the print version of Time, and I will quote, but I can only link to part of it because Time Magazine makes you subscribe for fresh content online.

For those who might not know, a Catfish is someone who uses a fake ID online, mostly on social media to hook up with people, scam people, and basically screw around with their heads to fuck them up emotionally. (You won’t read that part in Time Magazine, but it’s really what Catfish do.) It can be both serious and painful, and ruin someone’s life.

The gist of the show revolves around helping some poor soul who is having an online relationship with someone who seems to be hiding something. The article in Time mentions Manti Te’o and his catfish experience, which I posted about here a few months ago. I’ve posted about catfishing here. And what I find most interesting is that so many people still aren’t aware this can happen to them, and that it does, indeed, happen way too often on social media, and not just in romantic relationships.

I’ve reached a point where if I have any doubts about anyone who sends me a friend request on facebook, I send them a personal FB message first and ask to know more about them. I don’t want specifics. I only want to know basic information that tells me they are legitimate. This past week someone with a name Mt. Snow Mt. Snow (I swear that’s the name) sent a friend request, but has yet to reply to my personal message. At this point, I have not accepted the request. I did notice that this Mt. Snow Mt. Snow had become friends with other familiar names in m/m romance…only m/m romance…which leads me to believe it’s another author with a fake name that resembles one of the four seasons. However, I’ve reached a point where I don’t take chances anymore.

In any event, Catfish: The TV Show looks like a fascinating show, and if you’re not familiar with the old wild west tactics of the Internet, I would recommend watching it so you know how to protect yourself against the scammers and liars of the Interwebz. And not just for romantic online relationships. I think this is a show that could help you vet who you can and cannot trust online these days with regard to all social media friendships. My rule is you can’t trust anyone on the Internet until they prove to you they can be trusted. Below I’m going to post about my new release in the Bad Boy Billionaire series. It’s titled, The Silicon Valley Sex Scandal, and it gets into catfishing and online manipulation.

From Time Magazine, link above:

The thrill of mystery isn’t new. Neither is lying. Catalina Toma, a professor at the University of Wisconsin who studies online dating, has found that deceptions are frequent but subtle: a 2008 study she co-wrote found that 81% lie about their age, weight or height. Big Fraud Catfish are outliers. (Schulman gets e-mails from people in healthy online relationships and people who have un-masked their Catish independently, but those folks don’t make it onto TV.) Even so, Fabrications are about psychology, not technology. “People lie about these things in face to face dates. They lied about these things in video dates back in the ’80’s,” Toma says. “I don’t necessarily expect those patterns to change.”

I only agree with this part of the article slightly, and I think Toma isn’t as familiar with the Internet as I am, and she’s underestimating the serious situations people are experiencing online. When you meet someone face to face you at least get the upper hand of putting a face and voice and personality together…even if that person is a liar. When you meet someone online, whether it be for romance of just plain friendship, you’re at a disadvantage in more than one way. The possibilities to scam are endless, and social media like facebook, Amazon, and Goodreads promotes this brand of fakery and anonymity to the point where no one can be trusted. I personally think there should be legal guidelines and laws that protect people from social media scams, and all the fakery we’ve seen since the early years of the Internet. If people who used facebook were forced, legally, to sign up with their real names, with proof, I think half the issues on facebook would disappear. Of course the membership would probably drop to a third of what it is now and stock would plummet as a result. But that’s the risk of running a business built on a proverbial house of cards.

As a side note, I’m wondering who this MTV show is being marketed to. Tony and I have a guest house on our property that we rent out. For the past ten years, consistently, we’ve rented to young college graduates in stable professions…new adults. In every case, none own a TV or watch TV. So I’m guessing that unless younger people are streaming this show somewhere, the show is more focused on an older crowd that still does watch TV…cuz we know they aren’t reading Time Magazine.

Paula Deen’s Agent

A good deal of Paula Deen’s fame and fortune came through her cookbooks, and while reading about her recent scandal I grew curious about who her literary agent is. So I did a quick search and came up with this:

JANIS A. DONNAUD & ASSOCIATES, INC. was founded over 18 years ago by Janis Donnaud, who had previously been Vice President and Associate Publisher of the Random House Adult Trade Group.

The agency represents, develops and packages a wide range of commercially successful properties. It negotiates publishing agreements with the top trade houses in the U.S., licenses all subsidiary rights, arranges foreign editions and translation rights, and licenses film and performance rights. The agency’s varied list is concentrated mainly on nonfiction, with an emphasis on the culinary, narrative non-fiction, memoir, health and medical books, and women’s books.


Paula Deen- the #1 TV Food Network star for which the agency has represented more than ten books, including the new Paula Deen’s Southern Cooking Bible;

This article gives a more personal side.

 Knowing that a book’s success doesn’t depend only on New York or “East Coast-West Coast” reader preferences, Donnaud landed one of the least big-city clients around when Paula Deen signed with her.

And this one made me smile. Not because of anything related to Janis A. Donnaud. I’m sure she’s a fine agent and she’s in shock over the Paula Deen debacle. This is a link to Absolute Write that goes back ten years. I’ve always maintained that Absolute Write is the essence of online ridiculousness, and you can only trust about a fourth of what’s posted there. Some of these old comments are highly entertaining.

Here’s an example of the kind of amusing nonsense you’ll find at Absolute Write in any given thread:

The hot agents don’t need websites. They already have all the business they want, and can get more any time they feel like it just by letting it be known that their lists are open. Among the top agents, the ones who have websites at all do them as celebrations of their clients, not of themselves.

She’s hot because the editors who know her matter, she knows what house is looking for what kind of works, and she can tell a good/marketable manuscript from one that’s less good. Editors trust her. She’s probably also a good negotiator for contracts.

This is a classic example of what you’ll generally find on AW. Information that’s only partially true and needs to be taken with that proverbial grain of salt. I find it about as relevant today as Miss Snark, Victoria Strauss, Preditors and Editors, and agents who charge reading fees.

Bad Boy Billionaires: The Silicon Valley Sex Scandal

A good deal of the subplot in this book gets into social media, online scamming, and catfishing for romance. In fact, it becomes deadly this time. I’ll post more in the coming weeks. But this excerpt shows how the main character made his billions. I thought it would be interesting to have a character who is a billionaire bad boy with a slightly good side, too. And it’s my fictional version of how I would love to see things really happen with social media someday.

To create a relatively honest social media web site where everyone used real names and there were no sockpuppets or fakes wasn’t always realistic. Most of the time it seemed impossible. One way Shannon tried to do this was by only allowing users of lovemetender.com to sign up with one e-mail address and one password. In other words, the e-mail address used to sign up could only be used with one specific password, and users were not allowed to create multiple accounts with that e-mail address. He also stated in the terms of service that multiple accounts with fake names were not allowed and that anyone who did this was in violation of the terms of service and could atomically be banned from the site forever.

            Unfortunately, most people who know how to navigate the Interwebs have more than one e-mail address. And there was no way to battle the corruption one hundred per cent. The best they could do at lovemetender.com was to handle each complaint and do an investigation as they came in. Shannon had a department in one wing of the building that only focused on this kind of corruption. Each complaint was taken seriously, by trained professionals. Each person who lodged a complaint was treated with respect and they always received a prompt reply from someone at lovemetender.com. And each time a user with multiple fake accounts was spotted he or she would be banned from the web site forever. Or at least until they figured out a way to change their IP addresses.