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Authors accuse publisher of exploiting writers by banning literary agents

The publisher automatically rejects any authors who have a literary agent.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw


Posted on Nov 23, 2017   Updated on May 22, 2021, 10:15 am CDT

Tyrant Books, a little-known New York indie publisher, has just ignited a firestorm of controversy on Twitter. Authors including Chuck Wendig, John Scalzi, and Neil Gaiman are speaking out against the publisher, all thanks to this tweet:

By rejecting all writers without agents, Tyrant Books sparked backlash across the publishing community. Writers, in particular, came forward to explain how their careers benefited from working with an agent.

Literary agents navigate the business side of the industry, negotiating contracts and making sure that writers don’t get screwed over. Since agents are paid a percentage of a book’s profits, it’s in their best interests to secure authors a good deal.

Tyrant Books was happy to respond on Twitter, sarcastically posting a picture of a castle and joking that it bought it with all their indie publishing “scam” cash. (Fair enough. This is a small press, and they’re probably not raking in money.)

The company also defended its original statement, saying that agents “destroy the friendship” between author and publisher. It accused critics of homophobia and posted a photo of someone’s testicles, because, well, it’s clearly enjoying the controversy.

Authors are still chiming in to the argument, sharing a near-unanimous message: don’t work with a publisher who bans you from having an agent. Even authors who don’t use agents have described this as a worrying sign, because the publisher is pushing for an unbalanced power dynamic when negotiating contracts.

Sure, some authors choose to cut out the middleman and negotiate on their own behalf. But why would a publisher make that a requirement?

For the most part, writers and publishers are using this as a teachable moment for aspiring authors. Whose opinion would you prefer to believe: professional authors who work with agents on a regular basis, or a publisher that jokes about accusations of predatory behavior?

Tyrant Books claims the controversy has led to a surge in sales from their website.

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*First Published: Nov 23, 2017, 8:27 am CST