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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:
Dear agents, please stop sending inquiries to Tyrant. We no longer consider agented writers. Writers w/agents: feel free to send, just know you have to drop your agent if we want to sign you. Thanks,— New York Tyrant/Tyrant Books (@tyrantbooks) November 22, 2017
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.
Dear writers, Agents earn every penny. They don't just get you more money; they protect you from predatory publishers who want you to enter into contracts without expert advice. https://t.co/1WCA9l377r— Kate Harding (@KateHarding) November 22, 2017
Dear writers, please step into this wonderful box where someone will totally not punch you in the face and steal your money, it's cool, just shut up and get into the dark box, we no longer consider writers who won't step into the cage I mean BOX https://t.co/mgmoQcMoq1— Chuck Wendig (@ChuckWendig) November 22, 2017
What Maureen said. Agents do all that. And they reread contracts and find magical things in the small print that result in people giving you unexpected money... https://t.co/BvTTlCQDyX— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) November 22, 2017
My agent got me my first book contract.— John Scalzi (@scalzi) November 22, 2017
My agent got me literally all of my foreign book contracts.
My agents got me my film/TV development deals.
My agents look for opportunities for me WHILE I WRITE.
So, yeah. An agent CAN help you get published. And, published MORE. https://t.co/r77XW6Lsak
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.
Tyrant’s entire history is finding unknown writers in my friends, publishing them, making them famous, then an agent comes along and destroys the friendship .— New York Tyrant/Tyrant Books (@tyrantbooks) November 23, 2017
I had to publish 6 titles to be able to buy this one bag pic.twitter.com/SBxQpBkyEW— New York Tyrant/Tyrant Books (@tyrantbooks) November 23, 2017
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?
As an author I've worked succesfully without an agent and with different agents, as has suited me at the time. My choice. I will never work with a publisher who insists I drop an agent. No good reason for that. Huge red flag. https://t.co/5ECfSw5KFX— Juliet E McKenna (@JulietEMcKenna) November 23, 2017
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.
Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is a staff writer at the Daily Dot, covering geek culture and fandom. Specializing in sci-fi movies and superheroes, she also appears as a film and TV critic on BBC radio. Elsewhere, she co-hosts the pop culture podcast Overinvested. Follow her on Twitter: @Hello_Tailor