Recently I had dinner with a literary writer friend. She has slipped, so to speak, from Little Brown to another mid size publisher until finally her last book was published by a small press known for literary fiction. It never appeared in paperback. In fact, none of her books have. And forget about digital availability. We were talking about the possibility of her letting me reprint one of her books on my new tiny publishing list. But her agent is about to market her new work and the possiblity of annoying the publisher with the right of first refusal nipped the conversation in the bud.
Recently the estate of Ian Fleming refused e-rights to his publisher (whichever flag Penguin flies). Agent Richard Curtis is buying back his authors' e-rights and publishing the digitals (is that a word?).
My literary writer friend doesn't have these options though she has representation. She is powerless. My kneejerk reaction is to admonish conventional publishers for their abuse of power over the meek and mild. I once worked for a publisher who accused me of "being on the authors' side" (!). Whose side was a publisher supposed to be on, I wanted to ask. Instead I resigned.
I guess that's why I am an independent editor. Free Writers Rights. I wonder if I can sell the tee shirt.