Thursday, August 16, 2007

I got scooped.

This actually happened a couple of weeks ago, but I was so angry about it I haven't been able to write about it until now.

About 5 months ago, I bought an exciting and innovative book on a topic that just seemed to scream, "How has no one done a book on this yet?!" I considered it a very lucky buy. We were planning on billing it as lead title of our Fall 08 list.

Two weeks ago, I read the announcement that an agent at a very big agency had sold THE EXACT SAME PROJECT (but with a different title and set of authors) to a much bigger house. The subject matter description was word for word what ours had been. Also, they were planning on bringing their out before mine, thereby doing away with the market share that a little new editor at a little quirky press would ever be able to secure.

This is the dark and dirty side of publishing here. I wish books were a lovely world of intellectualism and ideas and literacy and musty-smelling pages and french flaps and warm acknowledgments and spot lamination. But no. There's also the viscious money-making side of it.

Now will I ever know for sure that the agent wasn't legitimately working on this proposal before I bought my book, but the time gap makes the whole thing very suspect. It is an agent I know, too, and with whom I have worked before--in fact, she represented the first book I ever edited--and frankly I'm upset that this happened and very distrustful of the circumstances. If the agent really was innocent in this, she should have let me know when I bought this book that she was going out with a similar project. Which she didn't do.

The lesson I've learned is that you have to aggressively guard your own intellectual property, because no one--not even book people--is fully above cribbing what you've already put heart and soul into and using it to their own advantage.

I hate when bitterness creeps into my job. I want my job to be full of love and hard work, which is what reading is to me. Reading shouldn't be dirty, conniving, greedy, or dishonest, so neither should making books. Very upsetting.

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