An Open Letter to the DOJ from Someone Who Actually Cares About Writers (and Readers)

This post, by David Gaughran, originally appeared on his Let’s Get Digital Site on 5/15/12.

 The leading literary agents’ organization – the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR) – penned an open letter to the Department of Justice (DOJ) opposing the terms of the settlement reached with three of the publishers named in the Agency price-fixing suit.

I won’t go into the details of how wrongheaded that letter was. It has already been systematically taken apart by Joe Konrath, Bob Mayer, and Dean Wesley Smith.

Also worth reading are Joe Konrath’s subsequent dismantling of another open letter to the DOJ written by Simon Lipskar (a board member of the AAR), as well as the comments made by Passive Guy on the same topic.

If you have any doubt whose side (most) agents and the AAR are on (clue: it’s not writers’), then you need to read this guest post by Ann Voss Peterson on her exploitative Harlequin contract, the subsequent reaction to Ann’s post by romance agent Scott Eagan (read the comments following that piece) and agent Steve Laube, as well as Joe Konrath’s filleting of the latter.

I have heard privately from one agent who is opposed to the AAR’s position, but I haven’t seen any public postings to that end. If they exist, please point me to them and I will amend the above characterization (but I fear I won’t have to).

* * *

Gail Hochman, the President of the AAR, sent a copy of that open letter mentioned at the top to all members of her organization, along with an accompanying note calling on her fellow agents to both write similar letters and encourage their clients (i.e. writers) to do likewise. Their explicit aim is to influence the judge presiding over the suit.

From Gail Hochman’s letter to AAR members:

The DOJ must read and report to the judge who must ultimately approve the settlement each communication it receives commenting on the proposed settlement. For that reason, in addition to the AAR’s letter we urge all AAR members to express their views on the settlement to the DOJ and we hope you will also urge your clients to do the same.

Your note might address whether you feel the settlement will foster competition and well-being in the literary marketplace, or the opposite. There is a time limit for such communications, so your messages should be sent as promptly as possible. (The address is on the AAR’s letter.)

We believe it is tremendously important that we all be heard on this most significant issue. We believe the more letters from publishing professionals that are received, the better the chance of affecting the judge’s final decision.

While I’m not a member of the AAR, I suppose I am a “publishing professional” in one sense. I will gladly answer Gail Hochman’s call. A copy of the letter I’m sending on Thursday morning is below. If anyone wants to add their name to it, please make a note in the comments (or email me privately at david dot gaughran at gmail dot com) and I will include your name.

It would be great if there were other writers’ names to add, but make no mistake, this isn’t a petition. If mine is the only name at the bottom, I’m sending it anyway.

Some authors may be reticent. I can understand that. Many of you may be seeking representation or a publishing deal and may be afraid of stepping on toes. That’s fine. I don’t really care about that stuff so I’m happy to take any potential flak.


Read the rest of the post, which contains Gaughran’s letter to the DoJ, on Let’s Get Digital.