Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Publication Nightmare—The Other Side

It seems to me only fair that the editors of Cider Press be allowed to present their side of the Stacey Lynn Brown story. One of the members of the Wompo listserv, where the link to Stacey's blog was posted, sent the details of the story to Jendi Reiter of Winning Writers. Jendi had had good experiences with the press, so she wrote to editor Robert Wynne and asked for his side. Here's what he replied to Jendi:

"We gave Stacey every single thing she asked for except a photo on the back cover (and we had originally offered that, but she refused to allow us to consider editing the blurbs so it would fit). We spent countless hours and more than $200 of extra money (including purchasing a special font and securing specific cover art) to make the book look exactly the way she wanted. There were certainly misunderstandings along the way, but each one was dealt with as it arose and the only thing we were aware that she was dissatisfied with was the placement of her photograph. In the end, she refused to allow us to publish the book unless we put her picture on the back - when we, instead, wanted to put it inside the back of the book where we deemed it would look better, particularly given the lengthy blurbs on the back.

"During the process, Stacey became demanding about every aspect of the book's design, until she became unreasonable and even abusive. At that time we decided to revoke the book award. Since then, she has undertaken a campaign to 'get us back' in whatever way she thinks she can. First she went to a lawyer to assure that she would not have to return the prize money to retain the rights to her book, and we conceded that in an effort to put an end to this unfortunate situation. But she was still apparently unsatisfied, and so she agitated a writer at Poets & Writers (to whom we are providing detailed accounts of precisely what occurred, which may be used in a comprehensive story regarding the matter), and wrote her one-sided blog entry.

"Based on her blog entry, she seems to have confused proofreading with editing, since we don't commonly "edit" prize-winning manuscripts but always work with the author to proofread the text for formatting issues only an author could recognize. And she certainly has preconceived notions as to the role of author vs. press, which we can certainly do nothing at this point to rectify. We continue to do what we do because we care about poetry, and want to put out a quality product based on our years of experience as a small press. We have had many good experiences with authors, and very few bad ones. We look forward to more good experiences, and more wonderful poetry, in the future.

"I hope that will do the trick."

This story has generated an amazing blog response. Yesterday at Stacey's blog there were over 60 comments all in strong support of Stacey. My own response is there. But I do have a few thoughts to add today. Stacey apparently did not see a copy of a Cider Press book before entering the contest. If she had, she would have seen that their practice is to put a contest blurb on the back cover along with an inside page with the guidelines. I also wouldn't want either of those in my book, but I've seen many books which use a page or two to promote other books from the same press. Piece of advice: See at least one book from the press you're submitting to before you submit.

Yesterday I was wondering if last year's winner is under a gag restriction about her bad experience, how did Stacey know who that poet was and how did she come to know the story. Since I had Anne Caston's book on my table, it did not occur to me that Caston was that poet! Now it turns out that some contest entrants and friends of the press were sent sample copies before the dispute arose. I never entered the contest, so I must have fallen into the friends category. Apparently, my copy is one of a limited number out in the world. The rest were not circulated or sold due to whatever the falling-out was. It seems that some people were aware of the problem as it was occurring, before the gag restriction was in place.

Stacey in her blog post refers to Cider Press's "history of unethical dealings." The contest has only been around since 2004, so how extensive could the history be? And what exactly is that history? Judges have been Virgil Suarez, Tony Hoagland, and for this year Lucille Clifton. Would they judge a contest for a press that had an unethical history? Or might they not have known about it?

It seems that many of those who made comments are under the impression that the press demanded the return of the prize money and refused to return the rights to the book. Wynne's note suggests that rights would not be returned until the money was sent back. My question here is what did the contract specify in regards to money and rights if the book ended up not being published?

I noticed that a number of the comments on Stacey's blog and on other blogs made strange observations about the photos of the two editors. How is their appearance relevant? I also noticed that one poet / blogger has posted an attack on Tony Hoagland at numerous blogs. How is that relevant to Stacey's story? Such an attack does not add substance to her story or discredit the press. It simply sounds like unrelated vitriol. And it clouds the issue.

I continue to think that this is a very sad story, a dreadful situation for the poet. But I think we should in fairness assume that there's another side to the story. When we've heard it, then we can decide who's right, who's wrong. I hope that the publishers, Caron Andregg and Robert Wynne, will step forward and tell their side. If they have a defense, they need to make it.

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1 comment:

  1. Hi, Diane.

    And thanks (again) for your continued interest in this story.

    In the interest of clarity, while I cannot divulge the contents of a confidential contract, I can tell you that their revocation of the book award and their refusal to publish the book breached said contract and rendered it null and void. As a result, any rights that would have been given conditionally were reverted back. The prize monies were separate and were awarded to me for being chosen as the winner of the contest by the judge. So there was no legal claim to either the rights or the prize money. But in order for me to be able to move on, I had to hire a lawyer and get a signed document ensuring that the rights were mine free and clear.

    And while I applaud and echo your call for Cider Press to defend itself, I believe that Wynne's letter (which I posted on my own blog) is all we're going to see. They chalked it up to me being "unreasonable and abusive," just like they told me last year's winner was "crazy." And really, that's all they can do, since I have documentation to support each and every detail that I listed on my blog, and they know this.

    And yes, you're right. I really should have tried to get a copy of one of their books before I submitted to their contest. It was a lesson well learned. But even if I had seen the book, I never would have dreamed that they would insist upon putting that ad there instead of the author photo. That wouldn't have even crossed my mind.

    Again, it's a lesson well learned, and I'm just glad to be out from under it.


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