hachette gagging authors?As some may know, there’s a fascinating spat going on between Lee Child, recent star of a BBC Newsnight anti-Amazon segment, and the The Passive Voice‘s readers and creator – a.k.a. David Vandagriff, recently cited, along with Chris Meadows and yours truly, as one of The Independent Publishing Magazine‘s “12 Publishing Shakers You Should Be Following.” As well as the extensive and very detailed interchange between Child and his critics on many points of the pro- and anti-Amazon debate, where Vandagriff himself steps repeatedly into the fray – mostly against Child – one claim stands out – at least for me. It’s from Vandagriff himself:

I’ve heard directly from Hachette authors that they have received strict instructions not to talk about Hachette/Amazon because Hachette is controlling the message and the messengers.

So Hachette, which is being cited elsewhere as the defender of civilization, cultural values, intellectual life, etc., is actually gagging its authors, curbing their free right as writers to speak out on the issue that most affects them – sales of their books and terms of sale. Except, presumably, for sanctioned allies like Authors United, who, according to Vandagriff, are likely being fed messages and briefed on what to say, because “publishers regularly tell 99% authors what and what not to say.” And if this is supposed to be a matter of public interest rather than a trade dispute between two sometime business partners, why is one key constituency on one side of the debate being gagged?

I don’t believe for one moment that Vandagriff, who is after all a lawyer, is making this up. Of course, I’d very much like to hear more about those claims, and I’ll be asking him in due course. But this is one that couldn’t pass unremarked for another second.

We already have commentators on The Passive Voice thread stating that, “the hypocrisy of Lee Child et al continuing to sell their books through Amazon gets sharper every day.” Well, at this rate, the stench of hypocrisy from Hachette’s defenders who claim to be protecting literature while getting in line behind the gagging of authors is even more rank.