A new dramatic battle is brewing in the publishing industry, this time over competing organizations that both claim to advocate and speak for authors but who have vastly different goals and ideals. The long-standing Authors Guild, often scoffed as a proud member of the gatekeepers club and a rather irrelevant entity that has yet to embrace the current publishing climate, released an open letter from one of its board members that holds nothing back in its disdain for the newly formed Authors Alliance. AG board member T.J. Stiles vehemently trashed the new organization and urged authors to stay far away from this group of apparently mindless renegades.
The organization he was referring to by name actually just launched this month, but has already made waves for its stance on copyright and open access, a slippery slope that Stiles was attacking. Of course, AG’s feelings about a group that supports access to information by the masses should come as no surprise given its lawsuits against both Google and the Hathi Trust for scanning and digitizing rare works that have been locked away in academic libraries all this time.
For her part, Authors Alliance co-founder Pamela Samuelson gave an interview to Publisher’s Weekly that very clearly illustrates how the organization isn’t even on the same radar as the Authors Guild, instead planning to advocate for authors who are interested in making their works available on a widespread, no cost basis. But the reaction from AG and its members who commented on the open letter paint the Alliance as a group of thugs out to make all authors’ works subject to rip off. Samuelson pointed out that the very people the Alliance aims to enlist would have sided with Google and Hathi in those lawsuits, meaning that their ideals do not line up with the AG’s anyway.
While the mud flinging and name calling from the AG and the seemingly patient doctrine from the AA come out, both groups stand to remain disconnected from the lives and careers of most of the people that the groups aim to advocate for–average, every day authors, both traditionally published and self-publishing. There are, however, two groups who are potentially going to experience some fallout from the new and old organizations. Already there has been some confusion over the name with the Alliance of Independent Authors and the Author Alliance. The first, ALLi, is a dedicated organization that educates and speaks for the needs of indie authors, and the second is a website that lets authors pay a membership fee to promote their books. In both cases, the unfortunate similarity in names can have search and contact implications.