Andrew Franklin, recently the subject of some fairly fierce criticism on TeleRead and elsewhere for his splenetic comments on self-publishing, has been in the headlines again in another spat—this time on the receiving end.
The occasion, according to a report in the London Evening Standard, was a farewell dinner at London’s beautiful Wallace Collection for the retiring CEO of Orion Books, Peter Roche. According to the report, Michael Foster, the former head of major UK literary agency Peters, Fraser and Dunlop, confronted Franklin over comments the latter had made in The Bookseller about the auctioning of a PFD internship for £5,000 ($7,725) for charity. A face-off apparently resulted, eventually leading to Foster being threatened with the police.
One caution: The Evening Standard is not always invariably renowned for its cold devotion to pure fact. That said, other sources do corroborate.
And the internship auctioning scheme was apparently the brainchild of London philanthropist and former banker Jill Shaw Ruddock, who apparently conceived the scheme to help fund her learning and life-development center for the over-50s, the Second Half Centre. PFD and Foster were just facilitators.
Reactions to Ruddock’s scheme went as far as outrage, according to the BBC. And, claims the Standard, Franklin dubbed the auction perverse, disgusting, and quite the wrong message to send out “about the already elitist London publishing industry” (though I can’t find the original text in The Bookseller’s archives).
Although I disdain Franklin’s views on self-publishing, l’m with him on this one. As a writer, would I want to be represented by a firm that sells even work experience placements to the sons and daughters of the rich? (That was exactly the content of Ruddock’s pitch letter, according to the BBC.) What does that say about the quality of PFD’s judgements? Or the credibility of the agenting profession as a whole? What kind of answer is that to the critiques over whether agents still have a role at all? I’ve heard of vanity publishing, but vanity agenting is a new one on me.
(And for a peek at the world that a £5,000 PFD internship might buy you into, see the Peter Roche-hosted authors’ reception and 20th birthday party for Orion Group at London’s Natural History Museum, here.)
As for the physical abuse, I think I can speak on behalf of many writers and creatives when I say that: I can do this myself. I’ve caused enough trouble, debauched long and hard, indulged myself rigorously, forgone many opportunities for wealth and respectability, to drink and fornicate myself to my present position of licensed (and licentious) enfant terrible. It’s my job. I don’t need agents and publishers taking large cuts of my income to do this for me. There’s enough of the Hemingway in all of us scribblers.
Publishers and agents: Such antics, and such schemes, disgrace your profession. Writers and readers both don’t need to put up with them any more, and have plenty of ways to sideline you entirely. Good luck supporting those Wallace Connection shindigs then.