The Penguin Group is suing some pretty high profile authors to recoup some of their advance money, The Smoking Gun reports.
Since an advance is really more of a gamble than a guarantee (authors can be hard to rely on! You can’t rush the creative process! Sometimes editors cancel books!), historically publishers have not held authors accountable. But it is a difficult time for publishing companies and they can probably use all the cash they can get.
Elizabeth Wurtzel signed a $100,000 advance in 2003 to write a “a book for teenagers to help them cope with depression.” Penguin wants the Prozac Nation author to return $33,000 – or the first third that is usually given on signing – plus $7,500 in interest.
The publisher is suing New Yorker scribe Rebecca Mead for $20,000, plus interest. She got a book deal for $50,000 for a collection of her writing in 2003.
Former Wonkette blogger Ana Marie Cox is getting sued for her $81,250 (and at least $50,000 in interest). She signed a deal in 2008 with Penguin imprint Riverhead for $325,000
Penguin is also suing “Hip-Hop Minister” Conrad Tillard for $38,000 for a memoir about his “epic journey from the Ivy League to the Nation of Islam,” and his subsequent falling out with Louis Farrakhan. Mr. Tillard signed an $85,000 Penguin contract for the book in 2005.
Even Holocaust survivor Herman Rosenblat is getting sued for $30,000 for his memoir about love and survival. The book was cancelled after large parts were found to be fabrication (after he appeared on Oprah).
“Penguin regrets that it had to initiate litigation in these cases, and it did so reluctantly, only after its repeated attempts at amicable resolutions were ignored,” Penguin said when reached this afternoon.
“Penguin this is wrong headed. Authors beware. Books are rejected for reasons other than editorially and publishers then want their money back. Publishers want to reject manuscripts for any reason after an author has put time and effort into writing them all the while paying their bills. Another reason to have strong representation. If Penguin did this to one of Trident’s authors we could cut them out of all our submissions,” Robert Gottlieb, head of the major agency Trident Media Group, commented on The Smoking Gun post.
Looks like the publishing industry is starting to act more like an industry….