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  1. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Penguin Suing Authors

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by captain kate, Oct 26, 2012.

    I just read on Nathan Bramsford's blog that Penguin Publishing Group has started suing author's for non-delivery of manuscripts. Various reasons for that: bad economy, need for profits, you can probably name a few more. What it does, however, is exhibit for author's just how much of a business it really is, and you're expected to produce what your contract calls for. The failure to do so can get an author sued for breach of contract-and the publisher would win.

    Why? Because one someone enters into a contract, unless there's what's called a 'buy out' or an 'opt out' clause built in, then failure to complete it falls under the category of a civil law violation-called a tort.

    A 'buy out' clause is where one or the other party can pay a certain amount of money to be free from the contract. The amount tends to be fairly high-to be punitive towards whoever wants out of the contract.

    A 'opt out' clause allows one or the other to 'opt out' or decide not to continue with the contract.

    Whether or not they're in a contract is based off the people involved and the agents and/or lawyers negotiate.

    Hope this info about Penguin Group helps to underscore the business side of writing.

    CK
     
  2. MilesTro
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    MilesTro Active Member

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    Geeezzzz, I better be careful which publisher I choose.
     
  3. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    That part of publishing always scared me - creating something under a deadline. I don't know how authors do it. It reminds me of art
    class when the teacher used to say I want to see something of value at the end of this class. One hour? that's it. I could feel the
    pressure stifling my creativity.
     
  4. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you expect to be published, you need to accept the responsibilities included. It won't matter which publisher you go with - you sign on the bottom line, you'd better deliver. Especially when you've already been paid for it. For fiction writers, it's typically a matter of getting the edits/revisions done in a timely manner; for nonfiction, it can be a little tougher. But then again, you shouldn't sign if you can't live up to the terms.

    But that's no different than any other contract you sign in life. You've agreed to do something in exchange for the other party agreeing to do something else. You default - you pay.
     
  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    From what I read, most of the authors being sued failed to produce a finished manuscript. In those cases, I have to side with Penguin (or any other publisher in a similar position).
     
  6. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Which puts them into breach of contract-and a costly loss in civil court, where the burden of proof is much much lower then criminal.
     
  7. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Well that's fair if you're paid and you don't deliver, really. But that's why people say multi-book contracts are more of a curse than a blessing. If you only sign for the MS you've already finished, this sorta problem wouldn't occur.
     
  8. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    There is no cause to point fingers at one particular publisher. A breach of contract is a breach of contract. Because money is involved, and often significant amounts of it, of course litigation can and will take place.
     
  9. Selbbin
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    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

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    I fail to see how Penguin are the bad guys.
     
  10. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    12345
     
  11. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Contracts

    I personally wasn't. The purpose of my initial post is to example the business side of the writing world-so people honestly know what they're getting themselves in. There's plenty of businesses where if you're not prepared for how it is, things can overwhelm you-and influence your opinion about them. Having gotten an initial four-year degree in Sports Management, I cant' look at athletics like I did before I got the degree. All I see now is business plans, crowd control, and a list of things.

    Which is why posts like this are important, because as I stated above, the business side of writing is real, and there's high stakes involved in them. It's a good way to help show people how serious it is.

    Penguin's not the bad guy, the people who sign contracts and don't follow through are. Hence the tort of breach of contract. There are reasons why, and why not, opt outs and buy outs are good things to have in your contracts. It depends on person and agent/lawyer representing.

    Never enter into any contract-buying a car is a contract by the way-without reading it all the way through, and having your eyes wide open. If confused, and you don't have an attorney present, make sure one looks it over and can explain it to you.

    An example of how much of a business writing is.
     
  12. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I read an article about this saying that suing authors for less than $50k is odd for a big publisher like Penguin. Most major publishers just write it off as a loss and move on.
     
  13. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    This was in the news a few weeks ago, and the stories I read did not give enough detail to really make an assessment of who was at fault. At first glance, it certainly seems like it would be the authors, who did not deliver the manuscripts. But it could also be that proffered manuscripts were not accepted, either for legitimate reasons or on pretense. We just don't know.

    The fact remains that yes, one can be sued for breach of contract, especially for advances paid and not earned, and most especially for advances not earned due to the failure to deliver the manuscript. That said, this is rare for fiction writers, because usually publishers buy a manuscript that has been completed, although it would go through editing. Non-fiction works are more frequently sold on proposal, before a manuscript has been written.
     
  14. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    The authors are to blame here. They failed to submit a completed manuscript. Some of them didn't even have a single page written.

    There was also a clause saying that if an editor rejects the manuscript, the author has to pay back every penny of the advance. None of the authors Penguin sued had their manuscripts rejected, so it wasn't an issue in this case. However, it's still a little scary to know that getting an advance doesn't mean you'll automatically be published.

    Also, I wonder how many of those authors are actual writers and not just celebrities or whatever. I'd like to think that most serious authors wouldn't have a problem working on a deadline.
     
  15. evelon
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    evelon Active Member

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    It also works the other way. There's nothing like a deadline - for anything - to make the adrenaline flow. Creativity can flourish under pressure.
     
  16. chicagoliz
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    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

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    We still don't know all the details. I've heard of instances where authors delivered manuscripts and had them rejected for less than legitimate reasons. The authors had been published before, and the manuscripts were subsequently published by different print houses, so there was something amiss. Although the stories of the Penguin lawsuits certainly make it seem like the authors were were at fault, we haven't heard from the authors involved. Things are likely more complicated than the Penguin press release would indicate.

    Of course, the one for the author who was giving a factual account of something that turned out to be a complete fabrication doesn't sound too good for the author. It doesn't make sense that the author accepted the money in the first place, although it doesn't seem like he was a serious author -- it sounds like he made up a story that ended up going to far. Still unacceptable, and he never should have accepted the contract in the first place. The others, however, we just don't know.
     
  17. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    If there is a lesson in this, it is that you should never sign a contract without going over it with a literary attorney.
     
  18. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    AMEN to that!

    it's always my first and last bit of advice for new writers re contracts...
     
  19. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    ok so someone breached a contract and litigation started. shocking! this happens over much more mundane contracts too. i don't think you will find anyone saying the publisher is wrong in doing this.
     
  20. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    Ah, the self-destruction of the publishing industry!
     
  21. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Hardly.
     
  22. Show
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    Show Contributing Member Contributor

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    Adverb alert. :p

    But it will be interesting to watch the implosion. :)
     
  23. James Berkley
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    James Berkley Banned

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    yes because other industries has imploded when members went to civil court over breaches of contracts. :rolleyes:
     
  24. shadowwalker
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    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

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    :confused:
     
  25. JamesOliv
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    JamesOliv Senior Member

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    How so?

    I'm sure publishers have sued authors in the past. I'm sure they will continue to sue authors in the future.

    Companies (particularly large companies) are involved in litigation frequently. It doesn't mean that they, or their industry, are imploding.
     
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