PDA

View Full Version : Penguin USA asking for unearned advances back?



Kado
10-10-2012, 07:50 PM
I came across this in a blog attached to The Bookseller:


As for the deals, the age of auctions is not yet over. But Penguin USA’s decision last week to start asking for advances back hints that publishers’ tolerance of the “unearned advance” may be wearing thin. We cannot expect the way we do business not to alter as the business model changes.

http://www.thebookseller.com/blogs/preparing-frankfurt.html

I've been googling the topic but can't seem to find any further information. Anyone know anything about this? Is it true?

veinglory
10-10-2012, 07:52 PM
So, do you think a person that never even writes the book should keep the advance? Because that is what happened in the cases Penguin is pursuing.

Torgo
10-10-2012, 07:56 PM
Not unearned advances. Advances for books that were never delivered. Big difference.

Torgo
10-10-2012, 07:57 PM
Surprised Philip conflated the two really.

Kado
10-10-2012, 09:10 PM
Thanks for clearing that up. He really should have been clearer in his wording.

leahzero
10-10-2012, 09:15 PM
Asking for advances back on books that don't earn out would pretty much be the death knell of the industry. :D

Torgo
10-10-2012, 09:16 PM
Thanks for clearing that up. He really should have been clearer in his wording.

I told him that and he got a bit sniffy with me...

veinglory
10-10-2012, 09:28 PM
This is going to revive that persistent myth about teh evils of "legacy" publishing.

Jess Haines
10-10-2012, 11:43 PM
Originally found out when I saw this on Twitter weeks ago:

http://www.thesmokinggun.com/buster/penguin-group/book-publisher-sues-over-advances-657390

Here's just one of the "gems" that Penguin is suing over:


* Holocaust survivor Herman Rosenblat was signed for $40,000 (http://i.cdn.turner.com/dr/teg/tsg/release/sites/default/files/assets/hermanrosenblatmoney.jpg) in 2008 to describe how he "survived a concentration camp because of a young girl who snuck him food. 17 years later the two met on a blind date and have been together ever since, married 50 years." While Rosenblat’s story was hailed by Oprah Winfrey as the "single greatest love story" she had told on the air, it turned out to be a fabrication (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/31/books/31opra.html). Penguin wants him to repay a $30,000 advance (and at least $10,000 in interest).

No reason for people to be getting up in arms about this, IMHO. It's deceitful and/or just a plain ole failure to deliver the goods in most of these cases.

WeaselFire
10-10-2012, 11:57 PM
All the contracts I've signed (None with Penguin) have clauses that cover these situations.

I once had an article (not book) canceled after I wrote it and the publisher paid half the rate provided it not be published elsewhere without approval for 1 year. I rewrote it to meet the readership of a different publication and the original publisher approved of it being sold, as did the eventual publisher. All per the two publisher's policies.

These conditions have been standard/contractual for about as long as writers have sold work to publishers. Can't see why it's any issue here.

Jeff

scorpiodragon
10-11-2012, 01:21 AM
All the contracts I've signed (None with Penguin) have clauses that cover these situations.

I once had an article (not book) canceled after I wrote it and the publisher paid half the rate provided it not be published elsewhere without approval for 1 year. I rewrote it to meet the readership of a different publication and the original publisher approved of it being sold, as did the eventual publisher. All per the two publisher's policies.

These conditions have been standard/contractual for about as long as writers have sold work to publishers. Can't see why it's any issue here.

Jeff

I think this goes beyond a "being paid even if the article/book gets killed" situation. From what I've read about this the advances where paid for books that never got written in the first place.

Medievalist
10-11-2012, 01:31 AM
There's a difference between returning an advance because an author hasn't fulfilled their contractual obligations, and the publishing myth about returning an advance because a book hasn't earned out (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=248866).

Jupiter
10-11-2012, 11:45 PM
It seems fair enough to me. If you accept an advance you either deliver the book or pay back the advance.

Buffysquirrel
10-12-2012, 02:09 AM
Although it's not really comparable, this story reminded me of when a publisher sued Joan Collins because she delivered a book they considered sub-par. The court said, the contract says she has to deliver a book, she did deliver a book, she keeps the advance.

Medievalist
10-12-2012, 03:21 AM
Although it's not really comparable, this story reminded me of when a publisher sued Joan Collins because she delivered a book they considered sub-par. The court said, the contract says she has to deliver a book, she did deliver a book, she keeps the advance.

Now it's standard to have a weasel-word clause in the contract along the lines of the book has to be accepted by the editor.

Personally, this strikes me as reasonable, but it is another reason to have expectations on both sides clearly laid out in the contract.

Paul
10-12-2012, 03:41 AM
* Holocaust survivor Herman Rosenblat was signed for $40,000 (http://i.cdn.turner.com/dr/teg/tsg/release/sites/default/files/assets/hermanrosenblatmoney.jpg) in 2008 to describe how he "survived a concentration camp because of a young girl who snuck him food. 17 years later the two met on a blind date and have been together ever since, married 50 years." While Rosenblat’s story was hailed by Oprah Winfrey as the "single greatest love story" she had told on the air, it turned out to be a fabrication (http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/31/books/31opra.html). Penguin wants him to repay a $30,000 advance (and at least $10,000 in interest).


LOl. I find that hilarious - Oprah's comment. Darn, the fool, he could have made millions - then claimed that truth is you know, subjective. By the time it got through the courts, he'd be dead. and dead rich.

edit. hmm, seems he wrote it alright - but was caught out. so this is basic fraud stuff.

ps, i mean, fact / fiction, is there really a difference between the two? Really? (L. Hutz)

jjdebenedictis
10-12-2012, 04:05 AM
Although it's not really comparable, this story reminded me of when a publisher sued Joan Collins because she delivered a book they considered sub-par. The court said, the contract says she has to deliver a book, she did deliver a book, she keeps the advance.Didn't the guy who played Screech on Saved by the Bell also write a book that was unpublishable and he had to pay the advance back?

Of course, that may have been a "must be accepted by the editor" case, and I think he also made claims about who-slept-with-who that the publisher didn't think were true.

quicklime
10-12-2012, 05:07 AM
Not unearned advances. Advances for books that were never delivered. Big difference.

Anyone catch (and apologies if this is just downthread, and I missed it) the NPR story?

the whining of the one author they interviewed made me fucking embarrassed for us as a group. try explaining that as a contractor you have deadlines, yes, but hey, one shouldn't stifle "art"....

LindaJeanne
10-14-2012, 06:38 AM
Anyone catch (and apologies if this is just downthread, and I missed it) the NPR story?

the whining of the one author they interviewed made me fucking embarrassed for us as a group. try explaining that as a contractor you have deadlines, yes, but hey, one shouldn't stifle "art"....

Contrarily, if it's important to finish on one's own schedule, then one should finish it before trying to sell it -- rather than signing a contract to deliver it by a certain date.

Can't have it both ways.

Bogna
10-14-2012, 11:58 AM
the publishing myth about returning an advance because a book hasn't earned out (http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=248866).

Fack. I actually thought that was true. I've heard it several times at writers gatherings. Now I wonder if it's just a scare tactic.

Polenth
10-14-2012, 01:57 PM
Fack. I actually thought that was true. I've heard it several times at writers gatherings. Now I wonder if it's just a scare tactic.

A lot of it gets spread around by people looking to sell something. Vanity publishers are always big on this, as they want authors to pay them rather than submit to big publishers. Some self-published authors have made a promotion campaign around spreading incorrect information about publishing (with the slant that if big publishers are evil, you should only buy self-published books).

Neither is exactly a source to trust, as it's a sales tactic, not a genuine wish to inform writers of possible dangers.

ios
10-17-2012, 07:20 AM
I once had an article (not book) canceled after I wrote it and the publisher paid half the rate provided it not be published elsewhere without approval for 1 year. I rewrote it to meet the readership of a different publication and the original publisher approved of it being sold, as did the eventual publisher. All per the two publisher's policies.

Huh, why would they care if you published it elsewhere if they didn't want it? What is the point of that part of the contract? Can you provide more details? Like, was it an article they contracted you for, not one you came up with and pitched to them?

Jodi

Terie
10-17-2012, 12:51 PM
Huh, why would they care if you published it elsewhere if they didn't want it? What is the point of that part of the contract? Can you provide more details? Like, was it an article they contracted you for, not one you came up with and pitched to them?

Jodi

Jodi, what WeaselFire is talking about is a kill fee, and it's fairly standard in magazine publishing for nonfiction, which is usually contracted before the article is written. It kicks in when a magazine contracts a writer for an article, and then kills it. IIRC, 50% of the contracted amount is pretty common for a kill fee.

Having paid a fee for the work even if they're not going to use it, I guess it makes sense that the magazine can ask for control (for a contractually limited time) over whether the writer publishes it elsewhere.

Personally, I'd probably try to strike that clause from a contract during negotiations, but I'm not sure it would be a deal-breaker for me if they refused. I'd definitely make sure there was a time limit, though.