Penguin Suing Authors For Not Delivering

Penguin Publishing House has decided to light their torches, sharpen their pitchforks, dress in black leather, print out a list of IOU’s, and hunt down all of the authors who have not delivered on promised manuscripts, drawing and quartering them in the public square.

Or they’re simply suing them to get their advances back.


The list of authors isn’t a handful of nobodies, either.

Via the Smoking Gun:

 “Prozac Nation” author Elizabeth Wurtzel, who signed a $100,000 deal in 2003 to write “a book for teenagers to help them cope with depression.” Penguin wants Wurtzel to return her $33,000 advance (and at least $7500 in interest).

* Blogger Ana Marie Cox, who signed in 2006 to author a “humorous examination of the next generation of political activists,” is being dunned for her $81,250 advance (and at least $50,000 in interest). Her Penguin contract totaled $325,000.

* Rebecca Mead, a staff writer at The New Yorker, owes $20,000 (and at least $2000 in interest), according to Penguin, which struck a $50,000 deal in 2003 for “a collection of the author’s journalism.”

* Holocaust survivor Herman Rosenblat was signed for $40,000 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. Penguin wants him to repay a $30,000 advance (and at least $10,000 in interest).

* “Hip-Hop Minister” Conrad Tillard signed an $85,000 Penguin contract in 2005 for a memoir about his “epic journey from the Ivy League to the Nation of Islam,” and his subsequent falling out with Louis Farrakhan. The publishing house’s lawsuit is seeking the repayment of about $38,000 from Tillard.

The specifics of the case aren’t mentioned – did the authors not deliver a manuscript by a deadline? Or has Penguin changed their mind about what they want and are simply cutting dead weight?

So until more details come out, it would be unfair to pass judgment on either side of the battle.

But one thing’s for certain: if Penguin wants to pay me $100,000 for my book, well, I’ll have it to them a few weeks late.

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