Penguin Suing Authors For Not Delivering: Part Two

Not terribly much more to report on the publisher vs author issue, but a friend of mine, who has publishing house contract knowledge, offered up this tidbit of insight:

It’s for undelivered manuscripts, if you’re going to take tens of thousands of dollars from a company, you deliver the manuscript, or if you don’t, you pay back the advance, just as is stipulated in every single publishing contract.

Which leads me to my next question: why on earth wouldn’t you at least attempt to deliver a manuscript if you know damn well this is the endgame result for not doing so?

Not to mention that you’ve probably spent all of the advance money – blowing through it like Rick James in a cocaine deli.

I suppose we need to remember that many authors are going to be one and done – even those whose debuts sell at a torrid pace – and there seems to be a genre trend among those being sued: they’re all non-fiction related.

Obviously, the issue with paying an author for another piece of non-fiction is that they already told you their story, and, more often than not, there’s nothing much left in the creative tank.

Kathryn Stockett, for example, based her bestseller, The Help, on her grandmother’s black maid, thus creating a story that was partially fiction and partially fact. And now – after being paid an ungodly sum for her next book – the rumor mill suggests that she is having difficulty crafting a new story.

And my guesstimation would be that if she does come out with a new book, it will remain semi-autobiographical, yet fail to strike the same chord as The Help.

Which begs the question: why do publishing houses continue to shell out these contracts to writers who, based upon other sophomore failures, will most likely fail themselves?

2 thoughts on “Penguin Suing Authors For Not Delivering: Part Two

  1. experiencelit

    Great post(s), and thank you for keeping readers informed on this issue; however, I think you’re missing one vitally important aspect of creative non-fiction: you don’t necessarily have to write personal, (semi) autobiographical stories. Erik Larsen has reaped the benefits of writing “Thunderstruck”, “Devil in the White City”, and, probably my favorite, “In the Garden of Beasts.”

    In regards to the authors mentioned in part 1, I agree with you. I don’t see why Penguin didn’t abandon the sinking ship before it reached this point.

    1. G.P. Merwede Post author

      You’re absolutely right that they do not have to – but I believe that more often that not, especially for a debut novel, they do. In fact, I would venture a wager that most creative non-fiction is roman a clef. And to give another example of a writer who struggled – Lauren Weisberger debuted with Devil Wears Prada, essentially her roman a clef about interning at Vogue (although it was labeled fiction), and then went on to have her other novel Chasing Harry Winston voted as the worst book of 2008. Which, at that point, was most likely far removed from any type of creative non-fiction.


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