Litigation: It’s The American Way

November 8th, 2006 · 2 Comments
by Kassia Krozser

We have a former boss who liked to say that litigation kept America working — this was, somehow, supposed to bolster our spirits when Friday afternoons rolled around and, just as visions of going home and starting the weekend danced through our head, an attorney called to say he’d “forgotten” that he needed this, this, and this first thing Monday morning.

It was also supposed to bolster our spirits when Monday mornings rolled around and the meeting we’d spent far too many hours preparing for was cancelled.

Suing in the entertainment industry is practically a rite of passage (“you’re nobody until you’ve been deposed”). People sue for lots of things, though we suspect today’s story may take the cake. Genesis Press, a Mississippi-based publisher is suing two of its authors, one for apparent slander and defamation, another for conspiracy to steal staff and authors. Also, because it is

…”not unusual” for a publisher to sue his own authors for complaining about royalty statements.

Is this true? Can you be sued for complaining? If this is the case, then we have a serious problem. Complaining is just one way we get through interminable days. If you take that one small pleasure away from us, we will be stuck with whining…so unattractive.

We digress. The case is quite serious. In September, Publisher’s Weekly published an article that discussed certain problems authors have with Genesis Press, specifically late or non-issued statements, late or non-issued payments, and inaccurate tax forms. All of which, by the way, are bad. Naturally, Genesis denied all allegations, citing a changeover in distribution, among other things (presumably lousy accounting records).

According to PW, 30 authors have made complaints — and more have come forward since mid-September, more than one supporting claims of non-reporting. The authors, who were not shy about their complaints, received a fair amount of press. Genesis, wanting ink time of its own, responded by suing. Pardon our cynicism, but litigation is expensive, and this feels a bit like someone is trying to quiet his critics by bankrupting them. These suits were filed in jurisdictions that all but guarantee expensive travel and the hiring of local attorneys.

One author, Miriam Pace, who lives in California (suit filed in Georgia), is being accused of stealing Genesis authors and staff to start her own publishing venture. Yeah, it’s always cost effective to relocate from Mississippi to Southern California. Kayla Perrin is being sued for making defamatory comments — that would be the complaining about royalty statements. Or, rather, complaining about royalty statements and payments that she hadn’t received.

While the Pace issue may hinge on specific clauses in author agreements (option clauses can ruin your day, let us assure you), the Perrin case will rely upon the at old litigation classic: documentation. In the second PW article, Perrin notes that she has correspondence and records to support her theory. Paper trails can indeed be your friends. That former boss we mentioned also liked to discuss the importance of good documentation — we would get quite punchy late into Friday night.

And this is today’s life lesson: document. We know that you enjoy a loving, trusting, friendly relationship with your agent and/or publisher. We know that you know that everyone has your best interest at heart and nobody wants to rip you off. Perish the thought!

We also know that, in matters of business, it is best to err on the side of professionalism rather than emotion. Statement late? Put it in writing. Miscalculations? Writing. Verbal agreements about changes to your contractual arrangements? Writing. He who writes the contract rules the deal, but if you put a change in writing and the other party doesn’t respond, then they will have a difficult time saying that wasn’t the deal.

A good agent will be your best friend when it comes to these pesky business matters. Your job, naturally, is to keep the arrangements with your agent just as professional.

Of course, if you choose to ignore our advice, well, be assured that you will one day contribute to the bustling litigation economy.

[tags]publishing, genesis press[/tags]

File Under: Publishers and Editors

2 responses so far ↓

  • Genesis Author // Nov 9, 2006 at 11:59 am

    Thanks for drawing attention to this situation. It’s highly unfair, and like you said, a tactic seemingly aimed at bankrupting authors who just wanted to get paid in the first place!

  • Joey // Jul 16, 2007 at 6:33 pm

    Which is why it’s a good thing authors are now empowered to acquire affluence even without gargantuan publishing houses.

    Think ClickBank. Now authors can get even wealthier by selfpublishing and keeping all the profits!