Principled Profit: The Good Business Blog

Musings on the world-wide movement for ethical business, frugal marketing, and how honesty, integrity, and quality combine with deep relationship building to create business success. By the originator of the Ethical Business Pledge campaign and award-winning author of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First and five other books

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Conservative Authors Accuse Publisher of Cheating Them

Most book contracts give the publisher the right to sell at a deep discount to book clubs, and to pay much less to the authors on those sales. However, the assumption is that the book club is a distinct and separate entity.

For example, if one of my publishers, Chelsea Green, sold my Grassroots Marketing: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World to Book of the Month Club, I’d get lower royalties, reflecting the deep discount.

But here’s the ethics problem: The New York Times reports on a lawsuit filed by several authors against their publisher, Regnery Publishing–probably the dominant name in books for those with a conservative worldview.

The authors (Jerome R. Corsi, Bill Gertz, Lt. Col. Robert (Buzz) Patterson, Joel Mowbray and Richard Miniter) accuse Regnery of essentially forming a book club of its own with the express intent of defrauding authors out of royalties due, by channeling as many sales as possible into its book club and other wholly-owned enterprises.

In the lawsuit the authors say that Eagle sells or gives away copies of their books to book clubs, newsletters and other organizations owned by Eagle “to avoid or substantially reduce royalty payments to authors.”

This is a rather nasty form of self-dealing, given the small share authors get even under the best of terms. (Yes, I’m a publisher. I know how much publishers have to invest in a book, yada yada–but I’m also a member of the National Writers Union and I’ve seen the way things are stacked against authors in most book deals.)

While I totally disagree with these authors’ view of world and national politics, if what they say is true, I totally support their drive to get their fair share. Selling inventory to oneself in order to pay pennies on the dollar is unethical and disgusting.


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