As I reported in last week's blog, publishing giant Penguin is taking several authors to court to recoup advances on manuscripts that were never delivered. In one particularly shocking case, a British journalist received a $35,000 advance on a book about fashion. When she failed to deliver a manuscript by 2009, Penguin killed her deal. The very same book was released last year by another big publisher.
Today we'll hear the publisher's side of this scandal. I managed to get my hands on the actual recorded session between the publisher and his psychiatrist. Two things. Clearly, the publisher was in great distress and that should be taken into consideration when reading his comments. Secondly, this is confidential information between a patient and his doctor and should not be made public. I am only sharing it with you in an effort to show that there are two sides to everything. Even in publishing.
Psychiatrist: Well, well what brings you here today? I haven't seen you since the A Million Little Pieces scandal.
Publisher(crying): I went to the book party. I know I shouldn't have but something drove me there. And it was... it was... the most horrible night of my life...
Psychiatrist: Take a deep breath. Tell me what was so upsetting?
Publisher: She took my book, our book and gave it to another publisher. And then, as if that wasn't bad enough, she threw herself a book party. And do you know how she paid for that party and those planked figs with pancetta and goat cheese nibbles? Do you? Do You? (Sounds of sobbing.)
Psychiatrist: There's Kleenex on the table.
Publisher: She took the advance I gave her, my hard-earned money and that's how she paid for all of it. I can tell you it wasn't her new publisher who paid for a book party. He's the cheapest son-of-a-bitch in the business. Look, they didn't even bother to come up with a new cover. They used the same damn cover we suggested. And then she has the nerve... the nerve...
Psychiatrist: Deep breath.
Publisher: It's betrayal on its deepest level. I should have known. She was a problem from the very beginning. We should have dropped her from our list. She was so demanding. Always asking questions, questions, questions. How many books are you printing? Is there any money at all for promotion? Why is it paper and not hard cover? Why do I have to pay for editing and shipping? Oh, she was a royal pain in the butt.
Psychiatrist: It seems to be all about her. What about you? How do you think you contributed to this?
Publisher: What are you getting at?
Psychiatrist: Who does she remind you of?
Publisher: My mother? You think everyone reminds me of my mother? OK, yes. My mother was demanding, I'll give you that. Always with the: Did you do your homework? Did you rake the leaves? Did you get Bobby Gold to take your SAT's for you? Did you ask your wife why she's leaving you? But this author was nothing like my mother. My mother would never, ever two-time me.
Psychiatrist: Let's go back. When was the first time you decided you wanted to be a publisher?
Publisher: Hmmmm. Let me think. I know. It was the day my elementary school started an anti-bullying program. I remember thinking, if I can't be a bully then what am I going to be when I grow up? That was when I decided. I'll be a publisher.
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