If you follow news about the publishing industry, you’ve probably heard about Penguin suing to recoup advances from authors who didn’t deliver the goods. For the record, I have no sympathy for any of these authors, particularly this Herman Rosenblat character, who was supposed to turn in a memoir and instead wrote fiction. You get a book deal, you’d best deliver the goods. The publisher is not evil for expecting to get a product in return for its money.
Anyway. The list of authors includes the perpetually howl-inducing 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).
In terms of dollar amounts, Wurtzel is one of the less offensive characters on the list, so perhaps she would have been wise to let the facts and figures speak for themselves. Instead, she gave NPR some hilarious lines about how Penguin is being so MEEN to her.
ELIZABETH WURTZEL: There’s no reason to sue me. There was a reason to say look, we’re really serious and we need to talk about this.
NEARY: Elizabeth Wurtzel, best known as the author of “Prozac Nation,” is one of a dozen authors being sued by the Penguin Group for failing to deliver their books on time. The advances ranged from $10,000 to $ 81,000. Wurtzel got $33,000 to write a book on helping teenagers cope with depression.
WURTZEL: I think at some point they did send me a letter about this. I mean, I think it’s one of those things that I probably should have dealt with and didn’t because I’m an author and I’m not good about this stuff.
NEARY: Wurtzel says she started the book and could have finished it but her editor left the company and no one else at Penguin pursued the project. Wurtzel says Penguin is simply trying to make a point with the lawsuit.
WURTZEL: I see that they’re trying to act like a real business that doesn’t treat authors differently from any other contractor. But having said that, a real business would make a business decision that would say that their relationship with me is of value to them. It should be of value to them
NEARY: It should be of value says Wurtzel because “Prozac Nation” is a bestseller. It’s made a lot of money for the company. In fact, she says, Penguin can get the money she owes it from her royalties.
Hold on a moment.
“I think it’s one of those things that I probably should have dealt with and didn’t because I’m an author and I’m not good about this stuff.”
Because you’re an AUTHOR and you’re NOT GOOD ABOUT THIS STUFF?
I have to use this caption again:
Ms. Wurtzel is a memoirist, journalist, and a licensed attorney. She has worked as a lawyer at a New York law firm. She has no Earthly business portraying herself as a flighty creative type who doesn’t know how to deal with business and legal issues. Your blogger, meanwhile, is a NOVELIST and somehow manages to live in the real world along with normal humans. Perhaps it’s because I can’t afford to quit my day job, but it bears repeating that Ms. Wurtzel has completed law school and practiced law. She should have the skill set to deal with a publisher taking legal action against her.
They should have communicated with her rather than suing her. Oh, maybe they did try to communicate with her, but authors are too special to handle matters like “a publisher is demanding product in return for its money.” It’s not her fault, anyway, because her editor quit and no one else worked with her. Also, Penguin doesn’t need to sue her because it can take the money she owes out of her royalties for Prozac Nation.
(Seriously, which one is it? If it’s okay for Penguin to withdraw her advance money from her royalties for an earlier work, then obviously they ARE entitled to get their money back.)
Perhaps this is a technique she learned at Boies, Schiller & Flexner: if the facts aren’t on your side, just throw shit at the walls until it sticks. If you can’t convince them, then confuse them. However, the fun thing about the written word is that those of us with good reading comprehension and critical thinking skills can take a few minutes to parse out the bullshit, and once your words have been seen on the Internet, they can’t be unseen.