Author Steve Laube

The Shack Gets Sued

Sad news from the LA Times that the author and publishers of The Shack are now in court fighting over the royalty earnings.

Read the entire article here.

Then weep.

Then pray that cooler heads prevail and that it can somehow be kept out of the court system.

The key element to the story, from my agent’s perspective, is that there was not a solid contract in place from the beginning. It started with a hand shake. Then when a big publisher (FaithWords, a division of Hachette) wanted to get involved in distribution a contract was put in place. But the agreement between the publisher, Windblown Media, and the author has terminology that remains unclear. Signing a contract that pays based on net profits can be trouble unless “profit” is defined very clearly. Most book contracts are based either on retail price or on net receipts. Big difference between receipts and profits. Young claims that Windblown has under-reported the profits.

Windblown Media counter-sued and claims that their owners Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings should be named as co-authors of the book because of the work they did back in the beginning of the project.

So Hachette, in a defensive move, had to file their own lawsuit against Windblown Media and William P. Young. Why? Because they have one million dollars they owe to these fellows, but if they send a check, and it is later determined by the other lawsuits that the money was paid incorrectly, then Hachette could be sued. So they very wisely put the money in a judicial escrow account where it will remain until Windblown and Young settle their dispute. In other words, from now on…no one gets paid…until the things are settled by the courts.

What a mess.

Clearly some huge misunderstandings have occurred. Dig even deeper into the article and note that “reserves against returns” is misunderstood. In addition there is dispute over reduced royalties paid on books sold at a very high discount. Both are well documented industry practices and are usually in a contract with clear definitions.

This illustrates why writers need literary agents to help with their intellectual property concerns. This week I have helped three clients unravel their royalty statements. Each case had different concerns and because of what I do I could understand and explain the situation. In one case we are writing a note to the publisher asking for clarification. In another case I think the royalty rate for e-books does not match the contractual rate and thus a note has been sent asking for clarification.

I have seen situations among writing friends disintegrate over editorial and publishing issues. That is why I encourage anyone who is wanting to collaborate on a project that they get a solid collaboration agreement in place as early as possible.

Don’t just shake hands and hope for honorable behavior. We would like to hope for honor and honesty but we are all fallen creatures in desperate need of redemption.

At least consider using a conciliation organization like Peacemakers (click here for the first steps in dispute resolution) before taking anyone to court.

Update: August 2, 2010

If you would like to read the actual court documents you can follow these links — the federal court complaint of Jacobsen and Cummings (the founders of Windblown Media) vs. Young, Young’s court motion to dismiss, and Windblown’s legal response.

Then enjoy the actual court document where Hachette is asking for court relief — this is where they state that there is nearly a million dollars in royalties waiting to be paid.

Update: May 13, 2011

Apparently the lawsuit of Jacobsen et al. against William Paul Young et al. has been dismissed (according to court documents dated January 10, 2011).  The issue has been settled, or is in the process of being settled. This can mean any number of things. 1) The parties reached an out-of-court settlement 2) The parties decided to drop the suit 3) Any number of other things. The bottom line is that the suit will not go before a judge or a jury to be settled. That is good news.

Click here for a PDF of the actual dismissal ruling.


Update: August 18, 2011

According to Publisher’s Lunch (a newsletter to which everyone interested in the publishing industry should subscribe):

On August 12, a little more than a month before the case was set to go to trial, Young reached a confidential settlement agreement with  Jacobsen and Cummings and the Ventura court case was dismissed without prejudice. Young’s lawyer Michael Anderson declined to comment beyond affirming a settlement deal had been reached; Martin Singer, representing Jacobsen and Cummings, did not answer requests for comment.

 It appears that this is merely the final conclusion to a settlement agreed to earlier in the year. So, essentially, this is only confirmation of the update I wrote in May. Bottom line is that the dispute seems to be over.
Check back in a few months and see if there is more news.

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ICRS Observations 2010

Some have asked for my thoughts on this past week’s International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) in St. Louis. I’m glad to answer. This was my 29th consecutive booksellers convention. At its height there were approximately 14,000 in attendance, many years ago. That is no longer the case. Statistics released indicate …

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In Memory of John Wooden

Last night the great basketball coach John Wooden passed away at the age of ninety-nine. As you can see from the photo to the left I had the privilege of attending one of his basketball camps during the Summer of 1974.

by Steve Laube

Last night the great basketball coach John Wooden passed away at the age of ninety-nine. As you can see from the photo above I had the privilege of attending one of his basketball camps during the Summer of 1974.

It was a John Wooden and Bill Sharman (then coach of the LA Lakers) camp in Honolulu. We lived and breathed basketball 24/7 during that week. We drilled during the day, sat in classes, and scrimmaged in the afternoons and evenings. It was heaven for an aspiring athlete. (For the rest of the world that week was notable because President Nixon resigned that Thursday August 8, 1974.)

During one drill Coach Wooden pointed at me and said, “Come here young man and show me how you rebound the ball.” I sheepishly came out in front the other players and for a couple minutes Coach Wooden schooled me on how to box out. No matter what I did, spinning, pushing, hip-checking, and jumping, he always snagged the rebound. I couldn’t believe this gray haired “old man” who was at least five inches shorter than me could do that. (Coach Wooden would have been 63 years old at the time.) It was only later that I found out that he was in the Hall of Fame…as a player (inducted in 1960)! No wonder he taught this skinny kid a lesson!

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Book Review – Inbound Marketing

In February I was in the Denver airport waiting for a flight. As usual I couldn’t resist browsing the bookstore shelves. Something about the book Inbound Marketing by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah caught my eye. So, on impulse, I bought the book and began reading it on the plane. I learned a lot about this phenomenon called social marketing and thought that it would be a great book for all authors to read. But I never got around to writing a review!

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New Releases May 2010

Below are new books published last month which our agency represented. (In alphabetical order by author. Descriptions are from publisher’s web sites). May 2010 Claim – Lisa Bergren David C. CookSent west by their father to make a new life, the St. Clair siblings have done so-but hardly as he’d …

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What’s up with Christian Retail?

Twice in the last 30 days I have been interviewed about the “state of the industry.” The journalist’s questions were insightful and thought I would share some of them with you. My answers have been expanded beyond the original ones since I have more space to work with here.

1. What do you believe to be the most important trend in Christian publishing and why?

This can be a complex question depending on which part of publishing being discussed. The obvious answer is the digital revolution. While e-book sales are still only a tiny percentage of the whole, the foundations being laid today will have long term implications.

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New Releases April 2010

Below are new books published last month which our agency represented. (In alphabetical order by author. Descriptions are from publisher’s web sites). April 2010 Who Speaks to Your Heart?: Tuning in to Hear God’s Whispers – Stacy Hawkins Adams Zondervan‘I wrestled with whether a God that I couldn’t see or …

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HarperStudio is History

Back on March 17 I blogged about the changes at HarperStudio and asked if this could mean that division would close down. Today it was announced that it has come to pass, the division is no more.

HarperStudio had made big news by setting up a low advance model in exchange for high royalties. It was termed a “profit sharing” model. (of course define “profit” first… 🙂 ) Plus they sold their books on a non-returnable basis to the stores, both online and brick & mortar.

It was a highly creative idea and caused quite a stir, especially when there was talk of a 50/50 profit split.

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New Releases March 2010

Below are new books from March 2010 which our agency represented. (In alphabetical order by author. Descriptions are from publisher’s web sites). March 2010 Lady Carliss and the Waters of Moorue – Chuck Black MultnomahDetermined, smart and a master of both the sword and the bow, Lady Carliss has proven …

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New Releases January & February 2010

Below are new books by our clients which released in January & February 2010 (in alphabetical order by author and descriptions from publisher’s web sites). January 2010 Dreams That Won’t Let Go – Stacy Hawkins Adams Revell Indigo Burns is excited. Her wedding preparations to the man of her dreams …

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