If I’m pretty sure my publishing company is cheating me and trying to take advantage of me, what should I do?

UPDATED: Sep 15, 2011

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If I’m pretty sure my publishing company is cheating me and trying to take advantage of me, what should I do?

I have 2 books published by the same company but when I didn’t get my royalty checks in the mail I started to ask about my books. They only told me about 1 of my books even though Iasked about both. I’m pretty sure they were lying to me about none of my books being sold because when I look on-line both new and used books are for sale and how were they used if no one bought them; I didn’t give permission for anyone to have my books for free. It’s been 6 weeks since they were supposed to send me my checks and even after asking they still haven’t told me anything about my other book. Could I sue for compensation?

Asked on September 15, 2011 under Business Law, Iowa


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

If you believe that the publisher is violating your publishing or royalty agreement with them, you could sue them for breach of contract; if you are  right and you win, you could recover the money they would or should have paid you if they had not violated it. That of course might not be enough to justify the lawsuit; to use an example from my own experience (I spent 15 years in educational publishing), an author earned 8% royalties on all sales net of returns and bad debts. Suppose we had mostly discontinued a book--it was still technically being sold, but was unsupportd by sales or marketing efforts The book might only sell $2,500 per year at that juncture; the royalties owed would be only $200; therefore, if we failed to pay an author, while he or she could sue for the royalties, the amount of money to be recovered would be less than court and attorney fees. (The author could not recover more than the royalties he/she should have received.) Therefore, before deciding whether to initiate a lawsuit, consider if it's in your interest to do s.

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