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Authors Sue Regnery

Five authors, including Swift Boater Jerome Corsi, are suing publisher Regnery for defrauding them out of royalties.

Five authors have sued the parent company of Regnery Publishing, a Washington imprint of conservative books, charging that the company deprives its writers of royalties by selling their books at a steep discount to book clubs and other organizations owned by the same parent company.

In a suit filed in United States District Court in Washington yesterday, the authors Jerome R. Corsi, Bill Gertz, Lt. Col. Robert (Buzz) Patterson, Joel Mowbray and Richard Miniter state that Eagle Publishing, which owns Regnery, “orchestrates and participates in a fraudulent, deceptively concealed and self-dealing scheme to divert book sales away from retail outlets and to wholly owned subsidiary organizations within the Eagle conglomerate.”

Some of the authors’ books have appeared on the New York Times best-seller list, including “Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry,” by Mr. Corsi and John E. O’Neill (who is not a plaintiff in the suit), Mr. Patterson’s “Dereliction of Duty: The Eyewitness Account of How Bill Clinton Compromised America’s National Security” and Mr. Miniter’s “Shadow War: The Untold Story of How Bush Is Winning the War on Terror.” 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.”

The authors argue that in reducing royalty payments, the publisher is maximizing its profits and the profits of its parent company at their expense.

“They’ve structured their business essentially as a scam and are defrauding their writers,” Mr. Miniter said in an interview, “causing a tremendous rift inside the conservative community.”

The practices, detailed at much greater length in the article, are standard in the publishing industry. Steep discounts are frequently given to book clubs and other vendors for promotional purposes. The problem here is that Eagle Publishing owns said book club and other promotional organizations and thus has a rather powerful conflict of interest.

Kevin Drum sees some rough justice at work here and wonders, “[I]f a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged, what do you call a conservative who’s come face to face with the naked face of vertically integrated capitalism?”

Jane Hamsher inexplicably sees “irony” here and snarks, “These ‘authors’ seem to believe that if Richard Mellon Scaiffe wasn’t giving away copies to replace the Monkey Ward’s catalog as outhouse toilet paper that people would be paying full price for their brilliant tomes.” In actuality, though, consumers were paying something close to full price for the books; it’s just that the Conservative Book Club was getting the book at a steep discount from Regnery. Or the books were used as an inducements to get people to subscribe to Human Events or various newsletters at full price rather than at frequently available cut rates. In all cases, Eagle Publishing profited by the authors didn’t.

An equally unsympathetic Barbara O’Brien is probably right, though, that the authors have little little chance of prevailing in court. She observes, “It’s not at all unusual for a niche publisher to run its own book clubs and other distribution outlets that sell books at deeply discounted rates. Regnery didn’t invent this practice.” The problem is that Regnery isn’t a “niche publisher” but rather the producer of highly profitable national bestsellers. Channeling these books through their corporate owned distribution networks so as to deprive authors of their rightful share of the proceeds is unethical. It’s probably perfectly legal, though.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Regnery IS a “niche publisher” because it publishes books focused on a particular topic (conservative politics and ideology) and marketed primarily to a particular audience (conservatives). They don’t publish just any nonfiction book that they think might be salable. They aren’t aiming for a general audience, but catering to their “base.” That’s what makes them a “niche” publisher. And their books wouldn’t be “national bestsellers” were it not for the volume sales generated by their books clubs and other volume discounting practices.

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  2. James Joyner says:

    Oh, I agree that they’re publishing in a niche, just a very large, highly marketable one. Regnery’s business model is to publish a handful of inflammatory books a year, mostly with already established polemicists, and then market them heavily.

    No doubt the leveraging of their Eagle network inflates the sales numbers. But it’s also depriving authors of royalties while still netting Eagle a profit. That’s not exactly sporting.

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  3. Repack Rider says:

    Regnery seems to have a lot in common with the Washington Times, which loses millions every year but stays in business because it advances the causes of rich conservatives who don’t mind picking up the tab.

    None of these books could legitimately make a best seller list, so the company unloads them at fertilizer prices and uses the inflated numbers to claim that a lot of people are reading them.

    If the authors had anything worthwhile to sell, there might be competition among publishing companies for their work, but that didn’t happen, did it? Apparently the free market is anathema to them. Funny how Mr. Miniter changed his views on tort reform when his own panties got in a bunch.

    Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving bunch.

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  4. James Joyner says:

    Apparently the free market is anathema to them.

    How so? They’re asking that their contract terms be enforced.

    Funny how Mr. Miniter changed his views on tort reform when his own panties got in a bunch.

    What views have changed? He’s not seeking exorbitant punitive damages, merely actual damages for fraud. No tort reform advocate of whom I’m aware is opposed to restitution for actual damages.

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  5. Melissa says:

    Please. Where are all of the other authors that Regnery has so successfully published? Where are they and why aren’t they coming forward? Why isn’t John O’Neill – who wsa the MAIN author of “Unfit for Command” – why isn’t he in on the lawsuit..he himself is a lawyer! Corsi rarely even did any interviews for the book.

    They are just upset they didn’t negotiate the best possible way. There are many other authors Regnery has sponsored and the fact that they haven’t come forward has me extremely skeptical.

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  6. novakant says:

    How so?

    Well, if they were true free marketeers and had confidence in the marketability of their products, they wouldn’t have signed a contract agreeing to the bulk discount practices of Regnery in the first place. Such practices are not uncommon in the publishing world, but have little to do with free market mechanisms.

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  7. James Joyner says:

    Well, if they were true free marketeers and had confidence in the marketability of their products, they wouldn’t have signed a contract agreeing to the bulk discount practices of Regnery in the first place.

    Selling to book clubs at discount rates is rather standard. Were they being sold to Book of the Month Club, everyone would be ecstatic. The problem here is that they were “sold” to another Eagle property at cut rates, with Eagle getting all the profits but Regnery, the company with whom the authors had the contract, showing no revenue.

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