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.