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Rant- Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Childish Whining and Our Profession as Authors

*Originally Posted by Frog Jones


This is in response to Elizabeth Wurtzel’s interview with NPR.  A brief recap of what you will find there:  Ms. Wurtzel received an advance from Penguin to write a book.  She did not write that book.  Now she (and other authors like her) are being sued by Penguin for not producing the work they were paid to produce.

Quoth Ms. 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.”

OK, to begin with I’m not a big supporter of New York.  The big publishing houses have done some atrocious things to authors legally, and I’ve been behind the authors one hundred percent there.  Then I see crap like this.

Ms. Wurtzel:  You are killing other authors.  You want to know why New York has started acting like a bastard to everyone?  It’s because of authors like you who feel entitled to take the money and not do the work because, well, you’re an author.  And being an author is an art, and you just can’t rush greatness, sweetie.

And this woman writes self-help books?

Fun fact:  If you take someone’s money and then don’t give them anything in return, you no longer have value to them.  Sure, your last book made a whole pot of cash.  That’s lovely for you and them, but they already have that book and that value.  The value in your continued relationship with your publisher is the next book, not the book you already sold them.

Quoth 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.”

And then:  “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.”

Ms. Wurtzel:  They did try to say we’re really serious and we need to talk about this.  It was in that letter.  By blowing them off, you said you weren’t serious about it.

If I give my money to someone in order for them to do a job, and then they don’t do the job, I ask for my money back, or ask when they will complete the job.  If I don’t get a response I’m going to come to the natural conclusion that the person who took my money is scamming me, and the only course of logic is to sue them.

Authors like this are the kind of people that create this environment of distrust within the writing and publishing community.  I’ve heard authors rant about how dishonest the big publishing companies are, and not without cause.  But then I see something like this, and it becomes clear that the big publishing companies are dealing with authors who are just as bad.

If we really want a truly open, artistic relationship with our publishers, then we have to give them a reason to trust us.  Taking the money and not producing the product is unprofessional.  Whining about it on NPR and expecting sympathy is downright childish.

Read your contracts.  Have an attorney read your contracts to tell you what could happen.  Don’t sign them if you don’t like the possible results.  Sign them if you do.  But don’t sign them, take all the benefit, and then leave the publisher hanging.  Then ignore them.  Then complain when they sue you.  If we want to be taken seriously as professionals, we should probably act like it.