THE PLANK NOVEMBER 7, 2007
What is it with conservatives and self-dealing publishing scams? The New York Times reports today on a group of five conservative authors suing the parent company of Regnery -- the conservative publishing dynasty -- over what they claim was the house's deprivation of royalties. This suit claims that Eagle Publishing, of which Regnery is a subsidiary:
“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.”
In Regnery’s case, according to the lawsuit, the publisher sells books
to sister companies, including the Conservative Book Club, which then
sells the books to members at discounted prices, “at, below or only
marginally above its own cost of publication.” In the lawsuit the
authors say they receive “little or no royalty” on these sales because
their contracts specify that the publisher pays only 10 percent of the
amount received by the publisher, minus costs — as opposed to 15
percent of the cover price — for the book.
This reminded me of a piece I wrote several months back about Karl Zinsmeister, currently President Bush's Chief Domestic Policy Advisor (whose ex post facto quote and resume-fixing earned the moninker "Zinsmeistering"). Two months previous to his hiring by the White House (where he replaced the kleptomaniac Claude Allen), Zinsmeister was fired from his position as Editor of the American Enterprise Institute's American Enterprise magazine, partly for his involvement in a similar scheme:
And so it was that AEI began buying Zinsmeister's books to give to new
subscribers. The strategy, whichdebuted in 2003, was to lure people
into subscribing through directmail by offering a free Zinsmeister book
with their subscription. At first, these mailings offered multiple
options for subscribing, some of which included a Zinsmeister book, some
of which did not.The magazine's then-business manager, Garth Cadiz,
says that the offers without Zinsmeister's books invariably received
better response rates. Yet, in June 2005, Zinsmeister eliminated
theoption to get a subscription through direct mail without buying
oneof his books as well. The move was a flop, according to Cadiz. Around
that time, subscriptions, which had been climbing for years, began
falling. No books by other AEI scholars were ever offered insimilar
arrangements, Cadiz notes...
The books were shipped to
Zinsmeister's home in Cazenovia and mailed to subscribers from there.
Over three years,according to an e-mail David Gerson would later send
to Zinsmeisterafter he had announced his plans to step down, AEI
purchased 13,700 Zinsmeister books at a cost of $131,000. And what a
gift that proved to be for Zinsmeister, as AEI's purchases wound
up accounting for 45 percent of the total sales of Dawn Over
Baghdad's hardcover edition--and more than half its paperback sales.
You can read the rest of the story for the nitty-gritty details. Granted, the situations are a bit different in that in Zinsmeister's case, he (as the writer) was making quite a good deal of money off of AEI through this arrangement, whereas in the Regnery case the writers claim to be getting screwed. I wonder if this latest incident will make some people think twice about market forces curing everything.