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Wikileaks reveals conversations over Assange memoir

Julian Assange's literary agent and PFD m.d. Caroline Michel accused publisher Canongate of going "to war" with her client and "feeding the media myth" over how the Independent reported the publication of Assange's controversial memoir. The email, sent to Canongate founder Jamie Byng, has been revealed on the Wikileaks website after it published transcribed phone conversations and emails leading up to the publication of Julian Assange, The Unauthorised Autobiography last week.

The transcripts reveal Assange would have received an advance of at least £650,000 had he proceeded with publication of his authorised biography. A lawyer's letter dated 12th September 2011 said he sought £225,000 on delivery of the completed manuscript and £175,000 on publication, in addition to the signature advance, thought to be at least £250,000, already paid by Canongate and his US publisher Knopf.

Michel fired off the email to Byng and Canongate publishing director Nick Davies on the eve of publication of the controversial memoir after reading an Independent news story. She wrote: "Your actions today releasing the manuscript to the Independent with a story which is factually untrue are designed to create the maximum confrontation. It surely has to be counter productive to go to war with Julian in this way." In a return email, Davies conceded there "were a number of factual inaccuracies in the piece", but said that it did not have "copy-approval on the Independent’s news story".

The release of the transcripts on the Wikileaks website show the attempts made by Byng to have Assange's input into a book, even if it turned out not to be his autobiography. According to the transcript, Byng told Assange by telephone on 16th June: "My absolute number one desire is to publish a great book that you are happy with. It is going to be different to the one we contracted for the reasons we discussed." Stressing that it needed to be a book that would be of interest to overseas publishers, Byng added: "That’s the book I think we can get most publishers around the world to also publish and keep this coalition together."

In the same conversation Byng told Assange he did not expect to get the advance back, and that Canongate would have to cancel its rights sales: "I am going to have to accept we’re not going to see any money back. But I am still going to have to cancel the contract with the publishers abroad as I am misleading them and I won’t do that."

During that phone call Assange appeared to agree to work on a new book, and stressed he did not want an unauthorised version published. He said: "I’m extremely sympathetic to all that and will do whatever is in my power in the coming year to make good on our deal but I can’t have subterfuge or publishing unauthorised manuscripts under any circumstances at all."

In a later email exchange between Assange and Michel, dated 24th August, Michel reminded Assange that he was to "look at a timetable to deliver the book" with the aim of Spring 2012 publication. She added: "I cannot see a downside in delivering a book with your message and your story." However, she warned him the publishers would "need considerable assurances that the book will be delivered to them to publish". In a paragraph marked "other books" Michel also suggests future projects, including "Wikileaks cook books".

In a separate statement released by Canongate today (29th September), the publisher reiterated its view that it had given Assange ample opportunity to work on a book. The publisher said: "We last talked to Julian on 16th June. During that conversation, we restated that we wished to work with Julian on the book and would be flexible about its format and publication date. Over two months later, on 24th August, Julian’s agent asked for another meeting. Our response was to ask for something in writing. We were absolutely explicit about the need to see a proposal in writing from Julian if we were going to believe that he was really ready to reengage with the book. We had already waited almost five months for any written response to the first draft delivered at the end of March. We received nothing.

"We wrote to Julian again on 7th September, via his agent, informing him that we intended to publish his autobiography, based on the first draft delivered to us on 31 March 2011. In that letter, we told Julian we planned to send the book to press on 19 September. His response, twelve days after we sent the letter, was to say that he intended to injunct. He didn’t."

In the first three days of publication, Nielsen BookScan figures showed that the book had sold 644 copies. But Davies told Reuters that Canongate hoped sales would pick up steam, and said some of his firm's erstwhile foreign-language partners had expressed interest in the new book. But he added: "The only person who has made any money out of this is Julian. He's got our advance money."

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With this degree of controversy, the book really ought to be charting. Why isn't it (yet)? Frankly, that's what alarms me about this whole affair. Has the book missed its demographic?

Man almost bitten by dog.....

Go to the Wikileaks website and read the full transcript of the calls, as well as the full account written by Assange himself. Then go to the Canongate website and read their statement.

Setting aside all media hype and any influence of the cult of personality - I personally have not yet made up my mind about Assange - it is very clear who has posted the most believable account. Assange himself. The statement is thorough, accurate and reads like an honest account.

In contrast, the Canongate blurb reads like any standard piece of work any PR/Legal department can come up with in an afternoon. And it leaves out the reason why Assange wanted to delay (NOTE: not cancel) the publication - The simple matter of not being able to devote the necessary time to the book until his extradition appeal is over.

The Canongate statement does not address another very important point: The book they have published is an unedited first draft. When is it ever fair, responsible, professional, accurate or standard practice to publish an unedited first draft?

I've changed the headline as the original headline implied that Caroline Michel had accused Canongate of "going to war" over publication of the book. Actually, it was how the Indy handled the news story that her email complained about.

The UK Independent paper has recently published some disgustingly ad hominem attacks on Assange. It's therefore no surprise that their Canongate exclusive contained "factual inaccuracies".

The Independent has clearly adopted an anti-Assange editorial agenda, just like the Guardian. One can only wonder if the Indy's owner Mr Lebedev, a Russian billionaire and TV chatshow pugilist, has influenced that agenda.

One can also only wonder if it's a coincidence that Canongate chose the Independent for their exclusive. Did someone influence Canongate's decision to betray Assange? Is this a co-ordinated attempt to turn public opinion against him ahead of the UK court decision over extradition to Sweden?

It's not ethical to take money for a book and then ignore the people who invested that money, and who are offering you a chance to have complete editorial control if you'll just live up to your side of the deal (which you signed...)

Michel seems exasperated too, to be honest. Julian made this bed and he'll have to lie in it – and he'll get money regardless. He's a lot better off than Canongate.

Here's why Peter: it is a book no one can trust. Fans of Assange won't buy it for obvious reasons and for everyone else there is no reason to suppose that the book will contain any particularly interesting insights into Assange or Wikileaks.
People are also put off because however badly Assange may have behaved, Canongate's stance seems bullying. It may be very unfair, but 'Author bullies publisher' is a headline for the Onion.

Complete editorial control is all fine and well if you have the time to devote to it. If we are to believe Assange's account, he was in dialogue with Canongate about moving the publication date back because his extradition trial demanded too much of his time. A reasonable request Canongate seemed to initially support.

Seems to me the publisher had two choices - Go with the delayed publication date and produce something of some ethical and literary value or plough ahead with a rough draft regardless of the author's wishes.

And you say that Julian got his money. The only reason he has not been able to injunct Canongate is because he can't afford it. Nothing in Assange's behaviour suggests he does anything for personal monetary gain, and in fact he states that the first advance is sitting unused in his solicitor's client account. Now that PayPal, Visa and Mastercard have all blocked Wikileaks I guess using his fame to earn his own money is one of the few ways Assange can support his non-profit organisation. Maybe he would not have even considered an autobiography had he not been running out of options. How can he have interest in sabotaging such a potentially lucrative deal?

The only think I can see Assange guily of is wanting to do a job properly. Cannongate seems to be guilty of breaching contract, trust and professional values. The fact that Knopf, their US publishing partner, withdrew from the deal once they realised what was about to happen, proves that Canongate are deviating from industry standards.

They seem to have underestimated Assange's fans, however. I am willing to bet that Assange's supporters would be their main demographic. But these very same supporters will not buy an unathorised book Assange has explicitly opposed.

Does no one else see and appreciate the delicious irony in the fact that the wikileaks founder and advocate of a 'New Age of Transparency' is now railing against being published without his permission and having his rights to privacy breached? It's the logical conclusion of all he's been supposedly fighting for - freedom to publish without contraints of any kind. I don't believe that Canongate have acted fairly by any means - but then again, we don't know the detail of what actually happened.

But Gary, aren't all these conspiracy theories a little far fetched? Why did the Guardian fall out with Assange in the first place? They were his most avid supporters at first . . . Wasn't it something about them publishing details about his Swedish legal proceedings that he did't want published? Isn't he guilty of the most flagrant double standards? Maybe the truth is much simpler - whoever works with Assange always ends up getting their fingers burned . . .

There's nothing in the correspondance that indicates that they (or his agent) felt reassured that he would actually deliver the goods.

And yes, he will get more money – he will have received a chunk on publication. He also would have received a large number of free copies, so there was no need to showboat around the bookshops.

I've read a hell of a lot of publishing contracts, and unless this one is different to all of them, Julian is earning money right now, trust me.

Canongate's only alternative was to sue him to return the cash, and then Julian truly wouldn't have made any money at all. As it is, he gets the next third of his advance and any royalties if the books earns out (which, given the number of sub-deals, it may well do).

I agree, it would be ironic in the form you seem to mean it, basically: advocating transparency is for the advocate to also be transparent. The form of irony, as I understand you, is meant to be incongruous. Is it incongruous?

Glenn Greenwald says:
"Simultaneously advocating government transparency and individual privacy isn't hypocritical or inconsistent; it's a key for basic liberty" http://twitter.com/#!/ggreenwald/status/17581178894688256

For an incongruity to be legitimate, I suggest that the advocate of transparency needs to be transparent in relation to their equivalency. That is, a private individual advocating transparency of government organizations does NOT require the same measure of transparency, as one does not preclude basic freedoms, which the other can (and unchecked usually) do so. Because this is the difference between Assange's musings and the government's cables is just such a case where the advocate does NOT need to also be transparent.

I suggest, then, that there is no incongruity in Assange's position, and that the irony supposed by that is not meaningful to an understanding of the fundamentals important for the maintenance of basic freedoms.

I agree with your assessment that Canongate may not have acted fairly in publishing Assange's draft (copyright remains his according to the contract details given here http://wikileaks.org/Julian-Assange-Statement-on-the.html). Because of the provisions of the contract, it seems the only legal means Canongate had was to sue Assange for the advance payment.

Giovanni - I see what you are saying and it's a good point. But I fear that in reality the boundaries between government transparency and individual privacy may not be so clear-cut. When Wikileaks did not remove the actual names - and addresses too in some cases - of informants to US intelligence in Afghanistan, they showed a blatant disregard for not only their privacy but their personal safety, don't you think? When challenged about this, Assange was quoted as saying to Guardian journalists that these people would get what is coming to them as they were after all informants. I for one don't like to think that someone who thinks in such simplistic terms gets to decide when and how information which may affects many lives is to be released. Principles and maxims apart, my instinct is that there is something fundamentally flawed and dangerous in this man's thinking, and part of that is that fact that he expects greater regard to be shown for his own rights and privacy than those of other people . . .

Seems to me the sensible thing would be to publish the contract. That's really going to be the thing that decides who owes what to whom, and it's the one piece of hard uncontested evidence in the case.

wg

No. Part of the scam here was to rob Assange of the manuscript delivery fee, the publishing fee and the paperback publishing fee. Only the signature advance was paid. Read http://www.wikileaks.org/Julian-Assange-Statement-on-the.html

With this degree of controversy, the book really ought to be charting. Why isn't it (yet)? Frankly, that's what alarms me about this whole affair. Has the book missed its demographic?

Here's why Peter: it is a book no one can trust. Fans of Assange won't buy it for obvious reasons and for everyone else there is no reason to suppose that the book will contain any particularly interesting insights into Assange or Wikileaks.
People are also put off because however badly Assange may have behaved, Canongate's stance seems bullying. It may be very unfair, but 'Author bullies publisher' is a headline for the Onion.

Man almost bitten by dog.....

Go to the Wikileaks website and read the full transcript of the calls, as well as the full account written by Assange himself. Then go to the Canongate website and read their statement.

Setting aside all media hype and any influence of the cult of personality - I personally have not yet made up my mind about Assange - it is very clear who has posted the most believable account. Assange himself. The statement is thorough, accurate and reads like an honest account.

In contrast, the Canongate blurb reads like any standard piece of work any PR/Legal department can come up with in an afternoon. And it leaves out the reason why Assange wanted to delay (NOTE: not cancel) the publication - The simple matter of not being able to devote the necessary time to the book until his extradition appeal is over.

The Canongate statement does not address another very important point: The book they have published is an unedited first draft. When is it ever fair, responsible, professional, accurate or standard practice to publish an unedited first draft?

It's not ethical to take money for a book and then ignore the people who invested that money, and who are offering you a chance to have complete editorial control if you'll just live up to your side of the deal (which you signed...)

Michel seems exasperated too, to be honest. Julian made this bed and he'll have to lie in it – and he'll get money regardless. He's a lot better off than Canongate.

Complete editorial control is all fine and well if you have the time to devote to it. If we are to believe Assange's account, he was in dialogue with Canongate about moving the publication date back because his extradition trial demanded too much of his time. A reasonable request Canongate seemed to initially support.

Seems to me the publisher had two choices - Go with the delayed publication date and produce something of some ethical and literary value or plough ahead with a rough draft regardless of the author's wishes.

And you say that Julian got his money. The only reason he has not been able to injunct Canongate is because he can't afford it. Nothing in Assange's behaviour suggests he does anything for personal monetary gain, and in fact he states that the first advance is sitting unused in his solicitor's client account. Now that PayPal, Visa and Mastercard have all blocked Wikileaks I guess using his fame to earn his own money is one of the few ways Assange can support his non-profit organisation. Maybe he would not have even considered an autobiography had he not been running out of options. How can he have interest in sabotaging such a potentially lucrative deal?

The only think I can see Assange guily of is wanting to do a job properly. Cannongate seems to be guilty of breaching contract, trust and professional values. The fact that Knopf, their US publishing partner, withdrew from the deal once they realised what was about to happen, proves that Canongate are deviating from industry standards.

They seem to have underestimated Assange's fans, however. I am willing to bet that Assange's supporters would be their main demographic. But these very same supporters will not buy an unathorised book Assange has explicitly opposed.

There's nothing in the correspondance that indicates that they (or his agent) felt reassured that he would actually deliver the goods.

And yes, he will get more money – he will have received a chunk on publication. He also would have received a large number of free copies, so there was no need to showboat around the bookshops.

I've read a hell of a lot of publishing contracts, and unless this one is different to all of them, Julian is earning money right now, trust me.

Canongate's only alternative was to sue him to return the cash, and then Julian truly wouldn't have made any money at all. As it is, he gets the next third of his advance and any royalties if the books earns out (which, given the number of sub-deals, it may well do).

No. Part of the scam here was to rob Assange of the manuscript delivery fee, the publishing fee and the paperback publishing fee. Only the signature advance was paid. Read http://www.wikileaks.org/Julian-Assange-Statement-on-the.html

I've changed the headline as the original headline implied that Caroline Michel had accused Canongate of "going to war" over publication of the book. Actually, it was how the Indy handled the news story that her email complained about.

The UK Independent paper has recently published some disgustingly ad hominem attacks on Assange. It's therefore no surprise that their Canongate exclusive contained "factual inaccuracies".

The Independent has clearly adopted an anti-Assange editorial agenda, just like the Guardian. One can only wonder if the Indy's owner Mr Lebedev, a Russian billionaire and TV chatshow pugilist, has influenced that agenda.

One can also only wonder if it's a coincidence that Canongate chose the Independent for their exclusive. Did someone influence Canongate's decision to betray Assange? Is this a co-ordinated attempt to turn public opinion against him ahead of the UK court decision over extradition to Sweden?

Does no one else see and appreciate the delicious irony in the fact that the wikileaks founder and advocate of a 'New Age of Transparency' is now railing against being published without his permission and having his rights to privacy breached? It's the logical conclusion of all he's been supposedly fighting for - freedom to publish without contraints of any kind. I don't believe that Canongate have acted fairly by any means - but then again, we don't know the detail of what actually happened.

But Gary, aren't all these conspiracy theories a little far fetched? Why did the Guardian fall out with Assange in the first place? They were his most avid supporters at first . . . Wasn't it something about them publishing details about his Swedish legal proceedings that he did't want published? Isn't he guilty of the most flagrant double standards? Maybe the truth is much simpler - whoever works with Assange always ends up getting their fingers burned . . .

I agree, it would be ironic in the form you seem to mean it, basically: advocating transparency is for the advocate to also be transparent. The form of irony, as I understand you, is meant to be incongruous. Is it incongruous?

Glenn Greenwald says:
"Simultaneously advocating government transparency and individual privacy isn't hypocritical or inconsistent; it's a key for basic liberty" http://twitter.com/#!/ggreenwald/status/17581178894688256

For an incongruity to be legitimate, I suggest that the advocate of transparency needs to be transparent in relation to their equivalency. That is, a private individual advocating transparency of government organizations does NOT require the same measure of transparency, as one does not preclude basic freedoms, which the other can (and unchecked usually) do so. Because this is the difference between Assange's musings and the government's cables is just such a case where the advocate does NOT need to also be transparent.

I suggest, then, that there is no incongruity in Assange's position, and that the irony supposed by that is not meaningful to an understanding of the fundamentals important for the maintenance of basic freedoms.

I agree with your assessment that Canongate may not have acted fairly in publishing Assange's draft (copyright remains his according to the contract details given here http://wikileaks.org/Julian-Assange-Statement-on-the.html). Because of the provisions of the contract, it seems the only legal means Canongate had was to sue Assange for the advance payment.

Giovanni - I see what you are saying and it's a good point. But I fear that in reality the boundaries between government transparency and individual privacy may not be so clear-cut. When Wikileaks did not remove the actual names - and addresses too in some cases - of informants to US intelligence in Afghanistan, they showed a blatant disregard for not only their privacy but their personal safety, don't you think? When challenged about this, Assange was quoted as saying to Guardian journalists that these people would get what is coming to them as they were after all informants. I for one don't like to think that someone who thinks in such simplistic terms gets to decide when and how information which may affects many lives is to be released. Principles and maxims apart, my instinct is that there is something fundamentally flawed and dangerous in this man's thinking, and part of that is that fact that he expects greater regard to be shown for his own rights and privacy than those of other people . . .

Seems to me the sensible thing would be to publish the contract. That's really going to be the thing that decides who owes what to whom, and it's the one piece of hard uncontested evidence in the case.

wg