Authors have complained after publisher John Blake has delayed their royalty payments while the company installs a new computerised system.
A letter sent to authors and agents dated 31st March and seen by The Bookseller explained that a computerised royalty system brought in to make payments more "efficient" was currently experiencing “minor teething problems that need to be ironed out”. The publisher wanted to install the new system because two staff members had been faced with the “overwhelming” task of producing 2,000 royalty statements “by hand” every six months, the letter, signed by John Blake himself, said.
"I know how many of you depend on your royalties and I apologise for any inconvenience this delay will cause you," he wrote. "In the interim, I would be hugely grateful if you could leave Joanna and Ola in peace to resolve this situation."
Authors The Bookseller has spoken to have experienced royalty payment delays of three weeks, contrary to contractual terms stating they would be paid within three months of 30th December.
One, speaking on condition of anonymity, said: "It's a bit of a shock that a publisher as long-established as Blake can fail to get on top of its royalty system, leaving authors like me in the lurch. I've worked for several of the big publishers in my career and this has never happened to me before. Frankly, I find it a little worrying. I've never known a publisher not to be able to produce their statements on time as they are contractually obliged to do. After all, it is only twice a year. Right now, they are breaking 2,000 contracts."
Another author, who also didn't want to be named, added: "I've written books for most of the big publishers, not to mention a couple of independents, and I fail to understand why it's so difficult for a long established firm like Blake to pay their authors on time, as all the others do. Last period, I received my statement long after I had been paid by all my other publishers, but, even then, it included no accompanying payment; that took another couple of weeks again. I worry that an increasingly difficult market means authors are too scared to stand up for their contractual rights - why else would they get away with it? No salaried employee would be expected to put up with it, would they?”
The letter told authors it was the first time in 25 years royalties would be slightly delayed, and that, even if staff had to go back to producing statements manually, all statements would be paid as by today (21st April).
In a statement about the issue, Blake told The Bookseller: “We suffered a slight hiccup with our new royalty software, which resulted in a few days delay in sending out the latest royalty statements. We informed all our authors of the problem and virtually all have now been paid.”