Thursday, May 27, 2010

My book, another writer's name

A few days ago,
when I announced the publication of my second book, I said that I was delighted with it in every respect bar one. This is the problem: My name doesn't appear anywhere in the book. In fact, on the title page they've put an entirely different name – 'Shane M. Powell'.

I noticed this when I received my author's copies. I turned on my computer right away, intending to email the editor, and found a message from him in my inbox.

"Hello Steven, I'm told that your name is not on the title page of D&D
Taiwan. There's another name there. I haven't a clue how this happened and
have informed the publisher. When I hear back from her I'll be in touch.
I'm very sorry about this."

The illustrator of my book, Joshua Warren, then told me that Shane M. Powell is actually the author of Dos and Don'ts in Laos. The person credited with the drawings in my book, Louis Cazalis, did the pictures for the Laos book. So it looks like the publisher used a previous title page as a template, changed 'Laos' to 'Taiwan', but didn't update the author/illustrator details.

When I told my wife all this, she asked if perhaps my name appears on the Laos book. That would be an irony; I've never been to Laos.

This is what I then said to the publishing company:

"My name is Steven Crook. I am the author of your newly published book, Dos and Don'ts in Taiwan. I congratulate you on having found an excellent illustrator and doing a superb job of designing the book. However, when I received my author's copies on May 8, I was dismayed to see another person's name (“Shane M. Powell”) on the title page

This mistake is personally damaging in two senses. Firstly, being able to present one's friends and relatives with copies of a new book bearing his or her name is a great pleasure for every author. Your mistake deprives me of this pleasure. Secondly, as a professional writer, being identified as the author of an attractive book is important because it leads to newspaper and magazine commissions.

My first book, even though it was not widely distributed, led to a large amount of work. Dos and Don'ts, I had hoped, would do the same. The potential losses are in the thousands of US dollars.

I do not seek financial compensation. Nor do I seek to have the entire print run destroyed and reprinted. Instead, this is what I would like to receive from you:

1. A small number of copies (say 100) with my name correctly included on the title page. These I can present to friends in Taiwan or sell here.

2. A letter making it clear that I am the author of the work, and that the name on many of the copies is wrong.

3. An undertaking that if the book is sold through any website, that I be identified as the author on those websites.

I look forward to your reply."

I'm still waiting for a response. The company's headquarters are in Bangkok and it's possible the riots there have disrupted business.

The whole affair is annoying and frustrating. However, I've been able to keep a lid on my outrage for three reasons:

Firstly and most importantly, it doesn't make much difference to my writing career. In the 20 months between finishing Dos and Don'ts in Taiwan and the book coming out I was commissioned by a more important publisher to write a guidebook about Taiwan (the associated blog is here). That's due to be published in the autumn and – because the cover is already on – I can relax knowing my name will be on it.

Secondly, I realise that a very attractive book featuring my work but published under the wrong name is preferable to a poorly-assembled volume on which my name is prominent.

Thirdly, much worse things happen around the world every day.


David said...

You're being very reasonable in response to a mistake like that. Another simple and low cost solution is putting a sticker on the cover where the wrong name is.

Steven Crook... said...


I've considered the sticker solution, but I think it would look pretty bad - perhaps as bad as having the wrong name.


Unknown said...

That's horrible! At least you should be able to get them to fix your name in all online references and in any future printings--but that still hardly makes up for it.

Rich J Matheson said...

The delayed response could very well be them waiting for their lawyers' to tell them how to proceed.

Looking forward to reading Powell's book!

Hope it works out.

Daniel White said...

You're taking this pretty well. Thanks for making Taiwan more available to everyone, regardless of the name on the book.

Fili said...

I've heard that happen once with an academic paper.

Sorry to hear that.