Penguin has launched legal action against several of its high-profile US authors for allegedly failing to deliver books on time despite hefty advances.
The authors in question include Elizabeth Wurtzel, who wrote Prozac Nation, The New Yorker journalist Rebecca Mead and "hip-hop minister" Conrad Tillard. A spokeswoman for Penguin said the group "regrets that it had to initiate litigation in these cases, and it did so reluctantly, only after its repeated attempts at amicable resolutions were ignored".
The publisher, owned by UK firm Pearson, is demanding Ms Wurtzel returns a $33,000 advance with $7,500 interest after, it claimed, she failed to deliver a book about helping teenagers cope with depression almost a decade ago. The lawsuits, filed earlier this week, were uncovered by investigative website The Smoking Gun. They include a deal signed with Ana Marie Cox, a blogger, who received an $80,000 advance to write about the next generation of political activists in 2006. Penguin is also seeking at least $50,000 in interest.
Ms Mead owes $20,000, plus interest, the publisher said, for a collection of her journalism from The New Yorker. Mr Tillard, who planned to write a memoir about his journey from "the Ivy League to the Nation of Islam", was handed a $38,000 advance. The outcome of the cases will depend on whether authors submitted the promised manuscripts and, if they did, whether the texts were of accceptable length and quality.
The publisher is also targeting Herman Rosenblat, whose true life story of a love affair in a concentration camp was later exposed as a fabrication. Penguin wants the return of $30,000 advance it handed over in 2008 .