YA Author Joan He Outlines Potential Lawsuit With Her Publisher on Twitter

Sara Belcher - Author

Nov. 10 2020, Published 3:55 p.m. ET

joan he lawsuit
Source: Instagram

While the process of writing a novel seems like a fun and somewhat easy process to the average reader, any published author will tell you getting a manuscript published is much harder than it appears. Many authors don't talk much about their contracts publicly, so much of the legal discussions are dealt with offline.

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But YA fantasy author Joan He, who wrote the popular novel Descendant of the Crane, has officially taken her recent contract dispute online.

In a thread on Twitter, Joan explained the battle she's been fighting with her publisher that could potentially end in a lawsuit over issues with royalty payments.

descendant of the crane
Source: Instagram
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Joan He said she's considering suing her publisher, Albert Whitman & Co.

In a thread on Twitter, Joan revealed that over the last few months, she had unfortunately been gearing up for a potential lawsuit against the publisher of her debut novel, Albert Whitman & Co. The publishing house put out Descendant of the Crane in 2019, and allegedly after the COVID-19 pandemic began, her publisher stopped distributing royalties to her.

"We gave them the benefit of the doubt due to COVID," she tweeted in a thread. "We allowed them all of the time that they were contractually owed, and then some, to rectify this breach. In August, when the publisher remained in breach, we notified them that the rights to publish the book had reverted back to me, per a clause in my contract."

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With the rights back in Joan's hands, she legally can "rehome" the book to be distributed under a different publishing house, and all of the copies currently being distributed by Albert Whitman & Co. have be pulled from the shelves.

Despite this alleged breach in the contract, though, Albert Whitman & Co. released the paperback copy of the book on Sept. 1, 2020.

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"After we notified the publisher that rights had reverted back to me, they went ahead and released my paperback anyway. You can find it on shelves. You can see it (and ALL the editions they’re not allowed to sell anymore) on every online retail site," Joan tweeted. "Not only is this a gross violation of copyright, it also hurts my agent's ability to rehome the book at a place that values me, now that the rights are back in my possession."

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What happens when a book goes out of print?

When a book goes out of print, it means that all copies of the book that have yet to be sold can no longer be distributed. The novel will essentially be unavailable for purchase, if it's pulled from the shelves, until Joan finds a new distributor for Descendant of the Crane. 

"Should this go to court, I am almost certain to win," Joan said in another tweet. "The case is clear cut. But I'm not vindictive; I don't want to drag the publisher through this, or myself to a pyrrhic victory. Emotionally, mentally and financially, the last six months have been hard enough."

In her thread, Joan said those looking to support her should preorder her next novel, The Ones We're Meant to Find, which is being published with Macmillan.

At this time, Albert Whitman & Co. has not responded to Joan's public statements about her potential lawsuit, and it's unclear how they plan to proceed.

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