Lobster Press in hot water over unpaid royalties
Montreal children’s publisher Lobster Press appears to be undergoing a period of financial uncertainty, leaving some of its authors in the dark about the status of the company.
Q&Q has learned of multiple instances of unpaid royalties stretching back to 2008. The company has also shed staff in recent months and disconnected its Montreal phone line. President and publisher Alison Fripp now intends to run the business from her home, according to one author who has been in direct contact with the company head.
Fripp did not return multiple e-mails from Q&Q Monday.
According to the author, sales and marketing director Stephanie Hindley has left the company, as well as art director and production manager Tammy Desnoyers. Managing editor Mahak Jain, who left the firm in June, has been replaced by Cameron McKeich.
Several authors who spoke to Q&Q on background described an organization in which royalty statements were consistently late and payments often had to be compelled, if they were forthcoming at all. Requests to have rights reverted for non-payment of royalties were ignored or rejected.
One author, who asked not to be named, said that, as of December 2009, she was owed $1,100, and has yet to receive full payment or an accurate accounting of royalties that have since accrued.
This isn’t the first time Lobster Press has found itself in financial hot water. The publishing house grew rapidly after being established in the late 1990s, but it filed for creditor protection and restructured in 2003.
In 2009, Lobster Press received a block grant of $20,700 from the Canada Council for the Arts, but the publisher did not apply for funding for the current period, according to a Canada Council spokesperson.
The Writers’ Union of Canada recently filed a grievance against Lobster Press pertaining to a clause in some author contracts that grants the publisher partial ownership of a work upon the reversion of rights to the author. As TWUC notes in its newsletter, “When a contract between an author and a publisher is terminated, it is industry standard for the rights to revert to the author and for the author to retain full ownership of the work.”
TWUC’s grievance with the publisher remains unresolved.
[This story has been updated.]