September 6, 2016
Hachette sues the author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies for breach of contract
by Julia Fleischaker
The publisher Hachette is suing Seth Grahame-Smith, the author of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, for breach of contract. According to Ashley Cullins at the Hollywood Reporter, the lawsuit “can be summed up by a common four-word phrase: too little, too late.”
Grahame-Smith was paid $1 million as a combined advance for two books due to Hachette, and now the publisher wants half of that back.
Hachette claims their 2010 deal specified that the first book would be “a sequel to or spinoff of” Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and the second would be on a topic to be determined by the author subject to Hachette’s written approval. The deal also gave the publisher termination rights if any manuscript was delivered more than 60 days after it was due.
Grahame-Smith delivered the first book on time and on topic; The Last American Vampire was published in January 2015. He delivered the second in June 2016, but Hachette had some issues with it. Specifically, from the complaint that was posted on Publishers Marketplace:
The manuscript delivered on June 6, 2016, is not the manuscript that BGI—with Smith’s Guaranty—promised to deliver under the Agreement, and for which Hachette paid a $500,000 advance, because the manuscript delivered to Hachette:
a. is not original to Smith, but instead is in large part an appropriation of a 120-year-old public-domain work;
b. materially varies from the 80,000-100,000 word limit fixed in the Agreement;
c. is on a subject that was never approved by Hachette in writing, as required by Paragraph 1(b) of the Agreement; and
d. is not comparable in style and quality to Smith’s wholly original bestseller Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, as also required by Paragraph 1(b) of the Agreement.
Additionally, Hachette notes that the deadline for this second book was extended from June 2013 to April 2016. So, basically, Hachette is alleging that Grahame-Smith was three years late in turning in the second novel in his contract, which ended up being not on a topic they’d agreed upon, and also mostly an appropriation of an unnamed 120-year-old public domain work.
Hachette is asking for “no less than $500,000, plus interest.”
Julia Fleischaker is a former director of marketing and publicity at Melville House.