June 17, 2015
Is it over? Abacus buys Jonasson’s 100-Year-Old Man
by Zeljka Marosevic
Back in April, I covered the sad set of events at Hesperus Press. After the independent publisher lost all of its members of staff, with no explanation, it then became embroiled in a legal battle with Hachette US over unpaid royalties to the bestselling Swedish author Jonas Jonasson. Jonasson is the author of The 100-Year-Old Man who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared, and the book was a big hit for Hesperus, selling half a million print copies in the UK, and 700,000 ebooks.
At the end of April, a High Court judge ordered Hesperus to cease selling and distributing its edition. Hesperus then entered into arbitration proceedings with Hachette to settle the matter of royalties out of court.
Yesterday, as The Bookseller reported, Abacus, an imprint of Little, Brown (which is owned by Hachette in the UK) announced that it had acquired the UK and Commonwealth rights to the book, and would begin selling it immediately.
We still don’t know exactly what happened at Hesperus, and why its whole staff left so unexpectedly. It isn’t clear why they didn’t pay royalties to Jonasson, their biggest selling author, but did appear to pay royalties in that time to other authors. However, Hesperus does now have a new team of employees who are ready to take the company forward. Speaking to The Bookseller, the director of the company Shadi Sharbain said that the company’s directors:
…intend to settle any outstanding issues with Hachette… [and that they had appointed] a new team…to come and manage the situation: ensuring that the authors have first priority, seeking to settle the financial situation with creditors and to maintain our business and good will.
Let’s hope that despite its troubles, this is an independent publisher that won’t disappear.
Zeljka Marosevic is the former managing director of Melville House UK.