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Latest news from the History Press

For much of last year authors and agents had great difficulty with the various imprints owned by NPI, including Sutton and Tempus. Royalties were long overdue, a good many members of staff left and communications were very poor. We pressed NPI very publicly to honour its commitments and improve its performance.

In late 2007 NPI went into administration, as did Sutton and Tempus. The History Press was, formed on 18th December and purchased some assets of the companies. Tony Morris is in charge of the Press; Alan Sutton is no longer involved.

Mr Morris said that, with NPI’s assets in administration, the History Press was not legally obliged to honour any outstanding contracts.  However, he wrote to authors to confirm that arrears of royalties would be paid. He was quoted in the Bookseller,: ‘we believe in authors… we want them to be unequivocally happy.’ In his letter to authors he asked those authors who had not been paid to ‘bear with us until the process is completed.  This is a large but, thankfully, one-off exercise.’

After their bad experiences in 2007, most authors seem distinctly hesitant but willing, on balance, to give Mr Morris the benefit of the doubt – at least for the time being. He appears to be trying hard to re-establish the credibility and viability of the imprints. 

Members may reasonably ask whether these corporate changes have been lawful and what the implications are for authors. While the author contracts have been assigned to the History Press, one must remember that contracts cannot be transferred in such circumstances without the author’s consent. In addition, some contracts – depending on the wording – terminate automatically when the publisher goes into administration.

The History Press said that it would seek authors’ consent to the change of publisher (the process is called ‘novation’). The promised payment of arrears of royalties would be conditional on authors agreeing to move to the History Press.  Mr Morris has confirmed to us that any author who does not wish to move to the History Press is welcome to revert rights and take his/her book elsewhere, but they are then unlikely to receive arrears of royalties, Sutton Publishing Ltd being in administration (with, one assumes, debts that far exceed assets).

The latest news we have is that Mr Morris will be writing to authors soon giving a timetable by which arrears of royalties owed by NPI will be paid.  It is said that royalties up to 31st May 2007 will be paid by 30th June 2008.  Those up to 30th September 2007 will be paid by 31st October 2008 and royalties for the period ending 30th November 2007 by the end of 2008. Mr Morris has also stated that all royalties earned by authors since the History Press was founded on 18th December 2007 will be paid ‘in full and on time’.