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Thursday, December 7, 2023
Courthouse News Service
Thursday, December 7, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Author Says Her Agent’s Excuse Won’t Fly

DENVER (CN) — A speech therapist and fiction author sued her literary agency this week, claiming it sold rights to two of her novels without telling her, and when she confronted the agent, she "lamely and incredibly responded, 'Maybe someone hacked my computer and got the manuscript.'"

Karla M. Jay claims that Boulder-based Warner Literary Group not only failed to pay her royalties, but refuses to let her leave her contract. The LLC is the only defendant in the Oct. 11 lawsuit in Boulder County Court. Jay says its principal is Sarah Warner, who is named throughout the complaint, but not as a defendant in the header.

Jay says that despite her "numerous requests for payment of royalties owing, WLG has refused to provide them, and brazenly admitted (via Ms. Warner) that it is improperly withholding royalties owed to Ms. Jay in order to pay other expenses of WLG." (Parentheses in complaint.)

Jay currently works as a speech therapist in Salt Lake City, and owns the non profit learning center U Can Learn, which helps children who struggle with learning and speech issues, while writing on the side. She says she has been unable to find new literary representation because WLG refuses to release her from their agency agreement.

She says she contracted with WLG in January 2012 to sell her book "Speaking in Tungs." The book, which recently was nominated for the 2016 Thurber Award for American Humor, was Jay's first novel. WLG was not able to sell the book, so in July 2015 she "agreed to have WLG, via Hedgehog & Fox, publish 'Tungs,' and granted WLG reproduction rights" through a written contract addendum.

Jay says she also allowed WLG, via Hedgehog & Fox, to publish her second novel, "Speak of the Devil," though that agreement was never reduced to writing.

She says WLG has "failed to fully account for sales and royalties," refused to pay royalties owed, and failed to disclose that it sold both books to distributors and resellers, in particular, PBshop UK.

It was when she confronted Warner about PBshop, Jay says, that Warner "lamely and incredibly responded, 'Maybe someone hacked my computer and got the manuscript.'"

That, plus Warner's acknowledgment that she is using Jay's royalties to pay other expenses, led her to revoke their contract, Jay says. "WLG, however, has failed to acknowledge this valid revocation."

Jay seeks damages for civil theft, outrage, fraudulent misrepresentation and breach of contract, and declaratory judgment that their agency agreement is over.

Warner Literary Group did not respond to a request for comment.

Jay is represented by David Feeder with Feldmann Nagel, in Denver.

"My understanding is the only way [the resellers] could have gotten a copy of the manuscript, in order to make those sales, is through the publisher, which in this case is also the agent," Feeder told Courthouse News.

"The fact that she denied that, and came up with what I believe to be a not real credible response - I don't actually know yet, but if that is the case, they got it from her, that's intentional misrepresentation."

This is not the first such go-round for the literary agency. Crime writer Derek Miller sued it in 2012 after he too tried unsuccessfully to terminate WLG as his agent.

U.S. District Judge William Martinez granted Miller's request for declaratory judgment on Jan. 30, 2013.

In that case, WLG argued that the contract could be terminated only if both parties agreed, but Martinez ruled that that argument was "not in accord with Colorado law."

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