November 11, 2020
In life, in business, and especially in publishing, it’s true that you’re only as good as your word. Unfortunately, at Albert Whitman & Co., we struggled to communicate with some of our authors, and our employees, and for that I am deeply sorry.
Albert Whitman & Co. is a small indie publisher, but despite or in spite of that our modest staff is mighty in their care for the books we publish. From editorial to marketing to sales, the people working at Albert Whitman & Co. care deeply about our books, and they share a desire to tell stories that matter, ones that showcase authors and characters that people see themselves reflected in.
I want and need to apologize to authors that have felt frustration with us concerning delayed payments or other issues. Publishing a book should be a wonderful experience, and the fact that something Albert Whitman & Co. should have handled better tarnished that experience for you is awful, and I’m sorry. I want to directly apologize to Joan He, who posted this week her frustration working with us on her YA debut, Descendant of the Crane. We at Albert Whitman & Co. felt honored to work with Joan, and I am so disheartened that she had a bad experience. We have been in contact with Joan’s attorney and agent.
And I want to thank Joan for standing up and being vocal about her experience. Albert Whitman & Co. must be more forthcoming in communicating with authors, illustrators, and agents when payment delays might happen for whatever reason. We didn’t communicate as candidly as we should have with Joan and other authors as to when and why there were payment delays. We should have been more up front with both authors and staff, because at the end of the day, our error to not communicate better made it more difficult for them to do their jobs to the best of their ability. Not being open puts people in a position of being vulnerable, and I’m sorry we put anyone in that position. I’m glad Joan was open and has forced this discussion, which should have happened long before. And she has empowered other authors to speak up about their negative experiences as well. I’m sorry that it took this long to address these issues in a meaningful and honest way.
I also recognize an apology isn’t enough. As I mentioned above, we are in contact with Joan’s attorney and agent regarding the contract that was entered into by both parties. As of September 9th, all royalties have been paid out to Joan He for Descendant of the Crane and her next payment is due November 15th. I can assure everyone that she’ll have the check by that date. We are also working now on setting deadlines for when we can be paid up on royalties that we owe to authors who have published with us. We’ll be reaching out directly to them to discuss payment dates to make sure we have an actionable plan and deadline to make sure they are paid. Further, we’re discussing internally how to change our procedures, so this doesn’t continue to be an issue. For my part, I’ll be more transparent with our staff and people we work with about the new procedures that are put in place to ensure there isn’t a breakdown in communication again.
Thank you to everyone who has voiced concern this week. I want to do right by not only you and the books we publish, but to do right by the wonderful authors, illustrators, agents, and Albert Whitman & Co. staff that make working in publishing so rewarding. The only way to do that is by speaking up and making necessary changes to create more honesty and transparency in our company moving forward.
President, Albert Whitman & Company