Thursday, December 22, 2005

There's Nothing Like the Face . . . of a Publisher Eating a Candybar.

You've heard about the candybar company that's suing Simon & Schuster, publisher of Hershey: Milton S. Hershey's Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire and Utopian Dreams. Stories like this make me wonder whether publishers, authors, and even publicists ought to consider their potential legal liability before they commit to book projects. Perhaps they should.

I'll admit that part of me is relieved that I wasn't hired to promote the Hershey book (here I feel compelled to repeat the disclaimer you'll find on the site: "Hershey: Milton S. Hershey's Extraordinary Life of Wealth, Empire, and Utopian Dreams is not authorized by the Hershey Company.") But that's only one small part of me.

The rest of me -- the part of me that gets blissed-out by seeing her clients' books in the national news -- would have found it deeply rewarding to be a part of this particular book project. Imagine: a book that automatically makes headlines courtesy of a high-profile lawsuit. The only thing that even comes close to that type of "free" (well, unless you count the legal fees the publisher will accrue in defending itself) publicity it is when the pope recently asked his faithful followers to avoid buying a bestselling novel (does Dan Brown owe the Vatican a percentage of the royalties on The Da Vinci Code, or doesn't he?).

Of course, those of us who work in and around the publishing industry could refuse to take on any projects, ever, just to keep ourselves safe from lawsuits. But even that would only offer us limited protection from litigious entities who are committed to creating difficulties where there should be none. For example, just imagine what a company like Hershey could do to a publicist who admits in public that she's just not a big fan of chocolate bars? I don't even want to go there.

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