April 28, 2015

More bad news for Hesperus Press: High Court orders it to cease publishing Jonas Jonasson



A High Court has ordered this old man to disappear from bookshops

We’ve been following the saga and tragic fate of independent publisher Hesperus Press. Early last week, it emerged that all four members of its staff had resigned with no public explanation. A few days later, we reported that Hachette Group USA and the Swedish author Jonas Jonasson were taking the publisher to court over unpaid royalty payments.

Yesterday, there was further bad news. The Bookseller continued its excellent coverage of the story to reveal that a High Court judge had ordered to Hesperus to cease selling and distributing its English translation of Jonasson’s The 100-Year-Old Man who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared. 

A Hachette spokesperson told the Guardian:

Following an action brought by Hachette Book Group against Hesperus in London, the English high court has issued an order confirming Hesperus’s undertaking to desist from selling or distributing an English translation of The 100-Year-Old Man.

As of Monday evening, the book was still available to buy as an ebook and paperback on Hesperus’ own website, on the Waterstones and Foyles websites and on Amazon UK. There has been no mention of whether Hesperus representatives were at the Court hearing, and considering that it no longer has any members of staff, it’s hard to know who exactly is going to be liaising with retailers to have the book removed from sale.

There have still been no public statements from the publisher, despite a promise from its chief financial officer Ayman Al Asmar to the Bookseller on Monday 20th April that a statement would be issued “soon”.

The Guardian interviewed another literary agent, Lena Stjernström, managing director of Grand Agency who confirmed that they had received royalty payments from Hesperus for one of their books, but were chasing another:

We got a payment a month ago for an advance, and the one book we had out with Hesperus a couple of years ago has been paid for in good order. They’re a couple of weeks late with royalty statements for [the Börjlinds’] Spring Tide, but there are no publishing houses we don’t have to send reminders to.

So at least the publisher was paying some authors and agents. But Roma Tearne, an author whose novel The Last Pier was published by Hesperus at the start of April has revealed the turmoil at the publisher before the staff departures. She told the Guardian:

The thing I want is that this book doesn’t die. It isn’t about the money. I went to a small publisher for the TLC, and I got it, so this is tragic. I found out as the publishing date was coming up. The editor was in tears telling me – they were terribly upset. My agent is now investigating. More than anything, I want the book to live.

We’ll continue to follow the story.


Zeljka Marosevic is the managing director of Melville House UK.