This Day In Writing History
On February 29th, 1996, the legendary actress turned writer Joan Collins won a countersuit against her publisher, who had sued her for the return of the advance it paid her. The case would set a world record that holds to this day.
Collins, a famous British actress best known for her role as Alexis Carrington on the American prime time soap opera Dynasty (1981-89), published her first book, Past Imperfect: An Autobiography in 1978. Within the next ten years, she would write more non-fiction works, including a memoir and self-help books.
Joan's sister, Jackie Collins, was a bestselling novelist, and Joan had appeared in film adaptations of her novels The Stud and The Bitch. So it was inevitable that Joan Collins would try her hand at fiction as well.
By the time she had gotten into a legal battle with her publisher, Random House, she had already published two novels, Prime Time (1988), and Love and Desire and Hate (1990). Then Joan signed a new two-novel contract with Random House for $4 million, with $1.2 million to be paid in advance.
In September of 1991, Joan delivered the nearly 700-page manuscript for one novel, titled The Ruling Passion to her publisher. Random House deemed it unreadable, so she wrote another novel called Hell Hath No Fury and submitted it.
Random House then decided to sue Joan Collins for the return of the $1.2 million advance. She countersued for the full $4 million stipulated in the contract, complaining that Random House breached the contract, which clearly stated that she had to submit complete manuscripts for the two novels, not acceptable manuscripts.
In her countersuit, Joan also accused Random House of failing to provide her with the editorial assistance that she had expected. In her eyes, the company was trying to weasel out of the contract instead of working with her to improve her manuscripts.
The high profile civil suit, which began in February of 1996, would be broadcast live on the Court TV cable channel. The court ruled in Joan Collins' favor, allowing her to keep the $1.2 million advance and awarding her an additional million dollars.
Random House didn't have to pay her the full $4 million because the second manuscript she submitted, Hell Hath No Fury, was basically a rewrite of the first, The Ruling Passion. Neither manuscript would be published.
Joan's victory in her countersuit earned her a place in the Guinness Book of World Records. She still holds the record for retaining the world's largest unreturned payment for an unpublished manuscript.
After winning her case against Random House, Joan signed with rival publisher Dutton, who published her next two novels, Too Damn Famous and Infamous, which received great reviews and became runaway bestsellers.
To this day, Joan Collins' books have sold over fifty million copies and been translated into 30 languages.
Quote Of The Day
"Show me a person who has never made a mistake and I'll show you somebody who has never achieved much." - Joan Collins
Today's video features a documentary on Joan Collins' legal battle with her former publisher, Random House. Enjoy!