… a parallel revolution was taking place in the publishing world, as authors and their agents began to rewrite the terms of their relationship with publishers. One of the instigators of that revolution was Mort Janklow, a corporate lawyer who, in 1972, did a favor for his college friend William Safire, and sold Safire’s memoir … to William Morrow & Company. Here is how Janklow describes the earliest days of the uprising:
“So Bill delivers the book on September 1, 1973 … Larry Hughes, his editor at Morrow, calls me and says, ‘This doesn’t really work for us. … We feel bad about it, because we love Bill. But we’re going to return the book to you, and we want you to give back the advance.'”
… Janklow knew nothing about the publishing world when he agreed to help his friend, and remembers looking at that contract for the first time and being aghast. “My first thought was, Jesus, does anyone sign this?” he said. … “There were no parameters on what acceptability meant. So all the publisher had to say was ‘It’s unacceptable,’ and he was out of the contract.”
Janklow decided to fight. … Hughes referred Janklow to the publisher’s lawyer, Maurice Greenbaum, of Greenbaum, Wolff & Ernst. … “So I went to see [Greenbaum], and he said, ‘Let me tell you about how publishing works,’ and off he went in the most sanctimonious manner. I was a serious corporate lawyer, and he was lecturing me like I was a freshman in law school. He said, ‘You’re in a standards business. You can’t force a publisher to publish a book. If the publisher doesn’t want the book, you give the money back and you take back the book. That’s the way the business has worked for hundreds of years.’ When he was finished, I said, ‘Mr. Greenbaum, I’m not trying to force the publisher to publish the book. I’m just trying to froce the publisher to pay for it. This acceptability clause was being fraudulently excercised, and I’m going to sue you.'”
What happened? The case went to arbitration, and Morrow settled.
Then, one author after another called Janklow asking him to present them, and he began extracting concessions from publishers. Janklow said, “The point I was making was that the author was more important than the publisher.”