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More Distributor Woes - Need suggestions

    • 5 posts
    August 30, 2007 4:17 PM EDT

    Back in May I had an issue with a distributor who was supposed to sell, bill, collect and pay me for books I shipped to her customers. You guys helped me out a lot in understanding how bonkers the whole thing was.

    Well, now she`s back and she wants me to pay her a commission on sales...and I feel like I`m in the twilight zone.

    Here`s the short version...

    These are gift books I publish, with artwork done by various artists this distributor also distributes for. (prints, notecards, etc.) When she signs up an artists, she intimates she has some control over their artwork but in fact doesn`t.

    When helping pick out artwork for these books she frequently acted like their agent sending me the digital files me and telling me I could use it, even before I got confirmation from the artists. Most of the time she didn`t even cc the artist, but all agreed once I sent them a contract. 

    Anyway, I created, printed and delivered a fair number of books in Feb. to about 20 customers. During that time she arranged for a large specialty order of $30K worth of books. I set out to work on this order, creating the 7 different interiors that 8 different artists would put their artwork on the covers. I continued to work on new books and deliver the ones I had already published.

    By May I hadn`t received a single dime even though many customers had received books - many partial orders. She could have invoiced these people, but didn`t.

    She agreed and understood I could not float a lot of receivables and I made it very clear she must collect and pay me promptly otherwise I could not keep sending out books. I reiterated this numerous times. We had a written contract, but it didn`t spell out these specifics. It was just a generic, `we`ll distribute these for you` kind of contract.

    I told her $15K was my limit, which she reached in March, yet kept on writing orders or even though I kept warning her I could not deliver if I wasn`t paid soon, since I also had to pre-pay for the $30K specialty book order.

    By the time mid-May came around, I told her there was no way I could do this specialty order AND hold out about $25K in receivables without some payment. I asked and asked for an accurate accounting and got all sorts of spreadsheets that made no sense. I finally said, enough is enough. No payments. No accurate accounting. We`re done.

    She then turned around and bad-mouthed me to the artists, many of whom asked to be let out of their contract and to have me stop printing books with their work on it. Because of the contract I had with the artists (I`ll never do that again!), I had to do that. That cost me about $500 per book, and about 7 books had to be cancelled.

    Then she sent the special print job downpayment check she had agreed to send to me, back to the customer and badmouthed me to the customer. The customer canceled the order.

    Half of the orders her salesperson wrote I couldn`t deliver because I had to cancel the books and I was unable to keep buying more books to send to customers because I had run out of cash. I delivered what I could which was about $20K not about $30K. The rest I just said the books weren`t available yet. It worked out because in the end the salesperson had oversold these books to customers. Had they received what they ordered, most would have not been able to turn the inventory around in this short tourist season.

    Today she emails me demanding commissions be paid on ALL the sales (even though half were not filled). I told her she actually ended up costing me money and I`d be happy to work up a spreadsheet that shows that. I also told her if she pressed it I`d be happy to take it on legally since what she did was slander me to artists and clients.

    What would you do?

    And although I know there are two sides, AND I should have had a more comprehensive contract, am I wrong here? Should I pay her any commissions even if she cost me money?

    Thanks again for insights.

    • 28 posts
    August 31, 2007 8:23 AM EDT

    Never threaten legal action.
    Take it.
    Unannounced.

    Search and destroy... both... person and business.

    Sounds very much like you can (and should) do both to this low-life swindler (as you`ve described her).
    The bell cannot be unrung, but you CAN be made whole again, albeit with a slightly tarnished reputation and a tidy pile of lessons learned.

    Nick

    NB: This is not to be considered legal advice. Always seek the advice & counsel of a qualified, licensed attorney.