I wrote about the perils of multiple submissions in an earlier post. A few days a friend emailed and told me the publishing house she worked for sued an author for breach of contract over multiple submissions.
The facts: one manuscript, accepted by three publishers with whom he signed contracts that stated specifically that they were now the sole publisher.
Three publishers were working with the manuscript: meantime, three editors were editing, three ISBNs had been assigned; three sets of files were being prepared for POD and eBook. And the author decided to self-publish.
The publishing business is truly smaller than you'd expect. During a casual conversation, my friend and another editor realized that they had been working on the same manuscript; it took a two-minute online search to find the third publisher and the self-published manuscript. A short time later all three publishers were suing the author; a short time after that another author stepped up and said that the manuscript was his -- it had been plagiarized. He added his lawsuit to the mix.
My friend said she and the other editors had to provide depositions, the author tried to contact them to tell them what to say. The author said he'd drop the suit for a cash settlement -- he had to be reminded that he hadn't brought the suit, the publishers had.
And why? There's soap opera here about rivalry and "getting published first". The two authors had been in a workshop together and made a friendly bet about whose manuscript would be published first, over the next year or so the rivalry accelerated – or so they said.
The publishers won the suit, though we don’t know what the settlement was.
My friend and I wonder about the authors’ professional reputations. They were emerging writers, so I imagine neither got a chance to establish a reputation, at least under their real names. I did a quick search and can find nothing about either person, though they both might be writing under pen names -- heck, they might be comrades-in-arms.
Was original manuscript any good? My friend says it was a solid Western, a good read, She recalled that it needed a lot of editing, because there was a shifting POV, a story told from the POV of two people on opposite sides of a range war. She thought that the two authors had worked on the manuscript together, maybe in the workshop; if that was the case, she couldn't figure out why they didn't submit as co-authors.