Could What Happened to Paula Deen Happen to YOU?

The Tangled Webs Publishing and Bad Press Can Weave …


WOW—here is the Stupid Publisher Trick of the Month: Penguin Random House/Ballantine canceled Paula Deen’s upcoming cookbook, Paula Deen’s New Testament: 250 Favorite Recipes, All Lightened Up set to launch in October (already #1 on Amazon) because of “careful consideration” regarding the charges of racial slurs and harassment … what kind of baloney is that? And just how many millions of dollars has Ballantine registered on its books since she was a “prized” author in its stable? And although it hit #1 in Books over all … a feat that any publisher would normally salivate over, all sales have stopped. Without a publisher, there isn’t a book.


And do tell, dear Penguin Random House that Ballantine is an imprint of, Ms. Deen’s now former publisher …  aren’t you’re the proud owner of Author Solutions, Author House, iUniverse, Xlibris and in partnership with Hay House, Guideposts, Writers Digest, Simon & Schuster, Thomas Nelson and others with your stealth alliances that have duped thousands of authors (and still are) … for many, that would be far worse than a racial slur, especially when they see their heart, soul and money go into the toilet.

And aren’t you named in a class action lawsuit via your relationship with Author Solutions for fraud and misrepresentation? And Random House Penguin, you are saying that Paula Deen’s words, alleged words, since the person who brought the lawsuit stated that she didn’t say them directly to her in her deposition, are grounds to toss her book, destined to be a bestseller, in the trash heap? paula deen cookbook

Seems to me that authors should be canceling your contracts instead from what I personally know about the business practices and treatments of authors under your Author Solutions umbrella.

Oh wait, I remember the standard clause in all the publishing contracts—the “moral turpitude” one.  Moral turpitude is a legal concept in the United States and a few other countries that refers to “conduct that is considered contrary to community standards of justice, honesty or good morals. The one that I’m sure you are nailing Paula Deen with.

We authors would blindly sign with the big publishing houses containing them, I bet you have them too—the one that says that the author can’t display “immoral behavior”. Ummm, you don’t think that shafting naïve and green authors of thousands of dollars and creating mediocre books is, gulp, considered “immoral behavior”? Okay, okay … the class action lawsuit is “alleged misrepresentation” of authors—wouldn’t that be contrary to community standards of justice, honest or good morals? I think so.  Moral turpitude indeed.

I spent a few hours reading through the Lisa Jackson deposition and the lawsuit over the weekend. Hmmm again … feels a tad fishy here. Could there be a gold-digger and buck-chasing attorney in the midst? Possibly. What I got from the formal complaint was that it was really directed toward brother Bubba who is alleged to have a foul mouth and equally bad behavior and unfortunately brother Bubba’s restaurant claims Ms. Deen as a partial owner. So she’s got a responsibility for his behavior if it affects employees and customers. Did Deen and her legal team make some boo-boos in handling what has now become a major fiasco? Most likely. And what about the media frenzy—is news so low that the media has become the co-predator, set to destroy a favored icon as well? Its contribution has been massive. You have to wonder why it, and others, haven’t attempted to slice, dice and shred brother Bubba and bake him at 500 degrees.

Did Deen spill the “N” word out of her mouth as charged in the lawsuit that has grabbed the national headlines? I bet she did … wait, isn’t she from the South … the place where that “N” was tossed about and used like it was water from the faucet not too many years ago? Hmmm … why, yes she is. Would it be likely like that it was used in her upbringing? In her neighborhood? In her schooling? In her church? In her home? All yes, years ago.

Should Deen, or anyone for that manner, not use the “N” word? Yes, indeed. Maybe we should be directly this entire issue toward the music industry and rap. The words, the language, in many are horrendous—mean, hateful, charged with violence. Wait, don’t they claim “freedom of speech”?

All of us have said, thought and done things that we wished we hadn’t. Fess up. I grew up in a home where the “N” word was a frequent outburst from both my father and mother. Their roots were deep in bigotry. They cooled it as political correctness and Civil Rights became the law of the land … but it was simmering under their outburst pot at all times. Did we all say it at some time in our upbringing? Sure … and then each of my brothers and myself made a choice—for me, wrong word, wrong fit. Not for me. 

Paula Deen’s empire has collapsed in just a few weeks. An allegation. Already judged without a trial or a jury. A domino factor. Media frenzy. Predators salivating at the gate. Sponsors and supporters who have made zillions of dollars off of her bailing right and left. Everyone loves a winner … and everyone loves to hate a loser, perceived or real.  

Let’s take a breath and see what happens. And I want her book—I support the underdog often and put a pre-order in … I was ticked when I got the email from Amazon saying that my pre-order for it had been canceled. Some publisher is going to pick it, and her, up and sell a bunch. Maybe Paula Deen should start her own publishing house: Southern Cooking Press … or WTF Publishing … or use the imagination.

Surely, some gutsy publisher is going to step up to the plate. It’s interesting to note that Simon & Schuster is doing a hearty book selling business of her previous books–after all, there’s nothing like an old title hitting the charts again. And yes, I still want her book. Maybe I should offer to publish the book under my own imprint.

Could what happened to Paula Deen happen to you? Maybe. With the work that I’ve done in conflict management over the years and my “other life” expertise in sabotaging behavior directed toward women, I know that the more visible you are, the more successful you are or perceived to be, you become a prime target. With fame comes glory … and sometimes gore and 50 shades in between.

Go for author success … but watch your back and everything else.

JB_pic_2013-2  Judith Briles is known as The Book Shepherd (, an author and book publishing expert and the Chief Visionary Officer and Founder of Author U (, a membership organization created for the author who wants to be seriously successful. She’s been writing about and conducting workshops on publishing since the 80s. Judith is the author of 30 books. Her latest, Author YOU: Creating and Building Your Author and Book Platforms has won multiple book awards and hit #1 on Amazon. Join Judith live on Thursdays at 6 p.m. EST for Your Guide to Book Publishing on the Follow her Blog as well as @AuthorU and @MyBookShepherd on Twitter and do a “Like” at AuthorU and TheBookShepherd on Facebook.  If you want to create a book that has no regrets, contact her at