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I just read on Monica’s blog that Bestselling Author Pontif has a copy of Millennia Black’s Law Suit against Penguin.

Tis heady stuff, and I hope she wins. I’m still not so sure she will though, because this is truly a David v Goliath battle.

Anyway, get a load of some of the details of the complaint, it’s fascinating stuff, and makes me want to pump my fist for Millennia’s bravery, and say fuck off to Zane:

Did your eyes bulge like mine did when I saw the amount that she’s suing them for? Damn, I really hope she wins, because this would send out a strong message to publishers who think they can get away with such blatantly racist actions.

So, what do you guys think? Do ya think she’ll win or not? Indeed, maybe the question should be, should she win?


  • Jane
    January 7
    8:25 pm

    Dunno if she should win. Haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about it but I did get a copy of the book and it was bland, dull, and overwrought filled with adultery, death, unhappiness. I read the first four chapters and the last two. Bleah.


  • sancre
    January 7
    11:09 pm

    Hi all,

    Karen, if they did what she said they did in her complaint, she should be granted an award. The key here is to prove it.

    There are many authors who are black and write a neutral book. I see her point. By designating a work of fiction as “african/american”, in many cases it is shelved separately by bookstores… I know this to be true. And sadly, it does marginalize it.. ie very few nonblacks will actively seek out that section for new books by authors they have never heard of.

    In Penquins case, they will probably try to say that since it was discovered the writer was black, by designating it as “african american” it would garner more attention to her target audience and therefore garner more sales. That is bunk and we all know it.

    Does Terry Mcmillian do well only because she garners the black sales? No, Terry Mcmillian does well because she crosses race and genre lines.


  • Dee
    January 7
    11:48 pm

    I hope she wins, but 250 mil? It makes the case seem fluffy to overshoot by that much. There’s no way in hell she would have earned that kind of money from even two books. And while I sense a bit of protection against other pubs not wanting to go near her, the figure is just too much. Unless they ripped her arms off and beat her with them, that’s kind of excessive on the pain and suffering.

    I’m guessing she wanted to make an impact and make sure they didn’t just shuffle her in the paperwork as a joke. LOL, but I still get a seriously Dr. Evil feeling from that demand.

    Still, though, the case is going to be difficult to prove and as Sancre said, that’s the hard part. She will need multiple sources from inside editorial and marketing to back up her claim independently (folks you KNOW will be promptly fired or forced to quit). And proving a person or group is acting with racist intentions is just as hard as proving they DIDN’T. It’ll be a subjective case and she’d better hope she comes across more sympathetic than they do.

    Best of luck to her,


  • Bestselling Author, Pontif.
    January 8
    1:42 am

    Hi Karen — I definitely think she should win. As I said in my post, if she loses, it will mean publishers have the legal right to differ their treatment of authors based on their race, and their race alone–that’s wrong. Whites, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans, or African Americans can write AA fiction, and vise versa. What matters is the CONTENT. There are many white authors out there successfully writing black content and no one tells them they can’t do it because they’re not black. What about all the historical fiction and SFF writers? Can’t do any of that either because you never lived in those times? Please.

    Hi Dee — Proof of the discrimination itself is littered all over the country! (g) Millenia Black’s first book was published as AA fiction–it doesn’t have any AA characters! Have they (or any pub) ever done that to a white author’s book?

    I think the hardest thing to prove will be those damages — but then again, I’m betting this case will be settled before it even gets that far. I’ve literally made a bet with a colleague.

    As for the amount, I’ll say here what I said in a comment at my own blog — she should shoot for the moon….some quote out there says you’re more than likely to land among the stars. Besides….the more I think about it, who is to say that if her books had not been treated racially and she HAD gone on to become a first-time author bestseller, that she wouldn’t have had a career in the industry that commanded that much? Who’s to say? And, of course, after Penguin’s actions, we’ll never know the answer to that question. Niching it racially guaranteed she’d never have that shot. I say, as long as you’re askin’….why not? Take ’em to the cleaners if you can.

    Hi Jane — I read Pretender and thought it was great. It was a pageturner for me. But even if it was the worst book ever written, that doesn’t justify discriminating against its the author. They could’ve just left it where they found it. Not every book is gonna be everybody’s cuppa tea, but person A’s “bleah” is person B’s pageturner.


  • Monica
    January 8
    2:16 am

    I think even if the case gets as far as settlement . . . it will be interesting to see the effect on the black fiction niche and authors.

    They all treat us differently than they do nonblack authors to varying degrees and they are raking in money from black readers.

    Even if we’re granted an even playing field as far as publisher treatment, what will that accomplish with the reader bias against us? So many will judge us harshly and account a nonblack author as automatically superior to us until proven different.

    Do you honestly see readers treating more than the token black author with the regard nonblack authors receive?

    That is only one of the reasons so many are eager to protect the niche.


  • Sue J.
    January 8
    3:58 am

    Whoa! That’s some complaint! Didn’t that Ed Chumpion jerk say she’s representing herself to boot?! well I don’t see her getting that much money, but sounds like a stong enough case for some relief to be won.

    What’s more? David whooped Goliath’s ass! can’t wait to see how this turns out!


  • Anonymous
    January 8
    12:53 pm

    Monica, I don’t think most white people care about who writes what. Most people don’t look at the author’s photo before buying a book.

    The problem is that many US bookstores classify books written by black authors (whether they’re American or not!) as “African-American” and hide them away in the corner. Most bookshop patrons don’t even go into the corner. I’m guilty of doing that; I only go into the part of the bookstore that has the books I’m used to buying. I don’t even know what’s in the other areas.

    In the same way, many bookstores put all the English-language books by non-American writers in a section far away from the mainstream fiction. Not only does this give Americans the false impression that they write all the books, but interestingly most bookstores only segregate books by writers with foreign names. Margaret Atwood is in the mainstream section, while Joy Kogawa is in the foreign section. Both are from Canada.


  • jmc
    January 8
    1:22 pm

    Thanks for posting this info, Karen.

    On the question of whether MB should win: I think so.

    Whether she will win? Different question entirely.

    On the $250,000,000? The OCD drafter of court pleadings hiding within me thinks it was a mistake to list the monetary relief that way, indicating that the entire amount was “past and future economic losses suffered or to be suffered”. Better to bifurcate the monetary relief, with a calculable and supportable amount as actual damages and a second, larger amount as punitive damages. Of course, MB may have phrased it that way for strategic reasons: because punitive damages are limited in her jurisdiction, or because she actually can show support or documentation of a loss that huge, or just to get Penguin’s attention. But to me, $250MM as actual losses suffered seems outrageous enough to be discounted or dismissed by jury/judge as being out of touch with reality (unless you are a Really Big Name Author, or someone like Jack Welch or Warren Buffett, with a multimillion dollar paycheck and golden parachute).

    That’s not to say that I think racism in the industry shouldn’t be punished financially, just that the language of the prayer for monetary relief doesn’t seem supportable based on it’s current wording.

    But I am neither a civil rights lawyer nor an entertainment lawyer, so take any and all of this with a lot of salt.


  • Rocio
    January 8
    4:15 pm

    If the statement and allegation she made are truth she sould win, because book should be judge by the theme and content not by the author race!
    But the amount she should get is another story, is hard to guess how much damage we are trying to repair here!


  • Dee
    January 8
    4:52 pm

    Thanks jmc, you explained that beautifully.

    See, the law is very specific. Think of it in the terms of a civil wrongful death case. The suing party must calculate what the person would have earned at their current rate and times it by the estimated years of working life ahead of the person and the total is the amount the deceased person was “worth” and that the defendant may be held responsible for. Reason being that the court can not make any assumptions of raises or firings, etc. It’s not the true value of the person, but that can’t be translated into dollars either.

    Now, MB suffered–and will continue to suffer in my opinion, because she’s also made herself undesirable to other publishers who are going to stay on their side of the line for quite some time (regardless of if she was right to or not)–but there’s no way that a non-racially biased book was going to earn 250 Million dollars. Not even two. I don’t know diddly about Nora’s financials, but I seriously doubt even SHE gets anywhere near 200 million for two books. Or any other mainstream big name authors, for that matter. Considering it takes a blockbuster film to earn that kind of money (and then it’s divided among all the investors), MB’s possibility of earning that kind of money in two books is outright laughable. (Welcome to publishing, folks)

    Because they were her first largely distributed books, it’s going to be hard to prove how much each book would be worth.

    And the presence of all those books nationwide in a niche audience proves only that Penguin kept their part of the contract in publishing the book and distributing it. The contract will not have language that the book was intended to be an AA formatted release (if it did, MB would have no case whatsoever).

    She’ll need specific evidentiary support (such as correspondance with the company) to prove her allegations that that she argued against the niching. In fact, she’ll need evidence for every single point she raised in that complaint.

    Bottom line: Despite publishers likelihood of not picking her up anytime soon, MB can and will write again. Penguin has not so damaged her that she will never be able to earn by writing, which will lessen her reward.

    The books could never have earned anywhere near those amounts, which will lessen her reward.

    Was she hurt emotionally, yes, but I don’t see her suffering being worth that kind of money. (Believe me, LA wouldn’t be able to operate if they had to fork out that kind of money everytime the police attacked someone for racial reasons, and those cases usually involve gunshots, death and/or bloodloss.) Juries do have limits and I believe that will lessen her reward.

    The important aspect of this case, from a legal point of view, is that if she wins, she sets a legal precedent of what AA authors can and cannot be treated like. And that will ripple through not only publishing (which will clam up like clogged drainpipe, btw) but through every business and corporation out there that has any kind of separation for their AA employees or contractors. If she wins, it’s huge and I wish her the best of luck. She’s brave to do this, but I’d be lying if I said she was a shoe in.

    And I hope, truly, that she does indeed have a lawyer. One, not having one implies none would take her case and thus weakens it in a perceptionary way. Two, this kind of thing gets tricky, ugly and can drag on for years with paperwork. She’ll need someone used to swimming in paper because the court will have little patience.



  • Rebecca Donna Tricolli
    January 8
    6:18 pm

    I should think the amount was a strategic move. There’s no way she’ll get 250 million dollars. She’s a UFO in the industry.

    But it is interesting to know Penguin didn’t file a motion to dismiss the case with their response for that very reason, have the court dismiss her as a quack out of touch with reality or something.

    I do believe she’ll prevail and get some relief. Just not $250 million and I doubt she believes she’ll get that much either.

    Becca Tricolli


  • Jane
    January 8
    6:47 pm

    Re: the $250M request. Some states require you to state with specificity the damages, in dollar amount, you may be seeking.

    As for getting the case dismissed, you would have to make a motion to have the petition dismissed because “on its face” it “fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.” When ruling on a motion to dismiss, the court views all of the allegations as if true (essentially). All of the allegations, if proven true, do state a claim upon which relief can be granted.

    I think that Ms. Black’s choice to represent herself is probably a mistake.

    First, there are no “pain and suffering” damages in a civil rights claim. Those are termed “emotional distress” damages. Generally speaking, in civil rights claims, in order to obtain an award for emotional distress one must show physical manifestations of the distress such as loss of sleep or appetite, decreasing or increasing weight gain, nausea and the like. Emotional distress has become inreasingly harder in the recent years with the interpretation of the courts winnowing that right down to virtually nothing.

    I wonder if she filed a complaint with the EEOC. As an administrative point, I think that you have to file that in order to have an actionable suit in federal court.

    I can’t recall, but I think that race cases are exempt from the $300,000 cap on punitive and non compensatory damages. Even so, the Supreme Court in a case rendered a few years ago said that punitive damages, generally, have to have a single digit ratio relationship to the original award. I.e., assuming the award to Black would be $100,000 in compensatory (which I think would be high), then most times, a punitive damage amount would be limited to $1,000,000.00 or under.

    I suppose any amount would be deemed a victory. And, you don’t get damages for being a pariah to other publishers. I counsel my clients all the time that sometimes a lawsuit may not be in their best interest because of that very reason.

    You can’t hold Penguin responsible for the actions of other publishers who respond to the lawsuit. You would have to sue each publisher who refuses your work on an individual basis and that would be very difficult.


  • Anonymous
    January 8
    7:35 pm

    Good luck to her, I hope she wins.


  • Ancient Reader
    January 8
    8:51 pm

    Jane says:

    “I think that Ms. Black’s choice to represent herself is probably a mistake.”

    You’re a lawyer based on your statements here.

    Have me say this. Pro se plaintiffs usually come about for one reason. It’s difficult to engage honest counsel these days.

    There’re many reasons why right lawyers are hard to find. They have to stay away from risky cases that could send them broke, where clients aren’t wealthy and host of other reasons I care not to mention.

    A mistake to represent yourself? In some ways yes, and in others no. Will you just sit on your issues at home because up to the time you’re unable to find the right lawyer for your case?

    You may never find right lawyers willing to take on your case right away. When attorneys can back off your case for especially economic reasons, you’re the one to face that risk. You’ve the convictions and passion with everything else to go ahead with— it should cost you in most cases much less than attorneys with big overhead. When you make some significant progress there may be something there taking away the level of risk, and attracting lawyers more easily.

    Competent Pro se can also pay for good legal advice to carry along their cases very far as well.

    While the legal field is extremely esoteric, pro se with legal decorum can get the job done, beat-up real attorneys too. So no one should assume categorically it’s a mistake to go pro se. Sorry, though it tilts in favor of having an attorney, they’re not indispensable at all.

    As a matter of fact, because of much difficulties obtaining attorneys these days statistics show, more and more people are representing themselves in court. Headache on judges, lawyers and the system as a whole or not, it present day reality… A mistake? May be not.


  • NAL Insider
    January 9
    1:55 pm

    ….Penguin’s counsel is extremely nervous about this lawsuit. This is a hybrid situation and word is the demand of race change was ill-advised. The editor may be let go….ahem….choose to pursue other endeavors. Word is the author is an attorney or she is being advised by one behind the scenes……Insider.


  • An Esquire
    January 12
    1:46 pm

    Yes, Karen I think she should definitely win. Did everybody read the same allegations I did? If that stuff’s true, she should definitely win, but that bulk of the damages will likely be punitive. Besides, the amount she’s suing for really won’t matter until much, much later in the litigation.

    Someone mentioned the EEOC. That would not apply here. This isn’t an employer/employee relationship.


  • Bestselling Author, Pontif.
    January 31
    5:05 pm

    I posted a link at my blog to a legal Web site that has obtained Penguin’s answer. Karen, I know you said you are very skeptical, but after reading that convoluted response of there’s, wrought with contradictions, I’m pretty confident Millenia will have a positive outcome and then by association, so will the rest of us authors. I’m glad someone was brave enough to take this on without flinching.


  • Karen Scott
    February 1
    8:39 pm

    BSAP, I’m not sure who their legal team is, but I could have probably come up with a better response, lol! Deffo good luck to Millennia, I would dearly love to see this David slay Goliath.


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