Queensland author fends off lawsuit from agent
INTERNATIONALLY best-selling Brisbane author Kate Morton has fended off a lawsuit by her former literary agent, who instead has to pay the writer more than $500,000.
High-profile agent Selwa Anthony sued the author in the NSW Supreme Court claiming she was entitled to be paid 15 per cent commission on all royalties earned from Ms Morton's first six published books for the life of each work. Ms Morton's cross-claim arose out of Ms Anthony's conduct in relation to the negotiation of world rights publishing agreements with the author's first Australian publisher for books three to six.
In a 248-page judgment delivered on Monday, Justice Julie Ward dismissed Ms Anthony's claim and partly upheld the cross-claim ordering the agent to pay Ms Morton $514,558 plus interest.
The issue of who pays each party's legal costs will be dealt with next year. Ms Anthony, a literary agent for over 30 years, was sacked by the author in December 2015.
She contended that - in accordance with her usual practice - she had an oral agency agreement with Ms Morton, made during a March 2002 phone conversation, about her receiving the commission for the life of the books. "At the time of the (court) hearing, five of Ms Morton's books had been published, to local and international acclaim, from the sale of which substantial sums (in the order of some $17 million) by way of royalty had been earned," the judge said.
Justice Ward said it was not disputed that Ms Anthony acted as Ms Morton's agent in relation to the publishing agreements for those six books and, until January 2016, in the collection of income payable to the author under those agreements. But the author did dispute agreeing to the agent receiving the commission for the life of the six books, submitting the agreement was limited to the period of their agency relationship.
The judge was not satisfied the March 2002 oral conversation, as contended by Ms Anthony, took place.
She noted there was no logical reason for such an agreement at that stage, given that Ms Morton had only jotted down notes or ideas for her first book The Shifting Fog.
She also found that any later agreement did not give Ms Anthony an ongoing entitlement to commission beyond the end of the agency relationship or "for the life of the work".