Stealing from a homeless person is the lowest thing you can do. Stealing from an artist is the second lowest.
This thought crossed my mind a few years ago, when a French publisher translated both of my books, actively promoted and sold them and didn’t pay me or my American publisher any of the advance or royalties promised in the contract. We looked into legal action, but the possibilities seemed limited (since the contract wasn’t worth millions and the publisher was based in a foreign country). So I learned to live with the fact that someone had stolen my work and was selling it—and there was nothing I could do about it.
However, finding myself in Spain and en route to Paris, I decided to email the publisher and see if he cared to get coffee and explain in more detail why he never paid us. (Previously, he’d only indicated that his company was struggling financially.) To my surprise, he responded. He said that he wasn’t going to be in town while I was there, but a package would be at my hotel when I arrived. Entering my room and opening the cardboard box, I found 500 euros (about $670) and a translated copy of each book.
The publisher explained that he hoped to make additional payments, and we’re in the process of mending our relationship. (We’re Facebook friends again!) Perhaps this will be a rare and unexpected happy ending in the publishing world. We shall see.