People have been asking me for months when my King’s Gambit book (the Everyman title is Attacking Chess: The King’s Gambit, but it will not come out by that publisher) is coming out.
There was no problem with my book, there was a problem with the editing.
For four long months I have been trying to reach a negotiated settlement with Everyman, specifically with the Managing Editor Mark Bicknell and the Chief Advisor, Byron Jacobs.
The problem came about because I turned in a “fantastic book”—to quote Byron Jacobs—and then an editor named Jonathan Tait butchered the book. He inserted incorrect variations, bad English, his own opinions contrary to the author’s, rewrote paragraphs, chopped out paragraphs, put paragraphs in the wrong order, reordered variations to falsify the previously correct notes, and on and on.
Again, for four months I tried to find a negotiated solution, but all Byron Jacobs would say was this:
I don’t have any problem whatsoever with the edited version.
When I wouldn’t accept the “butcher edit” he tried blackmail, with the support of Mark Bicknell. He refused to change anything in the nefarious edit.
When we finally made an agreement to publish the book as is, Jacobs reneged on it.
It seems to me that Jacobs and Bicknell were confident I couldn’t get to them—Bicknell boasted they are protected by English law, though I don’t think English law protects blackmailers! However, they knew I didn’t have the money to sue them in England.
But they must not read my blog (wonder if they’ll read this one?) for I have a secret weapon: Small Claims Court! And Everyman is licensed by Random House, which is centered in New York! And the CEO of Random House, Markus Dohle, is on record supporting authors!
So I wrote Mr. Dohle as follows—note that in view of possible negotiations, I have taken out of the letter the specifics of the two deals I am offering. One hopes an honest settlement will be reached soon, and my book will come out in some non-Everyman form, with all variations correct.
Remember, I advocate, like Fischer, the Bishop’s Gambit (1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Bc4! One of the side points of the book is that I completely and totally bust GM Shaw’s “refutation” of the Bishop’s Gambit with 3… Nc6?!
This makes the book especially topical, but Everyman killed it anyway.
As for me, I just couldn’t stand being lied to anymore by Byron Jacobs and Mark Bicknell—so I stood up for myself, and wrote the letter below.
I hope that Markus Dohle and Random House will stand up for authors everywhere!
Markus Dohle, CEO
New York, NY 10019
April 16, 2014
Dear Mr. Dohle:
As an author of fifteen published books, I certainly appreciated your comments at the 2013 Frankfurt Book Fair, where you said, “the authors are the center of what we are doing and the alignment with our authors is extremely important for us. It has always been and will be in the future.”
So why should I have to sue you? Well, I hope it won’t come to that. However, after having been blackmailed twice (I have the emails), having had my contracts and agreements broken, having had a book that was a labor of love absolutely destroyed by the publisher in violation of all copyright laws—then you know I am absolutely ready to seek redress in court as well as press criminal charges—unless of course a quick resolution can be found.
Let me state my intentions plainly: I am planning to sue you in Small Claims Court for the maximum cash amount plus the return of my intellectual property.
By law I am required to notify you of this intention and offer you a solution (I am going to offer two, with the second one being my preference) to avoid going to court. Thus, that is the purpose of this letter.
Here’s a brief overview of the case.
I am an International Master of Chess, and for the last ten years, since 2004, I have been writing instructional chess books for Everyman Books—or, as it says on page 2 of my recent book Slay the Sicilian, “Everyman is the registered trade mark of Random House Inc. and is used in this work under license from Random House Inc.” The Managing Editor of Everyman Books is Mark Bicknell, and the “Chief Advisor”—again, as stated on page two—is Byron Jacobs who I usually deal with. Byron Jacobs in turn occasionally employs a free lance editor named Jonathan Tait.
I never had a serious problem with Everyman over these ten years. My books “sell well” as Byron Jacobs said himself, they are well reviewed, and I am a “renowned chess author” as is often stated on the covers of the books themselves.
In the fall of 2013 I turned in a contracted book, Attacking Chess: The King’s Gambit which was a true labor of love on my part. I agreed to write this for a lower price, for a few reasons. One was I really really wanted to write the book. One was I was then given a three book deal to write Learn From Magnus Carlsen (aside, I should mention I am one of the very few chess writers who has actually played World Champion Magnus Carlsen in a tournament game and I am a former US Open Chess Champion) and then Queen’s Gambit, Cambridge Springs Defense, and finally, Attacking Chess: The Two Knights Defense.
I have signed contracts for all of these books.
So as mentioned, I turned in Attacking Chess: The King’s Gambit in the fall of 2013. Byron Jacobs described it as a “fantastic book” and on January 6, 2014 I received the page proofs. Now for my previous eight books for Everyman, the page proofs have been a formality. I pride myself on a very clean writing style (my first chess book was published in 1984, The Rubinstein Variation of the Nimzo-Indian Defense, and I am also a published novelist: Elaine the Fair and Amanda). For my last book for Everyman, Slay the Sicilian, I only noticed two minute errors in the page proofs, and this was the standard for these last eight books.
But for the King’s Gambit, everything was different. I received, not normal page proofs with my text as written (with of course very minor changes to fit the games into columns, which I never objected to) but instead—
A Butcher’s Edit.
The book was destroyed. The very first thing I noticed was the terrible English that was inserted into the book by the freelance editor, the above mentioned Jonathan Tait. Here’s a quick sample:
Page 75: Sharpest and probably best, though but one should note
Page 76: I can’t find any defense against to Black’s attack.
Page 110: similar that after
Page 149: themself
Page 192: he Black accepted a small inferiority
And lots more, none of which were my doing.
But Tait was not content with using non words like “themself” which won’t even get past Microsoft Word’s spell check—and Everyman requires manuscripts to be submitted in Word!—he also destroyed the crucial chess content.
For example, the very first diagram in the book was out of place! It was a diagram from Tait’s favorite Nordic Counter Gambit, when in fact the position was from a Pseudo-Fischer Defense! Furthermore, Everyman requires a chess author to submit the games in Chessbase format. I did this on the King’s Gambit. It’s impossible to misplace a diagram on Chessbase, as the software generates the diagram from the game in question! So Tait deliberately put in the wrong diagram. Of course, not content to do just that, he inserted another false diagram later! None of my eight previous books for Everyman had false diagrams in the page proofs—again, this is simply impossible to do by mistake, one would have to manually override Chessbase and insert the false diagram on your own.
Further investigation on my part showed that Tait had written in his own variations, often not correct. He is not a titled chess player; he is definitely not an International Master.
Even further, Tait wrote in his own comments to the games, often absolutely counter to my, the author’s, intention.
He reversed meanings of key lines, like where I said Grandmaster Larry Evans was “discouraged” when playing Bobby Fischer—and Tait changed the whole meaning by rewriting the text to “not discouraged.”
In short, a vicious attack on the integrity of the book, a book I had worked on and honed for years, a book that I had checked and double checked, on my own and with a chess engine (Fritz 12). This book showed my fine writing style and my knowledge and mastery of the game. Most importantly, this is a book that could be used as an objective reference book for world wide chess students.
By the way, for months I have been getting emails from my regular readers around the world, wondering when the King’s Gambit is coming out. Now I am going to go public and tell them, as well as about this potential (again, I hope for a peaceful solution) lawsuit. My tentative title is Does Markus Dohle, CEO of Random House, Approve of Blackmailing Authors? I hope the answer is “NO!” Anyway, I’ll probably come up with a better title, but I will post something to that effect on my blog, TimothyTaylorArtist.com.
Why again should it come to this? If Jonathan Tait had tried his vicious, yet childlike attack on my book (apparently because I had refuted, in my book, the above mentioned Nordic Counter Gambit which is his favorite) in New York, for another Random House division, we know what would have happened:
1.Tait gets fired
2.Publisher apologizes to author
3.New editor is hired, book is done right, and comes out and does well
None of those things happened.
To start with, Byron Jacobs defended Tait; he followed this with outright lies, saying repeatedly (and he still says this) that Tait’s work was a “good, normal edit.” Like lopping out entire, crucial paragraphs (another of Tait’s funny tricks!) was good and normal. Then Jacobs demanded that I should exert my “maximum tolerance threshhold” and accept Tait’s edit.
Thus four months of futile negotiations started. In retrospect I tried too hard for too long, because (now) it’s obvious the fix was in from the beginning. Why, I can’t tell you. But what Jacobs wanted was clear: he wanted to force me to agree to publish the butchered version of my book, thus destroying my reputation, or he wanted to illegally cancel my contracts for the three books in the pipeline. As I say, none of this makes sense, for my books sell well as he says himself—but the facts are clear.
So from January to April of this year, four futile, non productive months, I did huge amounts of unpaid labor, basically editing the “Tait butcher job” myself, pointing out huge numbers of editorial errors. Ultimately I refused to work on the Tait edit any more, as by page 218 (of a 446 page book) I found 184 editorial errors. Byron Jacobs continually tried to hurry me, utterly unconcerned with the numerous errors I was pointing out.
For example, very early days (January 17) I wrote to Byron Jacobs as follows:
“I expected normal editing as for all my other Everyman books.
Now I am running into sentences and sometimes whole paragraphs deleted from the text (one of the paragraphs featuring a great quote from GM Joe Gallagher is just gone). These are exceptionally hard to spot, as it’s hard to “see something” that is not there!
But I managed to catch something even worse, and I want to let you know what I’m dealing with. I will give you the game, the variation and all that when I send all the corrections in (because I’m going so slow now this will be the weekend).
OK, this is the worst thing Jonathan has done that I have found. I’ve already found things like missing paragraphs, his own lines written that were not in the book, annotations changed like adding question marks, etc. and now this, which is extremely important and critical.
In one game there was a variation where White won a pawn. It was a simple, straight forward two mover. I gave a simple straight forward note, pointing out that in this line White won a pawn, and giving the two moves. I only gave one response for Black, as it was clear that nothing else saved the pawn; White could play in the same way.
But Jonathan added his own note.
Please understand, his note is not something I wrote, or a variation of what I wrote. When I send the corrections in, you can check my original manuscript and the Chessbase files. I don’t consider his secondary response for Black, as it was obvious that White still won the pawn in the same way. This is also Fritz’s conclusion.
So, going back, Jonathan wrote his own note. He gives this secondary move of Black, and then instead of continuing in my main line way, which wins a pawn, he gives a different move to which he gives an exclamation point. He then gives two follows and says that White wins a pawn.
The only problem with this is that the move he gives an exclamation point to is a blunder. Black immediately recovers the pawn! This is obvious if you look at it on a board, and even easier on Fritz. The machine immediately goes from “clear advantage to White” to “equal.”
Now please imagine if the book went out with this note in it.
People would say—or worse, reviewers would say: “What’s the matter with this Taylor? [since my name is on the book!] He gives an exclam to a move that loses all White’s advantage and loses the plus pawn as well! Doesn’t he check his notes with a computer?” And then what should I say? That this note was an incorrect addition by my editor that I failed to catch?
In short, this would be a disaster for my reputation, Jonathan’s reputation, and Everyman’s reputation.
Just today I got an email from Israel.
This player said he had read all my books and when was the KG book coming out?
I am proud to have a following around the world. But they are looking for a Tim Taylor book, not a Jonathan Tait book, and certainly not a Tait book full of holes with my name on it!”
This was a very serious allegation on my part. Indeed, I have never heard of this before in any chess book. An editor—not a titled player—on his own, inserts a false variation in an instructive chess book. What happens if someone follows the Tait inserted variation and loses a game because of it? There goes everybody’s reputation, including Random House! And my allegation is not just a difference of opinion. It is an absolutely certain fact. Certain positions in chess remain incalculable, but this is not one of them. This was a deliberate error inserted into the text. I can and did prove the point to Byron Jacobs by submitting the analysis by the chess engine Fritz 12 that my note was correct and Tait’s was absolutely false. I said that Jacobs could put the variation on any chess computer he wanted, and would get the same result, which is also true.
Byron Jacobs’ response? He refused to change the note (he never agreed to change any of Tait’s edits in any of the 41 emails he sent to me, unless you count a “maybe” on changing the first out of place diagram.
Jacobs again praised Tait for his great editing job, called it a “perfectly normal” edit—as I said above, he’s still doing that—in opposition to any objective reality—and then he tried a new tactic.
Jacobs’ first blackmail email (there will be a second one) came on February 25, 2014. He writes as follows:
“This is a “normal” chess book which has gone through a normal editing procedure just like hundreds of other books we have done. I don’t have any problem whatsoever with the edited version. NEVERTHELESS I absolutely CANNOT publish a version of the book that the author dislikes. So, I’m a bit stuck.
You may say there is an obvious solution which is to publish the book – more or less – as you originally submitted it. I could do this, but it would have the unfortunate side effect of immediately terminating any working relationship between us.”
Please note (I still get sick thinking of this) that he has already known for over a month that Jonathan Tait has inserted false variations in the book. He knows that people are going to get misled and lose games because of lines that they trust because IM Timothy Taylor wrote them. Of course, I did not write those lines! He wants to destroy my reputation, Everyman’s reputation, Random House’s reputation—and if I don’t agree, he will illegally kill the contracts for my three upcoming books!
Blackmail, pure and simple.
I wouldn’t go for blackmail.
Now in retrospect, I should have sued at that point, but you know how authors are: I love writing books! I desperately wanted to see my book in print! So I kept trying to negotiate, hoping Jacobs would see reason, but no such luck.
Jacobs sent a second blackmail letter on March 10, pretty much the same as the first, but notable in that he copied his boss on it, Managing Editor Mark Bicknell. So from top to bottom, Everyman Books were fine with blackmailing an author.
I hope that is not true of Random House!
Finishing the story: since I refused to submit to blackmail, eventually Mark Bicknell brokered a deal to simply finish off the contracts. My King’s Gambit book would be just proofread. The other three books would also just be proofread and I would write those three books (my italics, this is important) according to strict Everyman guidelines (which neither I nor I think any other writer ever followed) some silly stuff like not using periods after move numbers (every chess book in the world writes 1.e4 like this, Everyman alone writes 1 e4 which is not huge but is just silly and is often criticized by reviewers). Apparently this is done to save a few drops of ink.
So anyway, just to see my books come out, I was prepared to follow those guidelines on my next three books as had been agreed.
I once again turned in the King’s Gambit book, absolutely clean copy, ready for proofreading, not that anyone was going to find anything—
And Byron Jacobs reneged on the deal, saying (email of April 7) “I certainly can’t publish it as it is.”
As near as I can tell, this was because I didn’t take the dots out of this already written book—I didn’t take them out because that was not part of the new deal that he had just signed off on! As I had written to Jacobs just the day before, “I will follow those guidelines for the last three contracted books.”
But, ignoring that, ignoring the deal that had been worked out with Mark Bicknell, he broke the final deal.
I wrote back, pointing out among other things that (referring to the Butcher Edit) “You never once agreed to change anything.”
And Byron Jacobs replied with a quite extraordinary lie: he wrote, email of April 7, “It is completely and utterly untrue that “I never once agreed to change anything”. Many, many times I agreed to change things that were incorrect. You can easily find such assurances in emails.”
That’s just not too smart, in the Internet age. I have all 41 of Byron Jacobs’ emails to me from January 7, when this controversy began. And, just as I said above, he “never once agreed to change anything.” Never, not once! Yes, there was a “maybe” on the wrong diagram, and from time to time there was a “cover your ass” line like “We’ll change something if there’s a mistake” but when I would answer with “How about this false variation? Or this chopped out paragraph? Or these two paragraphs put, senselessly, in the wrong order?” I asked all those things, and I only got two kinds of answers. One, “this is a good normal edit” or he ignored what I wrote.
Anyway, I have put all 41 Byron Jacobs emails into a single Word document, and if we ever go to court, that’s going to be Exhibit B. Exhibit A will of course be the two Blackmail emails by themselves.
After this “Big Lie” email I realized that Everyman was never going to publish “Attacking Chess: The King’s Gambit.” There would always be an excuse, a new lie, a new way to renege on their signed contracts.
In such a case, I always believe it’s best to go right to the top, and that’s you. You’re the CEO of Random House, and Random House, Inc. is named up front on each of my books.
So there’s two ways to go about this: I take you to Small Claims Court, and I win. I have all the evidence of blackmail and lies large and small from Byron Jacobs and Mark Bicknell’s emails. I may also attempt to file criminal charges of blackmail against the same two in England. While I live in the US, I am sure blackmail is a serious crime in all jurisdictions. I will definitely follow each stage of my case “against Markus Dohle of Random House” in my blog.
Or we can just solve the problem right here and now.
At this point I offered Mr. Dohle two solutions which, since they are still in the negotiating phase, I am not going to publish here.
One hopes that he will stand up for writers like myself, for as he said in Frankfurt, without writers there is no publishing.
So this is why my King’s Gambit book has not come out. I think the best title, if another publisher will step up, is “Win with the King Bishop’s Gambit.”
I don’t know when the book will come out.
Meanwhile, until there is a resolution, I plan to alternate “Liz Campaign” blogs with “Everyman Butcher Edit” blogs so readers can see for themselves what Byron Jacobs calls a “good, normal edit.”