The Story So Far (updated November 2004)
In 1999 Richard Galpin, assistant editor of FHM, rang me to ask if Iíd take part in a 5-page feature he was doing on competitions. He said he wanted to devote two pages to my comping successes, and he promised that my prizewinning competitions novel would be included. ĎNo doubt your book is already selling well,í he said, Ďbut itíll sell even better after this!í Iíd planned to offer the story to one of FHMís
rivals, but now there was no need. I said yes, and Galpin asked me to send him the seven car presentation photographs he'd seen in an article I'd written for Competitors World. I knew the photographs were worth a substantial amount of money, but I was happy to supply them for nothing because the promised book publicity was payment enough.
At the end of the interview a few days later, Galpin thanked me for sending the pictures and I immediately sought in return an
assurance that my bookís details would be in the article. He gave it without reservation, and even agreed to include the mail order particulars. Alas, when the feature was published, there was no mention of my novel at all. The two pages promised to me had shrunk to half a page with no room for anything but the bare essentials. FHM had, however, found room for my eye-catching car photos without which
their feature would have looked pretty dull.
I wrote to the editor, Anthony Noguera, pointing out that had it not been for the promise of the book publicity, I would either have declined to take part or demanded a very high price for the use of my pictures (even at the minimum NUJ rate they were worth over £1,300). He did not reply.
After writing in vain to the MD of FHMís
publishers, I contacted Kevin Hand, chief executive of the parent company, Emap Plc. I thought Iíd now be dealing with a principled and responsible person who would be horrified to learn that an Emap magazine had reneged on promises given in exchange for the use of valuable copyright material, but Mr Hand seemed unconcerned and expressed no determination to see the matter put right. He just passed it back to FHM
whose publisher, Mark Williamson (now departed), sent me a dismissive second class letter containing an excuse so feeble it could barely crawl out of the envelope. Difficult decisions have to be made when selecting material, he said. There was no offer to pay for the photos, and further correspondence failed to produce one.
Just before Christmas 2000 I wrote to the new publisher, James Carter, appealing for a little seasonal goodwill. I sent a similar letter to the
editor. No replies. A year later I again wrote to Carter, this time threatening legal action. At last, a response! He said he was consulting FHMís
solicitors to see if the magazine had any legal liability. A child could explain their moral liability, but they were not concerned about that. They could have put this matter right at any time, at no cost to the magazine, simply by inserting something about my book in another issue, but they werenít prepared to do it. Theyíd got what they wanted and that was all that mattered. I never heard another word from Carter, although the solicitors must have told him
FHM was liable under contract law.
The illustrated story of my comping success was all I had to promote my novel and establish myself as an author. There is only so much mileage in a story like that, as most magazines want an exclusive (for instance, I did an interview for the Daily Mailís Weekend magazine just after I spoke to Galpin, but when FHM published their feature, the Mail scrapped theirs). FHM
robbed me of this vital promotional tool by promising what me I wanted and then unilaterally re-negotiating the deal behind my back. They betrayed my trust, and now they act as if this is par for the course and perfectly acceptable. Remember this if you ever have dealings with them.
- Michael Shenton