Five years ago, I got an email from a German friend of mine asking about the German translation of my book, The Swordsman’s Companion. I had no idea what he was talking about, and so he sent me this link.
I nearly fell off my chair (this was before I changed to a standing desk, and just as well, or I might have fainted). There, out on Amazon, was a translation of my book, the only translation of any of my books, published without my knowledge. I was beyond furious, as you might imagine.
So I contacted the publisher, Hans Wieland of Wieland Verlag, and asked him what the hell was going on. He said that he had a deal with my publisher at the time, Chivalry Bookshelf, in which Wieland would publish my book in German, Chivalry would publish a book of theirs in English, and to make the accounting simple, I would get royalties on the German book, and the German author would get the royalties from my book.
Let me say that again: someone else would get author royalties for my book. Only a writer can truly fathom the wrongness of that.
Unfortunately, the contract I had signed with CB meant that this deal was in fact legal, and Wieland had naturally assumed that CB had discussed it with me. But nobody had even told me about it, let alone asked for my help in preparing the German edition. Wieland sent me a copy, and I hit the roof (again). The book is beautifully made, gorgeously laid out. (I can’t speak as to the quality of the translation, but I assume it’s pretty good.) But the cover. Oh dear.
Here it is, in all its glory. There are notches on the blade, the sword is in the wrong position, held in the wrong grip, with bent wrists; the person is in wrongly made mail, wearing the wrong jacket, with no elbow protection, the gauntlets’ fingers are too short, the gauntlets and mail are 200 years out of date with each other; even his mouth is open (so he may bite his tongue or break his teeth if he gets hit).
Not to mention the dodgy facial hair and mad staring eyes.
And many people have thought that that was ME on the cover! Aaaaaaaaarghhhhhh!
I gave Mr Wieland a piece of my mind, over email. He was polite and apologetic, and there was nothing to be done. I should state here that it is still a good book, and publishers have always been at liberty to make whatever covers they want; marketing the book is their job, after all.
A couple of years later, I was part of a class action suit (organised by Greg Mele, who worked tirelessly over many months to gain a favourable outcome) against Chivalry Bookshelf in which the rights to my first two books reverted to me. (The terms included a non-defamation clause, so I will be very polite about what went on.) This is why both the Swordsman’s Companion and the Duellist’s Companion are back in print (thanks, Greg!).
Shortly afterwards, I got an email from Thomas Laible of Wieland Verlag, informing me that in the circumstances (the break with CB, and the obvious non-publication of the German book in English for which I was supposed to get paid), Wieland would be paying me all the back royalties on my book.
Though they had absolutely no legal obligation to do so, and despite my unrestrained response to the cover, they were offering me my royalties (which by this point were about 1500 euros). I nearly fell off my chair (again).
Since then, we have signed a contract for them to publish The Duellist’s Companion, and just last week, we signed the contract for the German edition of The Medieval Longsword. That’s right, people, Fiore is about to speak German. He already does, in Osnabruck, but with the new books coming, the potential for the true (Italian) art to spread in Germany is hugely increased. Halleluliah!
It is an unmitigated pleasure to do business with people who can be relied on to do the right thing. And I am hugely pleased to think there may come a generation of German-speaking longsword enthusiasts doing Italian longsword.