Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Publishing Industry Isn't Always That Great

As authors here at Women in Crime Ink, we realize how fortunate we've been in breaking into the publishing industry. However, sometimes its not all it's cracked up to be.

Just imagine spending year upon year pouring your heart and soul into a book, having those dreams of grandeur that someday you’ll get published. The day finally comes and you’re euphoric. You get your meager advance, but don’t care because you’re genuinely published. You do your first book signing. Eventually, your books get optioned for television and are being developed into a series.

You are riding high when...uh-oh, what’s this? Grumblings that there are problems with the publisher; the largest and oldest mass market publisher in America. A publisher that used to be highly respected; one that has published the likes of Stephen King, Simon Wood, etc..Come to think of it, you realize you’ve never received one royalty check. The publisher claims you didn’t sell enough books, but Nielsen book scan says differently. In fact, one of your e-books hit 1,000 and…Wait a minute! The publisher doesn’t even own the rights to the e-books. Your agent kept requesting a contract but heard crickets. Digging a little deeper, you find on some sites your book, (that the publisher is illegally selling), is available for free. Yes, for free.

Now, you get a phone call from several bookstores, “Hi, Stacy! We’re out of your books and the publisher says they’re not available. What’s up? We’ve got a waiting list of people looking to order them.”

So, then, said agent gets in touch with the publisher, “Um, what the hell is going on?” Answer: “Well, we’re not sure why they can’t order them from the warehouse. We’ll look into it and get back to you.”

Weeks of crickets—a sound becoming all too familiar. Said agent asks again, “Still waiting.” Publisher, “We’ll get back to you but, in the meantime, have the bookstores call this 1-800-XXX-XXXX to get the books.”

Barnes and Noble, “Uh, we can’t do this. This publisher knows this. We have to order directly through a distributor.”

Agent to publisher, “Ok, we’ve had enough. We’re requesting a reversion of all rights.” Publisher, “To my knowledge, we’re not reverting anyone's rights back.”

Here’s the e-mail all of the Dorchester authors received last November with a few of my comments mixed in (all caps of course):

"Dear Authors: You may have gleaned this information from the previous emailed press release regarding Dorchester’s new CEO, but several exciting changes are happening at the company (WHAT? BANKRUPTCY?) In addition to Mr. Robert Anthony’s appointment, the imminent revamping of our Web site and release of Winter 2010 titles, our old printer and warehouse, Offset Paperback Manufacturers, has agreed to once again distribute single-copy sales of our inventory.(YEAH, OKAY, AND CHARLIE SHEEN WAS JUST ORDAINED AS A PRIEST)

What this means to you, the author:
Your fans will be able to buy your books.(UH, NO, THEY WON’T, STILL CAN’T, AND IT DOESN’T APPEAR THEY EVER WILL) All of your mass-market paperback books that were in stock before the August 7 shutdown are back in stock (LIE). If you have readers who are interested in purchasing your books, direct them to either to the Telecenter at (800) 481-9191. These books will be accounted for individually and appear on your May royalty statement.(LIE)

You’ll be able to set up book signings. Bookstores can once again order your books (NOT TRUE), provided they are willing to do so on a non-returnable basis. Because of the caveat, depending on the number of copies they are willing to buy, they will be granted a scaling discount. They should call the Telecenter to set up orders.( OKAY, YOU’VE BEEN IN THE PUBLISHING BUSINESS HOW LONG? YOU KNOW BOOKSTORES LIKE BARNES AND NOBLE CAN’T DO IT THIS WAY!)These books will also show up on your May royalty statement.

You’ll continue to be able to purchase any stock you desire (LIE). Special offer author discounts continue to apply, on a sliding scale dependent on volume.

Things you should know:
If your rights have reverted, Dorchester is still able to sell these books (REALLY? FIND ME THE LAW ON THAT ONE). A caveat of our reversion notice allows for sales of all pre-existing stock (I GUESS ITS NOT AN ISSUE SINCE YOU OBVIOUSLY DON’T HAVE A CLUE WHERE THE PRE-EXISTING STOCK IS. BUT PLEASE, WOULD LOVE TO HEAR YOUR EXPLANATION ON HOW YOU ARE STILL OFFERING E-BOOKS THAT YOU DON’T HAVE THE RIGHTS TO). Be assured that we are not going back to press on any of these books in order to sell them at a discount.

There will be a slightly longer turnaround time on all orders (YES, IT’S CALLED NEVER). Allow a day or two longer for shipments, as some changes have taken place at the warehouse (A WAREHOUSE THAT IS APPARENTLY PERMANENTLY LOCKED AND THEY LOST THE KEY) that will slow fulfillment.

All in all, though, this is great news (OH, YES, IT’S EXTRAORDINARY.). Dorchester looks forward to providing your fans with your books for as long as we have stock and the rights (LIE)—and we wish you the very best of luck in the continuance of your careers. We hope to be part of them."

As to Dorchester claiming they weren’t reverting rights back to any authors...really? Considering I’ve been in contact with multiple Dorchester authors who have since received their rights back—even though you continue to sell their books illegally—I find your answer pretty pathetic. Look, most of my correspondence has been with editor, Chris Keeslar, and I want to be very clear that Chris has been nothing but kind to me. Unfortunately, I get the feeling that Chris is Dorchester’s scapegoat and perpetual sacrificial lamb. That poor guy probably walks through the doors everyday looking down both barrels. But, to the person holding the gun, you are a thief–plain and simple.

I miss you horribly, Don D'Auria. I hope someone rescues you, Chris Keeslar.

I decided to follow J.A. Konrath’s lead and self-publish one of the books in my series that Dorchester didn’t get its dirty hands on. And guess what? I had more downloads in less than one day than Dorchester claimed I had in two years.

You cannot begin to imagine the emotional distress this entire situation has caused. Potentially, thousands of dollars down the drain because my books can’t be purchased anywhere but through a bogus 1-800 number. What brought this particular rant on? Because today, I finally realized I wasn’t alone. There are hundreds of Dorchester authors experiencing this and it makes me sick. With all of my years in law enforcement, I have to say that it absolutely cannot be legal for someone to sell an author’s book without holding the rights to it. You mean to tell me that if Jane Doe Publishing Company takes a Stephen King book, reprints it, and puts it up on Amazon that it would hold for a matter of an hour? I don’t think so, and what Dorchester is doing is no different. It is theft, and I wonder when someone is going to step and deal with it? Authors Guild legal: We’ve contacted you several times about this. Hello? Hello, law enforcement?

Author Brian Keene is trying.

My agent forwarded me an article on him today, which is why I got fired up. Brian, one of the Dorchester authors who had all of his rights reverted (while Dorchester continues to sell his books illegally), has called for an industry-wide boycott of the corrupt publisher. And, thankfully, he is being flooded with adversaries. Luckily for Brian, he has found another publisher for his books. But for the rest of us who are still imprisoned by Dorchester, the future remains very, very, bleak.


J.H. Moncrieff said...

Sorry to hear what you're going through, Stacy. I hope it gets better. And sad to know that when you finally get published, you're still not "home free".

DrGina said...

Thanks for the cautionary tale for authors struggling to protect their rights and royalties. I hope this gets resolved quickly so readers can enjoy your excellent work.

Ann Summerville said...

This happened to one of my author friends too. The publisher didn't go bankrupt but they pulled her books for insufficient sales. Unfortunately it was after they gave her the go ahead to write a sequel. I chose to self publish and now have all three of my books on Kindle and available for e-readers. That seems to be where most of the sales are these days. I hope there is a silver lining in there for you.

Pat Brown said...

Oh, I SO understand, Stacy! My first book's publisher got sued and went bankrupt taking my book into a black hole (along with my royalties) for three years. Then, the book list got sold to a new company which turned out to be the same publisher with a new name; how is that for American civil justice? Now, the book is out-of-print again and I keep trying to find out why the company is not keeping it in print in spite of the people who want to buy it. I never expect to see another penny from the book, but I would like it to be available to students of profiling to read.

Second book? Legal team didn't get their stuff done in time and the galleys were late coming out and killed all the book reviews. I was then told no one did book reviews anymore and that is why I saw nothing.

Yes, Stacy, authors are not getting a fair shake anymore.

Caitlin Burke said...

If I were this company, I sure would not want this article on the same page with a bunch of pictures with labels "Investigative Specialist," "Forensics Specialist," "Anger Therapist/Consultant," "Litigator," "Criminal Defense Attorney," "Newswoman," and "Murder Prosecutor." Not to mention the author of the _The Poisoner's Handbook_!

A Voice of Sanity said...

So . . . it's just like the music business then?

TigressPen said...

I can't imagine my reading library empty of future CeeCee Gallagher thrillers to read! It's too tragic to imagine! Something must be done, Stacy, keep fighting for your rights so those previously published books can be sold and 'You' make money on them.

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