Over the last year there has been a lot of shenanigans involving my former publisher Dorchester (Leisure). For those who want the full history, click here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Then see the bottom of this article for more current updates.
Starting in late 2009, Dorchester – Leisure began making late payments to some of their authors. Indeed, some authors report never having received payments at all, nor royalty statements verifying what, if any, monies were owed. This continued throughout much of 2010. In mid-2010, with these payment issues still unresolved, Dorchester announced that they were switching to an all-digital format. Then they announced that those digital books would be accompanied by trade paperbacks. Due to the ongoing payment issues, many professional writer’s organizations such as the SFWA and RWA placed Dorchester on probationary status. During a late-August conference call with their creditors (for which I was present and for which I have a transcript of, just in case Dorchester wishes to dispute what follows), they revealed that: The company saw a 60% decrease in book orders in mid-2009; payroll was down from 1 million to $600,000; the company had no cash flow, but also had no bank debt; the company owed six million dollars to various creditors, including $700,000 to active authors and $400,000 to inactive authors; ebooks accounted for 10% of their profit; their trade paperback plan was currently on hold; they didn’t think the sale of the company was possible; and that as of August 9th (2010), they considered themselves “in bankruptcy but are not actually filing for bankruptcy”. Vendors and authors who were owed money for books or services from August 8th forward took precedence in being paid. All others would have to wait.
I was one of those authors. I had not been paid since late-2009. As a result, my marriage had fallen apart, my bills were piling up, and more than half of my annual income was perpetually “coming soon”. I decided to take a gamble. I negotiated a deal with Dorchester that allowed for: 1. The immediate reversion of all of my print rights, and 2. The reversion of all of my digital rights as of 11:59pm 12/31/10. In exchange for this, I absolved Dorchester of any further financial debts they owed me. In other words, I said, “Forget about the rest of the money you owe me. Just give me my rights back.” It was a risky gamble, and I sought the council of some of the biggest veteran authors in the genre, but it was a gamble that ultimately paid off, because it allowed me to place my back list with a more solvent publisher. We signed the deal. Dorchester went their way. I went mine. And that should have been the end of the story.
Except that it wasn’t, because since then, Dorchester has repeatedly violated that agreement. Since January of this year, unauthorized digital editions of my work have been sold via Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and Sony. These digital editions were not made available for sale until well after the rights had reverted back to me. Dorchester’s response, in each case, has been to blame someone else and assure me that “they are looking into it” and that I would be “financially compensated” and that “it wouldn’t happen again”. Except that I haven’t been financially compensated and it keeps happening again. In the most recent case (iBooks), Dorchester blamed their vendor, Libre Digital, but provided no documentation verifying this. An employee at Apple cast doubt on this explanation. In the case of Kindle, they blamed Amazon.com. Again, an employee at Amazon cast doubt on this. The ebooks were sold under the Dorchester brand. They were sold even though Dorchester does not have the rights to them. And it is Dorchester, rather than their vendors or booksellers, who are ultimately responsible. I have been patient. I have been understanding. The first time, I allowed that it could indeed be a mistake. Four times later? It is no longer a “mistake”. It is theft, or at the very least, staggering incompetence. And as of this writing, I have not seen financial restitution for these unauthorized sales, nor have I received a valid explanation of how they occurred, nor have I heard what steps the company will take to prevent it from happening again.
I am not the only author who this has happened to. Nor is this the only problem. I am told that some authors are still awaiting payments and royalty statements. (One author told me this morning that they have not received a royalty statement or check since April of 2009, yet their books are still being sold). I’m told that some authors’ requests for the reversion of their rights are being outright ignored. And I’m told that yesterday, with many authors’ books about to go out of print (which would then allow the rights to revert back to the authors) Dorchester has announced their intent to bring many of those books out as ebooks, thus seizing the rights, rather than allowing those rights to revert back to the authors — authors who, quite understandably, have concerns about this, given the company’s current state of affairs.
Recently, Dorchester’s customers began taking them to task on their Facebook page. These customers weren’t associated with any particular group or entity. There were members of the Hard Case Crime, Romance, and Horror Book Clubs, fans of horror writers, romance writers, and western writers. They complained about the unauthorized ebook sales, the unannounced changes to the book clubs, the continued non-payment of authors, the lack of promised trade paperbacks, and other concerns. Dorchester deleted these posts from their wall, and issued a statement denying any wrongdoing. When their customers responded, Dorchester deleted those posts as well. Then Dorchester emailed me. They asked me to “make a post” stating that this wasn’t their fault and that they are “trying to rectify the situation” because “people have been trolling the Dorchester Facebook page and posting angry notes.” That they view their customers’ legitimate concerns as “trolling” is quite telling.
Earlier today, I asked you to read this Blog entry by author and editor Robert Swartwood. A few minutes ago, someone asked me why we (the authors) didn’t just seek legal means. Well, I can’t speak for any of the other authors involved, but I’ll tell you why I haven’t — because I’m broke. I’m broke because Dorchester didn’t pay me what was owed, and then I gambled to get my rights back, and then they continued to fuck me. And yes, I’ve got a nice new deal with Deadite and Ghoul starts filming next month, but I won’t see checks from either of those until a few months from now, and until then, I can barely pay the rent and eat anything more than Ramen noodles, let alone hire an attorney.
So I’m asking you to boycott Dorchester Publishing and Leisure Books. I said above that I can’t speak for my fellow authors, but I can tell you that many of them are in the same situation — or worse. If they could get their rights back, they could do as I have done and sign with a new publisher, or they could follow the trail blazed by Joe Konrath and Scott Nicholson, and self-publish their work. In either case, they could begin to make a living again.
In short, we need your help. If you care about horror, romance, or western fiction, and more importantly, if you care about the people who write horror, romance, or western fiction for a living, and if you disagree with this publisher’s methods, history, and “mistakes”, then please consider withholding your financial support of Dorchester Publishing and Leisure Books. Boycott them.
*If you follow them on Twitter, please unfollow them.
*If you like them on Facebook, please unlike them.
*If you receive their marketing emails, please remove yourself from their list.
*If you belong to one of their book clubs, please consider canceling your membership.
*If you are considering publishing with them, please reconsider.
*Most importantly, please don’t buy their books, regardless of whether it’s on their website, in the $1.99 dump bin at Wal-Mart, or available on the Kindle. If you aren’t sure how to identify a Dorchester book, check the spine. It should say Leisure Fiction or Dorchester Publishing. If you aren’t sure how to identify a Dorchester ebook, here is an example: If you scroll down, you’ll see that this Kindle edition of J.F. Gonzalez’s Shapeshifter lists “Leisure Books” as the publisher (later today, J.F. will also be asking his readers to boycott Dorchester editions of his work, and he gave me permission to use this Kindle edition as an example).
If you are a Leisure author with a grievance against the company, please consider sharing it with the public. If you are an author with another publisher, and wish to show your solidarity, please join us. Please consider adding your voice to our call for a boycott. And after you have done so, let me know so I can add you to the roster below.
And now, I’m turning it over to you…
CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE OFFICIAL BOYCOTT PAGE ON FACEBOOK
Update #1: During a 2pm conference call today with Dorchester’s creditor steering committee, several literary agents confirmed that my situation is not unique, and that a number of their client-author’s books have been released digitally by Dorchester even though Dorchester did not own the rights. To quote one: “We tell them to suppress it, and they do for a few weeks, and then it’s back up again.”
Update #4: Dorchester responds. And so do we.
Update #5: HWA to Dorchester.
Update #7: Dorchester caught selling illegal Apps.
Update #10: Senior VP Tim DeYoung departs.
Update #11: Editor Chris Keeslar departs.
Update #12: SFWA Disqualifies Dorchester.
Update #14: The End.
Update #15: Mari Mancusi on Dorchester.
Update #16: Amazon Makes Bid For Dorchester.
Update #17: Amazon-Dorchester: A Done Deal… Or A Deal Done Wrong?