Last week, myself, Bryan Smith, J.F. Gonzalez, and Craig Spector called for a boycott of Dorchester Publishing. Over 200 professional authors and an estimated 10,000 consumers also joined the boycott. The boycott garnered media attention, birthed a Twitter hash-tag, and spawned a Facebook page. Most importantly, it inspired dozens of other Dorchester authors to step forward and confirm our allegations. Today, Dorchester responded. You can read the entire response here. I’d like to address a few points. Quotes from the article are in bold.
“The remaking of Dorchester Publishing… had been going fairly well until earlier this month when author Brian Keene accused the company of selling e-books for which they no longer had the rights.”
Going well? Their landlord and several other creditors seemed to have a different take on things during last Thursday’s creditor steering committee phone conference. More importantly, it wasn’t just “Keene” accusing them. Dozens of authors raised similar allegations. (This is very important and we’ll come back to it in a moment).
“(CEO Bob) Anthony said the call for a boycott is “truly regrettable and not necessary to get our attention, since he has our attention.” According to Anthony, after being notified by Keene that some sites had been selling e-books for which Dorchester had reverted the rights back to Keene, Dorchester sent suppression notices to the vendors. After Keene reported that some sites were still selling the e-books, Anthony said they sent another suppression letter telling the vendors they expected the e-books to be removed from sale. “We expected the vendors to act accordingly,” Anthony said, adding that “we respect the right of reversion.”
The time-line: In late-December 2010, I was notified that suppression letters had been sent, and that “it might take a week or two” for the digital editions to disappear from various vendors’ websites. And they did. By the end of the first week of January 2011, no digital editions of my work remained available for sale in any format. Then, in late January, they were offered for sale again via Nook. I was told it was a glitch, and another suppression letter had been sent. In early February, digital editions were offered for sale again via Sony. Again, I was told it was a glitch and another suppression letter would be sent. In late February, digital editions were made available for sale again via the Kindle. Again “glitch” and “suppression”. Then, earlier this month, digital editions were made available via iBooks. If you guess “glitch” and “suppression” you win a prize.
Here’s the thing, Bob. This keeps happening repeatedly, despite your assurances of sending “suppression notices” and despite your expectations that your “vendors act accordingly.” For three months, I’ve been asking for an explanation of why it keeps happening. I’ve yet to receive one. So despite your claim, I don’t think I’ve had your attention. I don’t think any of your authors have. But we do now.
“…the publisher is committed to solving the problem with Keene and treating all authors fairly. Dorchester will pass along all money to Keene on e-books that were sold after rights reverted. “We’ll get him [Keene] everything that is owed to him” Keeslar said.”
What I want you to do is to stop selling digital editions of my work that you do not have the rights to. And I’ve repeatedly stated, this isn’t just about me. So while you are at it, here are some allegations from other authors that you can address:
1. Author Tim Waggoner: “Before Leisure’s implosion, I got all the rights to my three Leisure novels reverted to me. Imagine my surprise a couple months ago to discover that Leisure is selling e-editions of two of those novels. My agent’s on the case, and we’ll see what happens — though from what I’ve seen on other authors’ blogs/message boards , Leisure hasn’t been responding to agents when they call about such problems. My personal concern is simple: Leisure is profting from selling editions of my books that they don’t have the rights to.”
2. Author Stacy Dittrich: “(I) never received one royalty check. The publisher claims… didn’t sell enough books, but Nielsen book scan says differently. In fact, one of (my) e-books hit 1,000 and…Wait a minute! The publisher doesn’t even OWN the rights to the e-books… agent kept requesting a contract but heard crickets. Digging a little deeper… the book, (that the publisher is illegally selling), is available for free. Yes, for free. I will fight this to the finish at all costs… I am using my contacts to secure an attorney who will happily file a class action suit against Dorchester publishing. I am also checking contacts at several law enforcement agencies to see if criminal charges are possible as well. Interested Dorchester authors contact me at email@example.com so I can start compiling a list for the class action.”
3. Author Mary SanGiovanni: “…I sent a formal letter to Leisure/Dorchester, asking for the rights to my two books back. They were in violation of contract, as I haven’t received royalty statements in over a year for either book. I’ve been told by Leisure that I can’t have the rights back to my books. They couched it all in nice-speak, but essentially, they’re using the e-book angle to keep our books in print…”
5. Author Craig Spector: “Authors under contract are NOT vendors; they are a separate and distinct class unto themselves. Our books and inventory are separate and distinct. They are NOT meant to be held hostage by creditors in the event of BK proceedings, as salvageable rights to be sold off to repaythe companies debts. That was nowhere in the contract I signed; indeed, the contract I signed is, in my and my attorney’s estimation, in breach, and hence null and void, and my rights — including e-rights — automatically revert back to me, the owner of the underlying rights. Both Dorchester’s counsel and the independent counsel representing the “loose, informal consortium” of creditors — their words — have been consistently evasive as to where “authors” fit in this mix… Dorchester is in material breach of dozens if not hundreds of author contracts.”
6. Author Jana DeLeon: “who managed to get the e-book versions of her titles taken down last autumn because Dorchester didn’t own the digital rights, notes that her titles are back as mobile-phone apps—from Dorchester.”
That’s six. Once you’ve taken care of them, I have several dozen more for you. And still more are on the way. If you are sincere, then immediately:
*Insure digital editions for which you DO NOT own the rights are suppressed, and the files are removed from your vendors’ systems. Send proof of this to the rights-holders.
*Honor the rights reversion requests you are receiving from authors and their agents.
*Send royalty statements. Some authors report not having received a royalty statement since 2009.
*Communicate with your authors. Last week’s steering committee was told Dorchester is “paying an average of $5,000 per week toward past-due royalties”, yet your authors — the people who are owed that money — were kept in the dark about this.
Until then? Fuck you.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve had a very long day playing with my three-year old, helping my ex-wife haul topsoil, and talking J.F. Gonzalez down off the ledge. I’d like to shower, put on some pajamas, pour myself some bourbon, light a Partagas, and write something for which I’ll be paid.
PS: For a fantastic run down of the entire Dorchester saga, I highly recommend Jim Macdonald and Teresa Nielsen Hayden’s time line.