>How not to behave as an author or a publisher. . .

>and I am paying very close attention so I never, ever follow in these folks’ footsteps.

First, you’ve probably heard about the author behaving badly this past week. If not, you can read what I had to say about it here. Basically what happened is a review was posted that the author took exception to. Mind you, it wasn’t anywhere close to a scathing review. In fact, the only real negative the reviewer pointed out was that he had problems with the formatting and other technical issues — nothing with regard to the writing itself. The author decided to argue with the reviewer, accusing the reviewer of not downloading a new edition she told him to (okay, rule number one. Don’t tell the reviewer to download a new version. Send it to them.) Then she accused him of not understanding or not liking her writing because she’s British. HUH?!? When some of the blog readers started telling her she was not helping her cause, she went off the deep end and told them, multiple times, to f***k off. Yep, that’s right. She found the plank, put it over the side of the ship and took a long walk off of it.

Then there’s the ongoing Dorchester Publishing brouhaha. I first became aware of it when I read Brian Keene’s blog post requesting authors, reviewers, readers, booksellers, etc., boycott Dorchester. The basic facts, according to Keene, are that he negotiated with Dorchester for the reversion of his print and electronic rights, effective January, in return for releasing them from all financial claims he might have. Seems that he hadn’t received any royalty statements, much less royalties, in a very long time (you can see the specifics in his post). Then, to his surprise, after the reversion took place, Dorchester continued to digitally publish his titles, always blaming others when he contacted them.

It turns out that he’s not the only one this is happening to. If you follow the links in his post, you will find a number of other authors willing to share their horror stories as well.

As word of the boycott spread, fans started posting on the Dorchester facebook page about the situation. It didn’t take long for those posts to disappear. Not exactly the way to respond. Dorchester would be better served by simply answering the questions. Instead, they posted a question to their followers asking what titles the readers would like to see in digital format.

Now, being the overly suspicious sort and rarely finding a conspiracy theory I didn’t like, I don’t see this as an innocent question. This is, in my opinion, Dorchester’s way of seizing rights that have already reverted. And I’m not alone in wondering if this isn’t exactly what’s happening. That supposition is strengthened by the news that Dorchester even changed its Amazon listings from Dorchester to DP. Gee, one would think they are trying to hide who they are….hmmmm.

What we need to remember is that this isn’t a new state of affairs for Dorchester. Last year, the Mystery Writers of America delisted the publisher. From GalleyCat: eReads has a quote from the official memo from Richard Curtis: “[T]he publisher must not wrongfully withhold or delay royalty payments to authors. We have been hearing an unusually high number of reports from our members of unpaid advances and withheld royalties on their Dorchester books … The board made it clear to Dorchester that it is welcome to re-apply once these problems have been cleared up.”

After that happened, Dorchester went to strictly digital and POD. Nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think we are going to see more and more of it in the future. However, they have yet to put their house in order. In fact, comparing Keene’s and his fellow boycotters’ tales with this one from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, it looks like Dorchester is simply continuing the course that got them de-listed with MWA.

Horror Writers of America have also issued an open letter to Dorchester. It notes that Dorchester has been removed from the list of approved publishers. It goes on to list a number of grievances against the publisher. If, by the end of this month, Dorchester addresses these concerns, HWA will reconsider Dorchester’s status.

What are the answers? Well, one is quite simple. Amazon and other e-tailers need to hold these so-called major publishers to the same standards they hold small publishers and self-published authors to. When Naked Reader Press submits a title for publication that has already been published in one format or another, we have to present proof that the rights have reverted to the author and that the author has contracted with us for publication. It’s a headache, but one we are more than happy to bear to protect the rights of our authors.

While I am not asking you to boycott Dorchester, I am asking you to look over the list of authors who have joined Keene’s boycott and consider what they are losing through Dorchester’s actions. Someone asked on facebook yesterday how the authors would be paid if the publisher is boycotted. That might be a valid point if Dorchester had shown any indication it planned on paying these authors. Instead, its track record speaks for itself, imo. For me, I am going to have to think two and three times before buying anything from Dorchester right now.

Cross-posted here.

13 comments

  1. >I have no legal knowledge what-so-ever. But surely there is some means to get the publisher audited? Where an Imperial Auditor when you need one?

  2. >Ok, so I won't be submitting to Dorchester. Luckily for me, I've not bought anything from them previously. Thanks for the warning.

  3. >This kind of thing is why I dream fond dreams of IRS audits of these bastards, possibly in conjunction with racketeering and fraud charges.

  4. >Matapam, I think the imperial auditor will be coming out if Dorchester doesn't get its act together. What the other publishers ought to be doing is paying attention and realizing that their line of credit with authors is quickly running out.

  5. >Jim, this is the sort of thing I wish I didn't have to write about. But I appreciated the warning when I first read about it and figured it wouldn't hurt to pay the news forward.

  6. >Amanda,the problems with Dorchester have been ongoing for a while. the Romance lists have been discussing it.As for the author, the review and the comments – that is just bizarre.At one point I wondered if it was some sort of strange attempt at viral marketing. But no, the author in question just has really bad judgment and impulse control.Note to self: We are all just one click away from making an idiot of ourselves. If we do, 'man-up' and apologise.

  7. >Rowena, what made it even worse was a lot of the major agents on Twitter were the ones retweeting it. I understand that this lady is self-pubing but if she ever thought she might go traditional…

  8. >Rowena, Dorchester just seems to dig itself into a deeper hole with each day that passes. I remember when the romance writers started warning folks about them. Then MWA de-listed them. Now HWA. Dorchester is quickly burning all its bridges. I truly hope the authors manage to pull together and get their rights back as well as force an audit. But I'm not holding my breath that they will ever see any of the money they are owed.

  9. >Taylor, first, a hit tip for bringing that blow-up to my attention. What is as bad in a number of ways as the agents retweeting it is that some of those who the author told to take a hike are well-known bloggers and book reviewers. Not exactly who you want upset with you.

  10. >That's interesting, Amanda, how the electronic venues require no proof of rights to publish. I recently published two shorts that were originally published in DAW Books anthologies (one being edited by our own lovely Sarah), and all I had to do at both BN and Amazon were to check the box that I had rights. Now DAW only asks for exclusive rights for one year, and Sony asks for non-exclusive rights to publish for three years, so I was in the clear to do so, but how would BN and Amazon know? Just on my say-so? I wouldn't believe me if I were them. And if you (Naked Reader) has to show proof, how does it work so that others don't? Weird.Linda

  11. >Linda, I think it's because we are an "entity" and not the author herself. Also, when we've had to show proof, it's been for novels previously published. Amazon has some sort of check system in place for the KDP program that checks titles against existing ISBNs. Once they flag something as questionable, they email us and ask us to prove we have the rights to it. So far, a copy of the reversion letter and contract signature page have been enough.What will be interesting to see is if, over the next year or so, these same requirements are applied to some of the larger publishers and all because of tactics like Dorcester's.

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