Geez, where do I start?
It’s been a year since I’ve written on this blog. And it’s been about two years since I last marketed my books, anywhere. Some of you are aware of the reason why I’ve been relatively quiet, but for those who aren’t, I’ll try to keep the details short.
Firstly, I’d like to state for the record that this blog entry is not written out of spite for the now defunct company involved. I know quite a few of you are new or aspiring authors, so I feel it is my duty, as your friend, to warn you of the underlying fucktardary that can sometimes happen within the publishing industry.
Side note: I don’t think I’ve ever dropped the F bomb on here before, but if you’re still with me by the end of this post I think you’ll agree that it’s warranted.
Let me drop a few more to get it out of my system…
There we go. I’m feeling slightly better now.
I scored my first publishing contract with Ellora’s Cave Publishing and my debut novel, Starstruck, was released in February, 2013. My first short story, Count Me In, soon followed several weeks later. I was ecstatic. I never dreamed that a traditional publishing house at the top of the erotic romance genre would see potential in my writing, let alone offer me contracts. My books sold more than I expected in that first year and I was so grateful to Ellora’s Cave for giving me a shot.
Fast forward to late 2013, and my gut was telling me something was drastically wrong.
There’d been a few minor hiccups from the very beginning with regards to my quarterly royalty payments, but when I questioned why I’d only received a total of one statement and cheque that included payments for Starstruck, my main seller according to Amazon’s ranking, I was told that they’d mistakenly paid another author for my sales. I know admin errors can occur, so I gave them the benefit of the doubt…until it took seven months (yes, SEVEN months) of relentlessly emailing them before they finally rectified the problem and back-paid me what I was owed.
After that, the cheques kept coming in later and later than the contracted schedule, and I’d had enough of their excuses. I contacted a lawyer, who confirmed that EC had clearly breached their own contract. She sent them a certified letter demanding that I be paid in full and for the publishing rights to be returned to me, as stated in said contract. The response she got was unbelievable. In a nutshell, they refused, saying they didn’t breach the contract and payments had always been forwarded on time. Their suggestion was to obtain an independent auditor at the personal cost to me of $10,000. WTF! My only recourse was to take the legal matter further or grin, bear it and hope the situation got better. Considering I’m in Australia and EC is located in Ohio, USA, the financial burden of fighting my case in the States was out of the question. My books weren’t earning THAT much. I was stuck, and I have an idea EC was banking on that fact, figuratively and literally.
From that moment on I was in limbo. I no longer felt like writing. The joy had been sucked right out of it and my muse had taken an extended vacation. And I don’t blame her. If I had a choice, I wouldn’t have stuck around either.
Why didn’t you just approach another publisher with new works of fiction or self-publish, I hear you say? There lied yet another problem. Contractually, I was not permitted to do so while I was still with EC. They had first option to anything I wrote that was longer than 7,000 words, and there was no way in hell I was sending them one more word that I wouldn’t get paid for. Why not just breach the contract, considering they did it first? Because I have ethics, and because I couldn’t risk being sued, even if I knew I would win.
The last cheque I received from them was for my December 2014 royalties, then they stopped coming altogether. All I got for my countless emails was a computer generated reply telling me they were swamped and that I’d get a response as soon as possible. That response never came.
Little did I know, there was a major shit fight going on between a well-known blogger and EC, which ended up in court. I won’t go into that long story, otherwise I could be here for days. But it did get me talking to other EC authors and I discovered that I was not alone, we were all being ripped off. I also found out that, for several years before I signed with them, there had been many problems, on and off, with EC not paying royalties on time.
Almost two years passed and I didn’t receive one single royalty cheque. In that time, the story had hit social media and exploded off the charts. EC authors banded together and shared their outrage at the way we’d been mistreated. The owner of EC’s public response? We were all a bunch of bad apples and compulsive liars, out to witch hunt her and burn her at the stake.
Huh. Really? Again…WTF! I could possibly believe that if it was just a small handful of people stating they’d been wronged, but hundreds upon hundreds of authors all saying the same thing? I don’t think so.
Are we even in the same universe? Is my doppelganger out there somewhere claiming the royalties off my books?
On the 4th of October, 2016, I finally received an email from owner Tina Engler (aka. Jaid Black) stating that EC was closing it’s doors, and in order to get my rights back I had to sign a statement, forfeiting my two year’s worth of back-royalties. She also insisted that we keep our mouths shut and not hinder the sales of our books until 2016 came to an end. All EC books were to be taken down from third-party vendor sites by December 31st, 2016. It’s now January 4th and they are still being sold on those sites, all profits lining her pocket once again. Wasn’t two years-worth enough? I’m furious. Just one more slap on the face as a parting gift.
I’d intended to re-release my two books this week, but until I can send a DCMA to the many, many vendors, demanding they take my books down, I’m STILL in limbo.
Since I began to take writing seriously it’s been my only source of income (when I actually get it) and I’m so grateful for my husband, who has supported our family on his own since my publishing journey started. We had to drastically reduce our budget (which wasn’t huge to start with), but somehow we survived, even through this shit storm. Several times I’ve been so angry and frustrated that I just wanted to throw in the towel, be done with writing and get any job I could. It just wasn’t worth the spiral of depression I found myself in. But he believes in me and thinks I have more to offer the literary world. Yeah, he’s a keeper, for sure.
So, that’s where I stand at the moment. I only hope by sharing my story it will help other authors make wise decisions when considering which publisher to submit to. They can’t all be bad, surely. Do your research. Speak to authors who are with that publisher and ask appropriate questions. Google, Google, Google, for days if you have to. If I had, I wouldn’t be in the position I am now. And good luck!
*Flashing warning sign courtesy of http://bestanimations.com/