Monday, January 26, 2009


I had to tear myself away from the recent circus over at Dear Author regarding the Ellora's Cave lawsuit. If you follow this link and find the post and the zillions of comments and the multiple meltdowns and do it at your own risk - because there goes the day. The whole damn day.

But what I read and what I've walked away with is this: if Ellora's Cave, whom many thought to be the gold standard in e-books in terms of sales and distribution and author development - can actually end up being so terribly shabby to their authors and unsavvy about the traditional print industry (which wouldn't be a big deal if they weren't trying to swim in that pool at times) and frankly, in a lot of cases just plan wrong - what does that mean for e-books in general? But more importantly - what does that mean for the authors? For the writers who, so thrilled to have interest in their work sign contracts that might hinder their career when they are ready to sell to traditional publishers?

I am not saying that traditional publishers can't be total a**holes to their authors - obviously.

There are more and more e publishing contract announcements every month in RWR and I do want to celebrate that event with the writers who get to sign those contracts - but I really want those writers to understand and know what they are getting into. A lot of e-published writers get righteously angry on loops when RWA tries to define what e-published means, because often RWA defines that with a lot of limitations. (This current RITA/Golden Heart thing an excellent example - and I agree with the righteous in this case - terribly handled by RWA.)

But I think RWA - as a writer advocacy organization - is trying to figure out how this new animal fits into their organization, and I think they are right to be slow and careful - because these publishers, much like the traditional publishers and small press print publishers - have to prove themselves not just to be money makers but to be respectful and lawful to their authors. And as a professional organization trying to enhance the status of romance writers within the larger industry they also have to be sure there is standard in play. It's why they've ruled out Vanity Press and frankly, some of these publisher websites are coming across to me like Vanity Press.

Now, don't go getting crazy - I am not saying that as a whole e-books aren't as good as traditionally published books - what I am saying is that alot of these publishers have little to no editorial process. And some, if there is an editorial process, the qualifications for being an editor basically involve a love of books. I love books - but trust me, I am no editor, and anyone we as writers want trying to make our books better - I believe should be qualified. Or at least a better editor than me? Isn't that what we want? As writers? To be made better?

I am by no way against e publishing! But I am worried for those authors so excited by the prospect of a contract, not reading those contracts to find out what exactly they are getting into.


Amy Ruttan said...

It's murky waters with the whole law suit thing. I won't even venture over there to Dear Author. I know what's going on but, bah, I'm not even going to get into it. Especially being a said EC author. I don't want to get involved. I get my royalties on time every month. I'll speak up if it stops, LOL.

The contracts I receive I go over very thoroughly. Of course I had a background in a legal profession and I KNOW not to sign without reading the fine print.

I haven't had a problem with them, my sales are good and if my books go into print, so be it. I'm lucky to have had a print book and another one coming out.

I'm still striving for NY mainstream, but I still plan to wrie for EC and Samhain/Linden Bay.

As for me, I wouldn't sub to a smaller e-press. Maybe that's snobbish of me, but I've watched too many go under. I'm happy with the two e-publishers I've made a home with. Although I've been toying with the idea of subbing to the Harlequin Undone line with a short historical that isn't hot enough for EC. ;)

But I do understand where you're coming from about getting too excited. I show my support obviously, but a part of me wants to tell the author to be careful. I've known too many authors that have subbed to those small presses, made barely any money and then lost the rights to their work as the house crumbled.

I guess the piece of advice I would have for writer's interested in the e-book industry is DO YOUR HOMEWORK!

Sinead M said...

So right, Molly and Amy. What really scared me about the Dear Author comments, was a couple of authors who had moved onto New york Publishers had mentioned that they had signed away the rights to the print versions of their backlist and suffered for it when they did become bestselling authors and EC sold the print rights to another publisher.
Which was EC's right as per the contract the author signed, but it had ugly ramifications for the author.

Maureen McGowan said...

Amy said
" my support obviously, but a part of me wants to tell the author to be careful. I've known too many authors that have subbed to those small presses, made barely any money and then lost the rights to their work as the house crumbled.

I guess the piece of advice I would have for writer's interested in the e-book industry is DO YOUR HOMEWORK!"

This sums up my overall feelings, Amy.

And great post, Molly. It's so hard to talk about this subject without offending people.

Shelli Stevens said...

Well, I've said it over and over again. I love writing for epubs. If you write for the right one. Do your research. Ask the authors if they're happy. You can sense where there is some scary waters.

I write for both an epub and NY. And I have not intention of leaving either (unless they boot my arse out!) I love the monthly paycheck of my ebooks (I just got my end of the year statement and we're talking several thousands of dollars--and that's just the ebooks, not the print). And I love the occasional large check from NY. Writing for both gives me a steady flow of money.

It makes me sad that epubs have gotten a bad rap--and really just because of a handful that have/are having issues. Like I said. Do the research and you can see which ones are respectable and can actually earn an author some money. We're not all bad apples.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Shelli - it's great to hear about your experience. I think one of the problems that a lot of the new authors face is that they don't have any real information about what is considered normal in terms of money or royalties or advances. So whatever they get they think is fair, or standard. Same as their contract and we talk about doing thier homework - but who out there has a blunt and honest report about what a fair epub contract is, or a fair e pub royalty situation so new authors can find out?

RWA's standards are the bare bare minimum and a lot of authors aren't even paying attention to those, or don't think those standards are fair because thier publisher doesn't meet them. Doesn't that seem wrong? Shouldn't it be the other way around?

Kimber Chin said...

This is NOT an ePublisher issue.
This is a new publisher issue
(or a small publisher issue).
It is not the format that's the issue.
Harlequin has eBooks.
Not an issue.

When we sign a contract with a publisher,
we are entering into a partnership.
We should know who we are 'marrying' and what the terms are ('til death do us part?).

I'm with a small press publisher (both eBook and print).
I know the odds of a small business surviving
so I'm watching the publisher very carefully.
There are signs that a company is struggling.
Could I still be caught off guard?
That's the risk.

BTW... As I look at the rejection email on my latest novella, I sometimes wish my publisher was more lax with submissions (grinning)

K J Gillenwater said...

If the RWA is worried, then just set standards. Sales standards, for example. Which is what PAN is for. But to exclude ALL epubbed books b/c of some bad apples is silly.

If someone qualifies for PAN status, they should qualify for the RITA contest as a 'published' author. End of story.

Maureen McGowan said...

Kimber said "This is NOT an ePublisher issue.
This is a new publisher issue
(or a small publisher issue)."

This is exactly right, Kimber. It just so happens that most new/small publishers are e-publishers. E-publishing as a technology has allowed far more people to enter the business of publishing as the start up (not to mention ongoing) costs were too high with print publishing. And new technologies are even lowering the barriers to entry for print publishing.

And while some of these new players will have high editorial standards and professional, ethical people at their helms, some will not.

Writer beware is all I think we're saying. And I know you, for one, went in with your eyes wide open.

Maureen McGowan said...


I think RWA does set sales standards for both PAN membership and for whether or not a publisher is "non-vanity".

But the RITA decision was inconsistent. Methinks someone seriously dropped the ball on that one.

Amy Ruttan said...

Yep the RITA thing was a definite mess up.

I think they need a straight Erotica category. Not just for E-pubs but for print as well. It's an emerging sub genre.

K J Gillenwater said...

The RWA does set sales standards for PAN membership...but I guess my point was...then WHY can't these folks enter their books in the RITA? If the fear is it would allow crappily edited books or just bad entries to open the contest up to ALL 'pubbed' books. Then instead of excluding ALL pubbed books (vanity or small press or epub press), then use that PAN standard as your cut-off.

If you haven't sold $1000 worth of a single title or whatever, then the book can't be entered.

To allow epub press authors PAN status, but no way for them to enter the RITA just makes no sense. How hard would that be to fix by using the PAN standard as the contest standard?

Maureen McGowan said...

I'm with you on that one, KJ.

Inconsistent. Someone dropped the ball, IMO.

Maureen McGowan said...

I heard (totally rumor and speculation) that part of the motivation was to keep the number of entries down... Hard to get enough judges and administer the contest if they let it get any bigger, and they want to make sure "the best" entries have a chance to get in... i.e. "what if the contest fills up before Nora gets her entry in?" (Just using Nora here as an example.)

But like you say, KJ, they should have thought of that before and defined the PAN membership rules differently.(I have a feeling when they changed the PAN rules, they had no idea how many titles a year some of these newer publishers would put out... Again, just speculating.)

All these inconsistencies just cause divisions and resentments (not to mention confusion and people sending in their entry fees and mailing their books and then getting told they're disqualified.)

Kimber Chin said...

"Writer beware is all I think we're saying. And I know you, for one, went in with your eyes wide open."

Ahhh... my eyes were wide open
but I still got side swiped on a couple issues.

For example:
As a repeat author,
I still have to submit through the newbie system.
I also get a form letter rejection like everyone else.

If I thought about it more,
it makes sense.
Smaller press=Smaller staff=No feedback
but I was unrealistically expecting human touch, especially when I know the folks doing the rejecting.

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