Before reading this, please go here for the full story and history.
A few years ago, I got my start in mmpb horror, and it allowed me to realize a dream I’ve had since I was a child — to have published my first two horror novels, THE HOLLOWER and FOUND YOU. Don D’Auria, Editorial Director of Leisure Books at the time, gave me that chance, and for that, I will always be grateful to him. Don is a great guy, and I’m delighted he’s moved on from Leisure. In other words, my loyalty is to Don, not to a company that has systematically declined, and then, since Don’s departure, used and lied to its current and former authors.
Before anyone cries “meanie!” I say any of you who know me know that I generally don’t like confrontation, I get an icky feeling in my stomach when I think someone is mad at me. But there are times when confrontation in necessary, when making a stand means solidarity with fellow writers and friends, when it means that what little power we as writers have in the publishing business should be used for better working conditions or social change within our community. When a publisher a few years ago made some homophobic remarks, we stood by our GLBT friends in the community and refused to do business with that publisher as working writers or fans of the genre. Years before that, we supported the HWA’s move to raise the professional pay rate from 3 cents/word to 5 cents/word, and refused to recognize publishers paying less than that as professional markets. Sometimes confrontation in necessary; sometimes it is the right thing to do, in our hearts. Sometimes standing by friends and loved ones who work hard to carve names for themselves in this business is worth a fight — worth a confrontation, firm, strong, proud, and public.
Too often, writers’ need to connect with readers — that need to be read, which is nearly as strong as that need to write — clouds judgment. It makes writers settle for pay that is unfairly, often insultingly, low. It makes writers willing to submit to and to publish with markets that conduct poor or unprofessional business practices. It makes writers compromise and make excuses for publishers, or look the other way, or stay quiet, because it’s easier than rocking the boat, than scratching off one more market in an already strangling genre. It makes writers foster and support markets which are not really markets at all sometimes, but little more than vanity outlets for those who want the adoration of the genre they love at worst, or earnest but uneducated attempts at supporting and integrating themselves into the genre they love at best. These writers worry about losing the respect of the publishing world in general. They worry about appearing difficult to work with. They worry that doors will close in their faces.
This will not happen. For Godsakes, publishing is so much bigger than the little ghettos and small ponds that so many writers are content to confine themselves to. And if anything, what ripples outward to the buying public and the gods and giants of publishing will be one simple message: Writers write — we have a voice, and with constantly emerging technology, we have platforms for that voice to be heard. We write, and by virtue of that gift and that ability, we can effect change. We can make sure scams and con artists and shady, unprofessional businesses are called out and brought to light. We deserve better, and dammit, we’re going to have it.
I’ve seen folks use this as a reason to cry self-publishing is the way to go. I don’t necessarily agree, not in whole, not for me. I still need the money, the distribution, the credibility of traditional publishing. I’m not at a point in my career where it would be financially or promotionally feasible for me. But my point is, I don’t think all traditional publishers should be painted with the same broad brush as Dorchester. We should recognize what problems and practices, what faults and follies the company is making, and use that as part of our benchmark and guide when looking at other publishers. We each build our careers our own way, looking for the surest footing while we find the most successful and profitable step upward. Sometimes that means a bigger and better traditional publisher. Sometimes that means self-publishing Kindle versions. Sometimes that means supporting the true few of the small press who really, really work to be fair and forward-thinking. But it should never mean compromising our values or the value of our hard work for publishers who seek to suffocate their writers. People will continue to do what they see as right — sell their work to sub-pro publishers, buy work from sub-pro publishers — and I will not judge. To each his own, right? But for me, what is right, what is my own, is to make it clear that sometimes you have to fight back.
A few months ago, 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 and completely ignoring the lack of royalty statements as a non-priority that bookkeeping will take care of later. Essentially, they’re holding my books hostage, as any money from sales of either, in pb or e-book format, will never reach me (there are other people to be paid much higher on the triage list than me), and I don’t have the rights to take these books to publishers who want them, and ARE willing to pay me money to publish them, and make them available to the readers who want to read them.
I support Brian’s call for a boycott, not just for what they did to Brian, but for what they did and continue to do to me and all the other Leisure authors who are being screwed by Dorchester’s bad business practices. Please consider following his suggestions. Thank you.