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Samhain Publishing Closing, So Download Your Books

Romance house Samhain Publishing is closing on February 28th, so now’s a great time to ensure that you’ve downloaded copies of all the purchases you’ve made directly from their site.

Here’s their announcement:

Greetings, Samhain Readers.

It’s with a heavy heart that we announce Samhain Publishing will be closing at the end of February. Due to the declining sales we’ve been experiencing with this changing market we’ve come to the sad conclusion it’s time to call it a day.

The last of our new titles launch February 21st; I hope you will check them out and support them as you have so many other Samhain titles through the years.”

Our site will go dark at the end of the day, February 28th. Please take a few moments and visit, buy what you might have been planning on getting someday in the future, but download and back up your bookshelf because you won’t have access to it after February 28th.

Thank you for all your support through the eleven years we’ve been open. It’s been a pleasure to bring to market new voices in publishing and new works from familiar authors. From start to finish, we’ve always kept what the reader wants in mind and hope you enjoyed what we had to offer.

This really saddens me as Samhain was one of my very favorite houses. I’ve read between 1/4 and 1/3 of their total titles.

I know that the “We’re closing, no we’re not, why would you even say that” from last year was really tough on Samhain authors. Because of that, Samhain lost a ton of prestige with them, which led to established (and financially successful for Samhain) authors not submitting more books, which kind of snowballed the end. If they hadn’t screwed it up last year, I doubt they’d be closing this quickly.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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EC for Books: Early June Update

Ellora's Cave Blog Post Header

Reminder: Ellora’s Cave has rebranded as EC for Books, so all posts will contain both the old and new branding in the first paragraph for a while.

Since last October, EC for Books/Ellora’s Cave has completely reverted two New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Authors: Amanda Ashley and Lora Leigh.

But one of the reasons it’s not easy to say how many authors or books there are, exactly, is the error rate in the metadata for things like: what authors’ names are, what the title of the book is, when it was published, and so on.

Also, farther down, I’ll share spreadsheets of both the All Romance eBooks parsed data as well as the Amazon data I have, which will help both authors and Ellora’s Cave/EC for Books verify their data.

The Metadata Mess

First, I’d expect the number of books a publisher has for sale on two domestic markets to differ by less than 1%. Yet, when Amazon’s showing 2,744 books (with two different publisher names) and ARe is showing 2,929 on the same date, that’s closer to 6.3%…and that’s just the error rate for the number of titles.

The Author Whose Name Is Sometimes Wrong

As someone with a weird name, I feel for Melani Blazer. She first showed up on Ellora’s Cave’s site in 2004, back when her name was correctly spelled. Same in 2013. Since the new site, however, it’s been Melanie.

Reverted Title Still In Print Because of Author Name Typo?

EC author Ann Jacobs has had a number of titles revert. One of those titles is Perfect Master, a title that reportedly reverted to Ann in October of last year.

Here’s a screenshot I just made on All Romance eBooks, showing Ellora’s Cave is still publishing that title.

Reverted Ann Jacobs story still being published by Ellora's Cave with erroneous author metadata.

Instead of looking for both the author name and the title, someone may have quickly checked the author name, didn’t see the book, and didn’t flag it for reversion. But because the name was incorrectly entered, the book was missed.

Other Mis-Entered Names

There are a number of mis-entered names, and here are a few: Calista Arman (should be two Ls), Rhyannon Bryd (Byrd), Nora-Jean Perkin (should be Perkins), Moffitt. Jody (Jody Moffitt), Sierra Summer (Sierra Summers), and Jayme Whitfield (Jayme Whitefield).

Ellora’s Cave: Partying Like it’s 1969

Here’s another issue that happens with All Romance eBooks—quirky date fields. I believe that there are a number of books where the publication date is null, and therefore appears as a publication date of December 31, 1969.

An anthology published on October 28, 2015 (where one Laurann Dohner story in it reverted at the end of March) is still being published on iBooks with that weird publication date.

Reverted Laurann Dohner story still being published by Ellora's Cave on iBooks.

I’ve seen things like this happen before where the title being pushed from ARe (as EC does) doesn’t get pulled upon reversion if the date is broken. There are somewhere around 2-3 dozen books for which this is true. (Because iBooks searching is peculiar and API search results don’t return a publisher name (!), it’s hard to verify if these are all EC’s errors. I don’t care enough to scrape every title on ARe.)

Multiple Copies of the Same Book Released

Then there are multiple versions of the same thing.

ARe has both this version of Barbara Sheridan’s Bittersweet Surrender as well as this version of the same book—with no cover, but with exactly 10,000 extra words at the same price, if the metadata is to be believed.

Then there’s the late Charlotte Boyett-Compo’s Desert Wind (WindWorld) at $0.99 vs. WindWorld: Desert Wind at a heart-stopping $13.98. See also N.D. Hansen-Hil’s Gilded Folly vs. Gilded Folly, also at a heart-stopping price. And Jeanne Savery’s Runaway Scandal vs. Runaway Scandal. And Charlene Teglia’s Yule Be Mine vs. Yule Be Mine.

In other words, even though ARe lists 2,929 books for sale, there are somewhat fewer actual books for sale (2,917 books, actually), and some of those should not be for sale.

All Romance eBooks to iBooks: Recommend Draft2Digital Instead

One thing I’ve noticed, and not just looking at Ellora’s Cave’s books: the connection between All Romance eBooks and iBooks appears to be somewhat fragile.

For Ellora’s Cave, this means that a significant chunk of their top-selling titles never made it to iBooks, including at least three Laurann Dohner titles. So, for someone who shops via iBooks on a regular basis, these books simply do not exist.

Therefore, if you’re an indie publisher, I’d highly suggest you push to iBooks via Draft2Digital instead of ARe. iBooks is fussy, and D2D has far better error handling with fewer failure rates.

EC for Books / Ellora’s Cave Author and Book Attrition

Book Counts by Source

Source April
Book Count
May
Book Count
June
Book Count
Amazon 3,049 2,783 2,744
ARe 3,089 2,984 2,929 (per ARe)
2,917 (deduped)
My Data 3,055 2,844 2,748

(April as of April 11. May as of May 16 and 22. June as of June 1.)

Author Counts by Source

Source April Author Count May Author Count June Author Count
Ellora’s Cave/
EC for Books
764 709 704
Amazon 737 693 682
ARe 743 744 706
iBooks (n/a) (n/a) 608
My Data 763 (current)
1049 (total)
758 (current)
1051 (total)
733 (current)
1052 (total)

(April as of April 11. May as of May 16 and 22. June as of June 1. Also note that the Total Authors will not decrease as it’s the total of all time.)

Data for You

All Romance eBooks Ellora’s Cave/EC for Books Data

Here is the spreadsheet listing Ellora’s Cave’s titles on All Romance eBooks. It’s readable by anyone, but it’ll make it easier for you to search and verify that any titles that should be reverted are in fact reverted.

This is scraped straight off of ARe’s pages, so there’s been no post-processing to normalize the data.

Amazon Ellora’s Cave/EC for Books Data

Here is the spreadsheet listing all current known Ellora’s Cave titles on Amazon. Note: it’s impossible to query all books, and there are quirks with books that have a zero price or are suspended from sale (and there are both kinds of books). If you know of an EC e-book available on Amazon that’s not on this list, I’d love to hear about it. (Not interested in print, as those are all effectively reprints.)

The Amazon data is post-processed and normalizes all known author name variations and title variations. Note that the author list for a given book matches (I hope) the current Amazon data for that book, but it may not match the cover, table of contents, or royalty statements.

iBooks Ellora’s Cave/EC for Books Data

I have done the import, but I screwed up my first run, so I need to fix the rest of that before I release that info. I’ll likely update this post rather than create a whole new post.

New Naughty Literati Anthology

Heatwave-PBK-PNG-600x784In happier news, today’s the release date for Naughty Literati’s Naughty Heatwave, a boxed set of quite a few romance authors including former Ellora’s Cave authors. You can read more about it here or purchase directly from these links: Amazon Kindle, Amazon print, iBooks, Kobo, Nook, Google Play, or All Romance eBooks.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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EC for Books: May Update

EC for Books (fka Ellora's Cave) Blog Post Header

Ellora’s Cave has rebranded as EC for Books, so I’ll be using that in my headers from now on. I will keep the header graphic as it was, though. I’m torn about the rebranding for two reasons: often, a rebranding for a troubled company signals a new direction that only hastens its demise, especially in the tech world. On the flipside, the Ellora Caves are a sacred site in India, and it would be nice to let them have their google-fu back.

May has some interesting updates, so here’s a summary of them:

  1. EC for Books’s lawyer, Steven Mastrantonio, sent a letter to the Romance Writers of America (RWA).
  2. More Ellora’s Cave/EC for Books author attrition since last month.
  3. Some forthcoming reversions.
  4. Susan Spann and the #PubLaw hashtag.

Steven Mastrantonio’s Letter to Romance Writers of America

I’d heard excerpts of this letter for a couple of days, but hadn’t seen the whole letter until Jan Springer posted it yesterday. Because of questions surrounding one paragraph, I didn’t want to post until I’d read the whole thing.

Allison Kelley, CAE | Executive Director
Allison.kelley@rwa.org

RWA has no standing in relation to contracts between authors and Ellora’s Cave. Therefore, RWA’s role is limited to advocating for fair treatment of authors, and RWA has been in correspondence with Ellora’s Cave, repeatedly, regarding allegations that Ellora’s Cave has failed to make payments due and failed to revert rights to authors.

Contracts offered by Ellora’s Cave Publishing state “Publisher shall pay Author royalties in accordance with a schedule to be determined at Publisher’s discretion but in no event shall payment be made less frequently than three (3) calendar months.” The problem with this clause is the lack of specified period for which royalties will be paid. RWA continues to receive complaints from authors who report they have not received royalty statements or payments for many months.

Several authors who contacted the publisher about missing payments and have requested their rights be reverted have received the following response from Ellora’s Cave:

Dear author or agent,

I’m sorry, you have misinterpreted the contract the author chose to sign. Breach of clause 16 regarding royalties payments (or any other contract clause) does not void the contract nor revert book rights to you. When a contract is breached, the party claiming breach has the option of waiting for the other party to correct the situation or may pursue legal action to gain correction of the situation. In such case, the court would typically set a deadline by which time the situation must be corrected (“cured”), and if not corrected the court would decide on further action.

The only conditions set forth in the contract for reversion of rights are in clause 1.1. If your book qualifies (meets all the conditions listed), you may send a request for reversion of rights, stating it is based on clause 1.1.

Therefore your request for reversion of rights is not granted. Ellora’s Cave continues to hold all publishing rights to the contracted books. The author has no rights to distribute or sell these books in any format or channels.

I am sorry, we in Contracts have no information on royalties payments. We can only advise you to email Royalties@ellorascave.com.

In September 2015, RWA contacted Patty Marks who admitted “currently we are not as up to date with royalties as we want to be and will be,” and added that the company is trying to catch up.

Failure to pay authors in a timely manner is a violation of RWA’s Code of Ethics for Industry Professionals. Violations of this Industry Professional Code of Ethics may result in loss of privileges such as (but not limited to) listing in Market and Agent Updates, participation in workshops and pitch sessions, and the opportunity to advertise in RWA’s publications.

Allison Kelley notified Ms. Marks in September 2015 that Ellora’s Cave must refrain from contacting members or chapters regarding new submissions and refrain from participation in any RWA or chapter event until the company has achieved satisfactory resolution of the Code of Ethics violation.

Ellora’s Cave continues to be banned from RWA programs and services.

RWA has repeatedly contacted management at Ellora’s Cave to demand payment to authors. RWA has also requested that the publisher revert rights if it is unable to pay authors in full. The response we received was a letter signed by Steve Mastrantonio, attorney for Ellora’s Cave, in which he states, “any premature comment by RWA that Ellora’s Cave is in breach of their agreements is reckless, false and Defamatory.” Mr. Mastrantonio asserts that Ellora’s Cave is paying authors as it should, and “any false comments by RWA to harm his clients reputation will be dealt with in a forceful manner.”

Further actions considered:

There is little anyone can do without proof. In September 2015, Allison Kelley contacted an auditor who specializes in royalty reviews to get an idea of what would be involved in order for the board to consider funding an audit.

The following challenges were identified:

  • An audit would not be comprehensive—RWA could provide funding (in the form of a grant) to conduct audit/s for one or two author/s who requested to have earnings audited.
  • Accounting records maintained by Ellora’s Cave would have to be auditable. In the past, RWA funded an audit, and all we learned was that the publisher did not follow any kind of standard bookkeeping or accounting practices. Sales were difficult to determine, so there was no way to prove if royalties had been paid properly or not.
  • We saw how vigorously the attorneys for Ellora’s Cave fought to keep the books from being audited during the lawsuit against Jane Litte.

RWA also requested legal advice related to authors’ rights to cancel agreements for ongoing uncured breaches of contract. We were told the issue would depend on Ohio state law, and the likelihood of success would depend on the outcome of an audit. Again, RWA has no standing to conduct an audit, and audits can only be done upon author request, and the findings would apply to authors whose earning had been audited.

The remainder of the letter was the RWA’s policies on use of funds, which can be seen in Jan Springer’s post.

What people were questioning was this phrasing:

In the past, RWA funded an audit, and all we learned was that the publisher did not follow any kind of standard bookkeeping or accounting practices. Sales were difficult to determine, so there was no way to prove if royalties had been paid properly or not.

I don’t believe this was about Ellora’s Cave/EC for Books, but rather another publisher. I don’t know which one, though.

Update

Allison Kelley shared this with someone and I was given the okay to share.

I have no idea if the accounting records at Ellora’s Cave are kept in compliance with GAAP and are up-to-date. Hopefully, they are. The comment cited below pertains to another publisher. I felt I had to include that disclaimer so authors would be aware that audits do not always yield the information desired.

Where “cited below” in this case means the one I quoted above and commented on.

EC for Books / Ellora’s Cave Author and Book Attrition

Book Counts by Source

Source April Book Count May Book Count Net Change
Amazon 3,049 2,783 -8.7%
ARe 3,089 2,984 -6.0%
My Data 3,055 2,844 -6.9%

(April as of April 11. May as of May 16 and 22.)

Author Counts by Source

Source April Author Count May Author Count Net Change
Ellora’s Cave/
EC for Books
764 709 -7.2%
Amazon 737 693 -6.0%
ARe 743 744 0.2%
My Data 763 (current)
1049 (total)
758 (current)
1051 (total)
-0.7% (current)

(April as of April 11. May as of May 16 and 22. Also note that the Total Authors will not decrease as it’s the total of all time.)

Ellora’s Cave Forthcoming Reversions

Some authors received notice that they’d have stories reverting that appeared in anthologies, including the caveman anthologies. (I’m not certain if that’s all anthologies, especially since EC has some new ones out.)

The reason for the difference between Ellora’s Cave author counts and my data are simply that EC has already removed some authors from their site where their last EC books are mid-reversion. However, some of those authors may still have books available on Amazon and/or All Romance E-Books.

If Ellora’s Cave/EC for Books reverts all anthologies except those published this or last year, that will drop their author counts by 153 authors. This isn’t a bad thing, though, because paying royalties for multi-author volumes chews up a lot of staff time that could be better used for, say, writing checks.

Susan Spann and the #PubLaw Hashtag

Susan Spann’s a publishing attorney who posts about legal issues and publishing law. I just found her feed today, so I’m going through her feed, but this is one of the things she’s gotten the idea for because of claims like those of Ellora’s Cave’s/EC for Books’s authors.

And perhaps her most salient point:

If you’re looking into traditional publishing (and I’m lumping in digital first here), she’s got a lot of eye-opening content that could be useful to you.

Launch Party for EC for Books Author Kerri Zane

Kerri Zane is one of the new EC for books authors; her first book with them came out this month. Here’s a profile of her launch party at a Porsche dealership in Beverly Hills.

It’s unknown how much, if any, EC for Books contributed to fund this launch party.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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Some Quick Facts About Transgender People

Recently, the US government sued North Carolina over HB2, the restroom bill. I found that the section that describes transgender people remarkably enlightened, and included things that I hadn’t known until entirely too recently. Thus, I’ve included paragraphs 30-42 from the court filing here. (Link to original document.)

  1. Individuals are typically assigned a sex on their birth certificate solely on the basis of the appearance of the external genitalia at birth. Additional aspects of sex (for example, chromosomal makeup) typically are not assessed and considered at the time of birth, except in cases of infants born with ambiguous genitalia.
  2. An individual’s “sex” consists of multiple factors, which may not always be in alignment. Among those factors are hormones, external genitalia, internal reproductive organs, chromosomes, and gender identity, which is an individual’s internal sense of being male or female.
  3. For individuals who have aspects of their sex that are not in alignment, the person’s gender identity is the primary factor in terms of establishing that person’s sex. External genitalia are, therefore, but one component of sex and not always determinative of a person’s sex.
  4. Although there is not yet one definitive explanation for what determines gender identity, biological factors, most notably sexual differentiation in the brain, have a role in gender identity development.
  5. Transgender individuals are individuals who have a gender identity that does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. A transgender man’s sex is male and a transgender woman’s sex is female.
  6. A transgender individual may begin to assert a gender identity inconsistent with their sex assigned at birth at any time from early childhood through adulthood. The decision by transgender individuals to assert their gender identity publicly is a deeply personal one that is made by the individual, often in consultation with family, medical and health care providers, and others.
  7. Gender identity is innate and external efforts to change a person’s gender identity can be harmful to a person’s health and well-being.
  8. Gender identity and transgender status are inextricably linked to one’s sex and are sex-related characteristics.
  9. Most states authorize changing the sex marker on one’s birth certificate, but the requirements for doing so vary and are often onerous. Specifically, many states require surgical procedures. At least one state does not allow persons to change the sex marker on their birth certificates.
  10. Individuals born in North Carolina must have proof of certain surgeries, such as “sex reassignment surgery,” in order to change the sex marker on their birth certificates. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 130A-118(b)(4).
  11. Surgery related to gender transitioning is generally unavailable to children under age 18.
  12. In addition, the great majority of transgender individuals do not have surgery as part of their gender transition. Determinations about such surgery are decisions about medical care made by physicians and patients on an individual basis. For some, health-related conditions or other medical criteria counsel against invasive surgery. For others, the high cost of surgical procedures, which are often excluded from health insurance coverage, present an insurmountable barrier.
  13. Standards of medical care for surgery related to gender transitioning generally advise that transgender individuals present consistent with their gender identity on a day-to-day basis across all settings of life, including in bathrooms and changing facilities at school and at work, for a significant time period prior to undergoing surgery.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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My BayCon Schedule 2016

BayCon - San Francisco Bay Area science fiction & fantasy convention

I have two panels at BayCon this year, which will be held from May 27-30 at the San Mateo Marriott San Francisco Airport (this is a change of hotel from the previous years).

BayCon Guests of Honor

Writer Guest of Honor: David Gerrold

Artist Guest of Honor: Chris Butler, F.R.A.S

Fan Guest of Honor: Anastasia Hunter

Toastmasters: Library Bards

BayCon Charity

BayCon’s charity this year is SETI Institute.

My BayCon Schedule

I’m on two panels, one on Saturday and one on Sunday.

The good, The Bad, And The WTF of Cover Art
Saturday, May 28 2:30 pm, Connect 1
Forget judging the book by its cover, sometimes you can’t even identify it. Our panelists discuss highs and lows and just plain weird in the world of cover art.

WordPress
Sunday, May 29 11:30 am, Connect 1
Methods for making the most creative and effective use of WordPress.

Programming Schedule

The full programming schedule is available here.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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Tyler Glenn Has a New Song: Trash

Tyler Glenn of Neon Trees © kobbydagan, used under license

Tyler Glenn of Neon Trees performs on stage at the 2014 iHeartRadio Music Festival Village on September 20 in Las Vegas. Photo © 2014 by kobbydagan and used under license.

Tyler Glenn just released a new song and video, “Trash.” Tyler’s a gay Mormon who had a faith crisis after the LGBT policy change last November. One of the things that most fascinates me is why people leave faiths, and the process people go through, as it’s usually a difficult change that upends a significant part of their lives.

An excerpt from the Rolling Stone piece by Brittany Spanos about his new song and recent life:

At the time Glenn came out in 2014, he was still a believer in the Mormon church, having been raised in the faith, gone on a mission and continued to be a member of the community in Salt Lake City, where he remains. “I always tried to make being gay and being Mormon work,” he says. Glenn had hoped he’d become an ambassador to his church on behalf of more progressive views, until the church confirmed that they would excommunicate members who participated in same-sex relationships. Now, he sees himself as a different kind of ambassador.

“The big problem here is that they claim it’s the only truth,” he says. “There have been over 40 suicides within the church as a result of this policy. These aren’t just grown men and women. Many are children. It’s backwards. It’s not of God. I needed to make this statement to artfully show the pain of a faith crisis and the darkness of doubt, but also that there’s ways to reclaim what is yours.”

One commenter said, “I haven’t witnessed this much righteous anger and passion in a song since Hozier’s ‘Take Me To Church.’

Part of Tyler’s situation is that several months ago, a fifth definition of apostasy was added to the LDS Handbook of Instructions, section 6.7.3. Note that it’s numbered item 4 even though it was added fifth:

LDS apostasy definitions

…[A]postasy refers to members who:
[…]
4) Are in a same-gender marriage.
[…]
Priesthood leaders must take disciplinary action against apostates to protect Church members. […]

Tyler hasn’t resigned, and he’s likely to be excommunicated for a combination of his song and his recent Mormon Stories podcast (linked below). As an example of recent LDS church actions, Bruce Holt was reportedly excommunicated for this single FB post. (more context here)

Tyler said in this interview:

“No, and I won’t resign,” he said. “I think it’s important if they decide to excommunicate me, that they do it in the proper way… I want to see change. I don’t hate the Mormon church, I’m really upset with the system and the idea that they claim it’s from God.”

Trash Video

Video’s here in the Rolling Stone Interview.

For those of you who are LDS and who may be offended by the above video, you may also watch David A. Bednar’s “Choose Not To Be Offended talk on LDS.org.

Purchase/Streaming Links

Tyler Glenn’s Mormon Stories Podcast Episodes

John Dehlin, founder of the Mormon Stories podcast, did a several hour episode (in three parts) with Tyler Glenn recently.

It’s one of the few episodes I’ve listened to in full, and it really talks about what it’s like to be fully in and then have the door slammed in your face like Tyler did last November.

My Interest in Tyler’s Story

As a Californian, one of the things that’s angered me since 2008 is the participation from Mormons in Utah (and the LDS church itself) in passing Prop 8. Back then, Rick wrote an essay on why—even if you agreed that gays shouldn’t marry—it was so difficult to clearly define “male” and “female.” Sex biology is far more complex than most people realize.

Those of us who are LGBT/QUILTBAG or allies are quite horrified about some of the stories coming out about LGBT Mormons and the struggles they face. Earlier this month, 22-year-old Lincoln Parkin took his life. I was heartened to discover people like Virginia, a commenter on the above story:

We are mormons too and I have two gay children who are one of the most wonderful people I know. I thank God everyday for giving them to me. We are 100% behind them for support and love. They are God’s children too. I hope that people can give unconditional love like Jesus did.

If you know LGBT Mormons, or Mormons who have LGBT family, it’s a good time to help ensure that those in faith crises know there are people there who care. People growing up, especially in the Morridor where Mormons are a high percentage of the population and therefore, given LDS values about LGBT people, may not have adequate support systems in place.

Other LGBT Mormon Stories Episodes

Other Mormon Stories podcast episodes featuring other LGBT Mormons and their stories. Note: some of these have some truly dark times in them, and several discuss suicide ideation or attempts.)

There is also the Gay Mormon Stories podcast.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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Ellora’s Cave: Diving into Data

Ellora's Cave Blog Post Header

Quite a bit of Ellora’s Cave news in this post, including:

  1. First quarter publications update;
  2. A bigger look at historical author counts;
  3. A comparison of author and book counts on various plaforms (tl;dr: they don’t agree!)
  4. Tons more!

One of the reasons I went to this effort was that there’d been something nagging at me over the months. From one of EC’s filings in the Dear Author case, Patty Marks declared:

7) […] In the first eight and a half (8 1/2) months of 2014, prior to Lampe’s bankruptcy scare, Ellora’s Cave had a total of 154 books go out of print for various reasons—mostly sales below threshold for rights reversions. In the twelve days between Lampe’s defamatory blog [post] and the filing of this suit, Ellora’s Cave had requests for reversion of 404 titles.

8) Since Lampe’s defamatory blog, Ellora’s Cave has reverted over 1250 more titles and still have requests that they are working on. In the one year since the defamatory post, Plaintiff has had almost double the number of rights reversions than it has had in its entire previous 14-year history. […]

I could see this as a word problem where the problem is phrased to carefully skate around holes in the data proffered, e.g.:

  1. How many reversion requests were there pre-TCCoEC (“The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave” published September, 2014) in 2014?
  2. What percentage of the 404 requests immediately post-TCCoEC were for books below reversion threshold? If all or most of them, then there was no damage.
  3. How much did Ellora’s Cave make off selling rights reversions? (Because I’m betting that the 404 and 1250 numbers included those, and if the price was right on those, there was no damage.)
  4. What percentage of EC’s total catalog did the 154, 404, and 1250 numbers comprise?

It was the 1250 that stuck with me. Ellora’s Cave had published around 500 books (thumbnail I had) over the prior year, so 1250 would be 2-1/2 years of work. Based on the assumption that they’d very recently hit their peak (in 2012 and 2013, then there was the 2014 reported Amazon sales drop), I expected that other years would have fewer books published.

That expectation turned out to be in error on my part…which I’ll get to after I update the usual.

Methodology

Essentially, I sucked in publicly available data from various sources.

  1. Archive.org scrapes of EC’s site from various time periods, including when EC’s site was on Jasmine Jade (dot com).
  2. Ellora’s Cave’s site for more recent time periods.
  3. Fictiondb’s publisher series pages.
  4. All Romance Ebooks.
  5. Amazon.

Historical Author Counts

Up until now, I’ve only had author counts going back to 2013. Before then, Ellora’s Cave’s site was different, and was hosted for years on jasminejade dot com rather than ellorascave dot com.

Thanks to archive.org, I’ve got author counts going back to early 2004.

Ellora's Cave Author Counts Long

A bit later, I show that the current active (per Amazon) data is 737 authors, so Ellora’s Cave has lost nearly 200 authors since the peak screen grab in September 2014, back when it claimed EC had 933 authors in print.

This last month, EC published three new authors, bringing Ellora’s Cave to a total of seven new authors published this year.

Summary of the differences between my author numbers and Ellora’s Cave’s:

  1. I count 22 authors from in-print Amazon ebooks who are not included on EC’s site. One of them is Tia Isabella, a pseudonym of Tina Engler’s.
  2. Ellora’s Cave’s site shows 42 people whose only books are paperbacks, or paperbacks and ebooks (and the ebooks are not on Amazon), or no books at all. All but a handful are authors whose books are in the process of reverting.
  3. The remaining differences are data issues of various kinds:
    • Not all authors are listed on multi-author books on Amazon. Notably, the 72-story boxed sets of Cavemen stories show one author each.
    • In cases where all authors are listed on multi-author books, not all authors of those books are listed on EC’s site. Example: Doreen DeSalvo.
    • Author is new to EC and doesn’t yet have books on Amazon (or EC’s site for that matter).
    • Author is listed more than once on EC’s site.

Book Releases Over Time

As far as books published, here are the updates to two charts I’ve provided in the past:

Ellora's Cave Releases by Month

Ellora's Cave Quarterly Releases

But now I also have all the information for books I vacuumed in from various sources named up top.

DISCLAIMER: This is based upon limited information. If anything, the numbers pre-2012 are artificially low. And yes, there really was a ginormous spike in November 2009; Amazon data shows EC has at least 920 ebooks with a release date or publication date of November 1, 2009.

That said, according to the information I have, Ellora’s Cave published fewer books last quarter than they have since at least Q1 2004.

Ellora's Cave Quarterly Releases (Long Form)

(Note that these numbers exclude known reprints, and therefore I’m looking at ebooks only, as Ellora’s Cave is a digital-first publisher.)

From this, my initial intuition was incorrect: 2012-13 were not the best years of Ellora’s Cave in terms of number of books published.

Excluding the anomaly quarter (Q4 ’09), the highest number of books per quarter appears to be Q3 ’10, when 191 books were published. After Q1 2012 (when Fifty Shades of Grey came out in ebook form and first hit the NY Times Bestseller list), Ellora’s Cave’s release numbers held in the same range (a third below the peak) until the second quarter of 2014, and have been dropping since.

Ellora’s Cave Reverted Books by Year Published

Year Books
Published
Books
Reverted
% Reverted
2012 526 256 48.7%
2013 510 216 42.4%
2014 452 94 20.8%
2015 186 3 1.6%

Data Source Comparison

Source Book Count Free Books No Sales Books Author Count
Amazon 3,049 24 4 ?
ARe 3,089 25 ? ?
Ellora’s Cave ? ? ? 764
My Data 3,055 24 4 737 (active)
763 (current)
1049 (total)

(Data as of April 11th)

You might think that, okay, 24 of the 25 free books are the same books on ARe and Amazon. That would be incorrect. Four of the ARe titles aren’t free on Amazon (or not on Amazon at all). The reverse is also true, naturally.

Retention

One of the things I’ve talked with various authors about is fixed-term contracts, and at least one author I know is a fan of seven-year contracts.

So imagine my surprise when I chart this, which asks the question: How long between when an author’s first seen (first book or first seen on EC’s web page) and last seen (last book or last seen on EC’s web page) in quarters?

Ellora's Cave Author Retention in Quarters

(Note: previous disclaimer about pre-2012 data also applies to this chart.)

Note that these numbers may represent one or many books, though I’ve excluded authors first published this year.

  • A quarter of the authors left within three years.
  • Half the authors left within 5-1/2 years.
  • A quarter were still with EC at 35 quarters (8-3/4 years).

These numbers may adjust significantly if I get more information about earlier periods of time.

However, they do lead into the three new charts I have.

Of the existing EC authors (whether Ellora’s Cave still publishes them or not), when was their last EC book published? I grouped this into time periods.

Ellora's Cave: All Authors' Last EC Book Publication Time

Unknown includes those where I have no publication information or those who do not yet have a book out with EC.

So what this is showing us is that just over half haven’t published in at least three years, and that’s a long time before TCCoEC. Further, another quarter of EC’s authors haven’t published a book with EC in the interval between TCCoEC and three years ago.

Now, let’s look at the same, but only for authors with current EC bestselling books (per Amazon). This is an answer to the “Who’s left?” question.

Ellora's Cave: Bestselling Authors' Last EC Book Publication Time

As you can see, half of them haven’t published with EC in at least three years, and almost a quarter stopped publishing at some point between three years ago and TCCoEC.

Two of Ellora’s Cave’s post-TCCoEC authors have been fairly high ranking for EC, though not in NY Times/USA Today bestseller territory.

Perhaps the most disheartening chart, were I an EC principal, might be this one.

Ellora's Cave: Current Bestselling Books' Publication Time

Eighty-seven percent of the current bestselling books (per Amazon data) were published three or more years ago. I don’t know what to say other than I’d expect to see a greater portion of more recent books as bestsellers…if Ellora’s Cave were a healthy publisher.

This can’t be anything relating to TCCoEC since three years ago was well before the article was published. Nor can it be the effects of TCCoEC, since we’re looking at the top 100 bestsellers published by Ellora’s Cave—and not relative to other publishers. Up until TCCoEC, Ellora’s Cave allegedly had the pick of the pack, new author wise.

Three years ago was Q2 ’13. Ellora’s Cave has published 1,046 books from the start of Q2 ’13 through the end of last quarter, comprising 34.9% of the 3,049 books still in print. So why do those thousand-ish books comprise only 13% of EC’s own bestseller list?

A Thumbnail View

Ellora's Cave Publishing Thumbnail
(click to see full size)

Notes and Updates

Ultimately, I’m putting together a WordPress plugin of books that had previously been EC books or written by former EC authors. This is more an interesting exercise in plugin writing and dealing with the frustrations of figuring out how to fetch Amazon data.

Random fact: did you know you can’t query to find out what a Kindle book’s price is? Nope. Can’t. You can query most or least expensive, but that’s it. Very strange.

Note: part of this post I wrote as much as a week ago, so some of these numbers are out of date.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


writing
dsmoen

Book Covers and Stock Photos

I’ve heard a few things lately about book covers and stock photos that have been bothering me. First, let’s go into a primer of how stock photos work with regard to book covers.

How Stock Photography Works from the Photographer’s Perspective

When a photographer takes photo sessions of a model (or a landscape), they add keywords to each photo they wish to sell. A given photographer may have relationships with as many as 15 or 20 different stock photo agencies, but not all photos may be uploaded to all agencies. Each agency has different audiences and different plans.

Let’s take this photo as an example. Here it is on another site.

Some stock photo sites list how many times a photo’s been sold, but that’s only how many times it’s been sold on that one site. A cover artist (or an indie author doing their own cover) may pick a photo that has relatively few sales on one site and believe they’re picking something that’s not overly popular. But that same photo may be significantly more popular on other sites.

Also, the same photo may be used for completely unrelated purposes. Like buying a new car and suddenly seeing that car all around you, buying cover art has the same perils. A photo I bought for a book cover has also been used in a Korean cosmetics ad. Not all those image uses will be to a given stock photo purchaser’s taste, so unless one wants an exclusive cover shoot for many, many times the cost of a stock photo, one’s just going to have to put up with the fact that this photo may be used in very different contexts, also with the photographer’s permission.

As a final point, within traditional publishing, covers get re-used all the time. Even covers designed to illustrate a particular book get reused, just with different text.

If You Are an Author

Unless you paid for a photo shoot and exclusive rights to all photos taken in that photo shoot, do not contact another author whose cover uses the same photo (or a photo from the same shoot) accusing them of copying/stealing your cover.

If you did pay for that photo shoot, you might want to contact your photographer first in case there was some kind of miscommunication…before engaging with another author.

If You Are a Reader

Do Not criticize an author, either publicly or privately, for using the same cover photo as another author. If the author you’re trying to support said that they had an exclusive shoot, then contact the author who you think was hurt. Let the author make that call.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


writing
dsmoen

Campbell Award Eligible Writers Anthology

AnthoCover3_400

Up and Coming, the 2016 anthology of science fiction and fantasy writers eligible for this year’s John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, is now available. This award is the only award given at the Hugo Award ceremonies that is voted on by the Hugo Award voters but is not itself a Hugo Award.

Up and Coming contains 1.1 million words of fiction from newly published science fiction qand fantasy authors, and will be available until March 31, 2016.

How to Nominate for the Campbell Award

In order to be a nominator for the Campbell Award, you had to be a member of one of the following by January 31 of this year:

The nomination link is here, and nominations close March 31, 2016.

Complete List of Authors in the Anthology

  • Charlotte Ashley
  • John Ayliff
  • Lucas Bale
  • Nicolette Barischoff
  • Sofie Bird
  • Derrick Boden
  • Stefan Bolz
  • David Bruns
  • Martin Cahill
  • Aaron Canton
  • D.K. Cassidy
  • Zach Chapman
  • Curtis C. Chen
  • ZZ Claybourne
  • Liz Colter
  • Nik Constantine
  • Daniel J. Davis
  • S.B. Divya
  • Margaret Dunlap
  • S.K. Dunstall
  • Jonathan Edelstein
  • Harlow C. Fallon
  • Rafaela F. Ferraz
  • Sam Fleming
  • Annalee Flower Horne
  • Ron S. Friedman
  • David Jón Fuller
  • Sarah Gailey
  • Patricia Gilliam
  • Jaymee Goh
  • Elad Haber
  • Auston Habershaw
  • Philip Brian Hall
  • John Gregory Hancock
  • Nin Harris
  • C.A. Hawksmoor
  • Sean Patrick Hazlett
  • Holly Heisey
  • Michael Patrick Hicks
  • SL Huang
  • Kurt Hunt
  • L.S. Johnson
  • Cameron Johnston
  • Rachel K. Jones
  • Jason Kimble
  • Paul B. Kohler
  • Jeanne Kramer-Smyth
  • Jamie Gilman Kress
  • Jason LaPier
  • Fonda Lee
  • S Lynn
  • Jack Hollis Marr
  • Arkady Martine
  • Kim May
  • Alison McBain
  • Rati Mehrotra
  • Lia Swope Mitchell
  • Allison Mulder
  • Ian Muneshwar
  • Brian Niemeier
  • Wendy Nikel
  • George Nikolopoulos
  • Megan E. O’Keeve
  • Malka Older
  • Emma Osborne
  • Chris Ovenden
  • Steve Pantazis
  • Carrie Patel
  • Sunil Patel
  • Laura Pearlman
  • Samuel Peralta
  • Andrea Phillips
  • Mark Robert Philps
  • Monica Enderle Pierce
  • Ivan Popov
  • Bill Powell
  • Stephen S. Power
  • Rhiannon Rasmussen
  • Chris Reher
  • Ethan Reid
  • Kelly Robson
  • Andy rogers
  • Lauren M. Roy
  • Steve Ruskin
  • KB Rylander
  • Hope Erica Schultz
  • Effie Seiberg
  • Tahmeed Shafiq
  • Iona Sharma
  • Anthea Sharp
  • Elsa Sjunneson-Henry
  • Daniel Arthur Smith
  • Lesley Smith
  • William Squirrell
  • Dan Stout
  • Naru Dames Sundar
  • Will Swardstrom
  • Jeremy Szal
  • Lauren C. Teffeau
  • Natalia Theodoridou
  • Joseph Tomaras
  • Vincent Trigili
  • P.K. Tyler
  • Tamara Vardomskaya
  • Leo Vladimirsky
  • Nancy SM Waldman
  • Thomas M. Waldroon
  • Jo Lindsay Walton
  • Kim Wells
  • Alison Wilgus
  • Nicolas Wilson
  • Alyssa Wong
  • Eleanor R. Wood
  • Frank Wu
  • Jeff Xilon
  • JY Yang
  • Isabel Yap
  • Jo Zebedee
  • Jon F. Zeigler
  • Anna Zumbro

…which is a lot of people, but there are actually more eligible authors than that. Check out this page on Writertopia for who’s eligible this year. This year’s Campbell eligibles are those who had a first professional sale published in 2014 or 2015.

Note, however, that final eligibility is determined by the Hugo Award administrator. Of note, I think Andy Weir (not in the anthology, but mentioned on the Writertopia page) could be ruled ineligible; while The Martian was initially released as a self-published title in 2011, it wasn’t really a professional sale until 2014 when it was re-published by Crown Books. However, the audio book version was published in 2013, and that may be a sticking point. Or not.

I Wasn’t a Member, But One of My Favorites Made the Ballot, Now What?

You can become a member of MidAmeriCon II. Voting will begin in early May. I don’t know when exactly voting will close, but typically it’s some time in July.

The Hugo ceremony will take place at the convention, Wed to Sun, August 17-21, 2016, in Kansas City, Missouri.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


writing
dsmoen

Ellora’s Cave Update

Ellora's Cave Blog Post Header

There are a few things going on in the Ellora’s Cave world of late, so this is a catchup post. (March 16 Edit: there are some corrections, which I’ve detailed in an update at the bottom.)

Ellora’s Cave Titles Per Month Decline

I’ve previously shown a chart about the long decline in Ellora’s Cave’s titles published per month.

Here’s an update on that chart covering the last few months including January and February, probably the biggest title push months for romance publishers. January gets a big bump because many people get e-readers (or new e-readers) for Christmas, plus publishers want fresh stock for Valentine’s Day.

EC-releases-by-month-2

Year over year, you can see the decline since the events of August and September 2014 (with the layoffs and defamation lawsuit, respectively).

That chart is pretty devastating, but not as much so as looking at a chart of the quarterly releases since the beginning of 2013:

Ellora's Cave Quarterly Releases

Ellora’s Cave Author Numbers Decline

In addition to publishing fewer titles over time, Ellora’s Cave has also had declining numbers of authors, as this next chart shows.

First, before I present it, there are some caveats here:

  1. The information is taken from screen scrapes of Ellora’s Cave’s website over time, both by myself and by archive.org, so it’s limited to the accuracy of the underlying page. In at least one case, I know of an author signed to EC who never had a book published by them, but the author’s name appears on their screen scrapes. I have no idea how many authors this is true for.

    In other cases, the same author was on the Ellora’s Cave pages more than once. Right now, EC’s author page lists both Allie Standier and Allie Standifer even though her name on the former’s book cover is spelled like the latter. It’s not like editing is supposed to be a core competency of a publisher or something.

  2. Authors appear on these pages before their first EC books are published (because preorders), so this isn’t a true correlation with the books published charts above.

  3. The time intervals aren’t as linear as neat columns make them appear to be, and this causes some horizontal distortion.

Ellora's Cave Author Counts

When I first showed an earlier version of that chart, what people wanted to know was: how many new authors was Ellora’s Cave signing?

That’s a little bit harder question to answer, so I took my handy screen scrapes, cobbled together a simple Ruby on Rails application and imported the data. This involved some cleanup, as author name variants and URLs had changed over time.

Then I tried to normalize the data into quarterly time periods (save for the last, which is two months and a week), assuming people joined or left linearly along the time span between scrapes. Unsurprisingly, there’s still a huge inflection point in the third quarter of 2014.

Ellora's Cave: Authors Gained vs. Lost

Since the end of the third quarter 2014, existing authors have been leaving Ellora’s Cave at five times the rate new authors have been joining (210 vs. 41 authors, respectively).

How Many Books Have They Lost?

Ellora’s Cave has lost a ton of authors, and many more have had rights revert on some books, but not all books. The question, though, is: how many? In other words, how big is their book catalog vs. how big was it before?

That’s a question that eluded me on how to answer for some time.

It turns out that All Romance E-Books allows one to search by publisher, which is pretty genius.

Ellora's Cave Catalog Size on All Romance E-Books.

Further, archive.org has saved some of those searches. So, while I have four points of data, I can make a reasonable estimate of a fifth by adding the books published between the end of the second quarter and the end of the third quarter 2014.

Ellora's Cave Catalog Size

Between the end of second quarter 2014 and the end of the third quarter 2015 (so 15 months), Ellora’s Cave lost a net 1,037 books. In the same period, they published 345 new books, so the total books reverted (or canceled) was 1,382 books, or 92/month. (Assuming information provided to All Romance E-Books was accurate, of course.)

In the five months since, Ellora’s Cave has published 41 new books but is no longer publishing 574 books, so they’ve reverted (or canceled) 615 books, so just over 120 per month.

Regardless of how you slice it, it’s not a happy picture of what’s going on at Ellora’s Cave, and my sympathies for all the writers who still have books there and would rather not.

Robin L. Rotham’s Post

Robin L. Rotham blogged about her experience with Ellora’s Cave. She was one of the early writers to provide a declaration in support of Dear Author’s side of the Ellora’s Cave lawsuit.

What is new in this post is her revelation about how Ellora’s Cave’s alleged unilateral change of contract affected Robin personally:

3. EC made a deliberate unilateral change to the payment terms of my books (and those of many other authors) contracted before the spring of 2008, and as a result, they’ve underpaid my royalties by more than $18,000 since late 2011. Because they’d suddenly made their royalty statements long and difficult to analyze, with many and varied amounts supposedly received from Amazon for each book, I didn’t detect the underpayment until late 2014, when I audited all of my royalty statements. I sent EC a spreadsheet detailing the underpayments, demanded immediate payment and offered to accept the rights to my books in lieu of payment.

Ellora’s Cave Performs Extreme Manscaping on EC Romanticon Site

I note a distinct lack of male cover models compared to an archived version of the site. Instead, there’s a lot of flames and incensed rhetoric, but without the lovely lingering scent of church incense.

So I guess Romanticon, formerly an annual convention, is officially dead then. Not a surprise, just an…what’s the word I’m looking for?…unusual way to announce its demise.

Tina Engler Moved Back to Ohio

Tina Engler, Ellora’s Cave founder and majority owner, announced on Facebook that she’s moved back to Ohio. I don’t think this will come as a surprise.


Corrections

March 16th Update….

There are a few significant corrections that have affected the charts I’ve provided above. In the interest of transparency, I’ve linked the original versions below.

Releases by Month

This and the next section are for corrections made on March 16th, 2016.

Corrected graph is here. Link to uncorrected version.

  1. January 2013 inadvertently counted five February 2013 releases (that were also counted in February, yay weeks split between two months). This changes the scale of both monthly and quarterly charts.
  2. August 2015 inadvertently omitted one release.
  3. December 2015 missed six releases late in the month due to a formula error.
  4. February 2016 incorrectly included two re-releases. My intention was to include only first-time releases as I believe that shows a truer picture of publisher state.

Releases by Quarter

Corrected graph is here. Link to uncorrected version.

Corrections are the same as noted above.

An Early Look at Earlier Years

Okay, we’re done with corrections. New Topic.

Here’s an early look at some data I’ve imported from FictionDB’s Publisher Series Lists. I haven’t imported anthologies yet, though I have imported smaller multi-author titles.

First, it appears that their information for 2012 is really incomplete (and almost non-existent for later years), so don’t make any assumptions about 2012 based on this. Also, it appears their information includes mostly in-print books including both print and e-book versions. I de-duped any duplicate entries, keeping only the earlier entry.

That said, given that this dates well into the Kindle era, it’s quite possible that a significant fraction of these titles are re-releases, I’d just have no easy way to know that.

Lopping off the years 2001-2006 (as those also seem to be incomplete), here are the numbers for 2007-2012 imported from FictionDB.

2013 and after are from direct import.

Ellora's Cave Annual Releases per FictionDB Data

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.


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