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Ellora’s Cave: About Those Cavemen Anthology Boxed Sets

Ellora"s Cave Blog Post Header

A couple of weeks ago, I got a heads up that Ellora’s Cave would be announcing new boxed sets of their Cavemen anthologies. There’s been something gnawing at me about that, but it didn’t occur to me until today what that was. I’ll first go through a few things that I don’t think are going to happen.

Sure enough, they went up for pre-order a few days ago.

EC-cavemen-boxed-set-2

Cash Grab by Ellora’s Cave

One question/comment I’ve heard is: this is a cash grab.

Well, technically all books published are something of a cash grab, if they’re not free books. I don’t consider that particularly remarkable.

For a set of twelve volumes that were previously $3.99 each in digital, that’s a rather massive discount. It suggests that the old pricing was far out of line with current market conditions. It’s also kind of insulting to the authors to discount that deeply. And there are other problems, which I’ll go into in a bit.

Granted, with quite a few authors continuing to report late royalty payments (example), one wonders if the anthology authors will be paid promptly and accurately.

Attempt to Hit a Bestseller List

If you look, there are virtually zero anthologies that have hit the NY Times Bestseller lists recently[1] and none that I can recall were romance boxed sets. So that doesn’t strike me as probable. Besides, some of these stories have been published for more than a decade.

When I looked at all the Ellora’s Cave authors who’d left who were New York Times or USA Today bestselling authors, quite a few of them did make the USA Today list in a bundle of some sort. Still, those were far newer works than most of the Ellora’s Cave Cavemen books.

The Big Gotcha

It’s been gnawing at me for a couple of days that there was a bigger issue. I re-read the contracts I’ve seen, wondering if it covered repackaging like that, or if a story was bound to a specific volume. That seemed okay. I didn’t re-read the rest of the contract again until today.

That’s when I realized the problem.

Here’s one of the contracts from 2006 from Ann Jacobs (p. 13 in this ECvDA exhibit):

Ellora"s Cave Anthology Royalty Rate

Note that it covers royalty rates for books with 1-6 works, but not books with 7-72 works. Other contracts included in that document have a similar structure.

Near as I can tell, Ellora’s Cave would need to pay 6.25% of cover price for each of the 72 authors in each work, or a total of 450% of the cover price for authors with similar (pre-mid-2011) contracts.

One wonders if EC’s new contract with Amazon translates to 35% or 70% for 99-cent books. Either way, they seem pretty screwed by their own terms.

The good news for them is that those Cavemen boxed sets are only pre-orders at this point, so they’re free to unlist them.

Update: Screenshot from a 2008 Cavemen Contract

Royalty Section of an Ellora"s Cave Cavemen Contract

Again, this is built around a 6-works anthology, not around a 72-works anthology. There is no defined royalty rate for a 72-works book.

As Ann Jacobs mentions below, there is also no reversion clause. Zip.

List of Authors in the Cavemen Series

Alexa & Patrick Silver
Alicia Sparks
Allyson James
Angela Knight
Angelia Sparrow & Naomi Brooks
Anna J. Evans
Annie Windsor
Anya Bast
Ari Thatcher
Arianna Hart
Ashleigh Raine
Aubrey Ross
B.J. McCall
Brigit Zahara
Callista Arman
Cara Carnes
Cathryn Fox
Charlene Teglia
Charlotte Boyett-Compo
Cheryl Dragon
Cheyenne McCray
Cindy Spencer Pape
Cricket Starr
Cynthia Rayne
Dawn Halliday
Debra Glass
Delilah Devlin
Denise A. Agnew
Denise Rossetti
Desiree Holt
Diana Hunter
Doreen DeSalvo
Elayne S. Venton
Elisa Adams
Elizabeth Lapthorne
Fiona Jayde
J.C. Wilder
Jaci Burton
Jaid Black
Jan Springer
Janne Lewis
Jenna Reynolds
Jory Strong
Kate Douglas
Kate Hill
Kate Willoughby
Katherine Cross
Katie Blu
Kimberly Dean
Kris Starr
Kristin Daniels
KyAnn Waters
L.A. Day
Lacey Alexander
Lacey Thorn
Lani Aames
Lena Matthews
Liddy Midnight
Lillian Feisty
Lora Leigh
Lyla Sinclair
Lynn LaFleur
M.A. Ellis
Madison Hayes
Mandy M. Roth
Margaret L. Carter
Marianne LaCroix
Marly Chance
Mary Wine
Mary Winter
Megan Kerans
Melani Blazer
Melany Logen
Mlyn Hurn
Myla Jackson
N.J. Walters
Natasha Moore
Nicole Austin
Nikki Soarde
Paige Cuccaro
Patrice Michelle
R. Casteel
Ravyn Wilde
Rebecca Airies
Regina Carlysle
Renee Luke
Rowan West
Sahara Kelly
Samantha Kane
Shelley Munro
Sherri L. King
Sherrill Quinn
Sherry James
Shiloh Walker
Solange Ayre
Sylvia Day
Talya Bosco
Tawny Taylor
Tielle St. Clare

Oh, And…

If anyone cares to share a Caveman anthology-specific contract, at least the portion with the royalties and reversions, I’d love a screen shot.

Edit Notes

[1] I intended to qualify this with a timespan, and was having difficulty searching the NY Times lists the other day and wound up giving up, accidentally omitting the timespan. It definitely used to be easier to make the NY Times list with an anthology than it is now. Edited to add recently.

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


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Ellora’s Cave: Laurann Dohner’s Subtle Announcement

Ellora"s Cave Blog Post Header

Earlier today, Laurann Dohner updated her facebook profile to show Ellora’s Cave as a former employer rather than her current one.

Laurann Dohner • Ellora’s Cave is her Former Employer

A bit later in the day, she removed Ellora’s Cave from her work history entirely.

Laurann Dohner • Job Title NY Times Bestselling Author

So far as I’m aware, all of Laurann Dohner’s titles remain in print with Ellora’s Cave, at least for the time being. If I were the speculating sort, I’d guess that we’ll be seeing reversions happening at some point in the not-too-distant future.

A Shiloh Walker / J.C. Daniels Update

Earlier today, Shiloh Walker (who also writes as J.C. Daniels) posted a link to the Twitter #notchilled hashtag linking to this blog post about her Ellora’s Cave titles.

An excerpt from that post:

At this time, I’d like to request that my readers stop buying the titles below from any and all retailers. If I’m not going to get paid, and in a timely manner, I’d rather the books not be bought at all.

Her Best Friends Lover
Silk Scarves and Seduction
Never as it seems
Guilty Needs
One of the Guys
His Christmas Cara
Lacey’s Game
Belonging
Sexy Little Surprises

Best of luck to Shiloh on getting reversions for her remaining EC titles.

I’ve heard from sources sources that many, if not most, long-time Ellora’s Cave authors want out. Unfortunately, they’re neither in a position to use a hammer (e.g., a lawyer) or slink under the low number of sales. Most are now publishing with other houses or indie publishing themselves. (As far as many/most, I believe my sources are credible on this point, but I obviously haven’t heard from more than a fraction of EC’s authors.)

At least some fear speaking out because they’d be branded as troublemakers—and feel they would be less likely to be paid and/or less likely to get reversion offers they could live with.

Which reminds me….

Booktrack Adds Ellora’s Cave As a Publishing Partner

The article here lists a few Ellora’s Cave authors being converted to the Booktrack format:

  • A.L Wiley (first published by EC in Oct 2015)
  • Lora Leigh (long-time EC author whose last EC book was published in May 2014)
  • Desiree Holt (long-time EC author whose last EC book was published in Feb 2015)
  • Audra Carusso (first published by EC in Feb 2015)
  • Joanna Wylde (EC published the first book in a series; later volumes from Berkeley made her a NY Times bestselling author)

Joanna Wylde, you may recall, was one of Jane Litte’s sources for her Dear Author article The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave, and said she had not seen Amazon payments since January. (Despite the name being redacted on that document, it’s put together in this document on p.6.)

So what’s Booktrack’s interest in Ellora’s Cave?

Booktrack offers a new content creation and distribution platform that turns reading into an immersive movie-like experience. Booktrack’s patented technology lets anyone add a synchronized movie-style soundtrack to an e-book or other digital text content, with the audio paced to each individual’s reading speed.

I can just hear the moan soundtrack and the bad ’70s jazz….

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


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Ellora’s Cave: Authors, Double-Check Your Royalty Statements

Ellora"s Cave Blog Post Header

Some Ellora’s Cave authors have been reporting that, indeed, they have received royalties from Ellora’s Cave recently. Yay. Except that some of those same authors are reporting they have notable inaccuracies.

Update 11/18:

Hold the hoorays, though, because there are issues.

Royalty Statement and Check Mailed to Wrong Person?

Sidney Bristol reports that someone else received her royalty statement and check.

Paid for Print Book that Ellora’s Cave Never Published?

Update 11/18: I’ve added Patty Marks’s letter to the ec_biz list at the bottom of this post. This was a product type error that reportedly does not affect the royalty amount.

Shoshanna Evers reports having received a royalty statement claiming that she was being paid for a print book for her title Chastity Belt—even though Ellora’s Cave never published that title in print.

Olivia Waite reports the same issue:

If you search on Shoshanna’s ISBN, though, (see tip below), you’ll find this Google books page. Now that link doesn’t specifically state that it’s an ebook (nor does it have the correct description for the book), but it is the ebook published in 2011. Sometimes you need to look at several of these to get the full picture.

What’s important, though, is that Ellora’s Cave pays lower royalty percentages for print books due to the physical cost of producing and shipping books. Reasonable.

It seems to me that this was an error on the royalty statement for the wrong format. It’s pretty clear for those cases where only one format was ever published by EC, but less clear when both print and paper were published.

Price Column Sometimes the Total, Sometimes the Unit Price?

Robin L. Rotham reports that sometimes the price column is the price per unit, and sometimes the total.

She also reports being underpaid for a specific title for a four-month period.

Two Conflicting Statements for the Same Month?

Robin L. Rotham also reports getting two statements for March—and they disagree.

What’s Really Disheartening…

…is trying to get existing issues resolved.

Another Issue to Check

If you have a pre-mid-2011 contract where your contract says you should be paid on cover price rather than sales price (and you didn’t agree to amend the contract to sales price), you might want to double check that your royalty statement reflects the correct price.

For more information about this issue, please see Ann Jacobs’s Intervening Counterclaim in the Ellora’s Cave v. Dear Author case.

I’ve heard that some people hadn’t heard about Ann’s counterclaim (still pending in court as of this writing), so wanted to give a heads up.

The Long Tail, Redux

Assuming a constant error rate, one way Ellora’s Cave could reduce its number of errors is, as I’ve said before, chopping the long tail.

Search Tip

If you have an ISBN and want to check more information about who the publisher is and what the format associated with that ISBN is, Google on:

ISBN (number)

I find Google is a better search engine than Bing for this particular purpose as you’re more likely to find a useful result with smaller houses.

Patty Marks’s Letter re: ARE Books Showing As Print

From: Patty Marks
Date: Nov 18, 2015 2:11 PM (1 minute ago)

As you receive your royalties, you will notice that the product type under ARE (All Romance Ebooks) sales is showing as PRINT on the May statements. This should read Ebook, however, if you do the calculations, you will see that it has no affect on the royalties. According to our MAS liaison:

“when loading customer sales order file, the Store Site and Product Type is defined. the Store Site and Product Type are constants in the production of the monthly Detail Report.

all royalty calculations, Print or E Book are performed for each ISBN in the Inventory module. regardless of the Store Site or Product Type defined at the sales order load, the inventory module identifies the ISBN correctly and assigns the correct royalty percent accordingly..

thats it.”

I noticed the error when we started sending them out, but did a quick calculation and saw that it had no effect on the numbers. As that was the case, we decided it was more important to work on getting them out rather than redoing everything. I apologize that I didn’t mention it.

Sincere thanks to Jan Springer for contacting us – she had already figured the numbers were correct, but I really do appreciate her bringing it to our attention, as we should have saved her and others the trouble of figuring it out for themselves.

I’m very glad this doesn’t affect royalties and doesn’t mean EC will have to issue a bunch more checks and the authors were (per Patty) paid correctly for those titles.

Questions? Comments? More Royalty Peculiarities?

Please feel free to leave comments below.

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


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Ellora’s Cave: We’ve Heard This Before

EC-author-stats.001

First: if Tina’s email comes to pass, it will mean Ellora’s Cave authors will be getting paid. My commentary follows Tina’s email.

From: theeternaltubthumper
Date: Nov 6, 2015 1:33 AM
Subject: [ec_biz] royalty info

I wanted to let everyone know to expect a check for March-June (hopefully!) before Christmas!! :) Checks have resumed going out daily along with their accompanying reports. As these reports are being pulled individually, it will take a solid 1-1.5 months to get them all verified, and mailed. After March-June is completely done, we will repeat the process for July-September (or July-October if it takes closer to 1.5 months than 1 month to mail all the March-June checks.) Point being, everyone will be 100% caught up soon!!

I won’t bore you with too many technical details, but I do want to try and semi-explain the software for the reports: every month has to be pulled, verified, and re-verified before a check is cut. We wanted to send out one check covering March-August, but July and August still need pulled, verified, and re-verified; we figured you’d rather get March-June now and the remainder in the next batch as opposed to waiting on those reports so everything could be included in 1 check. (And hopefully that made sense!)

At any rate, Courtney is busting more butt than usual in an effort to get everyone’s March-June checks to them in time for the holidays. The less email she receives over the next month, the better. Obviously if there is something that needs brought to her attention ASAP, please do email her. Otherwise I will post here when the last batch of checks are mailed so you know to contact her if you haven’t received your check within 10 business days of that date.

Last note: we are going to be switching our biz loop to a different, trackable system after the checks are caught up so we can resume open communication. We are very sorry we’ve had to go nearly silent this past year and look forward to resuming open communication with you to keep you apprised of what’s happening at home base.

If you don’t hear from me beforehand, please have a very Happy Thanksgiving :)

Tina/Jaid

Sooooo…Tina’s pre-announcing checks. Remember January’s pre-announcement?

And EC’s going to switch to some trackable system that even major tech companies do not use because…why, exactly? EC’s communication wasn’t top notch even before the whole Dear Author thing went down. It’s not Jane’s fault, nor Courtney’s, nor mine, nor any of the other participants in #notchilled.

Ellora"s Cave: Jaid Black on Romance Writers

Well, I’m glad you clarified that, Jaid. Really. (Note: screenshot is of this link.)

¡¿Four to Six Weeks Per Quarter!?

Let me get this straight: Ellora’s Cave’s controller is spending a solid third to half her working hours verifying (and inputting) royalties and issuing checks. There are, as of October 19th, 813 Ellora’s Cave authors, but let’s round that down to 800 for easy math, which translates to 133 to 200 authors per week.

If we assume eight-hour days and five days a week (even though that’s optimistic), that’s forty working hours a week. An average day would therefore mean 26-40 authors’ royalties verified; an average hour 3.25-4 authors.

Assuming there’s no easy way to make the work process more efficient (doubtful, but let’s run with it), what’s the easiest way to reduce the workload without reducing profitability?

Chop the long tail. From that post:

With over 800 authors, some of those authors are going to be bringing in peanuts and others whole food trucks. Release the authors that are consistently not performing.

As an example, calculate how long it takes to put together all the royalty information, divide by the number of authors. Figure out how much you’re paying the people who do that work, including cutting the checks. Triple that cost. For the authors who aren’t making, on average, that much for the house over the last year, offer to release their titles (for no fee).

Also, it’s probably true that anthologies are the most difficult. Given that anthologies divide royalties between contributing authors, for every anthology, you’ve got to do the work N times. Unless those are really really big sellers, then it’s time to give them a neutral look with a profitability eye.

If some authors aren’t making more for the house than the cost to cut the checks, it’s saving both money and time to cut those authors from the list.

It’s also unclear to me why hand verification of each author is necessary. Even indie authors get spreadsheets from Amazon. Those spreadsheets include things like:

  • ASIN
  • Quantity sold (also includes KU/KOLL if those features are enabled)
  • Price sold at
  • Currency

I can see one possible configuration of the required database tables in my head:

  • Authors
  • Books (this would include a field for whether the payment for this book was based on cover price or sales price and the royalty rate for this book)
  • AuthorsXBooks (many-to-many join table with at least one additional field for royalty %)
  • SalesOutlets (e.g., Amazon, All Romance Ebooks)
  • BooksXSalesOutlets (to hold things like Amazon ASIN and URLs by site)
  • SalesOutletsCurrencyMonth (i.e., for Sep 2015, Amazon’s exchange rate for UKP was USD $1.59)
  • SalesXBooksXSalesOutlets (Also links to SalesOutletsCurrencyMonth for non-USD sales. Basically, this keeps sales price (which can be multiple values per sales outlet per month), month sold, quantity sold—and stuff like that.
  • RoyaltiesXSalesOutlets (totals received from each vendor by period—the check-and-balance in double-entry accounting)
  • PaymentsXAuthors (check #, time period covered, amount)

Then write an importer for each file from each publishing outlet and some good unit and functional tests for edge cases. If the royalties (including the publisher’s share) total the payment received, it’s good.

What still mystifies me: if this new royalty application has caused (or helped cause) so much consternation and cost since 2013, where’s the lawsuit for that?

Why Is Tina Pre-Announcing Now?

Let’s look at a timeline here:

Date Event
08-18-2014 Ellora’s Cave Layoffs.
09-24-2014 Laurann Dohner’s Darkness, a book in her New Species series, released. Shortly after, the book becomes a NY Times bestseller. Amazon monies for this would start coming in the end of November (assuming the same payment schedule as indie authors); All Romance Ebooks payments would arrive mid-November.
10-29-2014 Laurann Dohner’s Smiley, a book in her New Species series, released. Shortly after, the book becomes a NY Times bestseller. Amazon monies for this would start coming in the end of December (assuming the same payment schedule as indie authors).
1-7-2015 Tina/Jaid’s post to the biz loop about the status of royalty payments. (Note that one editor commented a few days ago saying that she’s still not been paid.)
9-8-2015 Laurann Dohner’s Numbers, a book in her New Species series, released. Shortly after, the book becomes a NY Times bestseller. Amazon monies for this would start coming at the end of November; All Romance Ebooks payments would arrive mid-November.
10-28-2015 Alien, an anthology featuring four Ellora’s Cave authors is released. One of the four stories is a new Zorn warriors story from Laurann Dohner.
11-6-2015 As quoted above, Tina/Jaid’s post to the biz loop about the status of royalty payments.

The point is: these little boom cycles where EC crows about being able to pay their authors follow fairly closely on the heels of Ms. Dohner’s book releases.

Which begs the question: Given Laurann Dohner’s announcement of a new self-published series, what’s going to happen when Ellora’s Cave no longer has new bestselling titles from her to rely on?

Speaking of Ellora’s Cave Releases

Let’s look at that image up top again.

EC-author-stats.001

After the August 2014 layoffs, EC immediately dropped from nine to ten releases per week to eight for the first two weeks of September, then five for the third (which was the week The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave was published). So there’s absolutely no way that Dear Author’s article could have triggered that change. The following week bounced back up to eight releases, but the last week of the month—the week that Ellora’s Cave filed suit against Dear Author and Jane Litte—went back up to nine releases.

Part of the reason for the drop was the elimination of the Blush line (though there still would be releases of already-contracted Blush titles), which had typically accounted for one or two titles on a Thursday release. Non-Blush EC titles were released on Wednesday and Friday.

Over time, the number of releases slid…no week in December 2014 had more than six releases in one week, and the final full week featured only three releases.

With the exception of July, releases for 2015 ran about half that of the previous year’s releases, dropping even lower by August.

What’s also interesting is that since October, 2014, Micah BlackLight’s The Cult of the Serpentari has comprised 27 releases—more than any whole month since October 2014—first as 24 volumes chapter-by-chapter (from October 2014 to April 2015), then three omnibus volumes published in May 2015. It seems pretty clear that the old pricing structure wasn’t working as 24 volumes worked out to be a lot of money.

I said to Rick, “I’m not quite sure what to say about this graph.” Except perhaps that romance writers came to feel about Ellora’s Cave the way majority owner Tina Engler/Jaid Black clearly feels about them.

Rick said, “Perhaps some arch comment about starting a new chapter in their business?”

Edit Note

11/16: I’d inadvertently deleted the final two rows of the dateline table when I had two edit windows open and continued in the wrong one. Only realized this a week later.

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


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Ellora’s Cave: Some pubnt Trick-or-Treat

pubnt avatar pumpkin

As much as @pubnt made us tear our virtual hair out on #notchilled, there were some really (unintentionally) hilarious assertions. Here are a few of my favorites.

  1. Claiming to be a legal blogger (and law student)
  2. …yet failing Courtney Milan’s 1L test.
  3. Claiming Ellora’s Cave was in “merger” talks with a big 5 publisher.
  4. Asserting tax liens are a “government agreed tax incentive” and “low cost loan.”
  5. Saying it was perverse for the (Dear Author) defense team to call @pubnt as a witness. (Completely failing to understand why defense was subpoenaing Twitter about @pubnt’s identity.)
  6. Assertions that Ellora’s Cave, which was founded in 2000, is an “ancient” publisher.
  7. Claiming that Ellora’s Cave had $15 million cash in the bank, despite the fact that there are consistent reports, both last year and this year, of authors being paid super late.
  8. “Wrong rubbish.” See also: false rubbish and banned wrong rubbish.
  9. Not to mention “banned pariah.”
  10. Asking Marc Randazza, lawyer for Dear Author, a legal question.

Claiming to Be a Legal Blogger and/or Law Student

Courtney’s 1L Test

Covered in this post here.

Tax Liens

(Quite apart from the fact that the existence of tax liens will tend to drive the cost of all other sources of credit higher.)

Calling @pubnt as a Witness

Courtney covers the logic errors in @pubnt’s position here. I just re-read that post the other day, and it’s fantastic.

Ancient Publisher

I’ve sat on things that pre-date Christianity (e.g. at the Temple of Delphi), so even my ass has more experience with ancient things than EC…unless one’s counting appropriating sacred caves in India or symbols of Ancient Egypt.

$15 Million in Cash in the Bank

…and also this overstatement of EC’s earnings (based on various articles)…

Wrong Rubbish, et al

Banned Pariah

Asking Randazza

Randazza’s answer is gone, but if I recall correctly, it boiled down to ask your own lawyer.

Special Double Backflip Fail Award

And for the special double backflip fail award, special mention should go to filing a paper with the court (interpreted as a Motion to Quash) that was so ineptly written the court was able to overrule simply because @pubnt admitted to having discoverable information in their filing. From the judge’s order:

Here, @pubnt objects to any information being produced by Twitter that may assist in identifying the “owners” of the account. However, in the five-page letter, @pubnt does not identify or analyze any basis for quashing or modifying the subpoena permitted under Rule 45. Instead, the letter indicates that the individual or individuals who purport to be the “owners of the ‘@pubnt’ Twitter account” are intimately familiar with the parties in this case, along with the claims and defenses asserted. They speak adamantly, declaring to all readers that they have witnessed misconduct by Defendants and that they can prove their negative statements about the Defendants. These facts alone put @pubnt and its “owners” within the confines of Fed.R.Civ.P. 26 and Fed.R.Evid. 401, and therefore, their information is subject to discovery under the subpoena power of the Civil Rules.

In their letter – let alone the actual tweets on the account – the @pubnt “owners” confirm that they have knowledge about the underlying allegations and defenses, such as claims for defamation/libel and the defenses of truth, substantial truth, and lack of malice.

[…]

Simply reading the “owners’” letter demonstrates that they have relevant information that is discoverable in this case. Merely because the Defendants may be able to obtain certain information from other sources does not render the subpoena unnecessary. Furthermore, Defendants are entitled to pursue discoverable evidence from the primary source, instead of merely accepting statements by the “owners” that information they have can be procured by other means (especially considering the tenor of their letter shows an almost venomous disregard for Defendants).

Several Reasons Why I Think Tina Engler Is @pubnt (or part of @pubnt)

Comments About EC’s Counsel, Past and Present

First, assertions about the Dear Author suit’s Ellora’s Cave Attorney vs. the Brashear suit’s EC Attorney.

I’ve made reference several times to the Brashear judge’s 27-page smackdown ruling (doc here, please add popcorn), but there is nothing in that document that points to any correctness of @pubnt’s assertions. In fact, this conversation caused me to read the entire Brashear case over time, and I never did have that kind of sense of either their earlier counsel in the case (whom EC later sued) or their later counsel.

So who would? One of the very few EC insiders who either a) had direct access to said counsel; or b) was one of EC principal’s confidantes—but even confidantes will tend to forget details over the years, you know?

Comments About Ellora’s Cave’s Merger Negotiations

Merger information is generally embargoed until the merger is fully hashed out, but @pubnt was quite happy to tweet all about it.

Funny how @pubnt knew (alleged) internal motivations. Even more interesting was that Ellora’s Cave never did anything about it. In fact,

Lightening

As I’ve previously pointed out, this one of several typos that Tina Engler and @pubnt share.

Ellora’s Cave Seemed Singularly Uninterested in Who @pubnt Was

…despite the fact that @pubnt made Ellora’s Cave look bad.

In fact, in filing 72-1, Mastrantonio wrote (emphasis added):

Even if Plaintiffs were responsible for the actions of @pubnetTwitter, such conduct is not relevant to establish any element of abuse of process. Element (2) of abuse of process makes it clear that the “proceeding” that is being used for the ulterior purpose is the legal proceeding. In other words, the abuse has to involve the misuse of procedures like discovery or some other tool of the judicial process. Regardless of who or what @pubnetTwitter is, its actions are not using the machinery of this litigation. Accordingly, such conduct cannot be considered as part of an abuse of process claim.

Mastrantonio seemed so clueless about Twitter at that point that he really had no idea what had been going on for months.

Credits

Thanks to Brian Longoria for the Pumpkin PSD mockup. Fun!

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


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Ellora’s Cave: Dear Author/Jane Litte Case Settled

ellora"s cave blog header

Today there’s big news in this year-plus long defamation case: plaintiffs Ellora’s Cave and Defendants Dear Author and Jane Litte have settled.

Ellora"s Cave Case Settles

In an email to EC’s biz loop, Ellora’s Cave CEO Patty Marks said:

From: patty@ellorascave.com [ec_biz]
Date: Thu, Oct 22, 2015 at 9:50 AM
Subject: [ec_biz] Settlement with Dear Author

We are pleased to announce that we have reached a settlement with Dear Author. The terms are confidential, so we will not be discussing that. We are very happy though to now put all of our time and efforts into Ellora’s Cave, the authors and staff without further distraction.

Thank you for your patience and support.

Patty Marks

Defense’s Parting Gift to the Case

Those of you following #notchilled recently will recall discussion of a footnote in case document 71-main (p. 11):

Further,Ellora’s may be planning for bankruptcy even at this time–but have refrained from doing so in the hopes that this SLAPP suit will bear fruit. In fact, Ellora’s counsel has reported to the undersigned on numerous occasions that Ellora’s has failed to pay his bills.

This was a footnote that Randazza had apparently intended to delete, and it led to plaintiffs filing a motion yesterday to strike the footnote, pointing out that this case had received a fair amount of discussion on Twitter’s #notchilled hashtag.

Which led to defense’s response document.:

The real value of the evidence Plaintiffs offer in support of their Motion is that it shows that there is widespread public interest in Ellora’s Cave and thus this controversy, belying any claim that the Plaintiffs are not a public figure as they disingenuously claim.

Boom.

The Identity of @pubnt

In doc 73, plaintiffs also accused defense of waging a social media war:

And while the merits of this case are before this Court to decide, Defendants have resorted to internet and social media outlets to gather support from followers for their position (and to solicit online donors to pay their legal expenses) in what is basically a public relations war against the Plaintiffs’ case.

Let me be clear: Those of us posting on #notchilled are a diverse group who (mostly, since at least two purported Ellora’s Cave employees have posted to #notchilled) agree on one thing: the case against Dear Author and Jane Litte was filed to quell free speech.

In short, we agreed with this Courtney Milan post (excerpt):

But in this country, we want to make sure that people have the right and ability to talk about matters of public concern, to express their opinion on them, and to speak freely without worry that their speech will be chilled. So if you inject yourself into an issue of public concern, you may be a limited purpose public figure–that is, someone for whom the standards differ.

[…]

It seems to me that the business of Ellora’s Cave–a multi-million dollar business, one where the owner has sought and obtained media attention from national news media, a business that deals with hundreds if not thousands of authors, editors, and cover artists, and who has thousands if not hundreds of thousands of readers who take an interest in it–is a matter of public concern. It seems to me that Ellora’s Cave and its owner, Jaid Black, by seeking out that media attention, by broadcasting announcements to its authors–announcements that were reprinted and referenced in publishing news ranging from Publishers Weekly to The Passive Voice–is a limited purpose public figure.

And the standard for defamation actions for limited purpose public figures is substantially different than for private citizens. The standard is that the speaker must be acting with actual malice: that is, they must know (or be reckless about knowing) that the statements they are speaking are false. What that means is that if I say something and I have a good-faith belief that what I am saying is true–even if it later turns out to be false–I am not going to be held liable for defamation.

I point this out because I am extremely, extremely pissed off about this lawsuit. I believe that this lawsuit was filed for the purpose of chilling speech–and for the purpose of chilling true speech about a matter of imminent public concern. And I think that despite the outpourings of support, it’s working. This lawsuit is about teaching authors to sit down and shut up, even if their livelihood is at stake.

Which is a pretty good statement of the unifying principles of the #notchilled regulars. Some are EC authors. Some are former EC authors. Some are readers, but not authors. Some (like Courtney and myself) are writers, but not for Ellora’s Cave.

But we weren’t posting specifically because of who the defendant was, but what the issue was.

Defense’s response in doc 74 (p. 3):

Defendants further note that Plaintiffs offer no evidence that Defendants are waging any sort of a “public relations war against Plaintiffs’ case.” Indeed, there is no evidence to be found. The purpose of this accusation is clear – to try and negatively color the Defense. However, should the Plaintiffs wish for Defendants to address this issue in earnest, the Defendants have preserved publications and statements by Ellora’s Cave’s founder, Tina Engler, about this case, as well as her “sock puppet” twitter account, which would scorch them with hypocrisy—should the court be interested.

The “sock puppet” referred to @pubnt (and possibly others), whose identity will likely never be known as a matter of law, but here’s the complete archive of 2,620 tweets.

What’s Up Next?

There’s still the matter of several hundred Ellora’s Cave authors, quite a few of whom have publicly stated that, as of this writing, they’ve not been paid royalties for periods later than February 2015. I do not know of anyone reporting having received payments for a later period, and February was eight months ago.

Here are a few sources:

http://twitter.com/KellyJamieson/status/655140492712083456

http://twitter.com/Lori_Ella/status/653291224296722437

http://twitter.com/trista_michaels/status/654783745560473600

Given that Ellora’s Cave still has (as of a few days ago) more than 800 authors, that’s a seriously large quantity of royalty checks to be behind.

Let’s not forget the declaration of Romance Writers of America executive director Allison Kelley:

Based on complaints from authors, we contacted Patty Marks, CEO of Ellora’s Cave, in August 2014 to express concerns that Ellora’s Cave was unilaterally changing the terms of its contracts without authors’ written consent. Ms. Marks responded, “I’ll talk to Raelene and have our publishing department request signed amendments now and from here on out.”

In September 2015, I contacted Patty Marks regarding complaints about the company’s failure to issue royalty statements and checks to authors. Ms. Marks recently admitted to me that Ellora’s Cave is not up-to-date with paying its royalties and has not paid its authors in a timely manner.

Failure to pay authors and comply with the terms of contracts are violations of the Romance Writers of America’s code of ethics for industry professionals.

As a result of Ellora’s Cave’s violations of the code of Ethics, Ellora’s Cave has been suspended from certain privileges with the Romance Writers of America. This means that Ellora’s Cave is prohibited from contacting members of chapters regarding new submissions and may not participate in any Romance Writers of America chapter event until it has paid its authors all amounts due.

I don’t know if that’ll ever happen, but I hope for authors’ sakes that it will.

Until then, I leave you with Lieutenant Commander Ivanova. Not quite as satisfying as having all the answers and full restitution for all authors, but it’s what I have to offer.

Addenda

Tymber Dalton’s post Ellora’s Cave vs Dear Author: Not with a bang, but a whimper. Features this nugget comment by author Ann Jacobs, who attempted to intervene in the Dear Author case:

I believe there’s a good chance there will be a class action filing. My attorney has other authors who’ve expressed interest, and it will be a topic of conversation next week. Meanwhile, I know no more than anyone else, except that my motion to intervene in the DA defense is moot, since the suit has been settled.

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


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Ellora’s Cave: So Who(‘s) Left?

ellora"s cave blog header

Authors Who Reverted Between Sep 2014-Sep 2015

Based on screen scrapes taken of Ellora’s Cave author page on September 24, 2014 and September 29th, 2015. So, it’s as accurate as that data is.

Boldfaced means the author has been an author of either a NY Times or USA Today bestseller.

Note that some unknown percentage of these had titles that were below the threshold for reversion, and the remainder were likely rights that were bought back.

A. Q. Fredrichs
Adele Dubois
Ainsley Abbott
Alicia Maddox
Allyson James
Alvania Scarborough
Angela Knight
Ann Bruce
Annabeth Albert
Anne M. Calhoun
Annie Windsor
Ashleigh Raine
Ashlynn Pearce
Aurora Rose Lynn
Ava Bradley
Avery Aster
Belle Scarlett
Camryn Rhys
Cat Grant
Cat Marsters
Cathryn Fox
Charlene Leatherman
Cherif Fortin
Chris Power
Claire Thompson
Courtney Sheets
Crystal Kauffman
Cynnamon Foster
Dawn Halliday
Delphine Dryden
Denyse Bridger
Dominique Adair
Doreen Desalvo
Eden Avery
Eileen Ann Brennan
Eilis Flynn
Elise Hepner
Emily Ryan-Davis
Emjai Colbert
Emma Petersen
Erin Richards
Eryn Blackwell
Faye Adamos
Georgie Lee
Grace Samuels
Graylin Fox
Heather Elizabeth King
Heather Hiestand
Helen Hardt
Hetty St. James
J.C. Wilder
Jambrea Jo Jones
Jane Davitt
Janie D’Avril
Janina Henderson
Jaycee Clark
Jayne Rylon
Jennifer Colgan
Jennifer North
Jessica Lee
Jillelaine Hughes
J.L. Wilson
Julia Templeton
K.D. King
K.Z. Snow
Kaily Hart
Karen McCullough
Kate Pearce
Kate St. James
Kathryn Lively
Katie O’Sullivan
Kayelle Allen
Keira Andrews
Kelly Ferjutz
Kelly Fitzpatrick
Kelly Maher
Kelsy George
Kendall Grace
Kimberly Killion
Kirstie Abbot
Kylie Scott
L.H. Merci
L.J. Garland
L. Rosario
Lacey Alexander
Lauren Dane
Laurie Breton
Leannan Mac Llyr
Leigh Court
Leta Blake
Lila Dupres
Lilian Feisty
Lolita Lopez (as Roxie Rivera)
Lucy Muir
Lynn Sanders
Mandy M. Roth
Marcia James
Marie Bellevaux
Megan Kerans
Melissa Lopez
Melynda Price
Michelle Pillow
Minx Malone
Nancy Corrigan
Nicole North
Olivia Brynn
Paige Tyler
Patrice Michelle
Patricia Mason
Piper Leigh
Raine Latimer
Rebecca T. Michaels
Renee Luke
Rhian Cahill
Richard Jeanty
Rilee St. Chris
Riley Murphy
Roxana Blaze
Ruby Duvall
S.W. Vaughn
Sally Apple
Sally Painter
Sam Cheever
Sami Lee
Sara Dennis
Savannah Stuart
Sherry Morris
Shoshanna Evers
Stella Price
Stephanie Burke
Sue Swift
Susie Charles
Sylvia Day
T.J. Michaels
Tamara Gill
Teal Ceagh
Terri Beckett
Tracy Cooper Posey
Trixie Stilletto
Vicky Burkholder
Viki Lyn
Zannie Adams

Ellora’s Cave’s Unreverted Bestselling Authors

With the notable exception of Laurann Dohner, the New York Times and USA Today bestsellers I could find from these authors were all published by other houses. Because Ellora’s Cave is a digital first publisher, the “Most Recent EC Title” column means: the most recent unreverted Ellora’s Cave ebook release date.

Also, even though an author still has titles at Ellora’s Cave doesn’t mean some of their titles haven’t reverted.

Name (made list as) Most Recent EC Title
Abigaile Barnette (as Jennifer Armintrout) Jan 2013
Amanda Ashley Dec 2014
Cheyenne McCray Jul 2007
Dakota Cassidy Aug 2011
Delilah Devlin Sep 2011
Jaci Burton May 2009
Jaid Black Oct 2015
Jan Springer Feb 2014
Joanna Wylde Jan 2013
Joey W. Hill Aug 2014
Jory Strong Dec 2013
Koko Brown Feb 2013
Laurann Dohner Oct 2015
Lora Leigh May 2014
Madeline Baker Aug 2014
Mari Carr Nov 2012
Marie Harte Jul 2011
Roberta Gellis June 2012
Sabrina York Jul 2014
Shiloh Walker (as J.C. Daniels) Apr 2014
Tawny Taylor Apr 2011

Update March 19, 2016: More Reversions

  1. Amanda Ashley’s titles have completely reverted.
  2. Joey W. Hill is down to a couple of discount print titles; all her e-titles have reverted.
  3. Laurann Dohner later announced that she would be self-publishing future titles.
  4. Lora Leigh has had all books reverted except for stories she has in anthologies.
  5. Madeline Baker is down to a few discount print titles; all her e-titles have reverted.
  6. Shiloh Walker wrote a blog post. Apart from one discount print title and several cavemen anthologies, her titles have reverted to her.

Six major changes out of their 21 remaining NYT/USAT bestselling authors in five months.

(end update)

Bestselling Authors Who Reverted Their Ellora’s Cave Titles Prior to Sep 2014

There may be a much longer list here, but I don’t know all the early Ellora’s Cave authors.

Rhyannon Byrd
Sarah McCarty

Author Counts Over Time

I’ve scraped the Ellora’s Cave site a few times, and have used all of archive.org’s available scrapes as well. I have a reason for posting this, but after the graph, I’ll post a timeline, then wrap it up so you can see why I think this is significant.

elloras-cave-author-counts

Here are some dates to keep in mind when looking at this chart:

  1. Ellora’s Cave layoffs announced August 18, 2014 (report on AW), published in Dear Author the following day and Publishers Weekly a week later.
  2. The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave, published Sep 14, 2014.
  3. Lynne Connolly also spoke up on Sep 14:

    No, I can’t have my rights back on those two. If I don’t cooperate with the editing, Ellora’s Cave will exercise its contractual right to edit and publish the books anyway. If those books do come out, I will make a statement to say I had nothing to do with the editing and the books are released without my cooperation. After that, it’s up to the reader to decide.

    By “editing,” they mean “light editing.” The editors are not even allowed to alter spelling mistakes, because that would be changing the “author’s voice.”

  4. Cat Grant says Ellora’s Cave would allow her to buy out her contract on Sep 20, 2014.</p>
  5. The following day, Victoria Strauss, maintainer of Preditors and Editors posted:

    Rights buybacks are disgraceful. Failing or not, a publisher should either revert rights or not revert them—but it shouldn’t hold authors’ books for ransom, even if the motive isn’t to make a quick buck before the ship goes down.

  6. Lawsuit against Dear Author and Jane Litte over the Curious post was filed September 26, 2014.</p>
  7. The following day, Cate Cameron asks for a guide to requesting rights reversion. The day after that, I linked to one I’d found.
  8. News of the lawsuit hit Publishers Weekly on September 29th.
  9. On October 1, Victoria Strauss posted a reversion guide on Writer Beware and posted a link to that on the Absolute Write EC thread.

Ellora’s Cave’s Claims re: Reversions

From p. 18 of this EC filing:

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 and the filing of this action, Ellora’s Cave had requests for reversions of 404 titles, an astronomical increase. Since Lampe’s defamatory blog, Ellora’s Cave has reverted over 1250 more titles and still has requests that it is 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 14-year history.

So here’s the thing. The standard reversion language is given by example here on p.44, and you’ll note it takes (up to) six months for the process to complete.

In other words, if people had asked for reversions solely and only because of the Dear Author article, then those reversions would have occurred between September 14th, 2014 and March 26th, 2015.

If you look at the total number of authors EC had as of March 21st (5 days before the end of that window), they had the exact same number of authors (though not necessarily the exact same authors) as they’d had after Jane Litte’s Curious article.

In other words, the overwhelming majority of authors leaving Ellora’s Cave entirely appear to have done so so after the effects of Ellora’s Cave filing a lawsuit, not after Jane Litte’s article published by Dear Author and before the lawsuit.

Also (note that I’m talking about net additions here):

  • In the 14-1/2 months leading up to July 28, 2014, Ellora’s Cave added exactly 100 authors…an average of 6.8 per month (1.6 per week).</p>
  • In the two months between July 28, 2014 and September 24, 2014, EC added two new authors…an average of 1 per month.

  • In the six months between September 24, 2014 and March 21, 2014, EC added zero new authors…an average of 0 per month.

  • In the following six months, EC had a net loss of 125 authors (142 left, partially offset by 17 new authors). That’s an average of 21 leaving per month and 3 added per month.

  • In the last three weeks, EC’s added five new authors.

And Now I Quote from Patty Marks

From her August 18th letter announcing the layoffs (emphasis added):

We have already cut staff, special EC projects and other expenses, but the drastic drop in sales has resulted in large net short-term variable production losses and slow and often negative return on investment for EC on almost every new book we publish, with the exception of a handful of the highest sellers.

I believe this translates as: “We lost a lot of money by adding 100 more authors so quickly, especially once sales also dropped.”

Comments Welcome

If I’ve missed any author links or have any incorrect links, please let me know.

I do have the data to do more in-depth analyses of the authors who left over time, but the old site used Lastname Firstname and the new site uses Firstname Lastname, and I have zero spoons for that. If anyone would like the raw data, please let me know.

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


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Laurann Dohner Announces New Self-Published Series

Laurann Dohner photo

Yesterday, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Laurann Dohner said she’d have some news today. Today, she posted the news: she has one book completed and another in progress, both to be released in December. The really big news happens in the first and second comment:

Laurann Dohner Making Leap

For the visually impaired, Valerie asked:

Will this be a self-published venture or through your regular publisher?

(All of Ms. Dohner’s previous books have been published by Ellora’s Cave.)

She replied:

You go right for the tough one, Valerie. LOL. This is my project. It’s my baby.

Which several people interpreted to mean these two books will not be published by Ellora’s Cave.

Existing Series

So far as I know, all of Ellora’s Cave’s recent NY Times or USA Today bestselling titles have been authored by Laurann Dohner.

Ms. Dohner did say further along in comments that, “I still have a “to write” list a mile long for my other series.” So we can expect to see more in those lines, though she hasn’t stated whether or not those books will be published by Ellora’s Cave. Legendarily, Ms. Dohner signed a 75-book contract with Ellora’s Cave in 2011, but of course we don’t know exactly what the terms of that contract are.

I’m happy for Laurann and her new books, and I’m glad she’ll be able to bring them out independently. I could even pick up copies without breaking my “no Ellora’s Cave titles” rule. During this last year, I’ve met some huge fans of Ms. Dohner’s writing, and I’m looking forward to being able to see what the fuss is about.

Comments

I’d love to hear your comments, but please keep them polite. It’s a big step announcing a shift to being an indie writer, and it can be a scary time.

Also, this post may (or may not) have been brought to you by repeated listenings of Ozan Çolakoğlu’s song “Aşk Gitti Bizden” featuring Tarkan on vocals (English lyrics).

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


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Farewell efish! Choosing To End Her Life Via Assisted Suicide

Elizabeth Fisher • Photo by Scott Beadle

Elizabeth Fisher • Photo by Scott Beadle

When this posts, she will be going…or gone.

Earlier, she sent an email that’s just…so her.

at 11am zurichtime, whatevertime, your time, give a cheer, hey, cause
off i go and it’s all good.

It seems weird to say that someone will be dying at a specified time, but Elizabeth Fischer chose assisted suicide when she found out recently that she had terminal lung cancer.

From that interview:

You’ve been really open about choosing suicide. How have people responded?

My demise has become a community effort, and that makes me feel pretty good. People in my coop, in my musicians’ community, the artists’ community, have been really kind and supportive. I’m being love-bombed, and it’s kind of overwhelming, because I had no idea they cared so much. [laughs heartily] They all think that I’m being so brave, though I don’t think of it that way. I’m just too smart to want to die in a hospital, racked with pain, tied to IVs, utterly humiliated.

I can’t remember precisely when I met efish on the EFNet #scientology channel (which, despite its name, was mostly a channel of critics), perhaps even before I became a channel op sometime around 1995 or 1996. I just remember her always being there, usually the cheerful one. Often talking about dancing, singing, writing, art, goulash, Hungarian, or the strange trip she’d taken through life.

Like many people in our lives, even when I no longer hung out with efish on line a lot and wandered away from Scientology criticism for quite a few years, I thought of her a lot.

We saw each others’ comments on Marty Rathbun’s blog in March 2014—this post, in fact—and reconnected via facebook and, briefly, IRC. Mom and I took a trip up to Vancouver Island this April, but we had to do it at breakneck speed (which turned out to be fortuitous; my mother became very ill almost immediately upon our return), so I sheepishly told Elizabeth I’d be back.

In retrospect, I feel foolish. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to carve out the time.

Her Projects

Orphans and Dogs Cover

It’s obvious there’s a hole in the Vancouver arts scene where she used to be.

Leaving Hungary

And now, a prose piece from efish about what it was like to be a refugee from her homeland. Illuminating for those of you who aren’t old enough to remember other large refugee crises, here’s a primer about the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. The refugee crisis was the first to be televised.

In terms of some since, it was far smaller than Syria (or Vietnam), so it was, relatively speaking, easy to find places to accommodate 200,000 people, 180,000 of whom fled into Austria. But that was by no means easy for those who were displaced…sometimes several times.

In that sense, assisted suicide—choosing the date, time, and place of one’s demise—makes a curious sense for someone blown about the globe by the whims of others at the earlier end of her life.

Underwear

Hungary, 1956, mother, father and me don the family underwear and scramble off across the border to Austria. Onto Austria, where every hungarian arrives heroically freedomfighting, and from which one can only be shipped off to Argentina, where – according to mother – far off relatives await with open arms. And there they are the far off relatives but no open arms await cause they see the underwear and it makes them nervous.

There we are then, flowing sewage in front, rendering plant in back. Father works in a factory and amuses himself by teaching everyone how to swear in hungarian. And then comes home and announces okay, but he’d much rather kill himself. So mother stops the nine months long weeping and removes the one family jewel pinned to the family underwear and goes to sell it.

In the meanwhile, I attend school in spanish. A catholic school run by nuns, where during religion classes I get to sit on a bench in the yard and play with the flies.

So mother sells the family jewel and buys a ticket back to Europe, come what may. And we iron the underwear and embark on a french ship. French cockroaches rove our bodies and father states that the french are shits so we will definitely not be going to France. Mother nods and continues to weep.

We arrive back in Austria where everyone is sick of heroes and freedomfighters. So there we sit at the nearest refugee vacation facility, a fuck you gesture in austrian dialect.

A yearlong vacation, twentyfive to a room, the family underwear on a clothesline. Sporting events abound cause with hungarians, arguments are deemed sporting events. Mother weeps, father amuses himself with teaching the camp director choice hungarian obscenities.

Me, I attend school in german. And on holidays I am put on exhibit dancing rustic folk dances with a wine bottle on my head.

In the meanwhile, father’s skills in matters of hungarian language become popular. Here comes a swedish red cross rep and says he’s interested in higher learning. Okay, says father, but then how about a swedish visa. That’s hard, sighs the swede, cause everyone hates hungarians. We for example, only take persons with life threatening illnesses. That’ll be just fine, says father, look at mother there in the throes of fatal weeping. Don’t you think a rest in a fine swedish sanatorium would do her some good. Well, says the swedish rep, maybe it could be arranged, but then you’ll have to teach me something extremely exotic. Cause me, he says, I like to deeply explore foreign cultures. And then father reaches deep indeed and brings forth the most exotic of exotic cultural treasures, hidden gems from within, ancestral bon mots gingerly cradled all the way from his village of birth, exotic Babocsa, population 500, paragon of extreme hungarian cultural endeavours.

Once in Sweden, mother is carted off for a rest cure at a sanatorium. Father and I to a cute little refugeecamp by the sea. We have ourselves a great time cause no more hairbrushings and such, seeing as hygene is also resting with mother. After three weeks, mother is released from the sanatorium and continues where she left off. Weeping, she shakes the sand out of the family underwear and brushes the knots from my hair.

It is very nice in Sweden but fucking dull. Having nowhere else to go, we hang around for four years. No one to teach hungarian to cause the swedes are a very polite people. They quite politely hate all foreigners.

Me, I attend school in swedish. There are no religion classes and also no dancing.

After a while, father has had enough of all this fine innertia. He decides he wants to live in Canada. There are many refused canadian visa applications. Mother weeps. So then he decides to write a letter to the english queen. In the letter he says he has had enough of all this joking around. That he would love to leave the family underwear behind. Please allow him to live in Canada, where he, the hungarian Fischer Pista promises to sell zippers and be perfectly happy doing so, respectfully yours, your future subject, Mr. Steven Fischer. Post Scriptum, hogyha nem enged be akkor maga igazan egy hulye nagy barom es le van szarva.

And she lets him in.

The rest is less interesting. Well, okay, maybe a little bit interesting.

— © elizabeth fischer

Link Roundup

  • An early memorial for Elizabeth Fischer! Some great links, memories, and commenters on this one.</p>
  • Beatrice Smartt

  • Stephen Harper ban on physician assisted suicide pushes Vancouver artist Elizabeth Fischer to plan death in Europe

    Fischer’s laugh, a recognizable alto chortle, is almost as notorious locally as her dark Hungarian scowl. The only child of Holocaust survivors, she first ventured into the Vancouver arts scene by running light shows for rock bands during the psychedelic era, and then progressed into leading her own bands via punk. The Animal Slaves were an anomaly during the days of D.O.A. and the Subhumans, featuring as they did actual musicians playing morbidly intricate tunes behind Fischer’s complex and poetic lyrics; more recently, Dark Blue World fused rock energy with improv jazz, again by way of a rotating cast of A-list players, including Tony Wilson, Cole Schmidt, Skye Brooks, and Pete Schmitt. Fischer also painted marvellous if not always flattering portraits of her friends, often in acidic greens and yellows; made several memorable LPs and CDs; fought against persecution of the Roma in her native Hungary; and, more secretly, was a quietly spectacular knitter, whose crocheted “baldguy caps” are fetish objects for those lucky enough to own them.

    About assisted suicide, a subject she’s quite passionate about:

    “When my dogs got sick, I made sure they didn’t suffer,” she says. “So why can’t the same thing happen for me?”

  • Elizabeth Fischer argues that jazz is the new punk—A piece from last year.</p>
  • Elizabeth’s last Facebook status update.

No More Fitting End to This Post Than This

Elizabeth Fischer singing “Learning to Live” with the Animal Slaves.

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


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Ellora’s Cave: Recent New York Times Bestsellers

ellora&quot;s cave blog header

Let’s look at the last few years of New York Times Bestsellers for which Ellora’s Cave is the publisher. So near as I can tell, the only author that’s hit the list with a book published by EC since February 2011 is Laurann Dohner.

NYT List Date Book Title E-Book List Rank
1/15/12 Brawn 35
3/25/12 Wrath 7
4/29/12 Tiger 9
5/19/12 Moon 5
9/16/12 Obsidian 8
11/18/12 Shadow 9
12/20/13 True 10
10/12/14 Darkness 8
11/16/14 Smiley 10
9/27/15 Numbers 8

Note: she’s also ranked on the combined print + e-book list multiple times, but the matching print book has not been out at any time she’s made the list, so I haven’t included those numbers. With only the e-books available, the combined ranking is more of an indicator of how well print vs. e-books did that week than about Ms. Dohner’s rankings per se.

“Yeah, well? What’s your point?” I hear you say.

I’m glad you asked.

In short, looking at Ms. Dohner’s NY Times Bestseller list positions, it doesn’t appear that the Dear Author article did any damage to her ability to make the list or her position on the list.

When I thought to look this morning and see how Laurann’s newest book was doing, I’m reminded of something Tor editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden said to me at Clarion.

To paraphrase: what you see at writing conferences and workshops and science fiction conventions is only a small part of your readership, and don’t overinterpret what’s going on in the small groups because they’re rarely reflective of one’s readership as a whole.

Let’s visualize the ranking in a scatter plot, which will make my point clearer. Note that lower numbers are better.

Ellora&quot;s Cave NY Times Bestseller Rankings 2011-Oct 2015

In a nutshell, compared to the e-book market as a whole, Ms. Dohner’s e-books are not faring worse after the EC layoffs and Dear Author’s Curious article than they were before.

For the last table, I’m not a statistician. That disclosure out of the way…here’s what I know.

Before Layoffs/DA Article After Layoffs/DA Article Before & After Combined
  E-Book   E-Book   E-Book
Mean 11.9 Mean 8.7 Mean 10.9
Median 9 Median 8 Median 8.5

To translate that into English: on average, Laurann Dohner’s e-books rank 3.2 places higher (11.9 before vs. 8.7 after) on the New York Times Bestseller list after the layoffs and Dear Author article than before. The median of is one place higher (9 before vs. 8 after).

None of which means sales are necessarily higher, just that they’re strong relative to the other contenders in the market.

Ellora’s Cave’s Claims About Reversions

In EC’s filing objecting to Defense’s Motion for Summary Judgment, Ellora’s Cave had the following to say:

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 and the filing of this action, Ellora’s Cave had requests for reversions of 404 titles, an astronomical increase. Since Lampe’s defamatory blog, Ellora’s Cave has reverted over 1250 more titles and still has requests that it is 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 14-year history.

cough

The Bankruptcy “Scare”

Let’s look at who created that bankruptcy “scare,” shall we?

On August 19th, Dear Author republished the layoff letter Patty Marks had sent to the EC biz list that had previously been published on Absolute Write. It included this choice quotation from Patty Marks:

We are not bankrupt (rumors) and are not in any kind of shape to even file bankruptcy.

Many of us read that as: “we are in too poor a shape to file bankruptcy.”

Many of us also saw that article signal boosted onto The Passive Voice, where the commenting got quite spirited. Many of us read and latched onto antares’s comment, specifically:

I used to do bankruptcy law.
Based on my experience, if I saw my publisher put out that statement, I would immediately sue to get my rights back.
What do I mean by ‘immediately’? I mean today. I want my suit going forward and notice served before they file for bankruptcy. Maybe I can get relief from the stay to litigate in state court. Maybe not and I’ll litigate the suit in bankruptcy court. But I bet when I offer to buy back my rights and put money on the table, the trustee will settle.
‘[N]ot in any kind of shape to even file bankruptcy.’ How do you know unless you have consulted a bankruptcy attorney? And I think this statement is in error (best case) or deliberately misleading (worst case).

Later on, antares clarifies in another comment:

Look, in an earlier comment I wrote that I would file a suit against the publisher immediately. Why?
To get my rights back? No.
Then why?
To improve my position against the other creditors.
Once the publisher files for bankruptcy protection — and the minute a business owner uses the B word I know he’s gonna file, it’s just a question of when — the writers no longer have rights. Yeah, you got the copyrights, but you licensed some of those rights to the publisher. Those licensed rights are now assets of the estate. The court’s duty is to equitably divide the assets among the creditors. If you are due royalties, you are an unsecured creditor. Maybe there is some entity in the bankruptcy food chain lower than an unsecured creditor, but I never saw such.
My suit leaves me still in the unsecured creditor category, but, as Orwell said, some animals are more equal than others.
I know of bankruptcies that paid a hundred cents on the dollar. Never had one myself. I also know of other suits that paid a hundred cents on the dollar to, say, eleven of twelve members of the creditors committee and screwed the twelfth with a 2¢ on the dollar payout.
As for filing bankruptcy only when you are insolvent . . . no. That’s the worst time to file.
Bankruptcy is a tool. You can use it to break contracts. To me, it is the start of negotiations.
If you 1) have a contract with EC, 2) are owed money by EC, 3) know two other writers whom EC owes money, and 4) want to get really nasty with EC, ask a bankruptcy attorney about an involuntary bankruptcy.

And yes, antares is exactly right: you want to jockey position against other creditors if you believe there are not enough resources to pay everyone. I believe this is one underlying concern of Ann Jacobs’s Motion to Intervene and her counterclaim.

The Reversions Numbers Game

So there are three reversion numbers given in the EC paragraph I quoted:

  • 154 books go out of print in the first 8-1/2 months of 2014, mostly because they were below sales threshholds.
  • 404 books had reversion requests between Jane Litte posting TCCoEC and the lawsuit commencing (12 days).
  • Since TCCoEC, Ellora’s Cave has reverted more than 1250 books, more than in its entire history before TCCoEC. (Note that this probably includes a significant number of the 404 immediately preceding.)

Those 1250 books were reverted for one of the following reasons:

  1. Low sales. Since they weren’t selling, I don’t see how Ellora’s Cave can or should complain about these. I also expect that this is the largest category. These only take people points because they should have been reverted long ago when there wasn’t a stampede.
  2. Buyout of contracts, which netted Ellora’s Cave an average of several years of expected royalties—thus they cannot reasonably complain about these.
  3. Finesse, by which I mean lawsuit threats, loopholes, and generally being a pain in the ass. I expect this to be the smallest category in number of books, albeit the one that uses the largest amount of people points per book and the highest downside risk.
  4. OMGWTFBBQ? Because one always needs an option like that in a discussion like this.

Option 1 is cash they’re not entitled to unless the author leaves it on the table. Given that most of the 154 were in this category, I’m betting most of the 1250+ were, too.
Option 2 is improvement of cash flow.
Option 3 & 4, well that’s just business.

None of the above are Dear Author’s fault. That’s how I see it, anyway.

Ellora’s Cave Should Have Chopped the Long Tail

Please Release Me

First, a sanity check on the 1250+ number: as of July 9, 2014 (just over a month before the layoffs), Ellora’s Cave had 4745 titles according to All Romance E-Books and as of today, 3694 titles according to ARe. In the meantime, Ellora’s Cave has published new books, so 1250+ seems perfectly credible to me.

I wrote this piece a year ago about reversion theory, and it included this bit:

As an example, calculate how long it takes to put together all the royalty information, divide by the number of authors. Figure out how much you’re paying the people who do that work, including cutting the checks. Triple that cost. For the authors who aren’t making, on average, that much for the house over the last year, offer to release their titles (for no fee).

When Ellora’s Cave was having difficulty with the new royalty system and (likely) having to do everything twice? Even then was too late for this task. Those books should have been cut long enough before the transition that the work load would have decreased before the royalty system changeover started.

Suppositions for this hypothetical:

  1. Let’s say (pulling a random but plausible number out of the air) that cut 50% of the 1400+ books reverted from 2014 onward.
  2. We know that there were 928 authors on 7/4/14 (thank you archive.org) and 808 as of 9/29 (looking on EC’s new site). Granted, EC’s added authors in the interim, but let’s handwave that complication away. Let’s say that half the drop in authors (i.e., 60 authors) wrote those 700 books.
  3. Let’s say the 154 books were averaged out between Jan and mid-Sep (154 / 8.5 = 18.1), and then since then the other 1246 evenly.
  4. Let’s say they added their 349 new books evenly distributed as above.
  5. Let’s say that, for books still in EC’s fold, each unreverted book has averaged sales from three outlets per month.
  6. Let’s assume the early reversions have 5 book sales per month on average from a single outlet, the average sale price is $4.99, and the author earns 37.5% royalty and is paid on a post-mid-2011 contract.
  7. On average, each number entered/uploaded needs to be entered once (into each royalty system) and checked once.
  8. Let’s assume the data entry rate (per a GPO estimate) is 5,200 keystrokes an hour, and that each piece of data contains an average of six strokes/digits/letters. So, 1,000 pieces of data x 6 digits / 5,200/hr = 1.15 hours.
  9. Assume a random Akron-area rate I found for skilled data entry/bookkeeping at $13.50.
  10. Using the number of pieces of data for each book per sales outlet here (i.e., 7)…
  11. I’m not assuming any information about those who bought out their contracts, because what I’m looking at is how much it cost to just produce royalty statements, not how much is paid in royalties.

We now have enough information to do this:

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 12.38.46 AM

The tl;dr version: It would cost an estimated $28,378 (times two for two royalty systems) in bookkeeper/data entry costs to pay royalties to Ellora’s Cave authors since January 2014 to the end of August 2015 (assuming no backlog and assuming all were actually paid).

If EC had instead cut the list early when the accounting system was going in, they would have lost an estimated $1,777 in royalties, but would have saved an estimated $2,839 (times two for two royalty systems) over that period. So, net savings of $3,901.

Like I said, chop the long tail.

While I’m at it, The Kicker

I seriously, seriously underestimated how many pieces of data Ellora’s Cave would need in order to prove substantial truth. Why?

I didn’t know about the mid-2011 contract change and how it could create accumulating debt coming into 2014.

Therefore this needs to change:

So for each month:
4500 books x 5 stores books sold in that month x 7 other pieces of data = 157,000 pieces of data (or 174 per author). Per. Month.
Times ten months, so 1.57 million.
Consider the legal and accounting billing that would be involved in re-verifying and distilling 1.57 million pieces of data.

Let’s assume an average of 4000 books, and we’re going to have to look from mid-2011 to the end of the lawsuit. So it’s already four years and a quarter.

Let’s assume 3 stores per book.

4,000 x 3 stores x 7 pieces of data = 84,000 pieces of data per month. Times 51 months = 4.28 million pieces of data. (Why 51 months? Damages calculation assuming they’re able to prove things substantially true.)

4.28 million pieces of data x average of 6 chars / 5,200 entered/checked an hour = 4,943 hours at $13.50 is an absolute minimum of $66,731. Just for the data itself, not for the interpretation of it. Not for the double-checking against vendor (e.g., Amazon) records.

Good luck with that.

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


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