So I’ve made some short updates about my situation with Ellora’s Cave, but I haven’t gone into any details. Why not? Well—I was staying quiet while my literary attorney engaged EC on my behalf.
My days of staying quiet have come to an end. This is a long post so you may want to find a comfy chair and a drink.
Yesterday, on the Passive Voice blog, Tina Engler/Jaid Black (the owner of EC) posted that “…Ellora’s Cave has never sued an author…”
I’m going to take her at her word and assume that EC doesn’t want even more bad PR about lawsuits after the sh*t storm their current suit against Jane Litte at Dear Author has created. I’d like to think EC doesn’t want to add “sued mother of special needs child who uses her royalties to fund special needs trust that will keep autistic child with severe heart defects out of state run hell-holes after mommy dies” to their long list of PR flubs.
But, just in case, everything I post from this point forward is backed up by FACTS, screenshots and printouts of emails that I can share in court if I am sued, my bank records, tax returns, etc. You know, real paper and evidence.
I want to be clear here and say that I have been paid. I have been paid within the quarterly requirements in our contracts. Sometimes they toe right up against that line. For example, it is October and I haven’t received a royalty check since August. But as Lissa Matthews points out in this post, it’s hard to tell what, exactly, EC means by quarterly. This is probably why so many authors are stating they haven’t been paid and why Jaid/Tina is threatening to wave cashed checks in our faces. This does not, however, answer the question about editors who have not been paid. (Editors that I spoke to around noon CST today 10/03/2014 said that they still had not been paid what they are owed.)
But let me back up and start at the beginning…
In February 2014, I received my 2013 Form 1099 from Ellora's Cave. It included $13,354.79 worth of income that I did not receive in 2013. In fact, a few days *after* my 2013 Form 1099 arrived, a royalty check with a December 2013 date on it finally made its way into my mailbox. That’s right. A royalty check that was cut in December of 2013 took more than 6 weeks to arrive in my mailbox. The amount was enough to push me over the income limit for the next hop in tax rates so the IRS slapped my hand with a fine for underpayment.
The accounting firm that I use was not amused by this. They encouraged me to file a complaint with the IRS, but I declined. I paid the fine and the extra taxes. Clearly, I should have listened to the professionals. Hindsight, right?
There have also been quite a few raised eyebrows over the royalty check envelopes that arrive in my mailbox WITHOUT postage dates on them (more on this here and here) and the royalty checks that arrive 4-6 weeks AFTER the dates printed on the checks.
(These envelopes travel from Ohio to Texas, by the way. I actually have family and friends in Ohio. It takes 3 days or less for me to send or receive a birthday card, y’all. That’s all I’m saying.)
Yes, our EC contracts say they only have to pay us quarterly. That said, EC has always paid us monthly. I started writing for EC in 2007 and have always received monthly checks. Any time there was a slight delay in checks, The Powers That Be would use the EC Biz loop to reassure us that EC strives to pay monthly. If authors are reporting they have not been paid on time, it is because EC has always encouraged us to believe that monthly checks are in the mail. We have access to a schedule that shows when checks should be mailed and it is—you guessed it—monthly.
(Yes, I have screenshots and printouts of all of these messages.)
After weeks of complaining on the EC author loops (and in private email exchanges) about checks that we had expected to arrive late last year, we were notified on December 16, 2013 that our September 2013 royalties (normally mailed out mid-November) were going to be delayed due to the implementation of a "new accounting system." We were told that 90% of the royalty statements and checks had been mailed.
I received and deposited my September royalty check and statement (typically paid in November) on 12/23/2013.
On December 31, 2013, we were notified that the last of the September royalty checks had been mailed. We were also told that the October 2013 royalty statements and checks (usually mailed and paid in December) were undergoing verification because of the "new accounting system."
On January 17, 2014, we were notified that October 2013 royalty statements and checks were still delayed because of the "new accounting system." We were given no date to expect the mailing of those statements or checks. In the same notice, we were informed that even though the contracts require quarterly payments, EC had always paid monthly and intended to continue to pay monthly. We were also informed that the accounting department was extremely short-staffed.
On January 30, 2014, we were notified that the last of the October 2013 royalty statements and checks had been mailed. We were also informed that our November 2013 royalty statements and checks (typically mailed and paid in January) would not be processed or mailed until the end of February 2014.
On Feb 16, 2014, we were informed that "royalties were running late" (an exact quote, by the way, from an email that DOES NOT HAVE THE CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE ON THE BOTTOM) and that royalties were being calculated manually for 900+ authors.
On Feb 28, 2014, we were notified that November 2013 royalty statements were beginning to mail.
Payments became fairly regular after that until August. There were six weeks between my July and August checks arriving in my mailbox.
In early summer, there were rumblings about cover artists and editors not receiving payments. I’m pretty plugged-in to the publishing world via private loops and groups. When I began to hear that editors and artists weren’t being paid, I took a peek at my income spreadsheets and noticed that my EC checks were arriving a bit later and later each month.
My check amounts were fairly stable—but my more ravenous Roxie readers often check out my Lo books in between new releases. However, I knew from talking to other EC authors at RT and RWA that royalty checks were dwindling. As in, there were authors who couldn’t even take their kids to McDonald’s for Happy Meals.
As you can imagine, this made me extremely nervous and I began to look into my options by hiring legal counsel. But more on this later…
Because, not long after RWA, all hell broke loose.
In mid-August, I began hearing rumors of some big, ugly changes coming to EC. On a Monday morning, those rumors were confirmed by an email that eventually made it onto Dear Author
My editor, Julie N, was among those axed. I absolute adored working with Julie on the Grabbed books. She loved that world and showed so much enthusiasm on those projects. I was so incredibly saddened to see her go.
Now, this isn’t my first editor shuffle rodeo. In fact, during this same time period, my Dragon Heat series with Forever Yours/Grand Central had an editor switch. Of course, FY handled that change professionally by, you know, actually keeping me informed of what was happening, when to expect my new editor assignment, release dates, etc.
EC? Nothing. It has been two months since I lost my editor and EC has not sent me one single email about my editor situation. No editor has contacted me to say, “Hey, I’ve inherited you! Can you tell me the status of XYZ projects?”
But, that’s probably because we’ve been told that the remaining editors (there are three after managing editor Whitney M recently resigned) will select books from a pool. We have also been told that books will receive light edits with or without author input. (See D. Renee Bagby.)
At this point, I decided it was time to pull the plug. My reasons are fairly simple:
1) I signed contracts with EC in 2013 under the belief that EC would provide proper editorial support for my books. Giving my books LESS editorial attention than even my shortest self-published books is not what I signed up for, y’all.
2) I signed contracts with EC in 2013 under the belief that EC would provide proper packaging for my books. Slapping on a cover with no branding? (See EC’s Coming Soon page.)
3) I signed contracts with EC in 2013 under the belief that EC would provide marketing support. Using their website to sell cheap trinkets that have NOTHING to do with the EC brand? Alienating the entire romance community with a lawsuit against Dear Author and Jane Litte? Riling up book reviewers, bloggers and readers so badly that they have put EC books on their “DO NOT TOUCH WITH BARGE POLE” lists?
4) After receiving 6 checks in 10 months and the bad 1099, I began to worry about the safety of my intellectual property.
5) On principle, I want to know that the money my books earn actually reaches the editors and cover artist who made them perfect and beautiful.
I currently have four contracts on proposals for the next four books in the Grabbed series. These contracts provided no advance and have NO DELIVERY DATES on them. My contracts have a provision for termination for non-delivery so my attorney contacted EC and explained my reasons for wanting to terminate these contracts.
EC’s answer? No.
But not just no. It was NO with an added: we might consider a buy-out but the figure would be quite high and based on the “potential future income” of these books.
Now, let’s not even get started on how they would figure “potential future income” for books that do not even exist. How do they intend to value possible future sales for a constantly shifting market that EC clearly does not understand considering their Amazon sales have nose-dived when many of us have seen growth? After angering and alienating romance readers and bloggers and hurting the EC brand with their defamation lawsuit!
Here are the facts. These four books:
· Are unwritten (Raze is ¾ completed, the others consist of a half-page synopsis)
· Have never been submitted
· Have no editor to even accept the submission
· Paid me $0 in advance money
· Cost Ellora’s Cave $0 in production
My options at this point are:
1) I hire an expensive forensic accounting firm out of Houston (the type that dealt with Enron and Arthur Anderson) to dig into the royalty statements for my books at EC.
2) I pay whatever “high” sum EC demands for unwritten, unpublished, never been submitted, earned me $0 and cost EC $0 proposal contracts to be terminated.
3) I take advantage of the lack of delivery dates on these contracts and walk away.
Option 3 made me cry. It made me sick. It made me angry.
But it’s the right choice.
Most people know this, but for those who don’t: We have a special needs child who had two major heart surgeries before six months of age. She then had belly and mouth surgery at 2. Last year, she was diagnosed with autism and had a heart failure scare. 2014 has been another year of high medical costs and scary moments.
Most of my royalties from the books I write as Roxie and Lo go into a special needs trust that will provide for her future. Every penny that I spend on legal fees, an audit of the EC books or trying to buy-out these contracts is a penny that doesn’t go into mutual funds or life insurance policies that will give the absolute light of my life a bright and happy future.
Every minute that I spend fighting with EC or crying or stressing out about these books is a minute I’m not working on projects that make me happy—and books that readers enjoy. Books like Lo’s dragons or the sexy cyborg menage I’ve been writing or Roxie’s Russians and mobsters and rock stars.
It kills me to walk away from the Grabbed books, but for my family and for my emotional and physical health? I have to say no more. I have to walk away from this series.
To every reader I have disappointed: I am so very, very sorry.
To EC: I am so incredibly saddened our relationship of seven years ended like this.
And that’s my final word on EC.
If you would like to contribute to the legal fund for Jane Litte and Dear Author, you can donate here.