Sunday, July 02, 2006

E-Publishers - An Interesting Site That Dishes The Dirt...

I found this site via Mrs Giggles’ blog. Piers Anthony’s Internet Publishing website, basically dishes the dirt on the behind–the-scenes activities within ebook publishing companies. As far as I can tell, his main source of information are authors/publisher’s employees who e-mail him (under the promise of anonimity) with information about their own experiences. Very interesting.

Here are some entries for the publishers that we’re most familiar with.

Amber Quill Press "The Gold Standard in Publishing." Currently closed to submissions, except by invitation, as they are scheduled well into 2005. . They have a legal notice to the effect that a number of their editions are being pirated by other publishers; only the Amber Quill editions are legitimate and paying royalties. February 2006 update: “Amber Quill press is primarily a 'submit by invitation only' publisher...any unsolicited synopses, partials, or complete manuscripts sent to our email addresses or snail-mailed to our business office by either author or an agent will be deleted unread, without exception.” That's plain enough; they don't much care whether you live or die.

Elloras Cave

Elloras Cave "Romantica" which seems to be very graphic erotic romances for women, but no pedophilia, bodily functions, necrophilia or bestiality. 40% royalties. I did not find other terms listed, but have a very favorable report from more than one of their authors; it seems they pay monthly and on time. They are now expanding into print as well as electronic publication. They receive 100,000 hits daily and regard themselves as THE place to be for erotic romance.

So this would seem to be a top choice for sexy romance. I met and chatted with some of their personnel at EPICon; they seem like nice folk. Their acceptance rate is 4-5%, which means one out of 20-25 manuscripts. They believe they do as well for their authors as any electronic publisher. They describe five levels of eroticism, so it seems you can choose your type. Their hardest erotic is the main seller. But they do have limits, so check their requirements. June 2004 update: But now I have a report of extremely arrogant behavior by one of their editors. October 2005 update: I saw a TV interview with them, where they said they now do $11 million business a year. It seems there's gold in the hot stuff.

June 2006 update: Another negative report of bad editing and bounced checks. That's mischief. I suspect they got too big too soon and are losing their grip.

Ebookad They have a wide variety of genres and the site is impressive. Royalties of 65% plus 10% for referrals. But here's the rub: they have a dreadful reputation for not paying their authors and not responding to queries, whether by email, phone, fax, snail mail, or lawyers. Ongoing reports at the blog site TELEREAD show many defaults and few and late payments. So this seems to be a fraudulent outfit that uses income from sales to pay off a few squeaky wheels while ignoring the majority. Stay well clear. February 2006 update: I was sent an explanation, which I summarize without comment: many complaints are not eBookAd's fault, but the publishers who upload books making mistakes. Some fraudulent charges (monetary) have been made, which are complicated to clear. Explanations have been made, but some folk refuse to listen. So things have gotten messed up, but they are trying to work through it, slowly. June 2006 update: But I have feedback from publishers saying that eBookAd has gotten as much as $20,000 behind on payments due them for books. This is a serious matter for a small publisher; it could break some. Authors are unlikely to understand why they get stiffed on royalties, and of course the stiffed publishers get the blame. I am not naming the publishers; they get the same anonymity that whistle-blowing writers do. Maybe EBookAd will catch up; I hope so.

Echelon Press

But unfortunately they seem to have taken a turn for the worse, becoming nonresponsive to legitimate queries. That's a bad sign. February 2006 update: More bad news about late releases, untimely editing, and nonresponse to authors. It seems they push marketing “opportunities” that cost the author money but do not necessarily deliver any sales. They are coming across like a vanity press

Extasy Books

February 2006 update: An author report indicates that they were originally good, but gradually went downhill with improper editing and a difficult attitude. It seems they claim to be second only to Ellora's Cave in reputation, payouts, and reliability, but this is extremely doubtful. April 2006 update: I heard from Stefani V Kelsey, their Executive Managing editor, with a sensible discussion of their situation. Their contract states that they have the right to make edits to maintain their standard, but some authors refuse to allow it and prefer to leave, which eXtasy gladly allows.

Okay, I have been on both sides of such editing. As a general rule, the publisher does need this right, because some writers are not as literate as they think they are, and may throw fits rather than admit it. But sometimes editing becomes abusive. Xanth left DEL REY when the editor started hacking out entire chapters or author's notes without heeding the author's protest; twenty years later I still get queries from confused readers because of that damage. (The editor surely has a different side of it; unfortunately he's dead.) So sometimes authors and publishers just have to part; what seems reasonable to an editor may seem like a stab through the heart to a writer.

Then she says: “Whenever an author has a conflict with us, their first threat is to go running to you and P & E [Preditors & Editors, listed in the Services section] and speak ill of us.” They use this threat as leverage to break legal contracts. So who is right? Obviously opinions differ. And she says: “As for the comment of us claiming to be second only to EC [Ellora's Cave], I wish.” It seems that several authors said that EC considers eXtasy their foremost competition. She referred to that jokingly, then got roasted for it. I've been there too; there's hardly anything you can say that some ignorant jerk won't misconstrue. Overall, I am impressed with Stefani's explanation; she comes across as sincere and human. Now watch some blogger scream “Piers Anthony is dating Stefani Kelsey!”

But I do have a report that their statement of accounts can be fouled up. And one more note: they are withdrawing from Ebookad, which has been having its own problems. eXtasy creating its own site, and is holding new releases temporarily until that is functional. June 2006 update: Stefani Kelsey has left the company. From elsewhere I learned that she and the owner, Tina Haveman, had a blowout at a convention when Tina was publicly drunk and verbally (and sometimes physically) assaulting authors, booksellers, and customers, and Stefani got fired. Authors are angry and will likely leave. I will remake the entry when I learn how eXtasy settles out.

New Age Dimensions Publishing April 2006 update: they have abruptly closed as a small press, because of the effects of Hurricane Wilma, and are reverting to being a self publisher. All royalties have been paid, and titles reverted to the authors.

New Concepts Publishing

They never close their doors to submissions, and their editors have excellent discussions on what they are looking for, but they are said to be somewhat lax about responding to authors. February 2004 Update: But I have a very bad report on their sloppiness and nonresponsiveness and possible cheating of authors. If they list no sales, when there have been sales, how long should one allow it to be in the pipeline before crying foul? Maybe their personnel are overworked, but I'd be wary. April 2004 update: I have received other bad reports, as well as emphatic defenses of the publisher by other writers and its staff. After a struggle--see my comment in the

April 2004 HiPiers column--I conclude that misunderstandings account for much of the bad feeling. The publisher is not trying to cheat anyone, but has not always kept authors informed. One writer reported that the publisher's site was hacked at the end of 2003, causing it to be offline for over a month, which may have contributed to the confusion. June 2004 update--But complaints continue, so it's not over yet.

December 2004 update: Complaints still are coming in, acknowledging routine problems from disorganization and overworked staff. They also are reported to resist reverting contracts at their normal termination dates, even refusing delivery on a certified letter with such a request. Read the complaint on the National Writers' Union site; legal action is being considered. That's arrogant mischief. There are too many instances; I have to say that this publisher should be avoided. August 2005 update: it seems that in the interest of enhanced sales they are spicing up their books, and removing the less sexy titles. They seem to have changed their nature, and books not rated R or more will be on the back burner.

Samhain Publishing A new publisher currently accepting submissions in all genres of fiction and nonfiction. No pedophilia, bestiality, necrophilia, racism. Royalties of 40% of the cover price. Allow 4-6 weeks for a personal reply. They take full rights for digital and print, for (I understand) 7 years, but the contract is negotiable. This is a dog-in-the-manger Grab; they should not have more rights than those they need to publish. Things like recording and movie rights should certainly be excluded, and print rights unless they specify serious intention to use them.

April 2006 update: I received an email from one of their authors saying that Samhain does use the print rights, and expects to print some of the longer works later this year. Then I heard from the publisher with much more information, including a sample contract, and from other writers. Their contract seems reasonable to me, though it lacks an audit clause, and they are indeed using the print rights. Clauses are negotiable, they do not take movie rights, but do take half of translation and book club sales, which is a lot. I heard from one writer that when she had interest from a big traditional publisher, Samhain released her contract and wished her luck. This is Publisher-from-Heaven territory. In sum: they take a lot, but their writers love them.

Scheherazade This is a new electronic bookseller of Romance novels. One year contract for electronic rights, renewable by mutual agreement. 50% royalties, of the retail download price, paid quarterly. It has a good audit clause. I have a favorable report on them; they are going for quality rather than quantity, a good sign. June 2004 update: They have a cute sensuality guide, range from G to PG-13 "Your twelve year old may ask awkward questions that make you blush" to X "Your husband may ask awkward questions that make you blush." Minimum 50,000 words. Heroine should have larger-than-life adventures while falling in love. Love stories that break the rules, push boundaries, flaunt (surely they mean flout) formulas, but no erotica. February 2005 update: They have a new Romance line, Hot Flashes, featuring older women, 40,000 words up. June 2006 update: Folded.


December 2005 update: I have a strongly negative report that their editing was horrible, author queries are ignored or cursed, authors are not notified of the exact date of publication, reversions are not necessarily honored, and that an author who has the temerity to place a book elsewhere becomes a pariah. February 2006 update: I have three refutations from their authors, who say that most of their authors are with more than one publisher and not ill-treated here, that editing is okay, authors have not been cursed, and the date of publication is specified in the contract.

One was evidently set up by the publisher, trying to lecture me about doing my research before making such a report, and I was hardly impressed. But the other two seem legitimate, so the preponderance does favor the publisher. We'll see what subsequent reports say. April 2006 update: three more negative reports confirming the December update. So this seems to be a two-tier publisher, with favored authors who like it well, and unfavored authors who don't. As far as I can tell, the problem is occasional arrogance and error rather than dishonesty, and sometimes a new author doesn't know what is standard practice, such as thorough editing, and takes offense. This publisher seems to do well enough in sales, which is, as one writer said, the bottom line.

June 2006 update: another complaint: changing publication dates without notice, inappropriate art work, bad editing, nonresponse to queries, and abrupt cancellation of contracts when questioned. (So it seems there is a response...)

Venus Press

August 2005 update: but I have anonymous negative reports on them. They seem to be screwing up (pun intended): failing to pay royalties, fouling up contracts, losing manuscripts. Authors are leaving. Beware. October 2005 update: I received half a blizzard of responses defending the publisher, the essence of which is that four people tried to manipulate the company, quit in wrath when they failed, and swore to bring it down. I have been on both sides of this sort of thing, having been blacklisted for six years in my own early days, when I protested being cheated by a publisher.

Being right does not always bring victory, especially when the other side has no concern for truth. Objective third parties can still be mislead. My conclusion is that in this case the publisher has the right of it, is not wronging writers, and is okay to be with. I regret being the agent of misinformation. See also my brief discussion in the OctOgre 2005 HiPiers column. December 2005 update: this dialogue resulted in my placing my semi-erotic story collection Relationships with them. See my Dismember 2005 column. So obviously I think they're okay to be with, but it also renders me non-objective about them. Bear that in mind. (I try to be objective about publishers, but also note my conflicts of interest so others can make allowances.) April 2006 update: I received printed author's copies of my collection Relationships, so can confirm that they have gone POD.

Whisky Press A number of genres, ranging from Inspirational to Erotica Romance, but no porn. They are looking for novellas up to 35,000 words and novels 40-50,000 words. I did not find information on royalty rates, but they are said to be good. June 2005 update: No charge for epublication, but if you want a trade paperback edition, there is a one-time charge of $90 by the printer. August 2005 update: I have a favorable report from an author: they are good to do business with, and prompt on royalties. Royalty is 7.5% on print books, 30% on downloads. February 2006 update: Now I have an extremely negative report on them not paying some authors. April 2006 update: a report that they fouled up a royalty report, but fixed it when questioned. Another report is very positive.

Hmm… interesting.