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.
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 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):
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
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
Angelia Sparrow & Naomi Brooks
Anna J. Evans
Cindy Spencer Pape
Denise A. Agnew
Elayne S. Venton
Mandy M. Roth
Margaret L. Carter
Sherri L. King
Tielle St. Clare
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.
 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.