10 October 2013
I know a lot of you have heard about Eugie Foster’s plea for help in the light of her cancer diagnosis.
I also have noticed a lot of people are minimizing or excusing Vera Nazarian’s (and Norilana, her small press) part in all this.
Look: Vera hasn’t paid royalties in three years (by Eugie’s comment and Vera’s own admission). If it were anyone other than an author telling a sad story, we’d be all over them. Vera says she’s ashamed. I doubt that. Plus, telling a sad story is a core competency for a Nebula-award-nominated author, isn’t it? In Vera’s case, the narrative has arguably become her life’s work.
Example (quoted from above link):
I am doing all I can to remedy my situation, working NON-STOP.
No. You are not doing all you can. Not in the least. Other people have had to wrest their rights from you. If you can’t afford to pay the suppliers for the things you sell — and haven’t been able to for three years, you should not be selling those things and keeping the money. Which you are, by your own admission, doing.
Vera’s been able to pay her SFWA dues, apparently, as she’s an Active (but not Lifetime Active) member. So she puts more value in paying the organization than the organization’s members she’s published.
Last year, Vera held a Kickstarter to raise money for a book. Not to pay money she owed her authors, but for herself. And now she’s doing another fundraiser (which I will not link to, and I will delete any comment that does) for writing her next book. But not for paying her authors.
Look, this isn’t a short-term problem, and it’s not going to resolve. She knows that.
Several of us ran a large fundraiser for her years ago. Those of us administering the fundraiser heard about vast sums of money (more than the thirty grand we raised) borrowed from other people, and she couldn’t pay that then. However, we didn’t hear it from the people themselves (so I don’t know how much truth there was to the numbers I heard), and we’d already committed to the fundraiser. It left a bad taste in my mouth.
So, I ask: if you know you can’t pay your authors their royalties, and you keep selling their books and, therefore, accruing the royalties due them, and you still need more cash from a Kickstarter: what’s the word for that kind of behavior? (Please do not post it, as I don’t want anyone to be accused of libel or slander. But you know what I mean, right?)
What I can say is this: Good behavior is a choice. It’s never too late to start. It may be too late to avoid some of the consequences, true.
See, when I buy a book, I am trusting that the author will get paid in a reasonable time. It’s not just a contract between the author and the publisher (and all the booksellers and wholesalers). It’s also a social contract between the purchaser and the publisher. Vera has betrayed our trust. I should be able to buy any of Eugie’s books in any format and trust that Eugie will get paid.
So, here’s what I suggest:
1) Vera should revert all rights to all Norilana titles that aren’t public domain or authored solely by herself. Yank all such titles out of all stores. Even if the authors are your friends, because you are not being one of theirs. The authors should not have to ask.
2) No signing any new authors or collections until Vera’s able to pay royalties again and has paid all past royalties.
3) Calculate all the amounts owed and pay them (or work out a realistic plan for the monies owed). I’d be happier if this was done with the help of a neutral third party.
4) Provide camera-ready copy to all authors and editors for existing works, including any artwork Vera has the rights to. This will make it easier for authors to re-publish their work themselves.
Oh, and start with Eugie Foster. [apparently Eugie’s print rights reversion is already in process]
Vera’s behavior is not that of someone who’s had a run of bad luck over the short term. There’s a more fundamental and deeper problem here. Every time someone brings it up, she turns the whine machine on full tilt. It becomes all about Vera, Vera, Vera.
The whole problem with making an author ask for their rights back when Vera’s got the Poor Me Machine running full tilt? It means that only certain kinds of people will ask, or will ask only when others rage on their behalf. Thus, Vera can continue to take advantage of everyone else.
If we stop falling for this bullshit, maybe it’ll stop happening.