Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Archive of posts with tag 'publishing'

: EC for Books: May Update

Ellora’s Cave has rebranded as EC for Books, so I’ll be using that in my headers from now on. I will keep the header graphic as it was, though. I’m torn about the rebranding for two reasons: often, a rebranding for a troubled company signals a new direction that only hastens its demise, especially in the tech world. On the flipside, the Ellora Caves are a sacred site in India, and it would be nice to let them have their google-fu back.

: Ellora's Cave: Docket Item 69 Now Available (Marc Randazza Was Right)

I’d forgotten to set a due date on one January to-do item, so I missed that Ellora’s Cave v. Dear Author docket item 69 became available last week. I finally thought to check today, and have uploaded it to my Dropbox and also updated the docket.

: Ellora's Cave: Some Laurann Dohner Title Reversions

I’ve suspected this was coming for some time: yesterday, some of New York Times Bestselling Author Laurann Dohner’s titles are no longer available from Ellora’s Cave. The only plausible explanation for same is that the titles have reverted.

: Ellora's Cave v. Dear Author Suit Dismissed by Judge

Ellora's Cave Blog Post Header

Today, a dismissal order in the Ellora’s Cave v. Dear Author case was filed by federal court Judge John R. Adams. Here is the entire body text of that order:

On October 22, 2015, the parties contacted the Court to confirm that the parties reached a settlement agreement on all claims. Therefore, the docket will now be marked “settled and dismissed without prejudice.” The parties may submit within thirty (30) days of this order a proposed entry setting forth different terms and conditions relative to the settlement and dismissal of this case, including dismissal with prejudice, if they deem it necessary. If approved, the proposed entry shall supplement this order. This Court retains jurisdiction over the settlement.


Therefore I’d like to make a point clear again: despite the rumors circulating that the judge ordered the settlement, let’s put it this way: what the judge wrote shows that claim to be far from reality based.

In my limited experience reading dockets, however, it’s unusual for a completed settlement to be “without prejudice.”

(a.k.a. The Department of Holiday Shopping)

Right after the settlement was announced almost two months ago, there was a pall of silence for a bit, but since then, quite a few more authors have spoken out about their experiences with Ellora’s Cave.
Here are some of those links with a summary of each. I’ve listed the authors in alphabetical order by first name.

  • A.M. Griffin posts asking readers not to purchase her Ellora’s Cave titles (the “Dangerously” series). Her post also has links to her non-EC titles, including some under other pseudonyms.
  • Ann Jacobs posts about having first published with EC in 2003, and how her eyes were opened. (Ann still has a motion pending in the Ellora’s Cave v. Dear Author case claiming she’s owed $193,000 in back royalties.) Ann has also asked readers not to purchase her EC books while they’re still at EC. Here’s Ann’s Amazon author page.
  • Cait Miller started out with Ellora’s Cave in 2003, which is fairly early. Quote: “Maybe two years ago my sales had dropped so drastically that I started to question my books fit with EC.” Note that this was before the Dear Author article and thus the lawsuit. She doesn’t have any non-EC books available at this time, so I’ll link to her author page if/when that changes.
  • Denise A. Agnew has asked readers not to purchase her Ellora’s Cave titles while she’s still at EC. Here’s Denise’s Amazon page.
  • Frances Stockton started out with Ellora’s Cave as a Paranormal Historical line for the company’s Cerridwen Press imprint, which later became their Blush imprint. Frances’s Amazon page is here, and her non-EC title is here. I’ll speak to Jaid Black’s comments on Frances’s post in a separate entry.
  • Jane Leopold Quinn posts her own story.

    I’m out of the mix since I’m one of the authors who paid money to get my rights back. I’ve never spoken up in public before about this, but to see people claim that EC won the lawsuit and DA apologized is NOT what has happened. I’ve been wanting to speak out but wasn’t sure what venue to use. This is as good a venue as anywhere. EC still has its fans, but the public should at least take into account that many, many authors saying the same things about a publisher just might be telling the truth.

    Jane’s Amazon author page can be found here.

  • Kate Sherwood published one novella with Ellora’s Cave and describes her experience. As for timing, she says:

    I asked for my rights back, I think for the first time, shortly after EC sued DA. I just didn’t want any money from my writing going to support that kind of nonsense. I was refused because my sales were still above the threshold. Fair enough.

    Kate’s Amazon author page can be found here.

  • Kelly Jamieson has told her story here. She first signed with Ellora’s Cave in 2009, and points out that she became dissatisfied with EC in 2012. I mostly know her as a Samhain writer and have read quite a few of her titles for that house. Kelly’s Amazon page can be found here.
  • Titiana Ladley spoke out on Twitter:

    Dear readers, please don’t buy my remaining 3 EC books. If EC can’t remember 2 pay me, then I hope you forget 2 buy. Thanks! #notchilled

    Titiana’s phasing out that pseudonym, and here’s her first title writing as Josie Jax.

Best of luck to all the above authors! (Especially those still waiting on reversions from Ellora’s Cave.)

Also, here’s a recent post from Tymber Dalton who has some important points about contracts.

: Ellora's Cave: Former Managing Editor Speaks Out

Ellora's Cave Blog Post Header

This post was originally going to be about the Dear Author settlement, but then Ellora’s Cave’s former Managing Editor, Nina S. Gooden, spoke out. So I’ll cover that first.

Second, It appears that the gears are finally starting to show some traction and we’re starting to see visible signs of the Ellora’s Cave v. Dear Author settlement.

I’m going to give a summary of those recent developments, then I’m going to discuss a few rumors going around and my take on those rumors. This is likely to be the first of several such posts.
And, at the end, a follow-on to my previous Ellora’s Cavemen anthology post.

Ellora’s Cave Former Managing Editor Speaks Out

Nina S. Gooden posted this eye-opening (and mind-boggling) post today.

In the summer of 2013, I interviewed to work for Ellora’s Cave. I remember the initial conversation like it was yesterday. In order to find a quiet space, I sat in my sister’s van in North Carolina’s muggy 90-degree weather. That’s how badly I wanted to work for this company. I was hired for what I thought would be my forty-year plan. I left my long-term boyfriend in Las Vegas, as well as another Managing Editor position, and moved out to Akron, Ohio to be the Managing Editor for Ellora’s Cave.

She talks about the heartbreaking treatment of authors:

Even now—with several years’ worth of distance between me and the conference room that made me develop what my friends jokingly called a “mild drinking problem” for the duration of my stay in Ohio—I get chills thinking about it. The blatant disregard for authors as a whole, the almost maniacal plans to keep authors locked into contracts that were unfair, just so they couldn’t publish elsewhere…the whole situation broke my heart.


I don’t know why I thought that a group of people, who had laughed at a story about an author not being able to pay her medical bills because of missing royalties, would somehow care that I needed this job to maintain any kind of reasonable living situation.

Then, after she was laid off with the other professional staff in January:

Ellora’s Cave hasn’t answered a single one of my emails in the last year—except to tell me to email other addresses. My pleas for them to respond to background checks phone calls or to provide the promised letters of recommendation have gone unanswered. When I tried to contact them, asking for the paperwork for my curiously empty IRA account (an account EC should have been contributing to), all I heard was the crushing sound of disinterest. I hate that I am now on the other side of what the frustrated, frantic authors I helped hurt must have felt.

I’ve been in similar work situations (in another industry) and can deeply resonate with this post.
The entire post is worth a read, and it’s also a great cautionary tale for why you, as a writer, should negotiate the hell out of your contracts.

Dear Author Revelations about Court Costs

The Dear Author Defense fund page was updated yesterday, complete with the rather staggering amount of fees:

To date, I have paid the following in fees:
Randazza Law Firm: 115,712.29
Lefton Group: 2,855.00
Expert witness fee: 5,075.00
Brennan, Manna & Diamond: 8,936.06
The total was: $132,578.35

Note that the legal fund raised $55,086 (before fundraising costs from gofundme and PayPal), hence the vast majority was not covered by the fundraiser. Jane Litte adds:

I am so grateful for everything you all did to support this fund, and given everyone’s generosity, I just did not feel comfortable doing another round of fundraising. I should also note that Marc Randazza discounted his normal rate, so while fees were very substantial, they could have been even more.

Jane Litte’s Error Corrections

As covered in this Dear Author post.
My commentary follows:

I made some errors and want to correct them:

  1. Tina Engler has represented that she has not purchased a house in West Hollywood and has not indicated to me that she did.
  2. She has not gone on any recent Rodeo Drive shopping trips.
  3. The principals of Ellora’s Cave did not receive “no interest” loans.
  4. It has been represented to me that, at the time of the post, most or all authors had been paid within their individual contracts.
  5. Finally, Patty Marks has not said that the company will be entering bankruptcy or that any contracts will be sold in bankruptcy.

My commentary:
First, note that the correction is quite limited in scope given the wide-ranging narrative of the Curious post.

  1. Tina Engler has represented that she has not purchased a house in West Hollywood and has not indicated to me that she did.
    I’d previously mentioned that I’d found Tina Engler saying it was a lease. That said, it was a mistake, not a lie (nor defamatory!), and Jane’s context in the Curious post is still relevant: it’s an expensive place to rent, too. This correction seems to be all about Tina Engler’s ego.
  2. She has not gone on any recent Rodeo Drive shopping trips.
    @ataglanceRMC pointed out that Tina Engler said she was looking at houses in the area at the time that she checked in from Rodeo Drive. That said, Jane Litte’s statement wasn’t defamatory, nor was Tina Engler even a party. This correction seems to be all about Tina Engler’s ego.
  3. The principals of Ellora’s Cave did not receive “no interest” loans.
    This was actually not one of Jane’s representations, but something from the Brashear case that Jane cited. Maybe Ellora’s Cave should have fought harder on that docket.
  4. It has been represented to me that, at the time of the post, most or all authors had been paid within their individual contracts.
    Note that this assertion is very carefully worded, quite scathing, and says absolutely nothing about what Jane thinks the truth is, nor what the truth actually is, nor what you should believe.
  5. Finally, Patty Marks has not said that the company will be entering bankruptcy or that any contracts will be sold in bankruptcy.
    …but that says absolutely nothing about whether or not Ellora’s Cave is a going concern.

Instead, what we have are the following:

  1. A still-on-the-table legal action by author Ann Jacobs—perhaps including other similarly situated authors—with an unknown amount of downside risk. Ann claims that she alone is owed $193,000.
  2. Some authors have reported that they’ve been paid up through February 2015. Some have stated they’ve received payments covering periods as late as June 2015. So far as I’m aware, apart from the open questions about the royalty rate changes that Ann’s case is predicated on, no one is currently more behind than Feb 2015 or more caught up than June 2015. Under typical publishing-industry contracts, this situation—a publisher leaving authors’ royalties in arrears for many months—would constitute breach of contract. (I am not a lawyer and won’t be giving legal advice. Ellora’s Cave authors should read their contracts carefully and consult an attorney if they have questions or desire remedies.)

Department of Rumor Control

There are a lot of rumors floating around, so I’ll cover a few this time and more later.

Rumor: Ellora’s Cave Won the Lawsuit

(Rumor source: now-deleted facebook post by RT Booklovers Convention; here’s their apology.)
Fact: This rumor is false. The lawsuit was settled, which can be more accurately translated as: both sides lost.
Fact: Also, technically, the case is still not over. The judge noted a settlement had been reached on Oct 22, but there has been no stipulated motion to dismiss, nor has the case been dismissed by the judge. There is still the matter of Ann Jacobs’s motion to intervene, too.

Rumor: Dear Author’s Statement Was “Obviously Court Ordered”

(Rumor source: Emma Paul.)
Fact: When the court issues an order, there’s an item on the docket. There is no such item on the docket. Also, the copy of the order is downloadable by anyone unless it is noted as sealed. None of the judge’s orders are noted as sealed.
As of this writing, there have been no docket items since the judge’s note of the proposed settlement on October 22. When the settlement is final, the case is finally dismissed, and that has not happened yet.
Additionally, EC supporters can probably believe Ellora’s Cave’s lawyer on this (document here):

Finally and most egregiously, Mr. Randazza filed his brief within 10 minutes after local counsel for Defendant and undersigned had spent two days and many hours working toward terms of a tentative settlement agreement.

This was not ordered by the judge. Plaintiffs and Defense approached the judge the following day with a proposed settlement.
Anyone with a PACER account can verify that my copy of the docket matches the court’s record.
If you wish to do so, here are the steps:

  1. Create a PACER account on
  2. Log into Ohio Northern District’s case filing system at
  3. When the next page loads, click Query along the top.
  4. Enter the case number on the query page: 5:14-cv-2331 then click Run Query. (It may want you to verify the case number first.)
  5. You’ll see the home screen for the case. As you can see, I generally go to the docket report.
  6. Click Docket Report
  7. The next screen will allow you to limit the dates of the entries; if you don’t, it’ll run you thirty cents (last I checked; it may be forty now). Click Run Report.
  8. You will see this report. I’ve uploaded a PDF copy so that you can see that my Dropbox copy of the docket really is what’s up on the court’s site. Feel free to fact check me.

Here are all the orders by Judge Adams, larger (bolded) and smaller. I’ve linked to my dropbox copies, but you’re free to spend money downloading them yourself.

  1. Docket item 15: Marginal Entry Order granting Plaintiffs’ 13 Motion to continue.
  2. Docket item 18: Marginal Entry Order denying the stipulated 16 Motion for Extension of Time to Answer.
  3. Docket item 21: Case Management Conference Scheduling Order.
  4. Docket item 22: Memorandum Opinion and Order denying Plaintiff’s 12 Motion to remand to State Court.
  5. Docket item 24: Marginal Entry Order granting Defendant [Jane Litte’s] Motion to attend the case management conference by telephone. (I didn’t bother downloading this one.)
  6. Docket item 26: Order rescheduling the case management conference to 1 /26/2015. (I didn’t bother downloading this one.)
  7. Docket item 30: Order. The Court held a case management conference on 1 /26/15. As Plaintiffs confirmed they do not intend to pursue the motion for temporary restraining order that was pending, Plaintiff’s 5 motion for temporary restraining order is hereby denied.
  8. Docket item 37: Order and decision denying the non-party’s motion to quash (Doc. # 31 ). This was @pubnt’s motion.
  9. Docket item 41: Trial Order. Jury Trial set for 3/21/2016 at 09:00 AM in Courtroom 575 before Judge John R. Adams.
  10. Docket item 57: Order. Defendants have filed various motions, including a Motion for Clarification Regarding Preliminary Discovery, Motion for Leave to Supplement the Record in Support of Defendants’ Motion for Summary Judgment, and Motion for Further Discovery Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(d). The Court will conduct a hearing before Judge John R. Adams on these motions on 10/8/15 at 11:00 AM in Courtroom 575.
  11. Docket item 67: Order granting the Parties’ Joint Motion to continue the October 8, 2015 hearing on various motions. The Hearing is RESET for 10/22/2015 at 11:00 AM in Courtroom 575 before Judge John R. Adams.
  12. Docket item 68: Marginal Entry Order granting Plaintiffs’ Motion to redact Exhibit #13 of the opposition. (Doc. # 64 )(Related Doc # 65 ).

And that’s it. There are really only two substantive rulings in this case: denying Ellora’s Cave’s motion to remand the case back to Ohio state court, and the denial of @pubnt’s motion to quash the subpoena to Twitter to discover @pubnt’s identity.
To those spreading this rumor: put a couple of bucks where your mouth is and support accurate information.

Rumor: If I Buy an Ellora’s Cave Book Through Amazon, the Author Will Get Paid [by Amazon]

This is a misunderstanding of how royalties work. In the case where an author is unagented, the process is:

  1. Amazon pays the publisher.
  2. The publisher pays the author.

For an agented author:

  1. Amazon pays the publisher.
  2. The publisher pays the agent.
  3. The agent pays the author.

If #2/#3 isn’t happening, it’s not going to happen any more reliably because the customer bought the book through Amazon. However, when there’s a publisher that’s having payment issues, what it does add is a third-party that can be audited and/or subpoenaed.

Rumor: Ellora’s Cave Had a Rogue Employee Who Lied to the RWA

(Source: facebook commenter)
The source of the RWA’s censure against Ellora’s Cave was Patty Marks. (Court docket item 54-1.)

Rumor: Ellora’s Cave Proved Three Authors Were Lying in Court

(Source: Tina Engler)
This is false.
Fact: Nothing Ellora’s Cave submitted about any author was proven to be true in court. There were no rulings about the factual nature of any evidence about any author submitted in the case.
Except, of course, for @pubnt. Somehow, I don’t think that’s what Tina meant, though.
It’s not proven until the judge or jury agrees; please see above for all the judge’s orders. No jury was ever selected as the case didn’t get to the voir dire stage.

Ellora’s Cavemen Anthology Contract

I’ve been given a copy of what claims to be a 2008 Ellora’s Cave Cavemen Anthology Contract. (Note: it may be until sometime Saturday 12/12 before this document syncs)
I don’t know that this contract is specifically the same as any that were signed. I just noticed the following things about this particular document.
Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 5.17.01 PM

  1. It licenses the work as one of six works included in the anthology. I see no provisions for other numbers (e.g., 72). Therefore, I don’t see how Ellora’s Cave is authorized to publish the 72-work omnibus volumes of Ellora’s Cavemen anthologies without an additional or substantially different contract.
  2. I see no provision for reversions.

Obviously, if you have questions about your contract or the remedies that may be available to you, then your lawyer is the appropriate person to answer your questions.

: 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
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….

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

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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:

Color me surprised–I received a check from EC today for Mar-Jun royalties, an amount in line with my expectations. #notchilled

— Robin L. Rotham (@robinlrotham) November 10, 2015

Yesterday received EC royalties check and statements – March, April, May and June 2015 :-) #notchilled

— Jan Springer Author (@janspringer) November 14, 2015

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.

I’ve been told someone else has received my statement and royalties, so technically I guess I’ve been paid? So weird. #notchilled

— Sidney Bristol (@Sidney_Bristol) November 15, 2015

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.

The *only* paperback format of this book was self-pubbed after EC rights reversion. What is going on? ? #notchilled

— Shoshanna Evers (@ShoshannaEvers) November 16, 2015

Olivia Waite reports the same issue:

@ShoshannaEvers Mine has the same thing, I just saw, and I’ve never had print editions of these titles. ??? #notchilled

— Olivia Waite (@O_Waite) November 17, 2015

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.

@authrannjacobs @ShoshannaEvers And WTF is up with the PRICE column? Sometimes it’s the total, sometimes it’s price per unit. #notchilled

— Robin L. Rotham (@robinlrotham) November 16, 2015

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.

@authrannjacobs @ShoshannaEvers AND got two statements for March, different formats and totals. Not sure what to make of THAT. #notchilled

— Robin L. Rotham (@robinlrotham) November 16, 2015

What’s Really Disheartening…

…is trying to get existing issues resolved.

@authrannjacobs @ShoshannaEvers *sigh* You made me look at MY statement. My third “corrected” January statement is STILL WRONG. #notchilled

— Robin L. Rotham (@robinlrotham) November 16, 2015

@ShoshannaEvers @charmedozarks When you bring the mistakes to EC’s attention, are they able to correct them quickly? #notchilled

— Susan Garbanzo (@Soenda) November 16, 2015

@DKinnard @Soenda @ShoshannaEvers @charmedozarks response for mistakes r the same as response 4 nonpayment. Silence #notchilled

— Trista Ann Michaels (@trista_michaels) November 17, 2015

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.

: Ellora's Cave: We've Heard This Before

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 🙂

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.

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.

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

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.

@julainestone @jaidblack As legal bloggers we present valid legal arguments. Only the Judge determines if our legal arg. applies.#notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) December 24, 2014

@tejasjulia Only one of us is, but she is hardly on here. Yeah, we are legal bloggers with access to a lawyer sometimes. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) February 14, 2015

@Anda_Rae @Gianna_Simone @excogitates As a law student and a lawyer we knew this had to happen for Judge Adams to run the trial. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) January 30, 2015

Courtney’s 1L Test

Hey @pubnt if your number includes a lawyer, when does the law assume that all eighty-year-old woman can have children?

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) December 18, 2014

Covered in this post here.

Tax Liens

@AuthorAnitaCox Tax Liens: Because it is a Government AGREED tax incentive and for effectively EC a low cost loan. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) February 16, 2015

@tejasjulia Agreed tax liens is a LOWEST rate cash around 4 the “borrow low (interest), invest (at) high” returns first princple.#notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) January 15, 2015

(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

@ataglanceRMC And thus the DEFENSE calling us as a witness is PERVERSE. For who calls a “witness” to prove the OPPOSITION’s case?#notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) February 16, 2015

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.

Even if EC wants to consolidate, which there is no indication of, demand for the ancient pub will be huge. @Soenda #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) October 16, 2014

There’s no reason for the authors of a publisher with a rep as ancient as EC to panic. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) October 16, 2014

EC is an ancient enough Pub it must now close doors to unagented submissions. Agents know how to behave, filter trash.@jaidblack #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) October 13, 2014

$15 Million in Cash in the Bank

@tejasjulia @ataglanceRMC They can confiscate EASILY from bank account with $15 million if they wanted, Mega Supid Slush Piler. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) February 16, 2015

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

@AuthorAnitaCox @ataglanceRMC ..right through the years EC was raking in 15 million to 20 million profits per annum. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) February 16, 2015

Wrong Rubbish, et al

@julainestone @deirdresm If EC had gone under by the end of the year DA would be sitting pretty now for it was not WRONG RUBBISH.#notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) February 16, 2015

@julainestone @deirdresm ..that has already been proven as WRONG RUBBISH meeting conditions of Libel stronger every day. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) February 16, 2015

Banned Pariah

@Format_Me @julainestone A banned pariah with no credibility that nobody respects and nobody believes. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) January 28, 2015

@Soenda @julainestone That’s in Slush Piler Dreamlandia. EC will laugh at any demand from this banned pariah slush piler. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) January 13, 2015

Asking Randazza

@marcorandazza (1/2) Please give us an insight into why you would go to Fed court with an experienced First Amendment judge… #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) January 27, 2015

@marcorandazza (2/2) … and then agree to proceed with a Magistrate, counselor. Any insight much appreciated. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) January 27, 2015

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.

@deirdresm Seems EC has a better attorney this time or he wouldn’t have agreed stipulations. He’s not playing hardball. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) November 1, 2014

@deirdresm .. unlike the attorney in the last case. This attorney seems to be conducting this case very correctly. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) November 1, 2014

@deirdresm I meant better in the sense better behaved proceduraly and in compliance than the atty in EC’s previous case.#notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) November 1, 2014

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.

@JetGibbs The merger partner would have trimmed the bad eggs. happens all the time. Lean and mean EC with big profit margins. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) February 14, 2015

@trista_michaels Your contract will also be earmarked for a fire sale by EC & big pub merger partner. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) January 31, 2015

@tejasjulia @CatGrant2009 @ataglanceRMC EC wouldn’t want a sale. Only a merger. #notchiiled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) January 17, 2015

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


@ShelbieKnight Stands to reason. NO PUBLISHER would touch an author complaining about a lightening fast 3/5 Editing schedule. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) November 9, 2014

@ShelbieKnight Professionals don’t tweet comments the opposite of the norm – about a 3/5 month lightening fast Editing schedule#notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) November 9, 2014

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.


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

: Ellora's Cave: An Interesting USDOT Finding

This was an interesting Google find that you can locate by searching on: USDOT Ellora’s Cave and clicking on the link on the first page.
Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 1.55.00 PM
Screen Shot 2015-09-08 at 1.54.48 PM
The “OOS” (Out of Service) category column has an entry which states: New Entrant Revoked – Refusal of Audit/No Contact and the “OOS Date” (Out of Service Date) is November 17, 2008.
Per the MSCIP Step Chart, which explains the various possible explanations that appear in the “OOS” category column. While there is no perfect match, this appears to most closely match the description for Step #63.
But what does it mean?
I believe it may be about the Ellora’s Cave bus.

[![Ellora's Cave Party Bus. Photo by Cait Miller.](/images/2014/10/BzgxZu3IUAAtGCg.jpg-large-700x393.jpeg)](/images/2014/10/BzgxZu3IUAAtGCg.jpg-large.jpeg)Ellora’s Cave Party Bus. Photo by Cait Miller.

Per the USDOT website: > Apart from federal regulations, some states require commercial motor vehicle registrants to obtain a USDOT Number. These states include:

• Ohio

Per that, it appears that any commercial registration in Ohio requires a valid USDOT number.
Note that this isn’t a USDOT number for the vehicle, but rather for the carrier. So if Ellora’s Cave had, oh, any commercial vehicle registered to the company, they’d need to have a current, valid USDOT number with no Out of Service Orders.
Like, say, if they owned a bus.
It does seem odd, given that the description for Step 63 says that yes, the carrier’s vehicles would be targeted at roadside, and yes, deny registration, that this situation appears to be unaddressed after almost seven years.
There’s a formal process for issuing an out of service order, detailed here. It just strikes me that it’d be the kind of thing that’d be hard to miss.
It’s not unheard of for government sites to be incorrect, though, so I don’t want to read too much into it.

: Ellora's Cave: A Whole Bunch of Biz Emails

This post includes the bodies of several emails from Tina Engler to Ellora’s Cave’s business list (hosted on yahoogroups). Note that where there are email addresses listed in the body, I’ve reduced it to the part in the front of the domain name (e.g., website@) to not be a source of spam.

Aug 12: Website & New EC Active Author Group

Date: Wed, Aug 12, 2015 at 7:26 PM
Subject: [ec_biz] a new group for active EC authors & site update
After the past couple days I’m starting to feel like the town crier so (hopefully!) this will be my last post for at least a week 🙂


  1. search engine done
  2. author pages done
  3. made “coming soon” section our current priority as of today
  4. new front page after that
  5. series search is next
  6. adjusting book pages so the cover isn’t stretched out

*any errors for points 1 & 2 should be sent to website@ as they are completed

New Group Loop

This week I’m going to be sending out invitations to a private, closed group for active EC authors! The new group is voluntary and participatory; it’s not an announcements-only loop. The group’s main foci are: brainstorming, blurb help, strategizing, maximizing sales, and maintaining communication. If you are an active EC author with a professional reputation (i.e. no history of making private business matters public fodder) then you will receive an invite so long as you meet one of the following criteria:

  1. Had an EC book release within the past 3 months
  2. Have an EC book that hasn’t yet released, but has a scheduled release date
  3. Signed a contract with EC within the past 3 months and are in good standing with your editor by turning in your revisions/edits on or before the agreed upon due date
  4. Are a full time EC employee.

*Please remember this is NOT mandatory. If you receive an invitation but feel you’ve already got too much on your plate to deal with, simply decline it. You will NOT be frowned upon for doing so!! Alternately, you can accept the invite then opt out of individual emails so you can check the loop when time, energy, and desire allows. It’s totally up to you.
And finally, inactive authors who still have books under contract at EC will continue to receive all announcements that pertain to them here on the biz loop. You are not removed from our biz loop (unless you choose to unsubscribe) so long as your books are contracted at EC.
Tina, whose typing fingers are getting sore 🙂
(end email)
Except, of course, quite a few people were silently shoved off of (or never added to) the ec_biz list, so this blog is the place they get those emails. Call it a public service.

August 12th Addendum to Email Contact List

Sent: Wednesday, August 12, 2015 3:38 PM
Subject: [ec_biz] Addendum to Email Contacts
Per Raelene:

  1. The main email for authors to use for anything you hadn’t listed, and actually for anything if they don’t remember the other addresses, is AuthorInfo@. Anything they send there (including stuff for contracts, royalties, whatever) will be routed to the right place for them. So if they can only remember one EC email address, that’s the one to use.
  2. And for rights buybacks, authors should cc contracts@ when emailing patty@.

August 12th A Final Post for Now

Sent: Wednesday, August 12, 2015 4:22 AM
Subject: [ec_biz] a final post (for now) with a thank you
First of all, I want to thank you for your patience and understanding as we get over this hump. I am humbled and sincerely warmed by the outpouring of positivity and graciousness the overwhelming majority of you have sent our way. You make all the hard work and long nights very much worth it 🙂
Secondly, after speaking with an EC author who’s been with us for a while but who I hadn’t met until recently, I realized that we’ve been far too silent this past year. This person pointed out that the majority of EC’s authors are good, professional people and therefore shouldn’t be punished because of a few bad apples. While it was never our intention to punish anyone, we have come to realize that we have indeed been far too silent over the course of the last year. The bad apples are going to do what bad apples do regardless to whether or not we maintain transparency or cloak ourselves under a veil of silence. Gun shy though we may be, s/he is correct. Therefore we will do our very best to be more communicative on a regular basis.
I often wax nostalgic for the old days when I was able to be 100% transparent with our authors and never once have to worry someone would leak private business information onto public forums and social media. While I realize those days can’t be relived due to sheer growth, I would remind those of you who have been with EC for over a decade that I am the same person now who I was back then. What you see is what you get. I have no hidden agendas and rate 0% in the “poker face” arena. I have always kept my life an open book and that will never change. My goal both then and now is to maximize your profits and make you proud to be an EC author. While the current market has turned the publishing world on its heels, we will continue to reinvent ourselves as we’ve done a plethora of times before. We got through the Borders debacle and bounced back stronger than ever thanks to the business acumen of our CEO, Patty Marks, during a time when many publishers went under. Amazon is merely another bump in the road and, as always, we can and will endure and end up stronger because of it.
Those of you who know me are aware of the fact that I (a) don’t bullshit people and (b) never, ever give up. Because of our small but mighty team at EC, we WILL put you back on the map and make sure you rule over it. THAT IS A PROMISE!!
Again, thank you for your kindness, generosity, and belief in EC. I allowed myself to behave reactively toward the negativity for a year, but that is over. I love EC and I love the vast majority of our authors both new and old. Here’s to reclaiming our stronghold.
(end email)
A few bad apples? That’s how you’re choosing to characterize authors making you money who are upset about (purported) slow/no pay and/or underpayment?

August 11th Contact List

Sent: Tuesday, August 11, 2015 9:41 PM
Subject: [ec_biz] EC emails
I apologize in advance for inundating you with an uncharacteristic amount of notices! I want to make various issues easy to find by having their own subject lines rather than grouping them together in one large email. I’m trying to become more conscientious where that’s concerned, though sometimes I do forget. But I’m digressing…
When you need to email EC please email ONLY the appropriate address and nobody else. Otherwise everyone included in the email occasionally assumes someone else addressed the issue. This happened recently which is why I’m addressing it now.
contracts@ – new contracts, new contract questions, and rights reversion requests that meet the criteria (sold less than 100 copies in time frame specified in contract)
royalties@ – royalty questions that can only be answered by the accounting department, missing statements (you should ALWAYS receive a statement with each check,) and discrepancies between statements and monies received (this is rare, but it does occasionally happen.) For the next couple of months please only email royalties@ for missing statements and discrepancies between statements & monies received. This kindness on your behalf is greatly appreciated as Courtney is working 7 days a week (literally) to catch up.
patty@ – questions pertaining to rights reversion requests wherein the author knows they don’t meet the criteria for free reversions and are asking for a buy-back price. As an FYI, the prices are straightforward and are based on anticipated loss of income over a 3-year period. (I’m pretty sure it’s 3 years, but I’m not 100% on that and I don’t want to wake her up to confirm!) Point being, we don’t hijack the prices. Each and every request is calculated the same way.
website@ – issues with the new site.
jaid@ – when you have exhausted yourself of all proper channels and feel that your question and/or issue hasn’t been sufficiently addressed then I’m the one to contact. (It doesn’t matter which department this pertains to.) I’m also the person to contact for anything that has to do with marketing, creative PR, or just project ideas you have that would require me to give the green light before proceeding. Example: authors X, Y, & Z would like to put together a niche anthology (which we don’t typically do anymore) bc they think it has sales potential based on (insert reason.)
josem@ – social media issues/questions/ideas.
It’s important we work together; emailing only the proper address is a vital part of that. It’s especially crucial for general email addresses (contracts, royalties, website) because multiple people access those boxes so never assume you’re reaching one specific staff member.
Thanks in advance!
(end email)
“We don’t hijack the prices.” I disagree. So does Victoria Strauss:

One last thing: a publisher should not put a price on rights reversion. Charging a fee for reversion or contract termination is a nasty way for a publisher to make a quick buck as a writer goes out the door. A termination fee in a publishing contract is a red flag (for more on why, see my blog post). And attempting to levy a fee that’s not included in the contract is truly disgraceful.

August 11th Updates

Subject: [ec_biz] updates
We’re extremely and genuinely sorry for the delays you’re experiencing. I understand and empathize with your needs and worries, but I promise it’s getting better. Please hang in there while we catch back up, which we will and always do.
As an FYI: the fewer emails sent to accounting, the faster we can get royalties processed and mailed. Courtney recently had a family emergency and went to [visit a family member with a hospital emergency], but she is back in Ohio and working feverishly to catch up. I understand this is not your problem, but I hope you can lend your understanding.
(end email)
Note that I edited out the specifics of what Courtney’s family emergency was to protect the privacy of that family member.
You know what? Rick and I have both worked as temps for Accountemps. There are plenty of temp/contract agencies that could have covered this.

: Scrivener Tips for Book Marketing

A while ago, I was about to change a cover for a book, and wanted to re-examine the Amazon keywords and the blurb to see if I could strengthen them.
I realized that, off the top of my head, I couldn’t remember exactly where I’d put that info for this particular book.
Then I realized: this stuff should go in Scrivener. You know, right along with the manuscript itself.

Add a Marketing Folder to Your Scrivener Project

Next to the Research folder, I created a Marketing folder.
What goes inside?

  • Blurbs
  • Amazon keywords (relevant only if you’re self publishing)
  • Any other marketing copy used
  • Relevant URLs (for where to buy the book)
  • Excerpts (for longer work)

Note that, apart from Amazon keywords, these work for traditionally published authors too. If you are publishing in multiple languages, it may make more sense to break out these files by language.
Speaking of which, other languages may also have substantially different covers. I wouldn’t keep these in the main language’s Scrivener document; instead, I have a directory on my hard drive for all the original image files (i.e., the Photoshop PSDs). I only put the current, final JPEG in Scrivener. Otherwise, the Scrivener documents become unmanageably large. Since I work on a MacBook Air with an SSD drive, it also allows me to store rarely-used resources on an external hard drive.
Also, it may make more sense to create a separate Scrivener project for each language if you’re self publishing.


This file’s not just for current versions of blurbs, but also for previous versions.
If you have A/B testing data for whether one blurb is more successful than another, you can also keep notes about that in the blurb file. (Personally, I use a spreadsheet for this, and I don’t keep the spreadsheet in the Scrivener project.)

Amazon Keywords

Amazon keywords are a dark art: without them, your book isn’t discoverable through organic search. I talk about KDSPY, an Amazon keyword research tool, here.
Once you’ve done your research, you’ll need a place to save your notes about that research as well as what your current keyword string is. And why.
Also, over time, market conditions change, and it’ll be easier to revisit how you might want to tweak your Amazon keywords if you can easily re-review why you made the choices you did before.

Other Marketing Copy

Long description, descriptions you’ve used on blog tours, etc. Anything that mixes it up and offers fresh takes.

Relevant URLs

Perhaps you’ve got a blog tour.
Perhaps your book’s available on 27 (or more!) different sites.
Sometimes it’s useful to have all that information handy. If I asked you what your Powell’s link was, how long would it take you to find that?


Especially if you’re doing a blog tour, you’ll want to have different excerpts for different sites. That way, people won’t be seeing the same old same old every time they go to read a different post about your new book.

Don’t Have Scrivener?

Scrivener’s regular price is $45, and it’s available for Mac and Windows. If you use both platforms, it’s worth noting that the Mac version is usually significantly ahead of the Windows version feature-wise.

Got Other Ideas?

What else would you put in your marketing folder for your writing projects?

: The 2015 Locus Award Finalists

Locus Awards header graphic
Locus Science Fiction Foundation has announced the top five finalists in each category of the 2015 Locus Awards. I note that Connie Willis will MC the award ceremony at the Locus Awards Weekend.

Science Fiction Novel

Fantasy Novel

Young Adult Book

First Novel



Short Story




  • Asimov’s
  • Clarkesworld
  • F&SF
  • Lightspeed



  • John Joseph Adams
  • Ellen Datlow
  • Gardner Dozois
  • Jonathan Strahan
  • Ann & Jeff VanderMeer


  • Jim Burns
  • John Picacio
  • Shaun Tan
  • Charles Vess
  • Michael Whelan


Art Book

: Ellora's Cave: Don't Bet on Black

Ellora's Cave: Don't Bet on Black
Every single time I’m convinced the Ellora’s Cave situation can’t take another weird turn (I mean, c’mon, Ebola strippers? What are the freakin’ odds?)—well, let’s just say that I’m rarely disappointed because there’s always something new and strange.
I found out about this side project of Jaid Black’s two days ago, and I can’t help but shake my head repeatedly over it. On the bright side, at least I’m getting my neck exercises in.
Here’s a screenshot of the latest project, Bet on Black Books, which has a header link proudly titled “Self Publish With Us.”
bet on black homepage

So. Tone. Deaf.

Does Jaid Black have any idea how tone deaf this comes across?
Why would anyone need to “bet on” anything?
If this were a portal for, say, books about gambling strategy—it would be a great site name. As something that’s ostensibly otherwise, though, it’s like you’re supposed to bet on her reputation. Which, when it comes to women’s reputations and betting, it’s just skeevy to me.
Furthermore, expecting customers to bet on Jaid Black’s reputation just seems incredibly strange.
Also, the timing of this is interesting. If you look at the domain screencap further down, the domain was registered a couple of days before the mass layoffs at Ellora’s Cave last August. And this is supposed to inspire confidence to “bet on” Jaid Black?
And yet, at the same time, it’s less appropriative a name than Ellora’s Cave, which also appropriates a second culture of color with its logo. So, um, better? Differently wrong?
I don’t even.

Wait, What, Self Publish?

Basically, it’s an electronic store for books. You know, like Amazon. Except this one’s newly-built with outdated technology on a free website builder with a cart service several of us (who have spent more than our fair share of time with shopping cart services) have never heard of.
Yeah, you also have to sign a contract when you submit.
There are a lot of interesting nuances in the FAQ that are not in the contract.
Things like:

When you buy a book from Bet On Black Books, you own it permanently.

Unlike, say, every single other ebook agreement, possibly making new case law in doctrine of first sale as it applies to ebooks.
Courtney Milan had a few comments as well:

@AlishaRai What. Someone created a storefront for just self-published books and they think they can offer worse terms?@suleikhasnyder

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) April 10, 2015

@AlishaRai Also, you make more on a lower priced book… I guess transaction costs don’t matter? @suleikhasnyder

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) April 10, 2015

@AlishaRai It looks like she just copied her publishing contract without thinking. There’s stuff in that that makes no sense otherwise.

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) April 10, 2015

This one is particularly important as it involves a significant downside risk:

@AlishaRai I mean, she’s claiming the right to prosecute a suit for infringement where she had no exclusive rights. Why.

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) April 10, 2015

@AlishaRai Also. Just don’t do business with a self-publishing portal that can’t afford to have a lawyer look at its boilerplate.

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) April 10, 2015

As a general rule, I suggest avoiding self-publishing portals that don’t use competent lawyers to look over their boilerplate. #notchilled

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) April 10, 2015

(Standard disclaimer : last tweet on behalf of myself and not anyone else etc etc)

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) April 10, 2015

There Are Illegitimate Sites Selling Books Out There

Modest though my own sales are, I’ve found my own books on sites selling them for $—sites that never had any intention of paying me any royalties. These sites are often based on the same kind of free site builders and payment gateways.
Note that I don’t believe Black’s intentions are untoward here, it’s just that, were I a potential customer who didn’t know who she was but happened across the site, I wouldn’t assume it’s legitimate. I admit that the gambling metaphor would be my first red flag.
But there are times when I was buying things in market sectors I knew less well than publishing, desperately wanted something, but didn’t buy it because it just didn’t feel entirely above board.

If You’re an Author, Should You Sell Here?

I’m going to say it: I believe it’s a bad idea to sell your books through this site.
If you want to sell your books off of a web site other than Amazon, you can sell them off your own site, get the money more quickly, not have to contract with another company, and make more money. Oh, and note that the Bet on Black contract does not specify when or how frequently you will be paid.
Let’s say you have a book you’d like to sell for $1.99, and you sell it today (April 12th, as I write this)

| Sales Outlet | You’d Receive | When | |---|---|---| | Bet on Black Books | $1.49 | Undefined | | Amazon | $0.70 | end of June | | B&N Nook | $0.80 | end of June | | iBooks | $1.39 | mid-June | | Kobo | $1.39 | (monthly or semi-annually) | | Smashwords | $1.69 | mid-July | | Your Own Site | $1.63 | *Today* |

And let’s look at the $2.99 level, too:

| Sales Outlet | You’d Receive | When | |---|---|---| | Bet on Black Books | $2.09 | Undefined | | Amazon | $2.09 | end of June | | B&N Nook | $1.94 | end of June | | iBooks | $2.09 | mid-June | | Kobo | $2.09 | (monthly or semi-annually) | | Smashwords | $2.54 | mid-July | | Your Own Site | $2.60 | *Today* |

(Note: Google’s also a book vendor, but their terms of royalty amount are unclear, so I’ve omitted them. I believe they’re in the 52-55% range.)
The whole thing: freebie website builder, cheesy cart system, unexceptional royalties, no defined payment schedule, peculiar legal terms—add up to nope.

So How Hard Is it to Set Up an E-Commerce Store?

This answer assumes that you want to sell directly to readers, in addition to other outlets such as Amazon and iBooks.
If you want to accept PayPal (typical transaction fees of 2.9% + 0.30 for premier and business accounts), then here’s one way to get what you need:

  1. A self-hosted WordPress account (varies widely, but I’d be looking in the $12-20/month range)
  2. A domain name for said account ($15/yr)
  3. Easy Digital Downloads or WooCommerce
  4. A theme that is compatible with your storefront of choice.

Because PayPal handles the payment information, you do not need an SSL certificate. The beauty of it: once you set up the site, when someone buys a book from you, you get your money right away.
For very little cash (~$27 initial outlay, same as a WordPress self-hosted site with no e-commerce), you can sell your digital goods, and you can have your own shop. Plus, you can add other things to your little store, too. Like maybe you want to recommend books, and get affiliate commissions on those. Maybe you’re part of a writing group and you want to exchange ad space on each others’ sites.
Without having done it before in WordPress, I found that it took me about 30 minutes to set up either Easy Digital Downloads or Woocommerce for the first time. (Granted, I’m very technical.)
Examples: currently has Easy Digital Downloads on its front page (that will change in a couple of weeks). uses WooCommerce. ( is changing simply because WooCommerce is something I’m also using on other sites, and I’d rather have one ecosystem to maintain.)

Okay, Maybe I Don’t Want to Go That Far

Let’s say you don’t want to fuss with WordPress. You want your own domain, you want a lovely pre-rolled solution.
I’d recommend Squarespace. Fees start at $8/month; with that plan you could sell one product. The next plan is $16/month, which allows up to 20 products.
For two examples of Squarespace author sites, Tiffany Reisz and her husband Andrew Shaffer’s site.(Note that they don’t sell directly off their sites, but they do have different-looking sites from each other.)

Is This Independent? Ellora’s Cave? WTF BBQ?

The domain registration says the registrant organization is Ellora’s Cave, and uses the exact same street address that EC does, even though the bottom of the web page says “Jaid Black Productions.”
bet on black domain registry
Jaid Black Productions is indeed an LLC in Ohio, but I didn’t find a DBA for Bet on Black books. (I have had issues figuring out where the UI is for that, so this may be my fault. It’s been a few months.)
So: I don’t know? Maybe Ellora’s Cave just owns the domain?

One Hilarious Thing

One thing I do find hilarious, though: she’s using the classic 70s typeface Avant Garde for the header.
This is the same typeface that Marc Randazza—you know, opposing counsel in the Ellora’s Cave v. Dear Author case—famously uses for his pleadings.

@deirdresm flattering

— Marc J. Randazza (@marcorandazza) April 10, 2015

Was there no better choice of typeface? Personally, it’s not one I warm to very much, which is why I don’t have the same thinner weights that either Black or Randazza use.

Got Comments? Questions?

I’d love to hear your thoughts. I do have a planned topic about the specific problems of author websites, so questions on that topic will help me formulate that post.

: Ellora's Cave: Tina Engler Compares EC to Rape Victims

First, I’ll quote the long email that Tina Engler sent to an Ellora’s Cave email list, then discuss various points afterward. At the end, there will be a wrap-up section about “loyalty.”

Sent: Tuesday, April 7, 2015 11:46 AM
Subject: [ec_biz] Rumor Mill 2 (Long)
1) Amazon pays its self-published authors every 60 days; they pay us every 90 days. You can decide on Amazon’s motivation for yourselves.
2) Re: the lawsuit – while we cannot comment on specifics we can tell you that we have not asked for any author names. We have asked for specific individuals by name to be identified in discovery, all of who fall into 1 of 2 groups of anonymous commenters: competitors and/or former EC employees let go with cause. While we are disappointed that some of our authors have partaken in online gossip, and equally disappointed that some of our other authors have stayed publicly quiet while privately continuing to play both sides of the fence, we still have not requested author names. I realize it makes for juicier gossip if we were seeking that info, but such is not the case.
3) We did not “dox” anybody and that accusation is getting quite old. Fact: you cannot file a lawsuit against a person that doesn’t exist so of course the defendant’s real name was in the lawsuit. That said, it was the defendant who posted the lawsuit to her own blog, thereby “doxing” herself. We have never, at any point in time, posted the defendant’s real name and home address. I wish the defendant had granted me that same respect instead of posting my name and address on her blog back when my youngest daughter was 12 or 13 years old for anyone with an Internet connection to see.
4) Re: projection – No one should constantly have to defend themselves and their employees against accusations of wrongdoing that only the accusers have partaken in. It is time to make one thing crystal clear: we are not like the accusers. While hateful, gossipy people cannot wrap their heads around the fact that everyone else doesn’t think & behave like them, we trust that the majority of our authors can understand that.
5) Revisiting points 3 & 4: We are not pubnt. We are not STGRB. We did not and would not “dox” the defendant to her employers. It appears that she’s made quite a few enemies & frenemies over the years… A fact everyone recalls with ease when discussing their anger at her “revelation” but which is conveniently overlooked when it comes to us.
The bottom line: This situation is very old. Until we felt pushed into a corner & given no choice but to file a lawsuit just to clear our name I gave the defendant zero thought. Directly after filing the lawsuit, 95% of my thoughts were consumed with her & simply wondering WHY. Anonymous tipsters pretty much answered the question within a few days so within a week of filing she went down to about 50% of my thoughts. Within a month she was back to zero unless I had to think about her for purposes of the lawsuit.
This is a very long winded explanation as to why it induces major eye rolling in me every time I’m accused of being pubnt or an anonymous commenter or (insert ridiculous accusation.) I am happy to let the courts decide this case. I never wanted it tried on social media nor was I the one who took it there. But will I defend myself, my mother, my employees, & the many wonderful authors of EC who are being targeted on social media? Absolutely. I will never relent.
To the overwhelming majority of authors, especially those who have remained loyal to us: I am SO sorry you are being dragged through this. I am SO sorry you fear being publicly targeted if you say anything positive or even neutral about EC. What’s being done to us is being done to you & we get that. The only thing I can ask of you is to continue exercising patience while this plays itself out because dropping the lawsuit is not an option. I get that you just want this to go away, but asking us not to defend ourselves feels, to us, like asking a victim of rape not to testify against his or her rapist because of potential social backlash. Only a couple of you have come to us with this plea, but I felt it should be addressed to all of our authors in case others were thinking it. It’s vital to remember we didn’t start this, that we didn’t go online & trash talk anybody, but that we will use any legal remedy available to us to defend ourselves and end it.
I trust everyone had a wonderful holiday. As always, feel free to contact us with any questions.

Point the First: Amazon Payment Schedule

Amazon does not pay self-published authors every 60 days. Instead, they pay self-published authors every month, 2 months behind. So, sales in January get a royalty statement at the end of March, followed a few days later by the direct deposit/check. In my own case, I received my last statement on March 21 and the money was paid on March 29th for January sales. The previous month was February 20th and 28th, respectively, for December 2014 sales.
E-publishers, on the other hand, are paid quarterly. The fact that Tina doesn’t know the difference is consistent with Ellora’s Cave’s statements about quarterly payments being atypical and confusing.

Point the Second: Ellora’s Cave “Competitors”

We have asked for specific individuals by name to be identified in discovery, all of who fall into 1 of 2 groups of anonymous commenters: competitors and/or former EC employees let go with cause.

This is disingenuous. Why? Because competitors means the self-published, including previous Ellora’s Cave authors who are now self-publishing.
The purpose of the courts is not to go on information quests about your competitors.
Secondly, if your purpose was in fact to go after anonymous commenters who were former EC employees let go with cause, then the following is also true:

  1. Ellora’s Cave has had a relatively limited list of employees over the years. I suspect it knows all of them. (Including, for example, who commenter “Adam,” purportedly the spouse of a former EC emeployee, is.)
  2. If you wanted to go after them, then they could have been added as defendants in the suit. That is typical practice, but that didn’t happen.
  3. If part of the point of the lawsuit was to go after them, then why wasn’t it mentioned in the complaint? Sure, there was that one line about anonymous commenters in the wrong place (page 21 in the TRO memorandum of law), but there was no evidence attached in the complaint that there were any anonymous commenters.

So the actual documents submitted to the court disagrees with what Tina’s now saying.
There are those who believe that the comments as a whole were the reason that Dear Author and Jane Litte were sued.

Point the Third: “Doxxing”

Look, I’m one of those people who doesn’t much like the term doxxing, and who thinks it’s overused.
That said, a lawsuit really is the ultimate in doxxing, and not just in the revealing the legal name of a pseudonymous person. It doxxes that person to an entirely different community. Forever.
If I felt this were anything other than a SLAPP lawsuit, I might feel differently about it. So: I disagree with Tina on this point. I do believe that Ellora’s Cave doxxed Jane Litte unfairly.
It’s also incorrect that Jane posted it on Dear Author. It was hosted via an embedded iframe on The Passive Voice. I have also hosted all the lawsuit documents on Dropbox, but only because federal court documents can’t be obtained for free by most people.

Point the Fourth: “Projection”

No one should constantly have to defend themselves and their employees against accusations of wrongdoing that only the accusers have partaken in.

Oh. Please.
That’s such bullshit.

Point the Fifth: Disclaimers

We are not pubnt. We are not STGRB. We did not and would not “dox” the defendant to her employers.

  1. I still believe that Tina Engler is intimately involved with pubnt. I don’t believe pubnt is (or was) a sole voice, though. I have a shortlist.
  2. I’ve never claimed that Ellora’s Cave is STGRB (the ironically named Stop the Goodreads Bullies), but it is noteable that, in October, the first Ellora’s Cave tweet in over a month (which has since been deleted) supported STGRB.
  3. As for the harassing letters point, I do not believe Tina, but I am not going to say why I think so.

Point the Sixth: The Bottom Line

What Ellora’s Cave seems to fail to understand was that it was not Jane Litte’s article that turned us against Ellora’s Cave, it was the fact of Ellora’s Cave filing the lawsuit. In other words, Tina has causation exactly backwards.
The bottom line is that this lawsuit is very new. It will probably run 3-5 years, and it’s only been a hair over six months. Tina has previously said that she would like to make case law, and that would lengthen, not shorten, the case.
So it’s not very old, and Tina should be aware of that, having been in a three-year-plus lawsuit before in the Brashear case.
But will I defend myself, my mother, my employees, & the many wonderful authors of EC who are being targeted on social media?
Let’s get an example here so I can understand what you’re saying.

  1. Jenny Trout, writing as Abigail Barnette, is an Ellora’s Cave author.
  2. Jenny Trout has been targeted by STGRB and recently had a launch canceled as a result

So, you’ll be taking Jenny Trout’s side, then. Right?
I thought not.
That’s what I call: a dishonest assertion on Tina’s part.

Point the Seventh: Rape Analogies. No. Just—No.

I get that you just want this to go away, but asking us not to defend ourselves feels, to us, like asking a victim of rape not to testify against his or her rapist because of potential social backlash.
Ellora’s Cave does not get to use the fact of my having been raped to justify their (my belief) SLAPP suit against a columnist.
Hell no.
Fuck no.
You know what? Whatever sympathy/empathy I had for Ellora’s Cave just died in a fire.

Loyalty and Business Relationships

Ellora’s Cave isn’t a rape victim. It’s a brick. The brick does not love you.
I’d like to highlight some tweets from yesterday that I think are oh-so-apropos:

If there’s one word I’m getting sick of seeing, it’s “loyalty.” Between authors and publishers, but between readers and authors too. 1/n

— Olivia Waite (@O_Waite) April 7, 2015

Authors sign over publication rights, not speech rights. Point to the “loyalty” clause in any of my contracts, I dare you. 2/n

— Olivia Waite (@O_Waite) April 7, 2015

A publishing contract is a business relationship, creating mutual business interests. It doesn’t compel me to believe everything you say.

— Olivia Waite (@O_Waite) April 7, 2015

People switch publishers all the time, in this business. It’s not a betrayal: it’s a better match, a change in direction, etc.

— Olivia Waite (@O_Waite) April 7, 2015

And no, I haven’t been very vocal about this before now. I believed caution was warranted. I spoke up in authorized channels.

— Olivia Waite (@O_Waite) April 7, 2015

But now it seems that my (and others’) caution is being interpreted as hostility or two-facedness or, ugh, disloyalty.

— Olivia Waite (@O_Waite) April 7, 2015

You do not get to make broad public statements about enemies and haters while asking that we, your authors, remain silent.

— Olivia Waite (@O_Waite) April 7, 2015

You do not get to take legal action with wide free speech ramifications, and scold us when we express hesitance.

— Olivia Waite (@O_Waite) April 7, 2015

All of that, plus the following: the author’s responsibility is to their art and their bottom line. The publisher owner’s responsibility is to increase shareholder value. There are, at all times, various conflicts of interest between any author and any publisher.
End of story.
I don’t fault authors for looking out for their own perceived best interests (including, but not limited to: where they should publish next, and what they choose to share about their publication history and interactions with publishers), and neither should Ellora’s Cave.

: KDSPY (formerly Kindle Spy): Amazon Market Research Tool

A few weeks ago, I slipped in a stealth screencap from an Amazon keyword research tool I use—Wesley Atkins’s KDSPY (formerly called Kindle Spy).
Amazon searches provides a lot of interesting information if you’re an Amazon customer, but if you’re an author or publisher, KDSPY will let you know a lot more than Amazon will tell you. Like:

  • Not only how well your own marketing is working, but you can track how much any Kindle author’s marketing converts into Kindle sales with the Rank tracking feature.
  • Look at entire groups of books, their rankings and estimated revenue at once.
  • Export information to a spreadsheet so you can watch over time.

You can use it as a tool for estimating whether to write book A or B next, for example. Or whether now is a good time, market-wise, to publish something you’ve been waiting for the right time to publish.

Get KDSPY Here

Amazon-Keyword-Tips-smIf you buy KDSPY through my link, you’ll also get my own short PDF: Amazon Keywords Tricks & Tips, which will give you some insider secrets into making your book more findable via Amazon’s search. And we all know, you can’t buy something you can’t find….

The Obligatory KDSPY Screenshot

This is the top 20 Amazon hits for the phrase “new adult romance” on Amazon as of the time I took the screenshot. After I loaded the page in Amazon, I clicked on the KindleSpy icon in Chrome’s toolbar.
There are a few interesting things to note:

  1. The bestsellers don’t always come first. The top hits, especially the top 2, are ranked based on newness, generally. Half of the first sixteen hits were released in the last few weeks. This “new book” preference rank ensures a lot of freshness at the front, which makes it more interesting for buyers who are, as many romance readers are, heavy readers. The effect lasts 30 days, and it really hurts when that wears off. Also, relevance counts for a lot, and relevance is partly based upon keywords.
  2. The T, S, and C columns aren’t self explanatory. T means look at that single title in Amazon, S means do a web (Google) search with those terms, and C means do a Google image search on the cover image.
  3. The estimated sales is just that—estimated sales, based upon an educated guess and the book’s current sales rank. It is a moment in time.
  4. Sales revenue is the estimated sales times the current sales price. Note that this is also a guesstimate: that high-ranking book with a big sales revenue may have been free until yesterday, and may still be coasting on a big free bump.
    Also worth noting: a borrow for a Kindle Unlimited book will bump your sales rank, but it won’t actually pay out until the reader’s read 10% of the book, which may never happen. The amount it pays out is not fixed. Essentially the pool of payable borrows is divided into the subscription fees for KU—and every author gets a surprise.
  5. Columns are sortable. So if you really want to see how well a book of similar length to yours are doing, you can sort on that.
  6. KDSPY loads 20 books at a time, but you can load 100 total.

KDSPY’s a Chrome or Firefox browser extension, and it works on any Amazon Kindle searches.

Get KDSPY Here

Amazon-Keyword-Tips-smIf you buy KDSPY through my link, you’ll also get my own short PDF: Amazon Keywords Tricks & Tips.

Note: Wesley’s other products are really more for non-fiction writers wanting to write to profitable niches.

Also, there are other tools for Amazon keyword research, and I’ll write about them at some other time.

: Ellora's Cave: @pubnt Faxes Judge

On February 7th, @pubnt faxed a letter to the judge in the Ellora’s Cave vs. Dear Author case. Courtney Milan has a long blog post about it, so I thought I’d take a different tack on the issue.

Ellora’s Cave Thanked STGRB

On October 4, 2014, Tina Engler, writing as Jaid Black, posted a blog entry titled _To the Silenced Victims_, about how Ellora’s Cave’s authors and supporters were purportedly afraid to speak up.
On October 8, Ellora’s Cave tweeted a thank you to STGRB:
(Thank you to azteclady, and several others, for screencaps.)
Before those two tweets, Ellora’s Cave hadn’t tweeted at all since August 11—nearly two months—not even promotional tweets for its new titles. I called out Jaid Black/Tina Engler on this:

@jaidblack @ReeCroteau Some of the concerns have been: 1) No promotion on @ellorascave for authors since 8/11 & 2) promoting STGRB instead.

— Deirdre Saoirse Moen (@deirdresm) October 9, 2014

For those who don’t know, the short version of StGRB is that it is not an anti-bullying group, but is a group of authors who bullied reviewers because of reviews the authors didn’t like. In other words, it’s ironically named.
Giving a one-star review to a book you genuinely didn’t like isn’t bullying.
I stated that the biggest problem with Ellora’s Cave’s tweets wasn’t so much the STGRB mention as failing to promote EC’s authors and books. I mean, it’s a Twitter account for a publisher that had new books published during those two months of radio silence. EC fixed that promotional shortcoming, and has remained focused on prompt tweeting of new releases, pretty much (I noticed a short blip, but didn’t record when, and I’m not interested in looking it up).
Oh, and also, Ellora’s Cave deleted one of those two tweets, the one that invoked STGRB. Why bother with this digression? Please hold….

@pubnt Invokes STGRB

What’s interesting about @pubnt’s tweets from the October 4th creation of the account until February 1 is that there are zero tweets for: “STGRB”, “goodreads”, “bully”, or “bullies”.
And yet, in her letter to the court, @pubnt relies heavily on STGRB rhetoric. Also, STGRB are in fact the only links in @pubnt’s letter.
What amuses me the most of all about @pubnt’s letter is the assertion that @pubnt is presenting evidence. STGRB isn’t evidence, it’s hearsay. Of course, if that’s how strongly TE feels about STGRB, she could have seen to it that the principal STGRBers were on EC’s witness list. But Ellora’s Cave didn’t choose to add said writers to their initial disclosures.
As a general rule, anything said by anyone outside the list of people who make formal statements admitted into evidence or who are witnesses in the case—that’s hearsay as far as the case is concerned.
Remember the pocket universe episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation? Legal cases are kind of like that. Apart from the witnesses and people giving testimony (and the law including case law, of course), the world outside is invisible. Or, more accurately, hearsay, with some notable exceptions.
Invoking some random blog, even this one, is neither evidence nor proof.

Things @pubnt Says About #notchilled Regulars and My Statement About Who I Am

I’d like to refute the generalizations @pubnt makes about #notchilled regulars, at least as they pertain to me.

  1. I have never met Jane Litte. I have followed the Dear Author twitter accounts because Jane Litte and others recommend books I’d like to read. I often disagree with JL’s ratings. As a specific example, one of my favorite books last year was Laurelin Paige’s Fixed Trilogy. JL gave the first book a C- rating. I agree that the first is the weakest of the three, but the plot twists in volumes two and three made it one of my favorites, and book one was strong enough for me to continue reading. Apparently not for JL, and that is her choice.
  2. I make a horrible minion. I will only do what I think is right, and, even then, I don’t have time (or energy) to do all of that. In Gretchen Rubin’s four tendencies, I’m a rebel with questioner tendencies, so I’m perfectly fine with not fitting in and not going along with a crowd.
  3. I have made far more money from being traditionally published than being self published. I have books published by Que, Sams, Baen, and BenBella, plus others under pseudonyms. (If you follow the purchase/sale trail of the first three, you’ll see that means I’ve been Big5 published by two different routes: Sams and Que became part of Simon & Schuster, and some of the work I did for Macmillan Computer Publishing meant I’ve been published by Holtzbrinck.) I’ve never been published in the romance genre, and I’ve only been rejected once in that genre—more than twenty years ago. Frankly, it was a horrible proposal for a category book, but I was still too green to know that. I am working on a romance novel, and I have an agent who’s already been promised first look.
  4. That said, of course I’ve been rejected, too. It’s a part of being an author. Though sometimes rejections sting (and I do whine about those privately), I also get over them. As a friend of mine says, the right attitude to take to these if they’re getting to you: “That’s one more time an editor tried to stop me and failed.” (Neither of us believe this viewpoint, btw, it’s just that it’s one that happens to work for both of us to help get us back to the salt mines of writing new stuff.) I don’t dislike anyone who’s rejected my work—except perhaps MZB, but that’s for reasons unrelated to her authorial or editorial work, at least as it relates to me.
  5. I am not “jealous” of any successful writers, nor am I envious of them. I also understand the difference between these two words.
  6. I don’t accept advertising on, and never have. That said, I make a small amount of money every now and then from Amazon’s Associate program. How small? I haven’t received anything since 2011, and they’ve owed me $16.28 since 2005. Which I didn’t know until I logged in for this screencap.
    Essentially, I removed all the Amazon links I had after LGBT fail and have never really managed to build up the associate income stream I used to have, small though it was.
    That said, I have been considering what kinds of banner ads I might have, but generally those would not be paid ads. Like: I’d make a banner ad for my own new book, which makes sense, right? But how about if a close friend releases one that I liked? How about if my writing group did one? Should I promote Clarion (a workshop I did) via ad? If so, what are my guidelines about where I’d put those vs. where/why I wouldn’t? I don’t have those answers yet. Until I do: only inline contextual links.
  7. I have a few other kinds of promotional links here and there, but none are specifically targeting indie authors unless it happens to be a book I’ve enjoyed.
  8. One of the reasons I don’t generally review books is that I would feel compelled to be honest about books I didn’t like, and I feel that’s a problem as an author. Sometimes my reasons for disliking books have to do with various artistic goals I’ve got as a writer. For example, I stopped reading Neal Stephenson because his endings didn’t satisfy me. As a plot structure person, that’s a killer for a book for me. Clearly, many readers don’t share this perspective, and I’m glad he writes books they can enjoy.
    The guideline I’ve decided to follow is that I’ll promote books I genuinely love. Period.

Ellora’s Cave Author Exodus Support Thread

The Ellora’s Cave Author Exodus Support Thread is located here. Many EC authors have books out from other publishers. The purpose of the support thread is to help give those authors willing to speak out some visibility.


An earlier version of this post was supposed to be published over the weekend. Apparently several posts I thought I’d scheduled didn’t post. Oops.

: Author Marketing: Features vs. Benefits

Author Marketing: Features vs. Benefits
If you’re anything like me, you’ve politely sat on your hands in some talk about author marketing because the techniques discussed clearly were aimed at non-fiction writers. Using your book to upsell readers onto a course (as an example) isn’t something that will (usually) work for a novelist unless you’re an academic.
I can’t remember the exact context I saw this post by Samuel Hulick in, but I first saw it a month or two ago linked from something technical I read. It’s about user onboarding, which is the process of getting a new user able to be up and running with some software in question.
It’s short. It’s brilliant. Go read it.
Except that novels (and short stories, and really any writing) also has an onboarding process. For me, I call it the point where the book “catches” for me. That’s where I’m on board for the first time.
Look at the image he’s got there. That flower? That’s your book. It’s not what you’re selling. That is just a feature of what you provide.
Much like the setting sun in the picture above is a feature. The benefit is its beauty that draws people out to watch.

How to Dovetail this into Author Marketing

When you’re looking at your book in terms of wanting to sell it to someone, whether that be an agent, editor, or reader—think in terms of benefits, not features.
A space opera: that’s a feature. A shifter romance: that’s a feature. Sure, the market has created that so that each catchphrase does create certain expectations of benefits to the reader.
Picking a book somewhat at random (on my to-read pile), Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire:

On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past… while a world goes to war with itself.
In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin. At the heart of this war lie the pacifistic Dhai people, once enslaved by the Saiduan and now courted by their former masters to provide aid against the encroaching enemy. As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler is tasked uniting a country fractured by civil war; a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family to save his skin; and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father’s people or loyalty to her alien Empress.
Now the Dhai and their allies must hold against a seemingly unstoppable force as enemy nations prepare for a coming together of worlds as old as the universe itself.

The themes in the second paragraph are mostly about loyalty. That’s what this book provides: an exploration of an important theme in our lives. It’s not just a book, it’s a conversation.

But What if You’re Just Providing Entertainment?

Then that is your benefit in author marketing terms. To some extent, all fiction is entertainment in some form or another. That’s okay. But you can be more intelligent about your work than just “my writing amuses people.” To the extent that you can be more articulate about it, you can create an online marketing strategy that’s actually useful.
The point is to know what your benefit is.
Photo by Gabriel Santiago

: SFWA Active and Associate Membership Will Be Available to Indies

sfwa-indies-bphSFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, has just changed their membership rules. There will be some speedbumps, as this is a major structural change.
Effective March 1, both indie and small press authors will be eligible for SFWA’s Active and Associate memberships.
For Active (full) membership:

  • One novel-length work for which the author’s earned at least $3,000; or
  • At least 10,000 words of shorter work for which the author’s earned at least 6 cents/word.

For Associate membership:

  • At least 1,000 words of shorter fiction for which the author’s earned at least 6 cents/word.

And then there are those of us bound to break the system because we’re already associates, but before the 6 cents a word went into effect.

Not Just for Gearheads

SF/F is a bigger tent than you might think. If you write a number of romance genres (e.g., paranormal romance), you’re also arguably writing SF/F.
I look forward to our Amish science fiction writer members.
More details here.

: Ellora's Cave: DA/JL's Witness List & the Mouthy Mockernut

First, Courtney Milan has an update and gave a better non-technical distinction of Motion to Dismiss vs. Motion for Summary Judgment.
(It is true, I am trying to keep up with even the dry court minutiae.)

Defense Witness List

In that post, Courtney publishes Dear Author’s/Jane Litte’s witness list:

@PubNT Twitter account
The Pub Net Twitter account has made a series of statements on Twitter since the outset of this case, that are with obvious knowledge of the case at hand. The author behind this Twitter account will have additional information as to the operations of Ellora’s Cave.
Tina Engler
Tina Engler is the founder and head of Ellora’s Cave and will have information and knowledge pertaining to the financial viability of Ellora’s Cave, including the payment schedules of authors, editors, and cover artists affiliated with Ellora’s Cave.
Patty Marks
Patty Marks is the CEO of Ellora’s Cave and will have information and knowledge pertaining to the financial viability of Ellora’s Cave, including the payment schedules of authors, editors, and cover artists affiliated with Ellora’s Cave.
Susan Edwards
Susan Edwards, at all relevant times, was the COO of Ellora’s Cave and will have information and knowledge pertaining to the financial viability of Ellora’s Cave, including the payment schedules of authors, editors, and cover artists affiliated with Ellora’s Cave.
Raylene Gorlinksy
Raylene Gorlinksy is the Publisher of Ellora’s Cave and will have information and knowledge pertaining to the financial viability of Ellora’s Cave, including the payment schedules of authors, editors, and cover artists affiliated with Ellora’s Cave.
Whitney Mahlik
At all times relevant hereto, Whitney Mahlik was the Managing Editor of Ellora’s Cave and will have information and knowledge pertaining to the financial viability of Ellora’s Cave, including the payment schedules of authors, editors, and cover artists affiliated with Ellora’s Cave
Courtney Thomas

At all times relevant hereto, Courtney Thomas was the Chief Financial Officer of Ellora’s Cave and will have information and knowledge pertaining to the financial viability of Ellora’s Cave, including the payment schedules of authors, editors, and cover artists affiliated with Ellora’s Cave.
So, I’m guessing we’ll get to find out who the mouthy mockernut is after all. Popcorn, anyone?

: Ellora's Cave: TRO Officially Denied

Today, the judge officially denied Plaintiff’s request for a Temporary Restraining Order, but not perhaps for the reason we’d hope:

The Court held a case management conference on January 26, 2015. During the proceeding, Plaintiffs confirmed that they do not intend to pursue the motion for temporary restraining order currently pending before this Court. As such, the motion for temporary restraining order filed on October 20, 2014 is hereby DENIED.

This had been hinted at by Plaintiff’s counsel in a footnote to EC/JJ’s reply to Defendants’ Opposition to Remand Motion on Nov 1. Bottom of p. 3:

Plaintiffs indicated that because the facts on the ground had changed, the urgency associated with a temporary restraining order had become attenuated and that a consolidation of the hearing with the final hearing on the merits under Rule 65(a)(2) would avoid 2 hearings, 2 trips for defense counsel and his client, 2 briefings, and twice the use of the Court’s time and resources.

If you ever need a great example of passive voice use and abuse? “Had become attenuated” is a beautiful one.

Joining of Parties Deadline Set

In the Case Management Doc:

The deadline for amending pleadings and adding parties: February 25, 2015.

So, we’ll just have to wait and see what’s going to happen there.

There’s a footnote in one of Randazza’s filings that always makes me smile given that this case is about erotic romance. Bottom of p. 9:

Indeed, the seminal case in American defamation law was based on a publication that contained many factual inaccuracies, but the overall gist of the publication was not defamatory. N.Y. Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254 (1964).

Seminal derives, of course, from semen/seed.
I don’t know if that particular wordplay was intentional, but it does amuse me.

Ellora’s Cave Author Exodus Support Thread

The Ellora’s Cave Author Exodus Support Thread is located here.

: Ellora's Cave: Motions to Dismiss vs. Summary Judgment

I’m not a lawyer (and this is not legal advice), but I’ll take a stab at the question.
Motions for Dismissal and Summary Judgment have one obvious thing in common: disposing of all or part of a case, but they are actually different.
From Wikipedia:

A “motion to dismiss” asks the court to decide that a claim, even if true as stated, is not one for which the law offers a legal remedy.


A “motion for summary judgment” asks the court to decide that the available evidence, even if taken in the light most favorable to the non-moving party, supports a ruling in favor of the moving party.

Potential Examples

A motion to dismiss first assumes the facts claimed in the claim are true, but irrelevant. A federal judge in Ohio with two companies in Ohio Plaintiffs vs. an Iowa individual and corporation could decide that there is no standing to sue over claims made about hypothetical shopping habits of a non-joined party that lived and shopped in California.
A motion for summary judgment assumes the facts are interpreted as favorable as possible to the opposing party, but that even that means the mover is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Let’s say that California party is joined and in a relevant jurisdiction, and the claim is about whether or not said party bought a house, and whether what defendant said about the alleged purchase constituted defamation. The judge could rule that saying someone bought a house when they leased it isn’t inherently defamatory, and the facts of the case, taken together with the law, don’t support a claim of defamation. Hence, summary judgment.

Courtney Milan’s Explanation

[Courtney Milan has a clearer non-technical explanation in this post.

: Ellora's Cave: About That Marriage to a Murderer

I have never & would never contact the victim of a crime & ask her 2 help get perpetrator out. That is crazy 2 even suggest!

— Jaid Black (@jaidblack) January 22, 2015

For those who don’t know, Tina Engler (majority owner of Ellora’s Cave, pseudonym Jaid Black) used to be married apparently still is married to David Keen, who is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder. You can see his mugshot and history here. From this case ruling:

Angela Jeffers testified that Karen Stewart (her mother) terminated a relationship with the Defendant about two weeks before the murder, that the Defendant was mad, and that they argued about it. Ms. Jeffers testified that on the day of the murder, Karen Stewart told Ms. Jeffers that the Defendant had told Karen Stewart he was “going to fuck her shit up.” Later that day, Ms. Jeffers testified that she saw the Defendant grab Karen Stewart’s hair, that he had a gun in his hand, and that she heard two shots.

With that in mind, let’s look at this 2007 2011 comment from Angela (on a 2007 post), which I am reposting in full, and keep in mind that the blog post is about Tina Engler talking about her marriage to a convicted murderer in this (archived) interview over here:

This blog hits home to me because I am also a vitcum of her husband in the case he is serving a life sentence for.
The young womans name that was murdered is Karen also! I am Angela, Karen Stewart’s daughter. One of his charges are for attempted murder against me because after shooting my mother he shot at me and thankfully the bullet wizzed by my head.
I was 14 then and am almost 32 now. That was how old she was when he took her from us (for the rest of our lives).
She was an amazing woman and mother. My daughter is 8 and my step daughter is 14 and they have more heart and brains than this Black woman. Thank you so much for taking up for the victum (my mother)and our family.
Neither of those idiots have any remorse.
A few years ago she contacted me trying any way she could to find a reason to get here low life, “Poor” and “Uneducated” husband, David Keen, out of prison. I was shocked and disgusted.
To respond to Mrs. Tina Marie Keens, AKA Jade Black’s statment, YES he deserves to be alone and have lousy medical, rotten fruits and vegetables and no family.
My brother and I were left without a mother and our children have no grandmother. His victim is DEAD and we have a hole in our lives and are consequently victims and his incarceration is of great value to us and we ALL think he is where he belongs, FOREVER, just as my mother is unfortunatly where she is FOREVER. In that lousy prison system that I am so thankful for.

Angela commented again on this post, and this is her comment in full:

This is Angela, Karen Stewarts daughter again. I commented on the post and noticed after how the end of my comment sounded like my mother was the one, or also is in prison. I tried to edit my comment but every time I scrolled down it automatically went back to the top and I could not edit it.
Anon 76’s comment edit is just how I meant to say it. And yes, I am not a writer and am very passionate about the subject.
Karen Scott, your paraphrase is correct. That is just how I feel. This is that young girl and I am still devasted by his actions. I miss my mother very much and not a day goes by that I do not want her or need her to be here. When good things happen in my life like my marrage, my children and other good experiences I do not have my special person (my mother) to share it with. When bad things happen or life is looking terrible, I do not have that special person to help me through and/or console me. I need my mother and that worthless animal took her.
When you read or hear about something like what happened to my mother and us, you may feel sad but you will never know how truely sad it is or how it effects everyday of the rest of your life unless it happens to someone you love. By the way my brother also was there and witness the low-life kill our mother.
I do not know how Tina Engler found my number but when she contacted me I could barely speak and had to give the phone to my husband. She told him how David had changed and that he deserved to be out of prison. That I was grown up and am alright now. My husband told her that I was not alright and will never be alright for the rest of my life. That what David did will haunt me forever. And it will and has effected our children forever. He told her to leave us alone.
I did contact an attorney about it but they unfortunatly said there was nothing that could be done. I did not know anything about Engler at the time. I have recently found out she is an author. I was so suprised to find this blog and it made me feel good that people cared.
Also, my mother was not married to him as someone commented. And to let everyone know the reason David Keen killed my mother, she realized how bad of a person he was and was leaving him. He told her that if he could not have her no one else will either. Then he shot her.
He very well deserves to be where he is, among other things.
Thanks everyone for caring.

I’ll let you figure out which story you think is true on this one. I agree with Glance:

This is a big reason why I have trouble believing JB’s other denials. #notchilled

— At a Glance Romance (@ataglanceRMC) January 22, 2015

(Note: I do not believe that prisoners should be treated inhumanely, so I do not believe they should get “lousy medical, rotten fruits and vegetables.”)

: Ellora's Cave: A Couple of Updates

I’d be remiss if I didn’t post this, even though I don’t believe it.

I am not @pubnt. I do not know who pubnt is. NOR DO I CARE. I believe defense has subpoenaed the twitter account so prepare 4 disappointment

— Jaid Black (@jaidblack) January 21, 2015

Well, they haven’t.
Anyhow, I believe pubby’s a narcissism farm.

Speaking of…

Jaid: pariah pariah pariah
Pubnt: pariah pariah pariah pariah

It’s Almost 1099 Time

But that detracts from the hashtag, which documents EC’s late payments, sketchy accounting, and attacks on free speech. #notchilled

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) January 19, 2015

And remember that it’s sending out vastly postdated checks… and in a few weeks, we’ll learn if their 1099s make sense. #notchilled

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) January 19, 2015

Some general advice, in light of this post by Lolita Lopez: #notchilled

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) January 19, 2015

If you are issued a 1099 that does not match your records, here is a good place to start: #notchilled

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) January 19, 2015

Also, consider contacting the Taxpayer Advocate. You can find yours here: #notchilled

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) January 19, 2015

Multiple complaints about the same business may well result in greater scrutiny. #notchilled

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) January 19, 2015

Jon Stewart on Free Speech

From a few days ago.

Ellora’s Cave Author Exodus Support Thread

The Ellora’s Cave Author Exodus Support Thread is located here.

: Ellora's Cave: The Extended Self-Pub Argument

My point in writing this post: I’m going to document why I believe Jaid Black is primarily a self-published author, and then, at the end, I’m going to let irony kick her ass.
Last year, when I was talking about a small digital-first publisher, Nick Mamatas referred to it as “an extended self-pub play.” Which, given what he meant, is true.
That’s how Ellora’s Cave got its start, too, as documented in this famous Dear Author interview with the awesome “trash can full of rejection letters” quote:

Jane: Tell me a little about how Ellora’s Cave was conceived.
Tina Engler aka Jaid Black: I was an unpubbed author with a trash can full of rejection letters. As a writer I had reached an impasse: either I was going to have to conform to NY standards and sex down my manuscripts or I was going to have to start my own publishing company. I chose the latter (doh!) and never regretted it 😉

So, for a publisher, one wants to advertise what’s newest and/or what’s the biggest expected seller on the top of one’s site, right? One wants to make the best business decisions that will increase shareholder value, right?
Well, okay, it’s Jaid Black’s book, and Jaid, aka Tina Engler, is the majority owner of Ellora’s Cave. She’s sold a lot of books, right? So this one must be doing pretty well.
I uploaded that image on Jan 4, two weeks ago. The Amazon ranking has fallen since then to #661,149.
Just two months old and an abysmal sales ranking.
How about the other rankings for her books? Here’s the first page. (Note: not all titles pulled; I’ve had some network hiccups today.)

Therefore, the only thing that justifies Sporked‘s placement at this point is narcissism, though that word seems inadequate.

And Then There’s the Other Book (Series) Highlighted

Micah BlackLight’s Serpentari series. (Note: not all titles pulled; I’ve had some network hiccups today.)
Where there’s a zero in the right-hand column? That means no Kindle sales. Any other number means there’s been at least one Kindle sale.
I’m sure he’s a perfectly nice person, but his sales don’t warrant being at the top of the home page.

But Wait, There’s More!

Let’s see, it’s January, 2015, right?
See the upper left? Don’t miss our best event yet: ROMANTICON 2014!
Which was almost three months ago. You may recall my virtual visit, as well as the post-Romanticon ebola quarantine for Axl and Taylor.
So, since Romanticon was over before Sporked in Time came out, mere tardiness can’t be the justification for the convention notice still being there.

How Other Peers Handle Their Home Pages

I thought I’d highlight how some other presses handle their home pages. Heat map studies show that many people never scroll down on a web page, so I’m just looking at “above the fold.”
Samhain’s slider features all the week’s new books, then past that the last week or two’s.
Riptide features a recent release up top, then starts the new items just above the fold (as I browse, anyway). IMHO, they’d be better served shortening the second row of items and moving the first row of new books up.
Amber Quill’s rather generic home page features a slider with small images of books in various lines, and the most recent books below that.
Circlet has a blog format home page, with images of some of their publications.
Changeling Press has dated feeling art and border use, but the layout features the newest releases right below the masthead.
Bold Strokes Books doesn’t have a lot of new releases. The shading on their nav bar and behind the new release slider feels a tidge dated, but it’s a beautifully functional home page layout. The slider, though, is the best of any of the sites so far.
Side note: I haven’t read any of their titles. Yet.
Highland Press lacks modern whizzbang, but it does highlight new releases.
Loose ID’s design features a slider with their main categories, and each category highlights new work. Below the slider are all new releases. Their genres are clearly spelled out on the left, offering easy navigation to your books of choice.
Last, but not least, Entangled, which has a really nice slider that showcases their lines and themes. It definitely has the best artwork of all the sites mentioned.
And, while I’m on the subject, I’m fond of how Jackie Ashenden uses a slider on her home page.

So, Now That We’ve Taken This Long Walk, Let’s Return to that Tiny Pier

I wanted to showcase that:

  1. Ellora’s Cave does not showcase their authors fairly. As an author, you’d have a better shot at getting a prime home page spot with any of the other publishers.
  2. What’s showcased on their home page does not appear, from available data, to be favorable to EC’s bottom line.

Meaning: that space could be better used for something that was likely to sell more books, helping both EC’s bottom line and that of its authors, rather than to continue to push a book that’s failed in the market.

Full Metal Irony

@Jeaniene_Frost @pubnt @CoraCarmack Self-publishing worked well for @hughhowey The Big 5 came to him after that. Trad Pub not always the way

— RoseannCaputo (@RoseannCaputo) January 19, 2015

@RoseannCaputo @Jeaniene_Frost @CoraCarmack Yes. And he did not drop his publisher and go indie afterwards. Still with SS. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) January 19, 2015

@katiebabs @pubnt @RoseannCaputo @Jeaniene_Frost @CoraCarmack I enjoyed working with major publishers, but I prefer to self-publish.

— Hugh Howey (@hughhowey) January 19, 2015

@katiebabs @pubnt @RoseannCaputo @Jeaniene_Frost @CoraCarmack I published one book (print only) with S&S. After that, went back to indie.

— Hugh Howey (@hughhowey) January 19, 2015

@hughhowey @katiebabs @RoseannCaputo @Jeaniene_Frost @CoraCarmack Well, I respectfully say that’s a bad decision. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) January 19, 2015

@hughhowey @Jeaniene_Frost @CoraCarmack And we say that with less respect than when we believed you’d stayed with S&S. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) January 19, 2015

@RoseannCaputo @hughhowey @katiebabs @Jeaniene_Frost @CoraCarmack Because we don’t respect self publishers. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) January 19, 2015

Maybe Tina should stop acting like a self publisher riding on the coattails of other people she’s publishing.
And maybe learn to respect self publishers, including herself.
Or maybe she should just, like she thought Hugh Howey should do, return to publishing only through Berkeley.

: Ellora's Cave: Another Editor Gone, Big Merger/Sale?

(Note: if you link outside of Tumblr/DW/LJ, please link to the version of this post. Thank you.)
Former Senior Content Editor Kelli Collins announced yesterday that she’s out:

5:01 p.m., and I’m officially unemployed. Authors…it’s been a true honor, and a genuine slice of heaven. #10years #360books #onward

— Kelli Collins (@EditMeThis) January 16, 2015

You can see from the replies (if you visit that link by clicking on the timestamp) that she was much loved.
Best of luck in your next venture, Kelli.
I pointed out today that, six months ago, Ellora’s Cave had 15 editors and 5 artists (I incorrectly said earlier was 20 editors) plus one editor on the leadership page. After Kelli’s departure, EC lists eight people on the editor page plus two on the leadership page.

Speaking of Editors, EC Has Some New Ones

(Note: I’ve added commentary at the bottom of this post that’s a partial correction.)
And then people started looking at who was on the page, latching onto Jill Noelle, aka Jill Noelle Noble. LinkedIn ties the names together.
Jill was previously involved in Noble Romance Publishing (NRP), a publishing effort that had some interesting failure modes, as The Passive Voice highlights. She’s also the author of Not Your Mother’s Publishing Model, published by NRP toward the end of her tenure. There are so many places to go with that tidbit of information….
#notchiller Gianna Simone wrote two posts of her own about her experiences with NRP: one, which links to even more posts, and two.
And then there’s Jill’s note of departure from Noble Romance Publishing that was posted on AbsoluteWrite.
Here are a bunch of Dear Author posts about the Noble Romance debacle.
Let us return to the land of the current affair: Ellora’s Cave.

A Sale? Or a Merger? You Decide.

@tejasjulia @pubnt @CatGrant2009 Thing is, JB said “I’m not selling EC.” Therefore, Pubby claims “it’s a merger.” #notchilled

— At a Glance Romance (@ataglanceRMC) January 17, 2015

Well, we heard it from Peanut, so who the hell knows?
For those who haven’t been following along, many of us #notchilled regulars believe that @pubnt (aka TinaNut and other nut nicks) is none other than Tina Engler/Jaid Black. More discussion of that in this older post. For that reason, I refer to Pubnt as TinaNut frequently.
However, there’s a lot of deliberately obfuscatory rhetoric in Peanut’s tweets, so one can’t rely on what’s said.

@ataglanceRMC A merger is not a sale. JB & PM will be running EC as an imprint of the big pub. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) January 16, 2015

JB = Jaid Black, pseudonym of Tina Engler, EC’s primary owner.
PM = Patty Marks, CEO of EC, aka JB’s mother.
But our Fallacious Filbert keeps referring to “BigPub.” See, a merger is of equals, and, frankly, Ellora’s Cave isn’t that big. How big? Hard to say because there is more than one company. Jasmine Jade has a tax lien for $29,679.52 from the City of Akron for the 2012 tax year. That translates to $1,319,090 in profits (or more, since some of the taxes may have been paid prior to the lien). Dear Author’s Curious Case post

@ataglanceRMC Not messing with anyone on either. As our source says one is in the works & the other is being considered. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) January 15, 2015

@ataglanceRMC That’s why the cleanup of the trash, the trimming of the fat, and other preparations. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) January 15, 2015

Charming, referring to former staff and authors as fat and trash.
So, maybe some contract sell-off? Chicken feed, says peanut. (Sorry, link because pasting the link in WordPress doxs JL.)

@ataglanceRMC those chicken feed sales are just to get rid of the junk – EC doing a cleanup. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) January 15, 2015

@ataglanceRMC In a merger EC will be forced to dump bad books, bad authors, and bad employees the merger partner hates. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) January 15, 2015

Oh. Really. That’s a charming way to refer to the people who helped build the company.

@ataglanceRMC Good riddance. No point in rewarding rubbish books and authors by giving them a free ride into 1 of THE BIG FIVE. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) January 15, 2015

Big Five? You don’t say.

Ongoing Acquisition Talk

It seems so odd to be talking about an ongoing acquisition. If the ink were dry, I’d expect that it would be announced. Given that it’s not, I don’t even know what to say. (I’ve worked for firms in the S-1 quiet period, as has my husband, and so that’s the culture we’re used to.)
It wouldn’t surprise me if EC were entertaining offers, but hearing about them like this, especially from an anonymous Twitter account, seems incredibly weird.
Julaine really has the killer point, though:

@deirdresm @pubnt @Gianna_Simone @ataglanceRMC Isn’t it interesting that Pub that was willing to risk sanctions by withholding #notchilled

— Julaine Peters-Stone (@julainestone) January 17, 2015

@deirdresm @pubnt @Gianna_Simone @ataglanceRMC Fin. info during discovery in previous lawsuit is generously open about finances #notchilled

— Julaine Peters-Stone (@julainestone) January 17, 2015

@deirdresm @pubnt @Gianna_Simone @ataglanceRMC 3/3 with an anonymous Twitter account that claims to be completely unaffiliated? #notchilled

— Julaine Peters-Stone (@julainestone) January 17, 2015

Julaine’s referencing the 27-page judicial smackdown against EC (et al) in the Brashear case. Two excerpts from that document:

Adding injury to insult was Defense counsel’s bad faith production of the tax returns and general ledgers to Plaintiff at the conclusion of the two days of depositions of the named Defendants. While Defense counsel was in compliance with the latest court order as to the tax returns, his decision to wait until the conclusion of the two days of depositions to produce these discovery documents, which addressed the heart of the claims in this case, impeded Plaintiff’s ability to fully depose the Defendants and was clearly done in attempt [to] hamper Plaintiff’s case and thus done in bad faith. This was plainly gamesmanship: a tactical move to ambush and sabotage the Plaintiff.
Defendants’ conduct as detailed above is nothing short of contumacious: stubbornly disobedient and a flagrant disregard for the Court’s orders. Defendants’ maneuvering during the two-year discovery phase of this case has been plotted to undermine the progression of theis case. This is evident by Plaintiff’s need to file two motions to compel, three motions to show cause / sanctions and two trial continuances, all arising from Defendants’ discovery abuses in the last two years. Defendants willfully evaded the production of discovery, resulting in unnecessary delays of this case and increased legal fees. Defendants’ actions in this case have crossed the line from a zealous defense to malingering, malfeasance, sabotage and delay.

How’s that compare to recent behavior?

Ex Post Facto Justification

Let’s rewind to Christmas Eve.
One of the things the Nut has gone on about is why former EC staffers weren’t paid. In a letter last week, Tina/Jaid said that all were paid.

@julainestone @jaidblack In our independent opinion EC is entirely withing its legal right to wait till the end of the case here.#notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) December 24, 2014

@julainestone @jaidblack EC is being too nice in not waiting till the end of the case. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) December 24, 2014

Too. Nice.

@julainestone And we’ve repeatedly told that motion to add them can come at the right point in this proceedings or the next.#notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) December 24, 2014

So, they can withhold payment for former contractors in case they will defame? And then they can file that motion any old time? Or a successor case?
There have been multiple comments about suing other people, too, e.g., this one.

@julainestone @jaidblack As legal bloggers we present valid legal arguments. Only the Judge determines if our legal arg. applies.#notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) December 24, 2014

@julainestone @tejasjulia @deirdresm Different if EC feels Defamation has already happened, not yet to happen “next month”.#notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) December 24, 2014

@tejasjulia @julainestone @deirdresm Yes, until a Judge decides EC is within its legal rights to wait on the payment. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) December 24, 2014

As usual, Courtney Milan just nails it.

The nut believes EC can suspend legal obligations any time,and justify it ex post facto in proceedings with unrelated parties. #notchilled

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) December 24, 2014

That’s such a peculiarly EC-centric view of the world that I can’t imagine an unrelated party could ever believe it. #notchilled

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) December 24, 2014

And then there are the tax liens. That really needs its own post. It really does.
Until then, if you’d like to read more pubnuttery, here’s the PDF of all its surviving tweets. (Some tweets have been deleted, but I believe that’s relatively few.)

I Need a Fangirl Moment

I can’t wait for Courtney Milan’s new book. Already preordered it.

A Note of Update

Per my source, Jill Noelle was an editor at Ellora’s Cave before the layoffs last August. To the best of my source’s recollection, she started in March or April, just didn’t wind up on EC’s Editors and Artists masthead last July. And since hasn’t taken any snapshots of that page more recently, hard to know when she was added, exactly.

: Ellora's Cave: Current Status Email

From the eternaltubthumper rolling my eyes:
1) All past and present freelance editors and artists have been paid in full.
2) Many of you received 2 royalty checks in December; More of you will receive 2 royalty checks in January & February.
3) The accounting department will continue to focus on getting the new royalty system online by the end of February and processing royalties on the old system while paralleling them against the reports of the new system to insure all software bugs have been fixed. At some point in the next couple of months expect to receive 2 different royalty statements so you can compare the old way to the new way and make a smooth transition with it.
4) Nothing has changed at Amazon, though more publishers and authors are finally becoming vocal about how Amazon’s business practices are affecting them. Here’s a recent article; note the parallels between what others are reporting and what we’ve been saying all along:
5) Elisabeth has reacquired 2 of our former freelance editors who remained on positive, professional terms with us and we’re excited to have them back. Also, Susan Edwards is now editing full-time for us, which is excellent for our authors and thereby EC. (FYI: contrary to rumors Susan never left EC; She simply decided she wanted to edit instead.)
6) We still have a few tough business decisions to make, but overall 2015 is going to be a solid year.

My Commentary

Let’s take them one at a time.

  1. If I’m reading this right, Tina’s admitting that, as of the time of the lawsuit, the freelance editors and artists were not paid, and have not been until just recently.

    Hey, @pubnt, what is your explanation of why EC editors and artists were not paid for months at the time of the DA article? #notchilled

    — At a Glance Romance (@ataglanceRMC) December 18, 2014

    @ataglanceRMC @pubnt this is a lie, period.

    — Jaid Black (@jaidblack) December 23, 2014

    And yet, at least one of the checks was reportedly dated Christmas Eve. The day after that tweet. The ones I’ve heard of arriving all were postmarked after Christmas.

  2. Several authors have reported receiving checks for July and fewer still for August. One reported receiving June and August, but no July. Some have had no report (or check) for months.
  3. So EC’s still using the “old” accounting system? After more than a year? Right.
    If it’s still that fucked up, why sue Dear Author/Jane Litte instead of the software vendor?
    I remain unconvinced that there ever was a new accounting/royalty system.
  4. “Nothing has changed at Amazon.” And then links to an article about how indie authors are affected by Kindle Unlimited—which has exactly zero to do with what happened before Kindle Unlimited came into effect? That article’s about stuff that happened after DA’s post, not before. H. M. Ward’s post was at the end of November about the prior 60 days.
    Let’s put it this way: H. M. Ward, all by her lonesome, has sold six million books in three years. I’m a huge fan of her work. It is my crack.
    My point here is that Holly’s revenue from said six million books puts her in EC’s ballpark, sales-figure-wise.
  5. “positive, professional terms with us” I’m guessing that means they didn’t complain when they weren’t paid.
    On Susan. Well. It wasn’t a “rumor.” Susan Edwards’s LinkedIn page still says she’s freelance. Ellora’s Cave’s Leadership and Staff page doesn’t list her. EC’s Editors and Artists page doesn’t list her.. In theory, those sites are self-reported and authoritative for both parties in question.
    Sounds more like a rumor that Susan is working at EC.
  6. Only a few?
    I have a suggestion. The only lawsuit that makes any business sense is the accounting/royalty system vendor. Everything else is a distraction.

    Pay to settle the DA suit and move on.

: Ellora's Cave: Remand to State Court Denied

Not a surprise that Ellora’s Cave lost their motion, but I was hoping for more of a judicial smackdown.
Since it’s been two months, here’s the summary. After Ellora’s Cave/Jasmine Jade filed against Dear Author/Jane Litte in Ohio state court (EC/JJ being in Ohio; DA/JL in Iowa), defense filed to remove the case to federal court. EC/JJ filed a remand motion at the end October, and it’s just been ruled upon today.
Five-page ruling here. I’ve also updated the copy of the federal court documents I have on Dropbox.

What’s Next?

The Case Management Conference Scheduling Order specifies that Plaintiffs must make a settlement demand two weeks prior, and Defendants must make an offer one week later.

At least fourteen (14) days prior to meeting with the Court, Plaintiff(s) shall have made a demand with a written description and monetary breakdown of the damages claimed, and no later than seven (7) days thereafter, Defendant(s) shall have responded with an offer. This is to be included in the Parties’ Planning Meeting Report.

Obviously, I don’t expect this to result in an actual settlement unless EC/JJ folds.

Then the Case Management Conference

Main discovery is stayed until after the Case Management Conference on January 26th.
That’s not a meeting that’s public, but this particular judge has very specific instructions for the CMC. From the CMC Scheduling Order:

Lead counsel, parties with full settlement authority, and a representative with full settlement authority of any Insurance Carrier must be present and have calendars available for scheduling.

From his Judicial Preferences Page:

Judge Adams is of the view that the Case Management Conference is of extraordinary importance. He expects counsel to be prepared with the factual predicate from the standpoint of counsel’s client. Judge Adams expects the client to be present; where the client is a corporate entity, he expects a person to be present who has the greatest knowledge of the relevant facts. This is probably NOT in-house counsel. Judge Adams tailors the Case Management Plan based on the information supplied at the CMC by counsel and parties.

Given those two quoted paragraphs, I can’t see how both Tina Engler (as settlement authority based on her majority ownership and the subject of one of the claims) and Patricia Marks (as EC’s CEO of record) can avoid being there. Also, obviously, Jane Litte needs to be there.

How’s This for Irony?

Hat tip to tejasjulia.
Ellora's Cave Advertising on Dear Author
Lest you think this is old, the blog post is dated January 3, 2015.
What does this mean?

  1. EC has been recently advertising through Google.
  2. At least one of those ads was served to Dear Author, who makes ad revenue from Google ads.
  3. So, indirectly, Ellora’s Cave is paying Dear Author.

Note: I’ll link to Courtney Milan’s promised post about the remand decision once it’s up.

: Ellora's Cave: Willing to Share Your Royalty Timeline?

elloras-cave-blog-headerIt occurred to me that I’m really great at spreadsheets.
So what I’m asking for:

  1. Date you received a check for a given royalty month. (Or “Never received” if that’s the answer.)
  2. Date that check was postmarked, if available.
  3. Date that check was dated, if available.

I don’t ask you:

  1. Your legal name or pseudonym. If you’re willing to share your author pseudonym with me, I’d appreciate it (for authentication that you’re an EC author), but it’s not required.
  2. How much the check was for.
  3. What books sold how much.

My purpose in asking: I believe that checks have been slipping later over time based on reports of a limited set of people. I’d like to quantify that data into a chart.

Contact information

The spreadsheet’s available in three formats: .xslx for newer versions of Excel, .xls for older versions of Excel, and .numbers for Apple Numbers 5.0 (or later). Please email the spreadsheet to me at

Data Protection

To the extent the law permits (and it permits quite a bit here in California), I will protect my sources. There is always a small risk that this information will be subpoenaed. If so, I can likely provide the source files while still protecting anonymity.
Note: it’s absolutely okay to share this post. Thank you.

: Ellora's Cave: That Old Printer Lawsuit

tl;dr version is that it took almost a year before the case settled.
In 2011, EC and Jasmine Jade were sued by the company leasing them their POD printer. (Note: lots of attachments I haven’t read, some of which may be interesting.)
I wasn’t ever interested enough to bother looking up the state docket before, but someone mentioned it on Twitter today, so I finally did.
That case, 2011-L-010207, defense removed to federal court. Then EC/JJ filed their answer in federal.
Only problem is, they have the right to remove for thirty days and they filed on the thirty-first. The leasing company filed a remand motion and it was granted.
I’ve put the whole Illinois docket up on Dropbox.

: Ellora's Cave: Super Wendy's Erotic Romance History

I’d missed this blog post by Super Wendy on “The Quick and Dirty History of Erotic Romance.”

EC also played a healthy hand in marketing. As I’ve already detailed, erotic romance did exist before EC we just…..didn’t know what to call it.

In 2004, Google started tracking searches with Google Trends. For whatever reason, EC didn’t start getting traction until November 2004. I’ve posted this graph before, but here it is again.
What’s been fascinating to me since looking at this graph was how long Ellora’s Cave has been in a Google trend long, slow slide compared to erotic romance.
Recognize that this graph doesn’t discuss how many searches there are, or whether the overall popularity of the term is increasing or decreasing. Just what the relative ranking of two terms are, one against the other, and both total 100 added together when you’re looking at the best month for the two terms combined.
Romantica as a term is confusing because there are other uses for it that have nothing to do with EC, and the manga series and the band are the two top hits for the term. EC’s use doesn’t even register on Google trends.
Here’s another interesting graph, though, one I hadn’t posted before:
Google Trends: romance novel vs. erotic romance
Overall, romance novel as a search term tracks pretty well with erotic romance. Romance novel has a slight downward trend until late 2010, then turns upward.
What does that mean? Well, it means Google searches for romance novel and erotic romance are healthy.
The same can’t be said of Ellora’s Cave as a search term. Also note that this doesn’t disambiguate searches for the caves in India.
Want to play with search terms? Here’s a Google Trends link for you.

: Ellora's Cave: Trust and Confidence, WTF?

Up until the rule, the following is Rick’s commentary that he initially posted as a commentary here. I added links to @Pubnt’s tweets.
I did some very modest legal research on some more of the legalistic language TinaNut’s been using lately. Just to be clear, as a non-lawyer I’m no expert and have zero access to Lexis, etc. I’m just a layman with an ongoing interest in legal issues (who learned enough business law to pass the CPA exam, back in the Pleistocene).
TinaNut’s been saying things like:

Causing damages to EC is in breach of contract – breaching the implied Trust & Confidence term.
It could now also be u r in Breach of Trust & Confidence, or in litigation, and has caused recoverable damages. Otherwise you would have been paid by now, like thousands of other good EC authors/employees.
Q: Are you another author in litigation with EC and has caused recoverable damages? If so wait till the end of the lawsuit you are involved in to get paid, less recoverable damages. T&C clause is actionable in Damages when breached.

Under UK common law, employment contracts are construed as having an implied term requiring ‘mutual trust and confidence’, which in some circumstances can even overrule provisions in explicit employment-contract terms, and applies to both employer and employee. Notable UK cases have involved suits by employees alleging that hostile or dishonest management had carried out ‘constructive termination’, and successfully sued for tort damages on that basis. It’s important to note that the aggrieved party had to specifically litigate this claim. It wasn’t tacked on as a ‘by the way’ to (say) an only somewhat related defamation suit between the employer and some third party.
Australia inherited the ‘mutual trust and confidence’ concept from the UK, until a few years ago when the High Court jettisoned the concept from all subsequent Australian cases.
I find no evidence that the concept exists in USA law at all – with the minor (and irrelevant) semi-exception that insider trading prosecutions often allege that the accused brokers (etc.) failed in fiduciary duties that entail requirements of trust and confidence.
In USA employment law, zip.
The parallel concept in USA employment law seems to be the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, which is part of every employment contract because it’s part of every contract, period. Some states with at-will employment legal regimes recognise violation of this implied covenant as a valid grounds on which an employee might be able to prove wrongful termination (despite employment being otherwise at will, in that state).
TinaNut’s… er… reasoning is pretty murky on this whole matter, but here’s my best reconstruction of what she’s alleging: Employees’ contracts with EC include confidentiality clauses, and they’re also bound by implied covenants of good faith and fair dealing (which she mistakenly calls ‘the implied Trust & Confidence term’). If an employee testifies for Dear Author, or tweets allegations supporting Dear Author’s position, during the EC/DA litigation, they are injuring EC’s interests in violation of contract, and are tort-feasors to the extent of the damage they are causing EC. The value of that damage can be decided only at the end of the EC/DA suit. [Insert here some justification for tying these tort damages to payables owed to them for wages and other payables. I got nothing.] So, it’s legitimate to wait until end of the current lawsuit and then offset damages owed by these employees against payables owed to them.
Sometimes, the Nut acknowledges that these alleged tort damages could be established only through separate, unrelated litigation, and other times doesn’t. E.g., she talks about ‘enjoining them’ later in the proceedings or that they will be ‘named at the right time’.
The Nut appears to be confused between allegations that employees who’ve testified or tweeted thereby committed defamation (and per her are to be ‘joined’ to the EC/DA lawsuit later), and allegations that they violated confidentiality or good-faith obligations to their employer, which if she wanted to go for that would be a separate lawsuit.
I thnk, BTW, that the odds of getting a tort judgement against an employee for testifying in a court case are exactly zero, and the likelihood of getting one for tweets saying ‘My employer’s been late paying me’ are pretty close to zero, too.
In addition, TinaNut speaks as if confidentiality and/or good-faith obligations of employees, such as they are, apply equally to non-employee authors having EC publication contracts for their books, which obviously isn’t the case. As an aside, I rather suspect that judges take a very dim view of attempting to bludgeon employees and business associates with confidentiality clauses to punish or intimidate them over testifying in court cases.
Then, too, there’s the troubling bit where TinaNut thinks EC can withhold timely payment of employees (or business partners) just because she thinks EC might speculatively be able to sue them for damages in the future, and expect they’ll somehow acquire the right to remit only the net of those amounts. Sorry, paranoid pistachio, not the way it works.
It seems almost gratuitous to harp on the hapless hazelnut’s meaninglessly vague and loose terms ‘involved in the lawsuit’ and ‘part of the lawsuit’, which lumps together actual parties to the EC/DA suit, people who’ve testified, and even apparently people who’ve merely tweeted about it. To her credit, she does acknowledge this vagueness when called on it.
Does the wandering walnut really believe her legal fantasy? I fear that she does. And the fall will be hard and painful.

(The rest is Deirdre’s commentary.)
What fascinates me most about the annoying acorn’s allegations are some of the following:

  1. The persistent statement that Tina Engler is the CEO of Ellora’s Cave, when her mother, Patricia Marks, is the CEO of record. That makes me wonder what the actual truth of the matter is.
  2. The statements that EC has “thousands” of employees, later shifted to “thousands of good EC authors/employees”. I counted EC’s authors back when the suit began, and iirc, EC had 934 authors at that count. So near as I can tell, EC’s never topped the thousand mark of authors and employees (and contractors) combined. Certainly not multiple thousands.
  3. There’s a consistent conflation between employees and contractors. Contractors aren’t employees, and employees aren’t contractors. Inherently, a corporation has less loyalty to a contractor than to an employee; the reverse is also true. This should not come as a surprise.
  4. “Loyal” authors don’t tweet, and publishers move promotional funds away from tweeting authors. That may be true for EC, but it’s not true generally. (one) (two) (three) (four) (You can really see the repetitiveness in that series of four tweets.)
  5. EC’s a “massive” corporation (or “massive accredited publisher” in other tweets).
    What’s particularly fascinating to me about the whole “massive corporation” assertion is that I’ve actually been a software engineer at an actual massive corporation. Look, if you don’t have full-time sushi chefs in multiple countries, it’s just delusions of grandeur.
  6. Related to the “accredited” publisher, there’s also the claim that EC’s an “approved” publisher. Courtney Milan commented:

    This is especially weird since there IS no RWA approved list any longer.

    Courtney’s on the RWA board (though speaking as an individual), so she’d know.
    What’s hilarious to me about TinaNut’s continued railings against self-publishing is that, by Tina Engler’s own admission, Ellora’s Cave is an extended self-play. Here’s an old DA interview with Tina/Jaid, and the pull quote to end all pull quotes:

    I was an unpubbed author with a trash can full of rejection letters. As a writer I had reached an impasse: either I was going to have to conform to NY standards and sex down my manuscripts or I was going to have to start my own publishing company.

Courtney Nails It (As Usual)

Just as I’m about to click “post,” Courtney Milan tweets….

Do we need to be told that anonymous twitter accounts are generally not legal authorities? No. No, we do not. #notchilled

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) December 15, 2014

I mean, if we were to talk SPECIFICALLY, that particular anonymous twitter account is like an anti-authority. But, you know. #notchilled

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) December 15, 2014

Lots of Comments on the Last EC post

If you’re reading my posts elsewhere (Tumblr, Dreamwidth, Livejournal, RSS), then you may have missed a lot of interesting comments.

For Your Amusement

For all your future nut phrase constructions, here’s a list of culinary nuts that may help you.

: Ellora's Cave: When Lightning Strikes

It’s a very rainy day in Silicon Valley as we’ve got the worst storm in five years.
Every writer has their tells: the words they misspell or misuse. The words they use in preference to other words.
The other day, I got an anonymous tip: Both @pubnt on Twitter and Tina Engler/Jaid Black have one of the same tells.
It did stick out to me when @Pubnt used it, but I’m not familiar enough with Tina’s writing style to have noticed the similarity.

@ShelbieKnight @jaidblack This is an author you don’t want to keep. Tweeting nonsense about 3 month Lightening fast editing.#notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) November 9, 2014

3 months be fore editing is lightening fast in publishing! Most publishers are booked 18+ months in advance. #notchilled @ShelbieKnight

— Pub Net (@pubnt) November 8, 2014

Tina Engler uses it in this Amazon review, and here’s the excerpt:

“This author is an absolute master at invoking emotions. If she wants you to feel freaked out, she knows how to use a lightening storm and a few choice words to do it.”

And Tia Isabella, a pseudonym of Jaid Black, which is in turn a pseudonym of Tina Engler, uses it in this EC title:

Thomas watched his cousin bolt down the steps at lightening speed.

And the commenter below also said:

From the Trek Mi Q’an books:
“She leapt on all fours in a lightening-fast movement,”
“Death proved to have lightening-fast reflexes”

My anon tipster did mention this use, but that’s not lightning, the electrical phenomena, but lightening, the gerund form of lighten.

Pubnt’s Backstory

In the early stages, @pubnt went around tweeting publishers to tell them not to work with authors who were “participating” in a lawsuit against Ellora’s Cave.

. @HarperCollins ETA: These are the author PARTICIPATING in a lawsuit against a publisher. Never touch them. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) October 5, 2014

. @HachetteUS ETA: These are the author PARTICIPATING in a lawsuit against a publisher. Never touch them. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) October 5, 2014

Except “participating” was a gross exaggeration. Later, @pubnt clarified with this tweet:

.@panmacmillan ETA:

— Pub Net (@pubnt) October 5, 2014

But this list is of romance authors published by Ellora’s Cave, most of whom never spoke out about Ellora’s Cave. They were simply EC authors who also had non-EC titles.
Pubnt also regularly uses Jane Litte’s real name. In court docs, that’s fine, but many of us have deliberately used the internet pseudonym in our blog posts.
Pubnt also has publicly declared that checks are being paid to people except those “involved” in the lawsuit.

@tejasjulia @AuthorSJDRUM @JulieNaughton Nothing stopped. Checks are coming to all but those involved in the lawsuit, naturally. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) December 12, 2014

However, “involved” in Pubnt logic doesn’t just mean “is a party to.” “Involved” also would mean, say, anyone who tweeted or blogged or said anything critical about EC.

Catch Is, There Are Laws

18 USC § 1512, for example.
Federal law, along with most state laws, take the reasonable view that if there are threats or harassment of people who testify or provide evidence, then cases won’t be able to proceed.

Tina Was (Probably) Also Barred from Certain Activities

From September 30 to the federal court removal on October 20, Tina as part owner of EC was likely subject to the joint motion’s agreement about not publicly commenting on the case:

In the interim, all parties agree that neither they, nor anyone under their direct control, shall post on the Internet any comments specifically and directly related to the factual allegations that form the basis of Ellora Cave’s defamation complaint; further, they agree not to comment online, directly or indirectly, on the allegations that form the basis of the defamation complaint. Nothing herein shall prohibit Plaintiffs from responding to defamatory posts or re-posts made by third parties related to the issues raised in this litigation.

I note Jaid Black posted this the same day @Pubnt started tweeting. (tl;dr version: McCarthyism, freedom of speech, calling out commenters claiming EC owes them money (some screencaps from comments on this blog), and claiming EC authors are too afraid to speak.)
Rick came up with a name for Pubnt today that I rather like: TinaNut.

: Book Landing Pages: Thursday Webinar

Joel Friedlander, aka the book designer, wrote a blog post about book landing pages.
I’ve been in the middle of writing a long blog post about web sites for authors, and I think I’m going to tear up my post and go home. (Actually, no, I won’t, but it’s going to wait until next weekend now.)
Because what Joel’s upcoming webinar’s about is book landing pages and, I’m gathering,, which has already made me want to toss my WordPress plugin in-progress against the wall.

  •’s pages are pretty.
  • They are minimalist.
  • There is a free plan.

We all know that webinar is not-very-secret code for “I want to sell you something.” I’m hoping it’s a nice discount on the paid plan.
The free plan allows for as many book pages as you want, but no extras like mailing list integration. Here’s a page detailing the differences between the free and paid plan.
Example: one of my stories on vs. the same story’s page on Could I improve my own site’s version? Sure, with some significant elbow grease. (I could also finish the one; I only fussed with it for a few minutes.)

What’s WordPress Like For This?

Let me tell you briefly about the state of things in WordPress plugin land.
With MyBookTable, if you want a buy button in anything other than Amazon and Apple, it costs $49 a year (or you can hand-modify the plugin yourself). If you want affiliate sales for your referrals, it also costs $49 a year.
With MyBooks, it’s free for Out:think’s authors on one of its paid courses, but you’ve got to be one of those people.
There is Buy This Book, which only has widget versions, meaning things for your sidebar.
I use Easy Digital Downloads, which is great for direct sales, but falls down when you need the product to link to external places. So, for this paperback, I hand-coded the purchase links and the CSS and suppressed the purchase button.
Another quirk of EDD is this: look at the purchase buttons/links here. In order to get my link above everyone else’s, I had to suppress the automatic generation, then add a manual button. Then add the links for other stores.
Oh, and there’s no sense of “series” of things or obviously related things other than via tags and categories, so that would be another thing I’d have to roll in there. (To its credit, MyBookTable has this.)
So why not use MyBookTable and Easy Digital Downloads together, you ask?
I’m so glad you asked that. Because MBT defines its items as a new post type. And so does Easy Digital Downloads. So, for each book, you’d have to hand-enter the data twice (once for each post type), so you could get to your books via two different URLs, and possibly have the content out of sync. Oh, and pay for MBT too.
No. Thank. You.
My brilliant plan was to automagically generate that, to make a font for icons for the common stores, and to therefore let people style whatever however. I was inspired by Lauren Dane’s website, except she’s gone and changed it and I don’t like the new look.
There are 34,000 WordPress plugins that have been downloaded 796 million times and that’s apparently as good as it gets for the stuff that’s out there.
Depressing, huh?
Fact is, most of the WordPress plugins designed to hook into Amazon are designed to create little web shops where you live on the affiliate income from providing, say, links for the top ten blenders.
I’m curious to see what they’ll say about the state of the competition that’s out there. I really haven’t seen anything in this niche.

But What If You’re Not Me?

Look, I’ve been paid to do web work since 1998. If I find it annoying that there’s no better publicly-available free solution, I’m guessing that you do too.
You can hire awesome people like Jeremiah Tolbert or Stephanie Leary to do it for you.
Or maybe you want to come to Joel’s webinar on Thursday. Blog post link again.

: Out:think's Upcoming Free Course: Hacking Amazon

Tim Grahl of Out:think has a new free course coming up called Hacking Amazon. (Above graphic is from Tim.)

A few weeks ago, I published an article about how to launch your book with 25+ Amazon customer reviews. This article really exploded, and it got me thinking . . .
I know a lot of little hacks and tricks that make Amazon work better for authors. So I’ve decided to put them all together into a course titled “Hacking Amazon.”
I’m putting the final touches on it over the next couple days. It launches on Thursday at no charge so watch your in-box!

Here’s that blog post Tim referred to.
He’s also got a free book and author marketing course, and you can sign up for that on his Out:think site.

: Ellora's Cave: Some Google Trends


It is interesting to compare EC with self publishing search trends (Google trends) #notchilled

— Wylie (@oldCalicoJack) November 30, 2014

So I decided to pull up the map, then got on searching a few combinations of other interesting things.
There are a few things we can glean from this chart.

  1. Google searches for “Ellora’s Cave” peaked in 2006. Note that I don’t disambiguate between the publisher and the caves in India, so this is combined.
  2. Interest in self-publishing has been in a slight decline over the last few years, but EC’s Google trends are in a far more marked decline.
  3. Indie publishing as a search term is now also about as common as Ellora’s Cave.

Even though search trends for DA start two years later, DA’s been consistently more popular since 2012. Which is interesting.
Erotic romance had a dip, and during that dip, it was occasionally a less popular search term than Ellora’s Cave. However, it’s stratospherically more important a search term than Ellora’s Cave is now.
Erotic romance is a popular search term in the Philippines.
It does surprise me that the second most popular country for this search term is Pakistan. Anyone have any theories on that?
Meanwhile, Ellora’s Cave is only of trending-quantity interest in the US and the UK. Not Canada, Philippines, Australia, Pakistan, Malaysia, or India (the other popular countries for the search term “erotic romance”).
Self-explanatory popularity map for self-publishing as a search term.
So I looked into several EC authors and this chart including Laurann Doehner is particularly interesting. She’s far more famous than her publisher. (This does tend to happen when an author becomes particularly popular.)
Taking Laurann out of the equation, EC and Jaid Black have tended to trend similarly over the last three years.

: Ellora's Cave Author Exodus Reminder

[![Greek Sphinx, Delphi](/images/2014/09/greek-sphinx-695x700.jpg)](/images/2014/09/greek-sphinx.jpg)Greek Sphinx, Delphi

It’s been almost six weeks since I first posted it, but the Ellora’s Cave Author Exodus Support Thread now includes 29 authors, several editors, and a cover artist.
Each of them have spoken out in some context about Ellora’s Cave.
If you’re looking for books to get you through the holidays (or to get other people for the holidays), they could use your support.

: Ellora's Cave: Tenses and Figures

This post discusses phrasing of the initial lawsuit filed by Ellora’s Cave and Jasmine Jade Enterprises against Dear Author and DA columnist Jane Litte. In Courtney Milan’s thread system, this is Thread A.

The Tense Thing

My most frequently overlooked problem when critiquing other people’s work is tense wobbles. So, while I noticed the change of scope in this section I’m going to quote, I’d missed some potential implications of the tense shift.
I was talking about the case with a friend of mine, and he said:

I notice they’re playing silly buggers with the tenses.
“have not” and “are”
and they don’t dispute that in fact they hadn’t been paid in six months.

Here are two of Jane’s allegations in the Curious article:

There is a set of authors who have not received royalty payments in over six months. EC has blamed this repeatedly on a new accounting system installed in December of 2013.
The total sum of unpaid royalties, editor fees, cover artist fees is in the several thousands, perhaps approaching six figures.

In EC/JJ’s lawsuit, here’s what they allege:

[…] Such false statements include:
That the Authors have not received royalty payments in over six months when in fact they are being paid.
That unpaid royalties, editor fees, and cover artist fees amount to several thousands of dollars perhaps approaching six figures when they do not.

In my Proving Substantial Truth post, I’d talked about the size of the data set in proving that “a set of” is untrue.
But I hadn’t talked about the fact that what EC claimed was defamatory in the lawsuit paperwork wasn’t actually what Jane Litte wrote. Courtney Milan talked about this some in the interview she did on the SBTB podcast.

Hypothetically Speaking

Let’s say the following are true:

  1. An article, published mid-September, states “a set of authors who have not received royalty payments in over six months.” Past tense. There are over 500 authors, but the article’s author knows the claims are true for at least three. a = {Fred, George, Mark}
  2. After the article was written, the publisher in question writes checks for all its authors due royalties for a given accounting month. Let’s say the royalties being paid are for May, the checks are dated August 31, and they are mailed in late September.
  3. After the checks are mailed, the publisher in question files a defamation lawsuit abut the blog post. In said lawsuit, the publisher claims, “That the contract authors (Authors) have not received royalty payments in over six months when in fact they are being paid.”
  4. Note that there’s no claim that said Authors are fully paid. Or that they had been being paid. In fact, it’s present continuous tense, making it sound like the checks are being written even as the paperwork for the lawsuit is being typed. (Lest one think I’m being harsh on this point, remember that we’re discussing a publisher. Tenses and nuance are their core competency.)
  5. After the lawsuit is filed, Fred, George, and Mark each receive a check for the most recent month’s royalties, but this does not change the fact that the language in the blog post was correct as of the date it was published. They are still owed back payments, however.

So, hypothetically speaking, it’s entirely possible that there was a set of authors who hadn’t received royalty payments in over six months, and for whom between the time of that post and the lawsuit being filed, checks had been cut for at least some payment, making the present-continuous-tense statement also true. (It’s probably also not necessary for every single author to be paid to make the present-continuous-tense statement true, either.)
Yes, well, that’s all well and good, but there was a second part to the article’s claim, and how could that work? Here’s a hypothetical.
EC claimed: “That unpaid royalties, editor fees, and cover artist fees amount to several thousands of dollars perhaps approaching six figures when they do not.”
This really hinges, I think, on nitpicking two phrases: “several thousands” and “perhaps approaching six figures.”
I’ll just throw this out there: if the amount owing is known to be in excess of $100,000….
No, I can’t finish that sentence. I can’t rationalize the verbiage.
Remember, “unpaid royalties” as of mid-September includes not only May’s royalties that were reportedly received at the end of September or early October, but also monies received—for hundreds of authors—for June, July, August, and so far in September. Not just amounts that may be past due.
When one looks at, say, the amount Lolita Lopez didn’t receive in December 2013 that was on her 1099 (tl;dr: $13,354.79), and realize that there are (or were) several big-name EC authors who were making that kind of money monthly, royalty amounts owing in excess of $100,000 doesn’t seem that big a stretch for 4-1/2 months, even if the dramatic drop in Amazon sales were true.
Even without including editors and cover artists.
However, claiming that someone owes less than they actually do isn’t defamatory.
I have no personal information about the actual facts of the Ellora’s Cave case, so I have no information about the veracity of my hypotheticals.


The point of the above: if what Jane Litte wrote weren’t true, why not file a lawsuit claiming that specific language was untrue?
Why bother using different language in the filing when Jane’s post is right there to copy/paste from?
I’ll leave you to ponder that and end with a throwback moment.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve read a great deal of the documents involved in the Brashear case where EC/JJ were defendants.
As a fascinating aside, one of the items EC submitted in their answer and counterclaims was a snippy email by Brashear to complaints that payments were, once again, late. That was in October 2003.
It was in response to an email that said this (and then some):

Look, I KNOW you guys work hard at keeping everything together at EC and this new accounting system has been trouble — BUT, don’t promise that checks are going to be mailed on a certain date and then fail to deliver. OK? (This is not the first time this has happened.)

Two. Thousand. Three.

It’s Chestnut Season

In addition to the above, I note that we should seasonally switch from popcorn to chestnuts—especially given the subject matter.

: Ellora's Cave: On Dear Author and CDA § 230

Riffing off Courtney Milan’s post here.
While I haven’t followed appellate cases on the Communications Decency Act § 230 the way Courtney has, the first thing I did after reading Dear Author’s answer was to read up on existing case law. Like Courtney, I didn’t see any that applied to something similar to the Dear Author situation.
As Courtney points out, most of the CDA § 230 cases involve larger companies completely unrelated, legally speaking, to the person who wrote the content in question at the heart of the suit.
Rick and I talked a lot about the implications, some before I wrote this post about DA’s answer, and some after it, but every time we talked about it, we agreed that, at its heart, the CDA does protect Dear Author LLC.
The fact of a separate legal person isn’t even an issue here.
For example, say you’ve let an author write a guest post on your own blog and you’re unincorporated. You get commenters too.
Is that still an interactive computer service?
Here’s the CDA definition again:

The term “interactive computer service” means any information service, system, or access software provider that provides or enables computer access by multiple users to a computer server, including specifically a service or system that provides access to the Internet and such systems operated or services offered by libraries or educational institutions.

Yep, that still applies.
In reading the definitions, here are some examples:

  • “Interactive computer service” – a blog
  • “Information content provider” – the writer of a specific blog post (or a specific comment)
  • “Access software provider” – WordPress or Blogspot or whomever

I said this before:

In other words, because Jane Litte, the pseudonymous author of the Curious post, is not Dear Author LLC, the LLC providing the Dear Author service offering the Curious post, Dear Author LLC is not liable for any statements Jane Litte made.

That’s true in this case (my opinion, not yet set in legal precedent afaik), but it shouldn’t actually matter that these are different legal persons.
If I wrote my own blogging software and someone wrote and posted a guest post, I as the publisher and software writer—but not the information content provider—should still be protected.

So What Does This Mean As Far As the Dear Author Case?

A legal case is about triable matters of fact and applying legal investigation methods (discovery) to determine those facts and settle what points of law apply to them.
At the point where the matters of fact are determined and it has become a simple matter of law, a party can move for summary judgment, moving to apply that matter of law to that set of facts. (And then the other party typically opposes with their own brief, and the judge rules, sometimes asking for a hearing first.)
Here’s a quote from a free legal dictionary.

Two criteria must be met before summary judgment may be properly granted: (1) there must be no genuine issues of material fact, and (2) the Movant must be entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

I believe this is a matter of law that’s clear about DA being entitled to judgment. After all, CDA § 230 states:

It is the policy of the United States—

  1. to promote the continued development of the Internet and other interactive computer services and other interactive media;
  2. to preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services, unfettered by Federal or State regulation;


No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

Dear Author is not Jane Litte.
It doesn’t matter that this is a novel application of CDA § 230. That’s why you hire someone like Marc J. Randazza: because a great lawyer thinks outside the box of existing case law and looks to intents behind the laws.

: Ellora's Cave: Jane Litte's Answer Filed with Court

Answer PDF here.
Note that this is a paragraph-by-paragraph response to the original complaint, so you should have a copy handy to look at them side-by-side.
I also haven’t compared it to the Dear Author answer yet.
The full docket with color-coding and blog post links and PDF original docs links is here. Note that in my blog posts, I refer to Jane Litte by her Dear Author pen name, but the legal documents, including that docket, use her legal name.

Short Version

Nothing leaped out at me off the page.
Dear Author’s answer had the affirmative defense of immunity under the Communications Decency Act (CDA) § 230, and Jane’s doesn’t. This is expected.
Apart from that, a quick scan of the two answers shows that they’re substantially similar.

: Ellora's Cave: Both Sides Denied Extensions

Last week, plaintiffs Ellora’s Cave and Jasmine Jade Enterprises along with defendant Jane Litte submitted a stipulated (meaning: opposing sides agree) motion for extension of time to answer.
Today, the judge denied that motion. That means all three parties who haven’t filed answers will have theirs due (I believe) next week.

What’s Up Next?

  1. We’re still waiting for the ruling on the remand to state court. It’s expected to be denied.
  2. I’m sure some interesting stuff will turn up in the answers.
  3. Jane Litte may file a counterclaim.

Following that, the exciting discovery phase.

: Ellora's Cave: Reply on Opposition to Remand

I had some expectations about what the reply would consist of.
tl;dr version: I’m disappointed.

My Take on It

  1. 10/24 (Friday) EC’s lawyer files a motion to punt (remand) the case back to state court relying on Rose v. Giamatti.
  2. The same day, DA’s lawyer shoots an email to EC’s saying, “I’m unsure if you’ve reviewed the case you primarily rely upon, but I believe that Rose v. Giamatti says the exact opposite of what you’ve raised it for.” In other words, Randazza said, basically: “Heads up: brain fart?” Which offered the opportunity for Mastrantonio to fix it.
  3. Not hearing anything back, DA’s lawyer files an opposition on Sunday the 26th, including the email from #2. Which was included to demonstrate several points made, not just that one.
  4. On Monday, 10/27, the judge gave EC/JJ a week to file a response. No evidence the judge had read the underlying paperwork, but it decreases his odds of getting it punted to a higher court if he allows time for Plaintiff to clarify.
  5. EC/JJ filed their response on the 31st. Halloween. Trick or treat. It used the same single case citation.

It’s unusual for a motion to rely on a single case cite, and unusual for both sides to rely on the same single cite.
What I expected EC’s lawyer to do: find some other case cites that also cited Rose v. Giamatti and use some more of his skills to strengthen his narrative. ::cough::
Courtney’s analyzed the underlying issues, and I agree. Especially this part:

I lay this all out because EC’s reply confuses the merits of the controversy with the merits of a temporary restraining order. In order to evaluate the reply, you need to understand that first, these are two separate things, and second, that no lawyer–indeed, no halfway decent law student–should confuse the two.

Another Issue Here

In the footnote:

Plaintiffs indicated that because the facts on the ground had changed, the urgency associated with a temporary restraining order had become attenuated and that a consolidation of the hearing with the final hearing on the merits under Rule 65(a)(2) would avoid 2 hearings, 2 trips for defense counsel and his client, 2 briefings, and twice the use of the Court’s time and resources.

I just mention the following and allow you to draw your own conclusions….

  1. Randazza is a noted first amendment attorney.
  2. EC files for a TRO/Preliminary injunction against Dear Author to prevent further postings about EC from DA.
  3. Case law about prior restraint is heavy first amendment case law.
  4. First amendment cases are best heard in federal court (though I’m not sure they’re necessarily federal questions).
  5. EC/JJ wants a remand to state court.
  6. Suddenly the TRO’s urgency has “become attenuated.”

Note that the case wasn’t removed because of federal questions, though. It was removed for diversity. Here’s a bit from the site that explains that (emphasis mine):

A case also may be filed in federal court based on the “diversity of citizenship” of the litigants, such as between citizens of different states, or between United States citizens and those of another country. To ensure fairness to the out-of-state litigant, the Constitution provides that such cases may be heard in a federal court. An important limit to diversity jurisdiction is that only cases involving more than $75,000 in potential damages may be filed in a federal court. Claims below that amount may only be pursued in state court. Moreover, any diversity jurisdiction case, regardless of the amount of money involved, may be brought in a state court rather than a federal court.

This is one case where the defense gets to pick the court, though, because it’s about fairness to them.

Let’s Dig Into Some Older Cases

I wanted to look and see if there were other similar remand cases the federal judge had decided on. “Remand” is a hard word to search on because most federal judges of any tenure have had cases go up on appeal, then be remanded back to their original (federal) court to resume the remainder of the case.
This, however, was a different kind of remand: a case originally filed in state court being removed to federal, then an opposition filed.

22 Exchange LLC v. Exchange Street Associates LLC

Ruling here. Remand was allowed. (Remand ruling took 7 days; attorney’s fees were allowed.)
This situation does not apply in the EC/DA case.
In the case ruled on, a Delaware Plaintiff sued an Ohio Defendant, and the Defendant removed to federal. However, one of the situations where you can’t remove to federal for diversity jurisdiction is if you’re sued in your home state. It’s called the forum defendant rule.
In other words, if Dear Author/Jane Litte had been sued in Iowa where they are based, they wouldn’t have been able to remove to federal. However, that didn’t happen, and thus the underlying reason Exchange was remanded isn’t applicable here.
Similarly, IndyMac Bank, F.S.B. v. Harrison, Rivard, Zimmerman & Bennett, Chartered et al is inapplicable.

Electrical Enlightenment, Inc. v. Lallemand et al

Electrical Enlightenment, Inc. v. Lallemand et al remanded for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Judge says it best:

Although Defendants attempt to couch the terminology used in the Complaint to assert a federal cause of action under copyright law in paragraphs 13-15, the mere use of the terms “copying Plaintiff’s commercial speech” does not make a copyright claim out of a breach of contract action.

(Remand ruling took over 2 months; attorney’s fees were allowed.)

Lasher v. Bank of America

Ruling here. (Remand ruling took just over a month, but denied attorney’s fees.)
Essentially: lack of a federal question, so lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

In addition, the resolution of the federal question will not be dispositive of the case. First, numerous pure state law claims have been plead by Plaintiffs. Furthermore, even the third cause of action will not be resolved by resolution of the federal law.

Two Others

This case there was a remand mentioned, but I don’t see a response to it on the docket.
Last but not least, this docket has a boatload of people and I don’t want to have to sort it out.
So the prior history I could find doesn’t really shed any light, unfortunately.

So When?

I’m unclear if a remand is considered a dispository motion—or not. Dispository (or dispositive) motions are ones that dispose of some aspect of a case: a motion for summary judgment, for example.
Since a remand ends the case with respect to that court, I’m not sure if it’s considered dispositive. It’s simply a civil procedure point I don’t know.
Anyhow, local rules say dispository motions need rulings within 30 days and other motions within 60. So it could be a while.
Or not.

: How to Unpublish a Book from iBooks

So you’d figured out how to sell your book on iBooks. Now you’ve got a different problem: what if you need to remove your book from sale?
There’s been an assertion that this is a difficult thing to do.
Not so much.

With iBooks, You Publish Via an App

I use iTunesProducer to package and upload my book and make it available for sale. It makes a manifest file around the EPUB that includes product and sales information, then saves it in your iTunes Playlists. (Yet another WTF? from Apple, albeit a minor one.)
However, so far as I can tell, you can’t remove it from sale that way.
There’s a reason for this, I suspect. Since someone who’s purchased the book has the right to redownload their purchases, that means that Apple’s system still need to keep that record of you having published it even if you are no longer the publisher of record for new sales.

Use iTunesConnect to Stop Selling

Here’s the https link.
Log in, and you’ll see this home screen. If you haven’t logged in in a while, it has changed.
iBooks - iTunes Connect Home
Click on My Books. A publisher with a lot of books will need to use the search page. I, uh, don’t.
iBooks - iTunes Book List
Click on the relevant book and you’ll get the book page.
iBooks - Book Page
Click on the Rights and Pricing and you’ll get the sales territory management page.
Click the Select All button above the pricing matrix.
Select No next to Cleared for Sale on the top form.
iBooks - Select No under Cleared
Scroll to the bottom of the page and click Continue.
iBooks - Continue after changing sales info
There’s probably another step or two, but I don’t happen to want to take my own iBooks items off sale for this experiment.
Still, it’s just not that difficult.

: Proving Substantial Truth

Substantial truth can be tricksy. Here’s a DMLP post with a few examples.
Two of those examples where the statements were ruled substantially true:

A statement that a boxer tested positive for cocaine, when actually he had tested positive for marijuana. See Cobb v. Time Inc. 24 Media L. Rep. 585 (M.D. Tenn 1995).
A statement that a man was charged with sexual assault, when actually he had only been arrested but not arraigned. See Rouch v. Enquirer & News of Battle Creek, 440 Mich. 238 (1992).

Look, I haven’t read up on the case law, but the above two examples should demonstrate that “substantial truth” isn’t cut and dried.

Hypothetically Speaking

Let’s say the claim in question is about “a set of authors” and whether or not they’ve been paid in a timely manner. Let’s say there are more than 500 authors, each of which has one or more books.
Now, the person believing they’ve all been paid may in fact only have been double-checking the highest earners.
However, let’s say the claims are true for three authors:
a = {Fred, George, Mark}
That still means one needs to sift through an unknown large portion of the data set before one determines that it’s true for “a set” of them.

And Now an Intermission

I’m done with the above hypothetical.
I have no personal information about the actual facts of the Ellora’s Cave case. However, I’d like to look at some back-of-the-envelope calculations.

How Big Is the EC Data Set?

Let’s go with the following assumptions:

  1. 934 authors (last I counted). Let’s round down to 900.
  2. Amazon gives me 6,767 items when I search for “Ellora’s Cave.” Let’s assume 4,500. Ergo, an author has an average of 5 titles, including paperback editions.
  3. Each book sells, per month, in an average of 5 stores from: EC’s own site, ARe, Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Google, iBooks, foreign markets for same, and any paperback vendors.
  4. Need to look back to when the accounting system changed last year, so 10 months of data at present.
  5. Each line item has seven pieces of data per month per author (per Cat Grant’s statements). The 7 pieces of data are: ISBN, title, format, store, amount received per unit, qty sold, total received (calculated, so not actually a separate piece of data), royalty %, royalty paid (also calculated).

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.

Another Aspect of Substantial Truth

In a case where “a set of authors” may not have received timely payments, royalty payments received by the publisher not corresponding with line items paid to authors could potentially also be a source of substantial truth.
Therefore, one would also need to audit amounts received from, say, Amazon, and amounts paid out in royalty checks that month, and determine that the amounts were equal. (Especially when others have said they’ve seen no Amazon drops during the same period for similar non-EC books.)
There are also around 9,000 checks to sort out.

  • When were they written?
  • When were they mailed?
  • When were they cashed?
  • When did they clear the bank?
  • Are any missing? Either not paid or not cashed?
  • If they’re missing, were they actually cut?

In theory, all that information is already entered and double-checked and could be provided to the defense at a moment’s notice.

The Question that Started This Post

@deirdresm Law Q: Are EC actions only relevant to the case up until the time it was filed? Recent payment timing immaterial? #notchilled

— Susan Garbanzo (@Soenda) October 27, 2014

It’s a good question. It doesn’t change the absolute truth of what was said on the day it was said, no.
But if events post-filing help show substantial truth, then probably they’re relevant.

@Soenda I haven’t read the case law; I can only guess. My guess: similar actions after filing help substantive truth claim. #notchilled

— Deirdre Saoirse Moen (@deirdresm) October 27, 2014

My Intuition

This case, if it gets all the way to a jury trial, will be far, far more expensive to litigate than other people have expected because the potentially triable matters of fact involve large data sets.
It’s my understanding that the burden of proof is on the plaintiff to show substantive falsity. Meaning: Ellora’s Cave and the mysteriously joined Jasmine Jade Enterprises need to demonstrate that.
Can they sample the data?
I don’t see how they can prove that “a set of authors” is defamatory without the full data being examined. “A set of authors” doesn’t need to be a large set.
My intuition, given the lagging of checks mailed weeks after the check date, all the reports of no answer for months when authors asked about royalty checks, is that that aspect of the DA post, at least, was substantively true.
Consider, for example, how small the two examples at the top are in terms of data. A single arrest. A single drug test, and possibly one or more followups. But not 1.57 million of them.
Completely different animal, litigation-wise.

: Ellora's Cave: No COO? Selling Reverted Books? Lawsuit Update


First: New EC-themed Art!

See above.
I’ve been trying to make a habit of including art with posts so there’s always a featured image. It’s a tough job. Broken ankh render from The Hairy Man.

Ellora’s Cave Lost Its COO?

Behold the current LinkedIn profile of Susan Edwards, who was Ellora’s Cave’s COO.
Note that it lists “Writer and Editor” as a job from “1980 – Present”, but Ellora’s Cave from “January 2005 – October 2014”, meaning she’s no longer there.
Detail of the Ellora’s Cave entry:
Now Dear Author tweeted this last month:

Re Ellora’s Cave: Whitney Mihalik, the managing editor, and Susan Edwards, the chief operating officer, have both resigned.

— DearAuthor (@dearauthor) September 15, 2014


EC trying to retain Susan Edwards, COO, who previously indicated she was leaving.

— DearAuthor (@dearauthor) September 23, 2014

But this is the first I’ve heard that it was externally verifiable.

Ellora’s Cave Allegedly Selling Titles It Doesn’t Have the Rights To

Angelia Sparrow posted this morning.

My mail today. Why does a check cut on September 30 have an October 25 postmark?
Why are books that I have had the rights returned still on sale?

“Eight Days Ablaze” was returned in Feb. I am not getting paid for it. Why is it still available at Amazon, iTunes, GooglePlay, and Ellora’s Site itself?

“Eight Days Ablaze” is apparently still theirs. I checked my reversion letters, and it is not mentioned. “For Love of Etarin” and “Raising the Dead” however, HAVE reverted.
“For Love of Etarin” is the same way. And yet, it still available on GooglePlay.
Glad Hands and Privateer’s Treasure are still up on Amazon, And the rights reverted back August 15.

I can verify that it’s still on sale, but obviously I have no personal notice of whether or not the rights are reverted. I’ll just point authors to a resource out there for you. If your rights are reverted, then a DMCA takedown notice to the vendor is an appropriate—and probably the fastest—action.
It doesn’t give you the correct royalties for any amounts that were due you, though. That has to be addressed separately. Unfortunately.
Previous post of interest from Angelia.
I previously talked about Shoshanna Evers’s related story of books being sold after reversion here.
Also, Cat Grant shows her May 2014 royalty statement, received in September, where she states that she was paid for a Nook ebook on a title that, per her, reverted in November 2013.
B&N/Nook pays 60 days after the end of the month. So, if a sale took place in November while EC still had the rights, it should have been in the royalty statement for February or maybe March. May is unreasonable.
Again, I can see what the allegations are, but I don’t have personal knowledge of the reversion, just taking the claims at face value. If three authors are correct, how many other authors has EC been selling the works of without the rights to?

The No-Frills EC v. DA Lawsuit Page

Yesterday, out of frustration at the lawsuit documents and the order mine weren’t in, I created this simple page that emulates the federal court docket.
For some exhibits, there’s a short summary. Each, where applicable, is color-coded based on the lawsuit “thread” as Courtney defined them. And, if there are blog posts relating to them, they’re listed below the docket item.
It’s a very lightweight page: no images, no Javascript, and very very little CSS.

Lawsuit Update

Yesterday, defense filed their opposition to Ellora’s Cave’s Motion to Remand (from federal court to state court). Courtney Milan analyzes.
Particularly interesting footnote:

On 7 October, an email was sent to at least one of Ms. Lampe’s supervisors. On 14 October that same email was forwarded to the entire department within which Ms. Lampe works. This is consistent with prior actions by directors of Ellora’s Cave. Ellora’s Cave has also engaged in acts to try and intimidate witnesses in this case. Therefore, sending this subpoena on short notice was of great importance. Since the Defense addressed this with Plaintiff’s counsel, these actions have waned.

Wow. Just. Wow.
Let me pull this one line out and bold it.

Ellora’s Cave has also engaged in acts to try and intimidate witnesses in this case.

That is not OK.
From the opposition brief itself:

All parties agreed that the matter required needed additional time, and therefore the parties stipulated to a hearing to be held on 27 October. In the intervening period, counsel for the Defense was able to fully evaluate the case, and on 17 October it became 100% clear that removal was appropriate.

I’m just going to put those two together and back away slowly.

What’s Next?

Jane Litte’s answer is expected soon. The court granted the motion to continue on the TRO and gave EC/JJ 7 days to file a response to defense’s objection about the removal. In that way, the removal issue is settled before the TRO hearing, which does make sense.

: Sales Analysis

I’m a numbers person, and I like charts and graphs and other ways to reassure myself that things are Getting Done.
I check at the beginning of each month to make sure my titles are up where they’re supposed to be and to record the sales.
It would take more time if I had more books. This is the summary over time; one title dates back to 2011 and the other was published this year. I hear a lot of people wanting to sell on Amazon only. In my case, that would mean cutting 2/3 of my revenue.
I also have a spreadsheet that tracks each title month-by-month, with a different tab for each year.

: Ellora's Cave: Distribution Issues

Part of EC’s problem is, and has been, distribution.
I’ve done some spot checks on EC authors and found that they aren’t consistently in all possible stores. For many authors, there are enough titles that it can be difficult to demonstrate the issue, but in this case, I’ve picked very small cases that are easier to see.
When talking on twitter about Axl and Taylor, I happened to search the iBooks store instead of my library. My recollection was that I’d bought one of Taylor’s books back when I was taking notes and writing research questions for an ex-stripper character I wanted to write. I’d never read the book (as I’m working on a different book right now), so I was trying to find it in amongst the other billion books I’ve bought.
I found one book by Taylor in the store. My recollection was that he’d written two. I was wrong; he’s written three. Well, co-authored three. I filed that away, then thought I’d use his case as symptomatic of a larger problem that EC has with its book distribution.

  Take It Off! Take It Off! (Again) Top Guns
Ellora’s Cave site $5.20 $5.20 $5.95
All Romance Ebooks $6.50 $7.50 1
Amazon $5.39 $5.39 $5.78
Apple iBooks $5.99 $7.99 2
B&N Nook $5.99 $5.99 $6.99
Kobo $5.39 $5.39 $6.19

What’s really interesting about this is that Apple reports that the seller for Taylor’s book on iBooks is All Romance Ebooks, which does not list that title.

EC’s Own Site

Two of these are paperbacks. Three e-books.

All Romance Ebooks



Note that one can cleverly add the publisher in the search.

Apple iBooks


B&N Nook




Let’s Look at Cat Grant’s Titles

You may recall that Cat Grant is trying to buy back her rights from Ellora’s Cave to the three titles she has with them (The First Real Thing, Appearing Nightly, and A Fool for You).
EC’s site: all three
Amazon: all three (but only two show up with Ellora’s Cave in the search)
Apple: no Appearing Nightly
ARe: all three
B&N Nook: all three
Kobo: all three, ranked dead last when sorted by “bestsellers”

Then There Are Books Getting Filtered

Like this tale from Lissa Matthews:

I have one book filtered at Amazon and I don’t even have a year’s worth of sales numbers on it, but I can tell you it definitely meets the ‘sells less than 100 copies in a calendar year’… No one even knows the book exists unless I tell them. And it’s filtered because I didn’t specify No Nudity for the cover. Okay, I took blame for that, but how was I supposed to know I had to tell Ellora’s Cave what their distributors would and wouldn’t allow on covers in order for them to be found by readers and not stashed so deep into the abyss? I had never had to specify that before and believe you me, I learned that lesson. Because the next and final book that I submitted specified on the cover art form NO NUDITY!

The cover in question features a nude woman facing away, held by a man in jeans. I think it may be the side boob more than the nudity, though.

Shoshanna Evers’s Story

I’ve had rights reverted on an EC book since Dec, but it’s still for sale on @iBooks. *sigh* On hold w/iBooks now. #notchilled

— Shoshanna Evers (@ShoshannaEvers) October 24, 2014

@hmweinerman @deirdresm I’m not even looking for any money from EC. I just want my last book back from them. They’ve put it on sale for 99c.

— Shoshanna Evers (@ShoshannaEvers) October 24, 2014

So—EC’s still selling a book they haven’t had the rights to since December 2013.

Moral of the Story

You can’t just “set and forget” books. Database issues occur. There are nuances of data structures that mean not every vendor will represent titles in the same way.
It’s got to be someone’s job to comb through and make sure that every single book is at every single vendor. And re-check it periodically.
Paul Krugman wrote this piece about Amazon, which is worth it just to comment only on this one bit:

Book sales depend crucially on buzz and word of mouth (which is why authors are often sent on grueling book tours); you buy a book because you’ve heard about it, because other people are reading it, because it’s a topic of conversation, because it’s made the best-seller list. And what Amazon possesses is the power to kill the buzz. It’s definitely possible, with some extra effort, to buy a book you’ve heard about even if Amazon doesn’t carry it — but if Amazon doesn’t carry that book, you’re much less likely to hear about it in the first place.

Well, that’s true so far as it goes. Personally, I only look at Amazon if my first-source vendors don’t have it. When I worked at an indie bookstore, I wound up making a habit of knowing what books were featured on NPR, as those were the titles more people asked about than any other.
For me, I’m usually searching on a web site for books, so if that search doesn’t find the books in question, that’s what kills the buzz.


1 The book is listed only under Justin Whitfield even though there are three named authors on the cover. I don’t know if this is generally a problem with multi-author titles at ARe as I don’t shop there much.
2 Listed only under Justin Whitfield in iBooks, too, but ARe as a vendor may explain that.

: Ellora's Cave Attempts to Remand to State Court

Courtney Milan has the blog post and the exhibits.
Let’s put it this way: birther Orly Taitz is famous for her remand-back-to-state-court motions. Not someone to emulate.
This is an aspect of federal procedure I don’t know a lot about, but my understanding is that removal is automatic, and that remanding is for related courts (e.g., an appeals court can, and often does, remand a case back to a lower court). In this case, however, I’m not sure a federal court has the legal right to remand to state court.
As Courtney Milan posts:

What to expect next: DA/Jane will almost certainly file a memorandum opposing a remand. The court will decide if it wants to hold a hearing on this or simply decide on its own, and we should get a decision from the court. That decision will almost certainly seal off this thread once and for all, and we can move on to the many, many other issues.uu

One Note on the Answer

Courtney is waiting for Jane Litte’s answer before posting commentary on both answers. She says (in the post linked above):

The reason I have not done this yet is that the answer is from Dear Author alone, and not from Jane in her personal capacity. Some things Jane will say in her answer will be duplicative. Some things she says will, I suspect, not be (which is why they didn’t file together).

I think part of the reason to file the answers separately is to make clear that Dear Author, LLC and Jane Litte are legally separate entities.

: Ellora's Cave: Dear Author's Answer and Counterclaim

The exciting invocation of the Communications Decency Act in a lawsuit about an erotica/erotic romance publisher—but not in the way you’d expect. Up next after “Previously on….”

Earlier Documents of Note

From now on, I’ll post a quick recap at the beginning of this series.

  1. Dear Author’s blog post, The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave. Ellora’s Cave and Jasmine Jade Enterprises sued Dear Author and Jane Litte over this post.
  2. Ellora’s Cave’s lawsuit, complete with the TRO request. I discuss the memorandum of law and the request to out anonymous commenters in this post.
  3. The removal to federal court, which I posted the meat of the other day.
  4. Opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction. I cover a few points in this post. Courtney Milan gives a deeper understanding of the document in her post. Exhibits: (Exhibit A, from Jane Litte; Exhibit B, from an editor hired in 2003; Exhibit C, from an author first published by EC in 2007; Exhibit D, from an author first published by EC in 2013; Exhibit E, from an editor hired in 2012; Exhibit F, from an editor hired in 2013; Exhibit G is a true copy of tax liens and Workers’ Comp liens against EC and Tina Engler/Jaid Black.)

Also of interest: Courtney Milan’s post, On Limited Purpose Public Figures. All my blog posts relating to Ellora’s Cave are tagged. There are a few not directly related to the lawsuit.

Dear Author’s Answer

Note that this is just Dear Author’s answer. I expect Jane Litte’s answer shortly.
Document here. Because it’s a paragraph-by-paragraph response to the lawsuit, you’ll need to have a copy of that to read side-by-side.
Responding to the first two paragraphs, “Consequently, this averment is denied and strict proof demanded.” That’s some legal verbiage that I may not understand the nuance of. The import, however, is to ensure that the correct parties are suing Dear Author and Jane Litte.
It starts to get interesting in ¶ 10:

Admitted that Defendant [Litte] authored an article entitled “The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave,” which was published on the blog Dear Author, which is owned and operated by Dear Author. Denied as to the defined term “Libelous Publication” as an erroneous legal conclusion without factual foundation.

The next few paragraphs of fallout are flatly denied.
When it gets to the nuances of EC’s relationship fallouts, the phrasing changes to:

Dear Author is without knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth or falsity of the corresponding averment. Consequently, this averment is denied and strict proof demanded.

Here are the most interesting paragraphs that applies to (sorry, 15-17 are being auto-renumbered to 1-3, grr):

  1. This Libelous Publication has caused distress among current Authors under contract with Ellora’s, and Ellora’s has received numerous contacts from Authors wishing to rescind contracts based on this Publication.
  2. This Libelous Publication has caused distress among employees and contractors with Ellora’s and Ellora’s has received numerous contacts from employees and contractors concerned about the current state of the business.
  3. This Libelous Publication has also prevented Ellora’s from contracting with other potential authors.

I would guess (being an analytical sort), that in order to prove ¶ 15, one would have to show what the rate of authors requesting reversions/cancellations were before the publication, and what they were after. That would require excellent recordkeeping, though. (It would also require proof that defamation occurred, and a causal link.)
I’m not sure that ¶ 16 implies actual damages, especially not after the August 19th publication about Ellora’s Cave layoffs. That’s almost a month before the Curious post.
¶ 18-19 are about Jasmine Jade. Frankly, I’m not sure why Jasmine Jade is a party to this action. There is only one reference to JJ in the Curious post, and it’s about a tax lien that anyone could look up.
The rest of the responses are denials of various sorts.

Affirmative Defenses

Affirmative defenses are a curious beast. I’m guessing that Courtney will go into this later, but basically they are reasons why, even if the allegations are true, that aspect of the case can’t proceed.
An example would be statute of limitations. You sue for something where the law gave you a year to sue and it’s now 2 years after the event happened. Everything you say is true, but if the defense raises statute of limitations as an affirmative defense, then the lawsuit can’t proceed.
The other aspect of affirmative defenses is that they typically have to be raised in the answer. They can’t be brought up later. Thus, the affirmative defenses tend to be rather kitchen sink in approach.

First Affirmative Defense: Communications Decency Act

In order to understand why this affirmative defense is hilarious in context, one needs to know what the original intended purpose of the CDA was. Some excerpts from its legislative history:

What became the Communications Decency Act of 1996 was initiated in the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee […] to expand the prohibitions against obscene, indecent and harassing phone calls so that they would apply to all forms of electronic communications. The amendment was offered “to address an increasing number of published reports of inappropriate uses of telecommunications technologies to transmit pornography, engage children in inappropriate adult contact, terrorize computer network users through “electronic stalking,” and seize personal information […].”
The amendment from Feinstein, cosponsored by Republican Senator Trent Lott from Mississippi, sought to require cable and satellite companies to fully scramble any sexually explicit adult programming.
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 began in the House as HR 1555. […] There were disputes over efforts to limit internet indecency and television violence though. The committee bill requested that the attorney general‟s office submit a report evaluating the enforceability of current criminal laws governing the distribution of obscenity over the internet, assessing the Federal, State, and local law enforcement resources available to enforce those laws, evaluating the technical means available to combat obscenity, and making recommendations on the means of encouraging the development of new technologies to deal with obscenity.

So let’s look at the affirmative defense here.

  1. Defendant Dear Author is a provider of interactive computer services as defined in 47 U.S.C. § 230(f)(2).
  2. Dear Author neither created nor authored the content of any of the statements complained of in Plaintffs’ Complaint.
  3. Under 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1), Dear Author cannot be treated as the publisher of the above complained-of statements, and thus cannot be held liable, either at law or in equity, for the contents of the statements.

47 U.S.C. § 230(f)(2) (link to law) defines an “interactive computer service”:

The term “interactive computer service” means any information service, system, or access software provider that provides or enables computer access by multiple users to a computer server, including specifically a service or system that provides access to the Internet and such systems operated or services offered by libraries or educational institutions.

The reason that blogs allow comments and internet forums exist is because the CDA makes it feasible to not get caught up in every squabble.
And 47 U.S.C. § 230(c)(1) states:

No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.

In other words, because Jane Litte, the pseudonymous author of the Curious post, is not Dear Author LLC, the LLC providing the Dear Author service offering the Curious post, Dear Author LLC is not liable for any statements Jane Litte made.
Or, in short, law says you’ve got the wrong person.
I admit to not being up enough on CDA case law to know what rulings have been. I am more familiar with cases like Religious Technology Center v. Netcom and the ruling excerpt incorporated into the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, if only because I was at ground zero during that controversy.

Second Affirmative Defense: Truth

  1. Although the burden of proof for falsity is upon Plaintiffs, as applied to Plaintiffs’ claims for defamation, Dear Author avers that all statements allegedly made by Dear Author complained of by Plaintiffs are true.
  2. Any complained-of statements allegedly made by Dear Author that may happen to lack 100% factual veracity are substantially true, and thus treated as true as a matter of law.
  3. As truth is an absolute defense to defamation, Dear Author cannot be liable for Plaintiffs’ defamation claims.

Truth is an affirmative defense to defamation.

Third Affirmative Defense: Substantial Truth

  1. Any statements allegedly made by Dear Author complained of by Plaintiffs that are not literally true are substantially true, in that the “gist” or “sting” of the article is true.
  2. As substantial truth is a defense to claims for defamation, Dear Author cannot be liable for Plaintiffs’ defamation claims.

Pretty straightforward.

Fourth Affirmative Defense: Qualified Privilege

I know almost nothing about qualified privilege as it relates to defamation cases, but the plaintiffs cited an Ohio case (#5, Am. Chem. Soc’y v. Leadscope, Inc.) that discussed it extensively. PDF of the ruling is here.

  1. All allegedly actionable statements were subject to qualified privilege as they were directed to parties having a common interest in the subject matter of the statements, particularly authors who either had a contractual relationship with Plaintiffs or who were contemplating one.
  2. All allegedly actionable statements were subject to qualified privilege as they were made in the course of a justifiable exercise of a moral obligation, free of improper motive or malice.
  3. All allegedly actionable statements were subject to qualified privilege as they were fair comment and criticism of Defendants’ business practices, matters of significant public and social interest.

As someone who bought a few of EC’s titles last year to evaluate them as a potential market, I feel like this was aimed at me. Thanks, Jane.

Fifth Affirmative Defense: Failure To State A Claim

  1. Plaintiffs have failed to sufficiently plead the elements of a cause of
    action for libel.
  2. Plaintiffs have failed to sufficiently plead the elements of a cause of
    action for libel per se.

Like many other causes of action, there are specific things that have to be alleged in order for there to be a claim for defamation. This (short) page lists them.
Re-reading the complaint, it seems like there’s at least some language to cover all the bases. If the judge rules that one of the required elements doesn’t exist and failure to state a claim isn’t raised as an affirmative defense, I’m not sure what would happen, exactly.

Sixth Affirmative Defense: Failure To Join an Indispensable Party

I saw this one coming.

  1. Plaintiffs have failed to join an indispensable party, Tina Engler, in their
  2. Tina Engler is an indispensable party because Plaintiffs’ Complaint
    identifies allegedly defamatory statements about her allegedly made by
    Dear Author.
  3. Engler is also an indispensable party because many of the allegedly
    defamatory statements identified in the Complaint attribute Plaintiffs’
    declining business performance to the actions of Engler.
  4. In Engler’s absence, the Court cannot afford complete relief among
    Plaintiffs and Dear Author.
  5. Because the allegations in Plaintiffs’ Complaint would also entitle Engler to
    bring an action against Dear Author for the same statements identified in the Complaint, not including Engler in this litigation would potentially make Dear Author subject to a substantial risk of incurring multiple or otherwise inconsistent obligations.

When asked why she wasn’t a plaintiff, here’s my answer in a comment on a previous post:
Last I heard, Jaid/Tina was 90% owner. As for why she’s not a plaintiff, my understanding of the legal concepts is that it’s a jurisdiction issue.
It’s a general principle of law that to sue for damages, you have to sue where the damage occurred. If someone published allegedly defamatory information on the internet about you and the person posting it was in Iowa and you’re based in Ohio, then the alleged damage occurred in Ohio. So that’s why EC sued in Ohio. (Note: this is a simplification because jurisdiction can get complicated.)
Catch is, Jaid lives in West Hollywood, California, so any alleged damage would be in California, and an Ohio court would not have jurisdiction to determine or award damages. Had Jaid also sued separately, then there probably would have been a motion to join both the cases in federal court, which is used to dealing with mixed jurisdiction cases.
However, California has strong anti-SLAPP protection, so California’s not a good jurisdiction for this particular case. As I understand it, anyway. (And, again, IANAL and TINLA.)
Getting back to the ownership issue: even when one is 90% owner of a corporation, the legal interests of the company and the legal interests of the individual may diverge significantly over the course of a trial, and it’s best practices to have separate counsel. That doubles the legal fees. In some cases, it may make sense to fold the company, and then the minority shareholders may wish to fight that, and that’s a completely separate issue from the interests of the individual majority owner as a person.
The simple way around this would have been to sue in federal court from the outset.
However, I’m not convinced that ¶ 12(f) and 12(g) in the complaint were strong allegations. They felt more like hurt feelings to me.

Seventh Affirmative Defense: Lack of Actual Malice

When in doubt, always look to the Supreme Court case that’s the seminal ruling on defamation law.

  1. Plaintiffs are general purpose public figures, or at least public figures in the context of Adult Romance publishers. Accordingly, their defamation claims are subject to the “actual malice” standard set forth in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, which requires that the defendant made the allegedly defamatory statements with “knowledge that [they were] false or with reckless disregard of whether [they were] false or not.” 376 U.S. 254, 280 (1964).
  2. Dear Author at no point harbored any doubt as to the truth of the complained of statements, and had no reason to doubt their accuracy.
  3. As actual malice is a requirement to establish liability for defamation in these circumstances, Dear Author cannot be liable for Plaintiffs’ defamation claims.

Dear Author’s Counterclaim

Document here.
Can be summed up as: because the suit was filed as an abuse of process—in part because Dear Author is exempt under the CDA and in part because the claims are baseless—Dear Author is requesting compensatory and punitive damages as well as costs.

What’s Next?

I’m guessing Jane Litte’s answer, along with a likely counterclaim, are coming up next. Courtney will post on both after Jane’s is filed. Unless there’s something particularly interesting, I’ll probably just post a link to her article when it’s up.
There’s also a hearing on the 29th about the TRO/preliminary injunction, i.e., taking the Curious post offline.

: Ellora's Cave: Dear Author's Motion in Opposition


Earlier Documents of Note

  1. Dear Author’s blog post, The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave.
  2. Ellora’s Cave’s lawsuit, complete with the TRO request. (included in removal to federal court document) I analyze the memorandum of law and the request to out anonymous commenters in this post.
  3. The removal to federal court, which I posted the meat of the other day.

Opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction

In the first substantive response to Ellora’s Cave’s lawsuit, Dear Author’s attorney, Marc Randazza, has filed an Opposition to Plaintiff’s Motion for Preliminary Injunction, and Courtney Milan has graciously hosted the 25-page PDF and its exhibits. Exhibits: (Exhibit A, from Jane Litte; Exhibit B, from an editor hired in 2003; Exhibit C, from an author first published by EC in 2007; Exhibit D, from an author first published by EC in 2013; Exhibit E, from an editor hired in 2012; Exhibit F, from an editor hired in 2013; Exhibit G is a true copy of tax liens and Workers’ Comp liens against EC and Tina Engler/Jaid Black.)
Courtney found it just before retiring for the evening. I’ve read it and the supporting documents (not included in the 25 pages). Courtney will post her own notes in the morning, but I’m going to write up a few comments about turns of phrase that amused me. Because of the miracle of the internet, I’m going to schedule this post for when I’m asleep. 🙂
Update: Courtney’s post is here, and it links to the exhibits not in the original opposition document. Thank you to all the people who provided statements.

Seems Like Old Times

Footnote at the bottom of page 3:

The defendant has gathered what evidence she could, informally. However, should this case continue, and perhaps prior to the hearing on this motion, she intends to depose the management of Ellora’s Cave. But, despite the reasonable and exceedingly courteous efforts of counsel for Plaintiffs, Ellora’s Cave and its management do not appear willing to provide deposition testimony before the hearing.

So, Ellora’s Cave sued Dear Author, right? You’d think, given that they filed suit on September 26th, they’d love to have a quick deposition to ensure they get as much on the record to support their motion for a TRO/preliminary injunction, right?
This footnote basically says that EC’s stonewalling their own attorney who has been “reasonable and exceedingly courteous.”
If you read the order from the Brashear case, you’ll note this is a consistent tactic. Except in the DA case, EC’s the plaintiff, not the defendant.

The Ebola Footnote

Even if Ellora’s Cave were in perfect financial health, these are the symptoms of an ailing company. It is as if a perfectly healthy person were suffering from a severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. A reasonable person might say, with all candor and right to do so, that the patient appears to have Ebola symptoms. Of course, the subject might counter that they were only suffering from a hangover. But, the First Amendment would permit either observation.

Courtney’s right that this could be perceived as party dickishness insofar as two of the Ellora’s Cave cover models are currently in mandatory quarantine for ebola after being on Amber Vinson’s flight when coming home from the annual Ellora’s Cave convention, Romanticon.
However, I think it unlikely that Randazza knew about this issue, and did not intend it thus. Update: Randazza clarifies in comments to Courtney that, indeed, he did not know.

The Goulash Analogy

Ellora’s Cave nit picks minor possible factual inconsistencies, as a child might try to remove peas from goulash. However, even if a child despises peas, it does not make the goulash itself poisonous. Analysis of a defamation claim like this is like reasoning with the child who complains that because there are peas in the goulash, the goulash itself is inedible.
The goulash here is savory, even if the plaintiffs would prefer not to eat the peas.

Ohio Provides Better Protection than the First Amendment

While this is the national standard, Ohio law provides for more protection than the First Amendment demands. Under Ohio law, “the plaintiff must demonstrate, with convincing clarity, that the defendant published the defamatory statement either with actual knowledge that the statement was false, or with reckless disregard as to whether it was false.”

Failure to Demonstrate Irreparable Harm

Plaintiffs claim that “[i]t is clear that Ellora’s will suffer irreparable injury if Defendants are allowed to continue to publish the Blog Publication on the internet.” Motion for Preliminary Injunction at 4. However, Plaintiffs provide nothing to support this. Irreparable harm requires a showing that there is an insufficient remedy at law. Furthermore, for the harm to be irreparable, there must be more than monetary damages. “The basis of injunctive relief in the federal courts has always been irreparable harm and inadequacy of legal remedies.” Sampson v. Murray, 415 U.S. 61, 88 (1974). “A finding of irreparable harm is necessary before granting a preliminary injunction.” Bettcher Indus. v. Bunzl USA, Inc., 692 F.Supp.2d 805, 822 (N.D.Ohio 2010).

This is news to me (remember, I’m not a lawyer), but it’s fascinating. I’m guessing this has to do with one being a remedy at law and the other a remedy in equity.
So I looked it up on Wikipedia, and lo, apparently so. I’m a little rusty on this stuff, but at least I have good instincts.
In short: law remedies are things like monetary damages and equity remedies are things like injunctions or specific performance. “Inadequacy of legal remedies” in the quote above means that there isn’t money that can make up for the damage that’s caused.
In the Bluemile case cited below (which Randazza goes into more than I’ve quoted here), one company was impersonating another. There’s no way the impersonator throwing money at the trademark holder is going to make up for the damage that’s done. Therefore, it’s irreparable (in the “can’t be fixed with $” sense).
But EC presumably can monitor things like sales and royalties and know what’s going on with them at every moment. Even if they don’t monitor these things this closely, in theory they can. So, presumably, they can say, “well, this article cost $X in lost sales.” And then, if defamation were proved to be the cause of those lost sales (which is not easy), then there’s a remedy at law, so no remedy at equity is needed.
Now, if there were irreparable harm, that would need to be listed in the memorandum of law along with case law to support that. I have some ideas about what those kinds of things might include for EC, but it’s not my job to aid EC’s prosecution of its case—and a preliminary injunction wouldn’t help in any case.

The Section Every Author Should Read

pp. 16-18 where it talks about the public interest aspects of Dear Author’s blog, as well as the link to Author’s Rights When a Publisher Files Bankruptcy.

The Bluemile Cite

My first reaction when I read this case was an audible, “What the fuck?!?”
When I wrote up my own response, I wrote:

In my opinion (though, again, IANAL and TINLA), there is no similarity, and the “strikingly similar” made me wonder what quality pharmaceuticals the esteemed esquire had access to. In Bluemile, there was a clear intent to confuse the trademark held by the plaintiff and siphon off their potential customers by the defendant with a confusing domain name ( The defendant’s site was intended to be confusing.

Clearly, when someone’s trying to siphon off your business by confusing your potential customers, monetary damages aren’t enough.
Randazza covers this more deeply:

While Plaintiffs cite to Bluemile Inc. v. Yourcolo, LLC, in support of their Motion for Preliminary Injunction, the facts of that case are starkly different of the facts at hand. The only connection seems to be that a Preliminary Injunction was granted there and Plaintiffs are requesting one here.

Rick and I both laughed at that.

In Bluemile, the Southern District of Ohio confronted an intellectual property case and enjoined the defendant’s use of the plaintiff’s trademark, enjoined defendants from using a website confusingly similar to plaintiff’s name, which then used that website to publish statements that were already determined to be defamatory. That case was premised on Lanham Act violations and trademark infringement, and the defamatory statements were merely an accessory to the Lanham Act violations. Trademark violations are more readily granted injunctive relief because the irreparable harm is presumed in such cases. Too, Inc. v. TJX Cos., 229 F.Supp.2d 825, 838 (S.D.Ohio 2002), Taubman Co. v. Webfeats, 319 F.3d 770, 778 (6th Cir. 2003).

Wait for it….

This is precisely the opposite of the law surrounding defamation.

Did you feel that slam dunk? I did. He goes on for another page and a half, too.


I remember studying jurisdiction until I was blue in the face, realizing I’d only begun to scratch the surface, but even I knew that the case had a problem with it.

Some of the comments Plaintiffs complain of specifically address Ms. Engler, who is not a party to this case. While Ms.[Litte’s] statements regarding Ms. Engler are not defamatory, they are also irrelevant unless and until Plaintiffs bring Ms. Engler into this litigation as a plaintiff. Plaintiffs lack the requisite standing to complain on behalf of Ms. Engler. “Elements of standing are an indispensable part of a plaintiff’s case.” Bourke v. Carnahan, 163 Ohio App.3d 818 (10th Dist. 2005). The onus is on Plaintiffs to demonstrate that they have suffered an injury, which is causally related to the defendants’ actions. Id. Plaintiffs are not entitled to recovery for statements made about individuals other than themselves. Statements about Ms. Engler’s personal life are not statements about Ellora’s Cave, and therefore, Plaintiffs lack the standing to sue over those statements.

Then, at the end of that section, Randazza adds:

If Ms. Engler wishes to join this case as a plaintiff, then the statements can be at issue. But, she is not here today, and she should not be permitted to litigate by proxy.

Bond, But Not James

Lastly, Plaintiffs have failed to offer up a bond, in violation of Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(C) and Ohio R. Civ. P. 65(C). Rule 65(C) requires the plaintiff post a bond, in order to ensure that damages may be accounted for, in the event the court later determines that the injunction was wrongly issued.

Per Randazza, it’d need to be a bond of at least $150,000.

Popcorn Good

I think the Internet is getting good popcorn value, here.

: Ellora's Cave / Dear Author Suit Removed to Federal Court

Jane Litte’s attorney, Marc Randazza (aka “First Amendment Badass”) has removed the case to federal court in the Northern District of Ohio. The federal case number is 5:14-cv-02331-JRA.
Additionally, DA has subpoenaed Google about the identity of a specific gmail account. Those were filed with the state court on 10/17.
Because federal court proceedings are almost entirely hidden behind a paywall (except for certain rulings), here’s the Amount in Controversy section from Randazza’s filing. Note that I’ve substituted Litte’s pseudonym for her legal name in the footnote.
I found the note about Ohio not permitting damages to be stated to be quite interesting. I hadn’t known that.

Amount in Controversy

The amount in controversy in this action exceeds $75,000.00. The Plaintiff only seeks a rote “in excess of $25,000” amount, and not a sum certain. Where the plaintiff has not plead any sum certain, in order to remove the case from state court to federal court, the defendant must demonstrate only that it is more likely than not that the amount in controversy is in excess of $75,000. Gafford v. Gen. Elec. Co., 997 F.2d 150, 158 (6th Cir.1993).
The Plaintiffs’ prayer for $25,000 is not the result of any omission on their part. Pursuant to the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure, if the party seeks more than $25,000.00 in damages, the plaintiff may not specify this in the demand for judgment. Ohio R. Civ. P. 8(A). Therefore, while the complaint only states “in excess of $25,000” on its face, it is clear that the amount in controversy is in excess of $75,000.
Each plaintiff alleges entitlement to money damages and injunctive relief against each defendant, “in excess of $25,000.00.” This would seem to create an amount in controversy of “in excess of $100,000.” However, even under other possible calculations, the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.
Communication with counsel for Plaintiffs has confirmed that Plaintiffs also believe that the amount in controversy is in excess of $75,000.00, making statements that the amount of damages Plaintiffs will be seeking is quite large and growing. In fact, if Plaintiff were awarded a mere $25,001 (in excess of $25,000) as compensatory damages and twice that amount, or $50,002, as punitive damages, the total damages would be $75,003. The jurisdictional amount in controversy analysis must take into account the availability of punitive damages “unless it is apparent to a legal certainty that such cannot be recovered.” Smith v. Nationwide Prop. & Cas. Ins. Co., 505 F.3d 401, 408 (6th Cir. 2007) (quoting Hayes v. Equitable Energy Res. Co., 266 F.3d 560, 572 (6th Cir. 2001)).
To determine whether the amount in controversy may be satisfied by the availability of punitive damages, the Court may consider verdicts and settlements in similar cases. See Leys v. Lowe’s Home Ctrs., Inc., No. 1:08-cv-1084, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 16097, 2009 WL 514291, at *4 (W.D. Mich. March 2, 2009). In Lake County, a jury awarded $750,000 in a similar defamation claim. Blatnik v. Dennison, 148 Ohio App. 3d 494 (Ohio Ct. App. 2002). More recently, in the Southern District of Ohio, a jury awarded $100,000. Young v. Gannett, Case No. 1:10-cv-00483. In another case involving the reputation of a schoolteacher and cheerleader, which must be worth less than the reputation of a large company like Ellora’s Cave, the jury awarded $338,000 in compensatory and punitive damages. Jones v. Dirty World Entm’t Recordings LLC, 755 F.3d 398 (6th Cir. 2014) (Overturning jury award due to immunity under 47 U.S.C. § 230).
Not only do similar jury awards support the amount in controversy, but the Complaint and affidavit of Patricia Marks both make it clear that the plaintiffs value this case in excess of $75,000. The complaint alleges that there has been a loss of goodwill and reputational damage to the plaintiffs (Complaint at ¶30) and seeks punitive damages and attorneys’ fees. (Complaint at ¶31, 39, Demand). Further, the Complaint and Motion for a Temporary Restraining Order articulate that the Plaintiffs find the damages to be “irreparable” and apparently of such value that they are “impossible to quantify.” Meanwhile, seeking a TRO against speech must indicate that this is, at least, as important to the Plaintiff as a mere $75,000.
The Plaintiffs quest for injunctive relief and punitive damages are properly included in determining the amount in controversy. See In re Ford Motor Co. Crown Victoria Police Interceptor Prods. Liab. Litig., 2004 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 29971, 2004 WL 1170145 (N.D. Ohio May 19, 2004); Everett v. Verizon Wireless, Inc., 460 F.3d 818, 829 (6th Cir. 2006) (“The costs of complying with an injunction, whether sought by one plaintiff or many plaintiffs, may establish the amount in controversy”). In this case, the Defendants will attest that complying with the requested injunctive relief would cost them in excess of $75,000. The requested injunctive relief seeks to enjoin the Defendants from publishing anything about the Plaintiffs in any way, and requires that the Defendants violate their promise of confidentiality to their sources. In the event that either injunctive relief were granted, the Defendants would suffer at least $75,000 in losses, and would in fact, likely need to consider going out of business altogether. If a journalist can not protect her sources,1 and if a journalist can be enjoined from writing about one of her primary subjects, then the journalists is surely damaged at least to the tune of $75,000 in either event.
Footnote in above paragraph. Note: I’ve substituted Jane Litte’s pseudonym for her real name.
1 Ms. Litte’s right to protect her sources is of such value in this state that the legislature has chosen to ennoble it by protecting it by statute. O.R.S. § 2739.12. Litte’s home jurisdiction offers the same protection under Iowa’s common law. See Winegard v. Oxberger, 258 N.W.2d 847, 850, (Iowa 1977) (recognizing the “reporter’s privilege); Waterloo/Cedar Falls Courier v. Hawkeye Cmty. College, 646 N.W.2d 97, 102 (Iowa 2002) (“The privilege protects confidential sources, unpublished information, and reporter’s notes”). The evisceration of such a sacred right should most definitely be given a value in excess of $75,000.

: More Thoughts on SFWA Bulletin 200 Cover Controversy

[![Romanticon Cavemen. Photo by Cait Miller.](/images/2014/10/Bzi6acdIUAAHPw3.jpg)](/images/2014/10/Bzi6acdIUAAHPw3.jpg)Romanticon Cavemen. Photo by Cait Miller.

Last week, I had an “aha!” moment, finally understanding what Mike Resnick was going on about. I wrote about the cover controversy earlier this year, complete with sample covers from the genre he was complaining about.
Here’s what Resnick said (click for pic of text, quoted below)> And a lot of it abounded in bare, raw, pulsating flesh, totally naked from the neck to the navel. No question about it. It’s there for anyone to see—and of course, since such displays seem to offend some of our members, to picket.

You know where I found it?
In the romance section. I’d say that just about every other cover shows a man’s bare torso, lean and muscular, usually with a few more abs than Nature tends to provide. The man’s head is rarely portrayed. Clearly these are erotic covers, designed to get a certain readership’s pulse pounding.

I’ve admitted that I haven’t spent a lot of time paying attention to Ellora’s Cave (link is to my posts on same), an erotic romance publisher, until recently.
When I was writing this post about their annual convention, something clicked.
Let’s look at their little video for BEA 2013:

Quite a different feel from the gardening book publishers, no?
Anyhow, it struck me:
Mike Resnick was trying to use a false equivalency between a professional industry publication and an erotic romance publisher’s book covers.
What’s particularly egregious about that, of course, is that Mike’s daughter, Laura Resnick, is a romance writer. You’d think he’d have seen her own book covers and know his statements were FoS.

: Virtual Visit to Ellora's Cave Convention: Romanticon

[![Ellora's Cave Party Bus. Photo by Cait Miller.](/images/2014/10/BzgxZu3IUAAtGCg.jpg-large-700x393.jpeg)](/images/2014/10/BzgxZu3IUAAtGCg.jpg-large.jpeg)Ellora’s Cave Party Bus. Photo by Cait Miller.

Single-publisher conventions are fairly rare, but not unheard of. Ellora’s cave has had one, EC Romanticon, for several years. How many? According to this 2011 scrape of the site by, the 2011 convention was the third annual convention, so 2009 would have been the first. (The earlier conventions may not have been on a separate domain; the scrape I linked to is the first scrape by
What is Romanticon, you ask?
Well, I have a 2013 promo video for you. Ready?

So, there you go. The video very much focuses on the Ellora’s Cavemen, and a bit on the convention goers, but not at all on Ellora’s Cave writers. ## Let’s Talk a Bit About Convention Funding

I’ve got a lot of experience with fan-run science fiction and fantasy conventions, mostly with conventions significantly larger than Romanticon.
Romanticon runs a single track of programming. I’ve seen small conventions run this way, but I’ve also seen large ones (World Domination Summit is single track and around 3,000 people). It’s my understanding that Romanticon brings in around 400 300 (source: Glamour) people. Their venue’s grand ballroom seats a maximum of 500 people in banquet layout.
Registration ran $325; authors got a $25 discount. For sf/f con fans, that seems impossibly high (as most sf/f conventions are < $100), but it’s less than RT ($489)…on several levels. It’s more $ than most other romance conventions that aren’t writer-focused, though. (Writer-focused conventions will typically fly in agents and editors, and that adds up.)
Friday and Saturday night there are dinners, so that’s a good chunk of the registration cost.
For sf/f cons, the only people typically paid in any way are the guests of honor, where memberships are typically comped and hotel rooms are covered. Memberships for speakers may or may not be covered, or if covered they may be at a discount rate. For most GoHs, there aren’t any honoraria payments.
Functionally, the Cavemen are the guests of honor. One of the weekend events is picking the Alpha Caveman for the year, so Cavemen have a slot where they feature what they’re known for.

The Events

Let’s look at the events list:

Events for Non-Writer Attendees

  • Bad Girls of Romance Karaoke Party
  • Line Dancing with Taylor
  • TwerkShop (Cleveland Exotic Dance)
  • Fantasy Cavemen Cover Shoot (pose with a caveman as though you were on a cover) Note: this event’s open to the public
  • Jaided Ladies Erotica Lounge (author readings, 2 sessions)
  • Women’s Path to Pleasure
  • Bling Your Badge
  • Genius Geeks versus Bad Boys
  • Screaming Orgasm—More Than Just a Drink
  • Hoedown/Throwdown Party
  • Kickin’ It with Caveman Kimo
  • Lap Dance Lessons
  • Dirty Quotes by the Dirty Dozen
  • Beyond Vampires & Werewolves: Madlibs
  • Beefcake Bonanza
  • Golden Ankh Awards Party
  • Bookfair and SEXpo Note: this event’s open to the public
  • Pizza, Pajama & Bingo Party

Events for Writers (other than the panelists)

  • Pow Wow with Patty—which was scheduled for Thursday afternoon (!).
  • #1k1hr Writing Sprint (2 sessions)
  • Jaided Ladies Erotica Lounge (author readings, 2 sessions)
  • Publisher’s Parlor (2 sessions)
  • Writer Organization and Optimization
  • Sexy Writing 101
  • Dirty Quotes by the Dirty Dozen
  • How to Use Scrivener
  • Writing Situations
  • How to Research Erotic Romance, with or without the Flogging
  • Golden Ankh Awards Party
  • Bookfair and SEXpo (if published with EC)
  • Not on the events list: Pitch sessions

As someone who’s scheduled speakers for numerous conventions: I note that Laurann Dohner is an attending author, but she is on exactly zero of the other events. A few years ago, Laurann signed a 75-book deal with EC, and she’s apparently EC’s best-selling author.
All I’ve got to say is: there’s a story there. I don’t know what it is. Last year, she was on a presentation:

Love to Love You, Baby: Sexy Songs and Steamy Scenes (Samantha Kane, Mari Freeman, Kristin Daniels, Mari Carr, Cait Miller, Laurann Dohner, JK Coi, Jayne Rylon, Desiree Holt): Which songs inspire all those super steamy love scenes in your favorite books? Time to find out. Match the song to the author, then match the scene to the book, and walk away with a prize! And maybe a new appreciation for heavy bass, driving drumbeats and sensual horn sections. 😉

(Added note: the reason is explained in comments, and don’t I feel like a heel for lampshading it. I wish you the best, Laurann.)

How Many Authors Came?

Year # Authors Coming
2011 (not listed)
2012 (not listed, but I’ve been told it was 88)
2013 84 (list)
2014 37 (Aug 11 archive)
2014 38 (live site, not archive)

So, it doesn’t appear that Ellora’s Cave’s claim in its lawsuit that authors were scared off by Dear Author’s post is defensible. Instead of numbers going down between August 11 and the convention in October, the number of authors actually increased. The August 11 capture a week before the announcement of changes at Ellora’s Cave, so any changes in author loyalty would have been after then.
If anyone has names or numbers of authors for 2011 or 2012, I’d love a comment or email. Thank you!

About that Pow-Wow with Patty

Do any EC authors know what happened at the afternoon “Pow Wow with Patty” at #RCon14? I can’t find a peep. #notchilled

— Karen Booth (@karenbbooth) October 10, 2014

@karenbbooth I wonder if they had to sign non disclosure agreements. No video, audio etc.

— Mermaid Sharon (@Mojitana) October 10, 2014

Most probably didn’t know about it, since they moved it from Saturday to today during registration, when many weren’t there… @karenbbooth

— Carrie (@carriejeditor) October 10, 2014 originally scheduled on Sat. from 3-3:50, NOT Thurs during registration. @karenbbooth #notchilled

— Carrie (@carriejeditor) October 10, 2014

So seriously, there’s no news being reported from Romanticon at all? Nada? There must be something….

— Karen Stivali (@karenstivali) October 10, 2014

@karenstivali The news is that there is no news. #RCon14 tag is a ghost town. Patty Marks talk was hastily rescheduled to today. *shrug*

— Mermaid Sharon (@Mojitana) October 10, 2014

I got nothing.

This Post Is Useless Without Pics

Well. Since you asked….
Linedancing. Looks like a snooze-fest numbers-wise. Feel sad for the Caveman on duty.

[![Romanticon Line Dancing. Photo by Cait Miller.](/images/2014/10/Bzl4zfcCQAAeZoT.jpg)](/images/2014/10/Bzl4zfcCQAAeZoT.jpg)Romanticon Line Dancing. Photo by Cait Miller.

Cait Miller tweeted a pic with lots of Cavemen:

[![Romanticon Cavemen. Photo by Cait Miller.](/images/2014/10/Bzi6acdIUAAHPw3.jpg)](/images/2014/10/Bzi6acdIUAAHPw3.jpg)Romanticon Cavemen. Photo by Cait Miller.

Anna Alexander tweeted a pic of the banquet table prior to the Hoedown/Throwdown. Here’s a color corrected version:
Kathy Kulig tweets a nice pic of herself with Caveman DeAngelo (the reigning Alpha Caveman):
Kathy and Caveman DeAngelo
The Lap Dance class was more popular, as Kathy Kulig tweets. No laps were present, apparently.
Romanticon Lap Dance Class
Kathy also tweets a pic of formal (Saturday) night. Guess dress code is different for the men.
Anna points out that yes, the dress code is really different….
Better pic from Jocelyn Dex:
Awards were given out:
Three ladies managed to get stuck in an elevator with Caveman Sinjyn:
A short written review by Diana Hunter.
Saved the best for last: Caveman Cisco instagrammed a photo from a photo shoot he did while in Akron:

[![Caveman Cisco. Photo by Eric Battershell.](/images/2014/10/10729432_804581416267352_7111239_n-1.jpg)](/images/2014/10/10729432_804581416267352_7111239_n-1.jpg)Caveman Cisco. Photo by Eric Battershell.

So…About Next Year

I’ll just leave this tweet right here.

#RCon14 nearly over. I can’t wait to do it again next year!

— Mr Laurann (@MrLaurann) October 13, 2014

Then I’m going to invoke Courtney Milan’s piece, “Why is Tina Engler economically irrational? #notchilled” and talk about the convention thing for a minute.
There’s an old economics saying: a business’s primary economizing problem is money; a person’s primary economizing problem is time. (You may argue with me on the second one, but this is the opinion of people with money, so there’s that.)
Both money (given Amazon downturn in sales and recent staff layoffs mentioned in their August letter) and time (smaller staff, thus less time to give) are in shorter supply at Ellora’s Cave of late by their own reports.
First, if there are multi-year agreements to run the convention, it may cost more to cancel them than to hold them. This is something that needs to be closely looked at to see if it’s viable. One thing’s for sure, though: canceling earlier rather than later is typically less expensive. That offers the hotel more time to sell the space, and that’s often something that reduces cancelation costs.
Second, there are book sales, and outside of larger conventions like RT, it’s the single largest gathering of EC authors. Also, there’s a high author-to-member ratio.
Third, it’s a really different kind of convention, and there’s no close substitute for it. That’s not a reason to keep running it despite everything, but it can be a make-or-break factor if all else is neutral.
Yet, it’s hard to tell. If Romanticon actually turns a profit, even a slight one, for Ellora’s Cave, it may still be worth running the convention despite the time suck. There’s no cut-and-dried answer, though, and it’s not something an outsider can readily determine.

Post-Convention Update

Jaid Black posted a notice about potential exposure to ebola. Dallas nurse Amber Vinson, who now is confirmed to have ebola, was in Akron during the same time period that Romanticon was held.

According to news reports, the infected woman, a healthcare worker who treated “Patient Zero,” was in Akron visiting family. She did not show signs of infection until already in Akron. The CDC has confirmed that she was definitely symptomatic while traveling from Cleveland to Dallas on October 13 so if you know anyone else on that flight please have them contact the CDC IMMEDIATELY.
Romanticon attendees (other than those on flight 1143) have nothing to worry about… according to the CDC. As they haven’t exactly been forthcoming with information, and we have no idea where in Akron this woman was, I am asking EC employees and Romanticon attendees in general, to self-monitor their health for the next 3 weeks. A list of symptoms can be found here:

Further, two of the Cavemen, Axl and Taylor (who are also both EC authors), were on the same flight as Vinson. After consulting with the CDC, they are both in self-imposed quarantine for 21 days.
Here’s Axl’s story.
Axl and Taylor appear briefly on this GMA segment speaking about their self-quarantine.
My hope is that everyone will be fine, but I’m sure thoughts and prayers are welcome. Axl gives his contact information in his facebook post if you wish to reach out to him.

: Twitter Hashtag for Promoting Non-EC Books by EC Authors #nonECbook

Susan Garbanzo asked me:

@deirdresm Maybe a specific hashtag for use by EC authors on your support list? #notchilled

— Susan Garbanzo (@Soenda) October 10, 2014

::smacks forehead::
I didn’t think of that, that’s why. She’s a genius.
Therefore, if you’re tweeting/instagramming about your non-EC titles, that seems to be a good way to find people who are looking for EC authors to support in the midst of the Dear Author lawsuit and any uncertainty surrounding it.
This also neatly separates the #notchilled free speech issue tweets from the #nonECbook promotion opportunities. Not everyone reading #notchilled reads erotic romance or erotica.
Plus, @BooksFoodShoes has already used it once, so that seems a good enough reason to keep using it.
Note: there is no requirement that you be otherwise eligible for the Ellora’s Cave Author Exodus Support Thread.
There are only two requirements.

  1. You are (or were until recently) an Ellora’s Cave author.
  2. You have at least one non-EC book to promote.


  1. You know someone who writes/wrote for EC
  2. You want to recommend one of their non-EC titles.

Just—try to keep the quantities of tweets reasonable.

: Ellora's Cave: and then Things Took a WTF Turn

[![Demon, street art by SB, photo/color manipulation by Deirdre Saoirse Moen](/images/2014/10/L1004537-700x374.jpg)](/images/2014/10/L1004537.jpg)Demon, street art by SB, photo/color manipulation by Deirdre Saoirse Moen

I was looking for my dinosaur pictures, but I liked that one better.
I was working on a lovely post about technological shifts. Because I think it’s a factor in the history of Ellora’s Cave. And I was genuinely rooting for all the issues to be resolved and everyone to go happily on their way. EC resolving the suit with DA, picking themselves up and working out things with their authors, etc. And, you know, surviving in some form.
They snapped my goodwill today. Permanently. (See update at the bottom.)
I generally take people at face value, assume they’re telling me as much of the truth as it’s convenient for them to, and don’t try to over-read things I don’t know. I try to be charitable in my interpretations. The number of people I don’t wish to speak to is a very short list.
It’s hard to get on that short list. ## Ellora’s Cave Didn’t Tweet after August 11…Until Today

They had lots of books come out, right?

Did you know my debut work came out with EC on 8/15? No? Because their social media has been quiet. Until now. To praise STGRB. #notchilled

— Phoebe Chase (@Phoebe_Chase) October 8, 2014

Official EC Twitter hasn’t posted any book promo (or anything) for 58 days. Now they’re thanking STGRB for their hard work. #notchilled

— Lynda the Guppy (@FishWithSticks) October 8, 2014

STGRB = Stop the GoodReads Bullies, a misguided group of people who feel that people who leave “too many” negative reviews are “bullies.”
Ellora’s Cave still hasn’t promoted their releases for the last few weeks, because throwing in support with STGRB was so much more important.

I Aim Jenny Trout at the Issue

I know when to use a tactical nuke.

I just want to hear @Jenny_Trout wax poetic about this tweet: #notchilled

— Deirdre Saoirse Moen (@deirdresm) October 8, 2014

As she succinctly put it:

The publisher of one of my books, @ellorascave, officially endorses STGRB? Don’t buy my book, or any book, from them.

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

This is yet another case of someone acting like a little shit, then taking the support of STGRB, who are even shittier, to defend them.

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

qui cum canibus concumbunt cum pulicibus surgent, @ellorascave.

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

Anyone in publishing who supports a website that has endangered bloggers loses all credibility. STGRB attacks your customers, @ellorascave .

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

Some people need to look at who their allies are and really reconsider their method of implosion.

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

If STGRB wants to defend you, you’ve either done something really awful, or they think they ride you for their gain. They are leeches.

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

@literarypanckes Actually major anti-bullying campaigns have requested that STGRB not use their graphics or names on the site.

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

@literarypanckes STGRB has, in the past, posted the real names, home addresses, employers, some people’s daily schedules (one person took

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

@literarypanckes walks every day at the same time) of bloggers who have left “too many” bad reviews on Goodreads.

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

@literarypanckes They don’t say, “Go stalk and harass these people,” but it’s heavily implied.

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

I HADN’T EVEN THOUGHT OF THAT. EC absolutely just endorsed a hate site that has targeted one of their authors in the past. #notchilled

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

At least one that I know of: Me. We’re supposed to be loyal to our publishers, but it doesn’t go both ways? #notchilled

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

I want my fucking rights back. #notchilled

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

This is what STGRB does and this is who EC has chosen to align themselves with. #notchilled

— Phoebe Chase (@Phoebe_Chase) October 8, 2014

Here is one of two posts I made this year about STGRB. Why would anyone want to align with them?: #notchilled

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

And here’s a post I made after STGRB threatened that they were “keeping an eye on” me. #notchilled

— Jenny Trout (@Jenny_Trout) October 8, 2014

By all means, if you’ve alienated a bunch of reviewers, the very next thing you should do is alienate even more of them.

Information Request from @tejasjulia

If any of you can provide.

I’ve heard talk of EC “deducting for overpayment of royalties” recently. Anyone want to go public with $$ on the “correction”? #notchilled

— tejas (@tejasjulia) October 8, 2014

Department of :O

WOW. Tina really doesn’t seem to be in touch with reality, does she. #notchilled

— tejas (@tejasjulia) October 7, 2014

It’s not a beautiful day. Yet.

Department of WTF Updatery

@ReeCroteau @Phoebe_Chase For the love of God, what now? We don’t currently have a social media person! And what is STGRB????

— Jaid Black (@jaidblack) October 9, 2014

Trying to snippet other bits of conversation will lack too much context.
However: Ellora’s Cave doesn’t currently have a social media person. Which means that there’s an explicable lack of Twitter promotion since, oh, sometime around 8/11/14, but not an explanation for the STGRB tweets of today.
I tried to keep it simple:

@jaidblack @ReeCroteau The official @ellorascave Twitter is promoting a hate group, but not its own authors. That was my point.

— Deirdre Saoirse Moen (@deirdresm) October 9, 2014

I think more popcorn evenings are in my future.
Since Jaid didn’t know what STGRB meant, it may take a while….

@ReeCroteau unless they are funding ISIS I don’t have enough hours in the day 2 worry about them.

— Jaid Black (@jaidblack) October 9, 2014

So there’s that.
Meanwhile, there’s the mystery of who is posting using the official Ellora’s Cave Twitter account—and whether said person posting today is currently with the firm.

10/12 Update

Props where due. @ellorascave deleted pro-STGRB tweets and started promoting their authors like they had been pre-8/11. #notchilled

— Deirdre Saoirse Moen (@deirdresm) October 12, 2014

: Book Reversion Game Theory & Consent

Please Release Me
Let’s say the following:

  1. You’re a small press with a lot of authors, most of whom still have books that you get right of first refusal on their next books, either in the same genre or in the same series.
  2. You’ve had a downturn in sales, and that means staff cuts, including editors that would accept/reject and/or edit new titles.
  3. There’s a lot of grumpiness out on the ‘net, and you need some good PR.

Right now, this is EC’s defense: “Authors hate working with Ellora’s Cave so much, they formed a massive conspiracy to escape.” #notchilled

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) October 4, 2014

What are your best moves?

Things I hadn’t Considered About Right of First Refusal Clauses

When I started looking at romance publishers a couple of years ago, I found this clause of Samhain’s:

5.3. If I contract the first book of a series with Samhain, do I have to give you first refusal on subsequent books in the series?
No. Samhain contracts one book at a time. We hope you’ll love working with us enough to send us all your other books, but we want you to be free to make that decision for yourself.

I hadn’t realized the prior association of Samhain’s founder with Ellora’s Cave, but I found that to be an interesting clause.
Of course you’d rather have authors writing for you who want to write for you.
Also, the more I think about it, the more I wouldn’t sign a right of first refusal clause unless there were an advance involved, where the reversion fee’s some explicit portion of the advance.

The Cold Harsh Realities of Series Numbers

Here are the current Amazon rankings for the first six volumes of H. M. Ward’s The Arrangement, a bestselling indie new adult series that’s currently up to 16 books. (Which, frankly, this series is like crack for me. Loved it.)

1 656
2 612
3 638
4 711
5 755
6 789

The cold, harsh reality of series is that, overall, the later books in the series sell less well than the earlier books in the series. Some percentage of readers never pick up that next volume. Sure, there are times when the newer books sell better—like when they’re first released. In the long run, though, they will tend to sell less well.
Ergo, the value of that next book in the series is necessarily lower than the income from the previous books.
For a troubled publisher, some writers may feel, as Lolita Lopez/Roxie Rivera (hell of a #micdrop post) apparently does, that not writing more books in the series is the right answer for them.
If you’re the publisher who’s published, say, books 1-5, and there will be no book 6, then the revenue of books 1-5 will tend to decrease over time. If, however, another publisher (including self-publishing here) publishes book 6, and books 1-5 are still listed on the author’s website, then there will still be some level of increased demand for books 1-5.
I read a lot of authors. I mostly don’t read their blogs. When I do look them up, I tend to look at their website for new books.
So what’s the publisher’s best strategy here?
Releasing the author from right of first refusal for the next books in the series, in exchange for which the author puts the publisher’s books back on their website for, say, a year.

I haven’t really seen this come up, which kind of surprises me given the subsection of romance Ellora’s Cave is in.
A lot of their books are about the boundaries of consent. BDSM, for example.
What struck me in Lolita’s post: she’d essentially said she no longer consented to future publication from Ellora’s Cave.
It doesn’t matter why someone no longer consents. Contractually, it may, but consent is important, and it really, really gets me that there are, in fact, so many consent issues at the heart of this debacle.

Slower Paying?

One of the data pieces that’s been corroborated by several authors, including Lolita Lopez (at the link above) and Cat Grant: the payments, once regular, are alleged to have been getting slower.
Several authors have alleged they received their payment for May royalties at the end of September (4 months later). Lolita alleged she received December’s payment (assuming this is for royalties received in November) in mid-February, which would be 2-1/2 months later:

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?

In an ideal world, the payments for authors would be put immediately into a separate account. Assume 45%, then fix it for the amounts that are less (I see some sales are 40%). There would be no need to pay slower because the money would always be available on time for the authors.
Ergo, the implication when royalties are being paid slower like this (or, as others have reported, no check at all arrived for a given month): the company is using the received royalty income for operational expenses instead of setting it aside for the authors.
Edited to add this paragraph: one of the confusing parts of the various author accounts: it’s not clear if people reporting missing checks were meaning they never received a check for that month (let’s say April), or if they never received any check in April, but may have received royalties they expected to receive in April in a subsequent month.

Chop the Long Tail

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).
Probably, that’s more than half the authors. It’ll take more work temporarily, but it’ll be less work long term. Then the business is focused on the higher-performing writers.

Release the Remaining Long Tailers from Right of First Refusal

In addition to releasing existing books from the end of the long tail, release the right of first refusal for those people, too. (Might even want to make it for a larger pool.)

Charging for Reversions

Victoria Strauss runs Writer Beware, a site that warns about predatory practices and predatory companies in publishing.

@victoriastrauss I thought I remembered that you said somewhere that publishers shouldn’t be charging for reversions? (except advances)

— Deirdre Saoirse Moen (@deirdresm) October 5, 2014

@deirdresm Correct. I don’t think there should be any fees associated with reversion–a red flag if you see this in a contract.

— Victoria Strauss (@victoriastrauss) October 5, 2014

@deirdresm I’ve also heard of pubs who ask for reversion fees even if there’s nothing in contract to allow this.

— Victoria Strauss (@victoriastrauss) October 5, 2014

@deirdresm No matter how pub justifies it, I think it’s abusive.

— Victoria Strauss (@victoriastrauss) October 5, 2014

Contract One Book at a Time

The editorial staff has shrunk. Money’s tighter than it should be. People are complaining. The future isn’t looking as bright as it used to.
Only contract the books you can afford to edit and produce. Given the changing market conditions, an agile approach is needed here: limit scope of future projects.
D. Renee Bagby/Zenobia Renquist has quite the post on her attempt to get reversions for twelve proposal titles.
So apart from the fact that it sounds like EC is intending to publish the books outside their contract terms (and wouldn’t that be an interesting DMCA takedown quarrel?), here’s the gotcha, in the form of a letter from EC CEO Patty Marks (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.

So what do you do? Only contract multiple books from people who already are the highest sellers.
Renee/Zenobia has said that she was not released from twelve books under contract. Yet, in the same post, she shows that her royalties for May would not put her in that group of “a handful of the highest sellers.” And yet, EC doesn’t want to release those books back to Renee/Zenobia despite it appearing that would put her in the negative return on investment?
These things have to be business decisions and not emotional ones. There’s an old economics maxim:

If the expected added benefits exceed the expected added costs, do it. If not, don’t.

If Renee/Zenobia were to self-publish, she’d undoubtedly do better, and EC wouldn’t lose money. Isn’t that win/win?

As a publisher, you want readers, reviewers, and authors to stick with you through tough times. You want them to continue to consent to be in your corner.
Those perceptions can be managed if you look beyond initial blame and hurt. Win/win negotiations are still possible.
Respecting the word “no,” however phrased, is key.
Related: Coerced Consent: When “Yes” Really Means “No”
The image in this post’s header is free for you to use. Details and a higher-resolution copy are over here.

: How I Became a Romance Reader

[![Mai Tai, Mama's Fish House, Maui](/images/2014/10/IMG_3832-672x700.jpg)](/images/2014/10/IMG_3832.jpg)Mai Tai, Mama’s Fish House, Maui

Since my teenage years, I’ve mostly been a science fiction and fantasy reader. I’ve made several strafing runs through the romance genre through the years. However, like mystery, I’d historically found that it wasn’t a genre I could write.
There are reasons for my issues with romance in particular, many of them having to do with where romance was as a genre at the time. See: The TL;DR Erotic Romance Edition post from Love in the Margins.
After I’d written the first draft of my first (fantasy) novel, though, a project landed on my lap. Would I write porn (meaning the kinds of novels you buy in adult bookstores along with your sex toys) for money?
I’d left Scientology, I was no longer putting up with their puritanical bullshit, and I needed the income. So I pulled out my handy typewriter—yes, you heard me correctly—and wanked out a 35k book every six weeks for eighteen months straight. Well, not entirely straight. 😉
It was good money. I wasn’t overly proud of my work, but it was functional. If I ever read those fuckers again, I’d probably take to drinking. Let’s put it this way: I’ve learned a ton about writing in the interim.
I’d tried to read romance before, during, and after this period, but I just couldn’t handle the coy sex scenes with “his throbbing member” and that the sex scene had to be all metaphorical and at the end. Plus the endless “cut to black,” and the emphasis on pregnancy. Look, pregnancy and I don’t get along. Never did.
I discovered that I could enjoy writing sex scenes about bedroom scenes that weren’t my thing. And thanks to writers like Mercedes Lackey, I discovered that I could enjoy reading m/m sex scenes though obviously I wasn’t going to be having any of that.
In short, I’m more diverse as a reader and writer than I am in personal experience, and that’s okay.
So in 2009, I was having a bad time at life. It’s not my story to tell, but I wound up seeing the Twilight movie almost every day for a couple of months as a way to decompress from all the awful. I wrote this post about the book vs. the movie because I was interested in the differences as a writer.
Also in that time, I managed to write a vampire comedy erotic novel that I figured had no market anywhere. ## Say What?

I know, right?
Because, you see, I really had no idea what the market for romance was like. I’d never read erotic romance, didn’t know it was a thing, didn’t know it was my thing, and just had no clue that there was an active and thriving market. Throbbing, even.
Never heard of Ellora’s Cave.
To me, it sounded like my book had “too many adjectives” and was in too obscure a subgenre.
I wrote the book longhand in fountain pen, using a different color of ink every day I wrote. I had a lot of fun with it, but I was writing for fun. I wrote it out of order (and I’m a pantser), so it’s a hot mess. I have all but one 5k excerpt in Scrivener now, though. That other 5k is in a notebook. Somewhere.
Skip forward a year-ish, I search on “vampire” in Fictionwise (remember Fictionwise?) and found Mary Hughes’s book, Biting Me Softly. Which is, I note, vampire erotic comedy.
All the dots lined up in my brain, but other shit was kicking me in life, so I didn’t have the mental space to cope. I read the other books in the Biting series, but didn’t really venture forth into reading or writing romance.

And then Nanowrimo Came

Fast forward to Nanowrimo 2012. I started a different novel, but then got an idea for a romance fanfic. So I started writing it and posting my first drafts. Which are first drafty, but I enjoyed the hell out of it. I’d post a chapter at night before going to bed and I’d have fan mail in the morning. It’s completely awesomesauce.
The other thing: as a new writer, I’d accepted all this bullshit about what writers should and shouldn’t do, but a lot of that was science fiction specific. So writing a different genre was like finally getting out of the straightjacket I hadn’t realized I was wearing. If you feel stuck, maybe trying a different genre or length will help.
Four months later, I was still having a good time.
So I thought, maybe I should see what the market was like.
Since I’d bought Samhain books before, I stuck with them. I searched through their site a few ways and read some samples. I read a few other authors. (I remember tripping and falling while out on a walk one day because I was reading Maya Banks. I became terrified I’d break my Steve Jobs autographed iPad.)
For those of you who’ve read her books, I bet you’re completely unsurprised to find that Vivi Andrews is one of my favorite writers. Humorous paranormal is one of my sweet spots.
Soon I found I was hunting the forthcoming books from Samhain. Every. Week.
I started keeping track of authors I liked (and didn’t like), tropes I did and didn’t like (not big on the secret baby trope).
I branched out to other publishers, too. From Samhain’s Lauren Gallagher titles, I followed her across to her L. A. Witt titles, discovering Riptide. I started perusing bestseller lists, and found Jay Crownover. A literary agent I like recommended Tiffany Reisz. A fan of my fanfic recommended Jenny Trout.
Still hadn’t heard of Ellora’s Cave.
It was my branching out, reading further markets, where I first found them, then bought some backlist titles from my favorite authors. In all but the case of a several-book series, I preferred their non-EC titles.

Dear Author

For about the last year, I’d been following Dear Author on Twitter, occasionally reading posts linked from tweets. When Jane Litte posted a review in August for Sarina Bowen’s The Year We Fell Down, I immediately went and read the book based on her review.
It’s funny how someone recommending a favorite book to you can shift how you feel about them. Right now, that title (or perhaps a later book in the series, The Understatement of the Year) is my favorite book so far this year. Which, Understatement has just been released and it’s worth reading. ::plug::
I went to grad school with a lot of romance writers, but I’ve never felt truly a part of the romance community until now. So, thank you all.
I still read and write science fiction and fantasy, and still feel it’s my primary genre.

In other news

I still fucking hate the verb “lave.” Just thought you should know.

: The Internet Wants Its Popcorn, Ellora's Cave

First, there’s an Ellora’s Cave Exodus Support Thread update further down.

Dear Author/Jane Litte Defense Fund

SBTB’s Jane Wendell has set up a gofundme for DA’s defense fund. She’s also offered non-gofundme ways to contribute.

Many people have been asking if and how they can contribute to Dear Author and Jane Litte’s legal defense. Consequently, this campaign was created. The Dear Author Jane Litte Legal Defense Fund will be run through Go Fund Me. Any donations made to this fund will be used for Jane Litte’s defense against the defamation suit filed against her and Dear Author Media Network LLC by Ellora’s Cave. You can read more about the suit at Dear Author.
Why a fund?
Because lawsuits are expensive (that’s why they’re so often used as a threat, if you’ve ever wondered). Because of that, and because the duration of the litigation is undetermined, Jane will need financial assistance. Jane’s attorney, Marc Randazza, is contributing by discounting his hourly rate. Even with a generous discount, it’s still expensive.
Jane Litte has set aside $20,000.00 of her own funds to fight this defamation suit and has paid the large retainer out of the fund but that money will be depleted quickly as the case progresses.
If you’d like to donate to the legal fund, you can follow this link to the GoFundMe site, and make your donation. Please note: these are NOT tax deductible donations, as this is NOT a 501(c)3 not-for-profit
All funds will be used for Jane’s legal defense, minus the fees charged by GoFundMe, and because we don’t know what the end result will be, we have no way of knowing what the total amount required will be. If there are any funds left over when the suit is finished, they will be donated to the Society of Professional Journalists Legal Defense Fund (
If the fees do not exceed $20,000, we will attempt to refund the donations per the GoFundMe policies ( Countries with the following currencies are supported: $ USD, £ GBP, $ CAD, $ AUD and € EUR.
If you’d like to use an alternate method to contribute, there are two options available. First, if you’d like to use a credit card, you can send a contribution via Paypal to Please make sure to earmark the funds “Jane Litte/Dear Author Defense Fund.” As stated previously, if the total costs for the lawsuit are lower than $20,000.00, Jane will refund the monies donated.
If you’d prefer not to use a credit card, please email Sarah at sarah(AT)
Any amount that you can contribute is most appreciated.

They’ve raised $36,000 so far. Amazing.
To me, that says one thing: The internet wants its popcorn.
Perhaps the single most amazing contribution is one from Lolita Lopez aka Roxie Rivera.

Lolita Lopez / Roxie Rivera

Lolita Lopez / Roxie Rivera Contribution Note
She’s written a truly heartwrenching post, Ellora’s Cave. The Grabbed Series. #notchilled tl;dr: she’s walking away from her Ellora’s Cave series.
Lolita’s one of the more successful Ellora’s Cave authors, but her daughter’s disabled, and the money from Lolita’s writing goes toward helping take care of her daughter’s future.
It’s a crappy situation to be in. I know I’ll be checking out her non-EC titles.

Some Additional Notes About the Ellora’s Cave Author Exodus Support Thread

I’ve been in contact with a few EC authors who aren’t ready to be included on the list. That’s fine. It’s still a resource that’s there for you later if you wish. Also, if you don’t want to be listed, that’s also fine.
Initially, I added people who’d posted somewhere. Not all were aboard with that. I overstepped with a few people, and I’m sorry for that.
There’s a story that someone asked EC for a reversion, then got an email that said EC was reverting. Then the author said something and EC apparently changed their mind. I’m not sure how that’s possible, given that they don’t have the rights to grab back again, but there it is.
So: if you’re in doubt, or are trying to revert your works, please take your time. We’ll still be here for you.
Plus, grief has no timeline. Many of you are still reeling in the sheer WTF? of what happened, and it’s only been a few weeks. Some of you have years of careers—and it’s just not possible for everyone to switch their hearts around that quickly, especially if they’ve been treated well over the years.
So, I’m not going to add additional people unless they ask or unless I’ve confirmed it with them. You can comment here, you can email me (, you can tweet me (@deirdresm), you can message me on facebook (@deirdresm) or Absolute Write (Deirdre). Whatever you’re comfortable with. I’m also @deirdresm on ello, but I don’t really have a feel for that yet.

Note of Potential Future Conflict of Interest

I’ve applied for a position (not in publishing) where blogging/tweeting about the ongoing EC issues would be a conflict of interest if I get the position. I’d really like the job, so I’d appreciate some warm thoughts that I’ll get it. There are plenty of other people who can pick up the slack.
I’ll still keep the EC Author Exodus Support Thread updated as it’s an ongoing project.
If I suddenly stop mentioning the EC issues and don’t respond about certain kinds of things, I haven’t been bought out or silenced. I made a choice about where I’d like my career to go, and that is a side effect with this particular position.

: On Ellora's Cave's Request to Out Anonymous Commenters

tl;dr: The request to out anonymous commenters in the Ellora’s Cave lawsuit isn’t a part of the complaint or any motion; it’s in a memorandum of law, tacked on without any supporting legal citations, and not phrased as a request for the judge to do anything.
Much has been made about the request in the Ellora’s Cave lawsuit against Dear Author about the request to out the anonymous commenters on the Dear Author post at the heart of the lawsuit. The complaint is embedded in this post at The Passive Voice if you wish to follow along.
I’m not a lawyer (and this post is not legal advice), but I am something of a legal ruling groupie. I’m fascinated by the law, sometimes finding myself reading judicial opinions for the sheer joy of judicial language use. Back in the dot bomb era, when I wondered if programming would ever snap back to the pre-bubble normal, I took paralegal classes, including legal research, anticipating a potential career change. That said, my education was general, California-specific, and I didn’t finish the program. So, not only am I not a lawyer, I’m not a paralegal, and I’m not familiar with Ohio law at all, case law especially.
Here’s how my understanding of a judge’s role changed during that time. Essentially, a judge’s purpose is to make rulings within their legal ability to do so about questions properly raised before them. As a general rule, they can do nothing unless something is asked (“moved” or relief prayed for), nor can they do something unless they have the legal authority. Well, they can, but it’ll likely get overturned, and no judge likes that.
At the very end of the PDF (p. 21 of 22) appears this zinger:

Additionally, Plaintiff request that Defendants disclose the name of the anonymous commenters on the blog so that the spreading of the defamatory statement can be stopped.

Let’s look at that in the scope of the document as a whole, sticking to general legal principles.

Structure Is Important

First, legal filings have a structure. The structure differs somewhat jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Here are the sections in the filing in DA’s case:

  1. pp 1-8: Complaint and claims for for relief.
  2. pp 9-14: DA post that EC was complaining about. Note that this does not include the anonymous (or pseudonymous) comments.
  3. p 15: Motion for temporary restraining order.
  4. pp 16-22: Memorandum in support of the motion. The anonymous commenter request appears here.

Essentially, a motion asks a judge to do something, and the memorandum in support tells the judge why they have the authority, based on legislation and prior case law, to act in mover’s favor. So: this is what we want you to do and this is why you should do it.
Before we get into all that, let’s get into controlling vs. persuasive case law for a minute, but be aware this is a gross oversimplification. Essentially, case law is controlling if it’s in the “chain of command” of courts from the court hearing the case, and is considered mandatory for the court to consider. However, the details of the case may mean that ruling isn’t directly relevant.
Persuasive case law, well, maybe someone in Hawaii wrote a great ruling that happens to address the issue very succinctly, but there’s nothing in Ohio law that’s quite as close. So an attorney might cite the Hawaii case in an attempt to persuade the judge. The judge, however, is not required to use the Hawaii court’s reasoning in their ruling.
With all that in mind, let’s look at the case citations in the memorandum.

TRO Memorandum Case Citations

There are seven cases cited (excluding references to other cases) in the TRO’s memorandum, and I’ll discuss each briefly.
Perhaps of note is that all cases cited for defamation are cases where the parties were ruled against in the citations. Sometimes, cases where the plaintiff loses make for the most interesting (and valuable) rulings, so I’m not sure that’s indicative of anything. I just found it amusing.

1. Mike McGarry & Sons, Inc. v. Robert Gross, et al

This ruling lays out what’s necessary in Ohio to get a TRO. You can read the ruling here.
This case is in the Eighth district, and Akron’s in the 9th, so my understanding is that this is persuasive, not controlling. Given that there’s a controlling case with similar wording, why bother with this one?
There are four criteria that have to be met:

A party requesting a preliminary injunction must show that: (1) there is a substantial likelihood that the plaintiff will prevail on the merits, (2) the plaintiff will suffer irreparable injury if the injunction is not granted, (3) no third parties will be unjustifiably harmed if the injunction is granted, and (4) the public interest will be served by the injunction. Procter & Gamble Co. v. Stoneham (2000), 140 Ohio App.3d 260, 267.

In the case cited, here’s the example of irreparable harm. One guy ran a painting company, then re-joined his former employer, then left to found a competing firm. It was found that he was soliciting his former employer’s clients to come with his new, competing firm. That was determined to be irreparable harm.

Brendan McGarry testified that all of the clients that Gross admitted to conducting business with were McGarry & Sons’ clients. (Tr. 67). Attempting to start one’s own business by taking away customers that were serviced by a former employer is precisely the type of irreparable harm that a covenant not to compete is designed to prevent.

So, not particularly relevant as a whole.

2. University of Texas v. Camenisch

This is a US Supreme Court case.
It’s a case about a deaf student and who should pay for interpreter accommodations.
“The purpose of a preliminary injunction is merely to preserve the relative positions of the parties until a trial on the merits can be held,” then I must be missing something because I don’t understand how that applies in this case. It’s cited in the next ruling, and that one line’s cited in the memorandum, but I don’t get it.

3. Midwest Retailers Association, Ltd. v. City of Toledo

This case cites the quoted sentence in the previous ruling. The case was about a new law requiring certain retailers to have 24/7 surveillance cameras, and they wanted a preliminary injunction to prevent the law from taking effect while the case was heard. The judge converted this to a temporary restraining order against the new law and granted it. A good chunk of the ruling is about the fourth, fifth, and thirteenth amendment consequences of the law.
It’s cited here because of the way it weighs the relative factors in granting a TRO, and it’s controlling for the Akron area. Unlike the first ruling, it uses this wording as the criteria:

To grant either form of injunctive relief, a court must consider: “(1) whether the movant has a strong likelihood of success on the merits; (2) whether the movant would suffer irreparable injury absent a stay; (3) whether granting the stay would cause substantial harm to others; and (4) whether the public interest would be served by granting the stay.” Northeast Ohio, supra, 467 F.3d at 1009; see also Rios, supra, 345 F. Supp. 2d at 835.

So if that’s the controlling opinion, why the first two? I don’t get it.
It initially jarred me that this ruling was written in first person. It hadn’t stuck out to me how rare that was, though it seems more common in dissenting and concurring opinions.

4. Hersch v. E. W. Scripps Co

Here’s the ruling.

In the case at bar this court must determine whether a “stupid act” is substantially synonymous with an exercise of “poor judgment” and “impropriety,” or whether it connotes a greater opprobrium.

I have to admit, this sentence made me laugh. Irony?

[T]his court is persuaded by the evidence before the trial court that the characterization of the conduct of attorney Hersch as “stupid” is either true or is an exceedingly charitable assessment of his behavior.

And, in the end, the publication was ruled to be not defamatory.

It is the considered opinion of this court in view of the posture of the evidence in this case, that to be charged with having “acted stupidly” carries no greater opprobrium than to be charged with having committed an impropriety and with having exercised poor judgment. Under the authority of Williams v. P. W Publishing Co., supra, this court is persuaded that, as a matter of law, the summary of Judge Zingale’s remarks contained in the Cleveland Press article was not so false and defamatory as to serve as the basis for an action for libel.

If anything, this may be the most relevant citation of all, but not for the reason esteemed counsel might expect. 😉
Either “true” or “exceedingly charitable,” huh?

5. Am. Chem. Soc’y v. Leadscope, Inc.

You can read the ruling here. From the case summary:

In determining whether a statement is defamatory as a matter of law, a court must review the totality of the circumstances and read the statement in the context of the entire publication to determine whether a reasonable reader would interpret it as defamatory.

One of the propositions of law discussed in the ruling is this:

Damages for defamation must be based upon harm caused by the defamatory statements, as distinct from harm caused by a public lawsuit or other proceeding.

So the interesting thing here is that the defamation claim? Lost in this case.

We reverse the appellate court’s decision finding that the trial court did not err in overruling ACS’s motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict on Leadscope’s counterclaim for defamation. We hold that when reviewed under the totality of the circumstances and in the context of the entire publications, ACS’s statements in the internal memorandum and its attorney’s statements in Business First are not defamatory as a matter of law. […]
The cause is remanded to the trial court with orders to vacate its judgment for Leadscope on the issue of defamation.

The short version is that ACS essentially claimed that Leadscope stole their invention and Leadscope countersued with defamation claims. The ruling (and dissent and concurring opinions) is all about the nuances of qualified privilege, and that doesn’t seem to be applicable to the way it’s cited in the EC TRO memorandum.
I particularly recommend J. Pfeifer’s dissenting part about the defamation case on pp. 40-49.

ACS, “one of the world’s leading sources of authoritative scientific information,” announced to an audience that included the scientific world and the financial world that virtually everything that Leadscope was built upon was stolen. A few words to the right audience can be ruinous. And the jury determined that those words were ruinous to Leadscope, Blower, Johnson, and Myatt. The majority has not demonstrated why those jury verdicts should not stand. […]
In both instances—the employee memorandum and the Business First article—the statements made by ACS were false, were made with the knowledge that they were false, injured the reputations of Leadscope and the individual defendants, and adversely affected them in their business.

But still ruled not defamatory. Interesting case to cite from that perspective.

6. Bluemile, Inc. v. YourColo, LLC

You can read the injunction ruling here. From the EC lawsuit:

The facts are strikingly similar to Bluemile, Inc. v. YourColo, LLC. In Bluemile, the plaintiff, an Ohio corporation, sought a temporary injunction against the defendant, who owned a business claiming the same business name.

In my opinion (though, again, IANAL and TINLA), there is no similarity, and the “strikingly similar” made me wonder what quality pharmaceuticals the esteemed esquire had access to. In Bluemile, there was a clear intent to confuse the trademark held by the plaintiff and siphon off their potential customers by the defendant with a confusing domain name ( The defendant’s site was intended to be confusing.

According to Plaintiff, Defendant uses the website to misdirect traffic through malicious use of Plaintiff’s registered trademark and post false and misleading information about Plaintiff’s products to Defendant’s benefit and Plaintiff’s detriment. Thus, in the Court’s view, Plaintiff is likely to succeed on the merits of some or all of its claims.

None of the above is true—or claimed to be true—in the Dear Author case.
In the Bluemile kind of egregious behavior, it strikes me that a temporary/preliminary injunction is the only possible answer.

7. Guion v. Terra Marketing

This is a Nevada Supreme Court case from 1974, and I’m unaware of it being controlling case law for Ohio. Besides, Nevada. Odd state. (Says the Californian.) Here’s the ruling in question.
So the case here is that the defendant put up signs visible to the plaintiff’s potential and actual customers, that said:

A Terracor representative threatened to kill me! What next, Rick Johnson. I regret having done business with a Terracor representative. Doing business with a Terracor representative introduced me to a new low in ethics.

The case hinged partly upon whether or not the party making said threat was a Terracor representative, and hence on the truth or falsity of the statement. But—the order of magnitude of the statement here is way different than the Dear Author case and claims.
Which reminds me. Nowhere in the DA post, The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave did DA claim that anyone having issues with payment was currently/recently an employee. My take, which may be incorrect, was that it was about issues freelancers and authors were having.
And yet, one of the false statements claimed in the lawsuit (p. 3) is:

a. That employees of Ellora’s are going unpaid when in fact they are being paid.

Surely there’s a case somewhere in the last forty years that’s controlling that’s more relevant. Surely.

Some Humor Because You’ve Stuck With Me This Far

One of my favorite legal writers of all time is retired (forcibly) US District Court Judge Samuel B. Kent, especially Bradshaw v. Unity Marine.

Defendant begins the descent into Alice’s Wonderland by submitting a Motion that relies upon only one legal authority. The Motion cites a Fifth Circuit case which stands for the whopping proposition that a federal court sitting in Texas applies the Texas statutes of limitations to certain state and federal law claims. See Gonzales v. Wyatt, 157 F.3d 1016, 1021 n.1 (5th Cir. 1998), cert. denied, 528 U.S. 1118 (2000). That is all well and good–the Court is quite fond of the Erie doctrine; indeed there is talk of little else around both the Canal and this Court’s water cooler. Defendant, however, does not even cite to Erie, but to a mere successor case, and further fails to even begin to analyze why the Court should approach the shores of Erie.

(So, persuasive, not controlling.)

Plaintiff responds to this deft, yet minimalist analytical wizardry with an equally gossamer wisp of an argument, although Plaintiff does at least cite the federal limitations provision applicable to maritime tort claims. See 46 U.S.C. § 763a. Naturally, Plaintiff also neglects to provide any analysis whatsoever of why his claim versus Defendant Phillips is a maritime action. Instead, Plaintiff “cites” to a single case from the Fourth Circuit. Plaintiff’s citation, however, points to a nonexistent Volume “1886” of the Federal Reporter *671 Third Edition and neglects to provide a pinpoint citation for what, after being located, turned out to be a forty-page decision. Ultimately, to the Court’s dismay after reviewing the opinion, it stands simply for the bombshell proposition that torts committed on navigable waters (in this case an alleged defamation committed by the controversial G. Gordon Liddy aboard a cruise ship at sea) require the application of general maritime rather than state tort law. See Wells v. Liddy, 186 F.3d 505, 524 (4th Cir.1999) (What the …)?! The Court cannot even begin to comprehend why this case was selected for reference. It is almost as if Plaintiff’s counsel chose the opinion by throwing long range darts at the Federal Reporter (remarkably enough hitting a nonexistent volume!). And though the Court often gives great heed to dicta from courts as far flung as those of Manitoba, it finds this case unpersuasive.

Again, persuasive not controlling, and unpersuasive in the end.
And, my favorite part:

After this remarkably long walk on a short legal pier, having received no useful guidance whatever from either party, the Court has endeavored, primarily based upon its affection for both counsel, but also out of its own sense of morbid curiosity, to resolve what it perceived to be the legal issue presented. Despite the waste of perfectly good crayon seen in both parties’ briefing (and the inexplicable odor of wet dog emanating from such) the Court believes it has satisfactorily resolved this matter.

Getting Back to the Request to Out Anonymous Commenters

It’s been a long post, so here’s anonymous commenter request again:

Additionally, Plaintiff request that Defendants disclose the name of the anonymous commenters on the blog so that the spreading of the defamatory statement can be stopped.

So, EC is asking Dear Author (et al) for the names of the anonymous commenters on the blog to stop the propagation of that post.

  1. It’s the readers, not the commenters, who are going to spread whatever was in the post. The commenters are there for internal engagement (within the context of the post), not external engagement (between the post and the outside world). Commenting does not in fact spread the post.
  2. EC may want the sources of DA’s information, but those people are not necessarily anonymous commenters. Or pseudonymous commenters. Or commenters. They may never have engaged with Dear Author publicly at all.
  3. As SBTB commented, the Streisand Effect pretty much ensures that the Internet will remember, in glorious detail, any attempt at censorship.
  4. Note that the statement does not ask the judge to do anything.
  5. Having skimmed more than two hundred pages of case law (so you don’t have to), I don’t see a single case that supports the request to out the anonymous commenters. The request is aimed at Dear Author, not the judge, and is in a curious place.

The average person, however, will read that line, not take the context into account, and think it means more than it perhaps does.
Which is why I think it’s just thrown in there for the chilling effect: “We’ve outed Dear Author’s identity; you’re next.”

See Also

Beware: Anonymous Commenters & Those Who Seek To Unmask Them

: The Indie Secrets Workshop

As I’ve stated before, and you’ve no doubt picked up, I’m quite the fan of Tim Grahl. I got to meet him at the World Domination Summit this year. One of his mantras is: focus on being relentlessly helpful.
He’s done book marketing for a lot of really big names, so I listen to him. He makes sense. He sounds like a really nice person (and has been in all my interactions with him).
Back when I was in Dublin, I attended one of his first Indie Secrets workshops with Michael Bunker, an indie author who writes Amish science fiction.
They are now doing that workshop again, and it now has an additional three-hour session.
The single thing that struck me the most can be summed up by contrasting it with a snippet I pulled into a post yesterday from Carolyn Jewel’s post The Flush Pile:

Do not assume a publisher has an interest in your book selling well. They should, but they don’t. Their interest is in seeing which books unexpectedly hit. That’s it. If it’s not you, you’re screwed.

Does your book make an immediate hit? Because if it doesn’t hit fairly quickly, then it’ll be brushed off the shelves to see if next month’s book offerings do better. How your last book did will affect your next book’s orders—especially for a series.
Bunker’s approach is different. Measured. Long-term. Something that seems positively relaxed given what I’ve heard about first-day craziness. And yet, he does have launch success, too.
I mention all this because Grahl and Bunker, along with Nick Cole, are running another set of the Indie Secrets Workshop on October 16th and 23rd. Check it out.

: Morning Has Broken, and It's a New Day

Quite the round of updates this morning. Probably because I slept so late. (Which, given my post yesterday, is a good change.)

Dear Author and the Temporary Injunction Hearing

A TRO was not granted today, but there will be another hearing on it. Jane makes the following request:

Therefore, If you are willing, I need help with the following:
Individual authors, editors, cover artists willing to testify, either in person, via telephone or in an affidavit to payments made/not made.
It would be best if you could testify in person, but a sworn written statement will be adequate.
Additionally, if you have any Screenshots of any public statements regarding Ellora’s Cave, those would be helpful too.
You can reach me at

Courtney Milan on Confidentiality Clauses

Courtney Milan has a great post on confidentiality clauses here. She’s also offered to help find representation for people who wish to speak up but are afraid to because of the confidentiality clause.

But there is one thing that I know for sure–silence breeds fear. And no matter how broad the confidentiality clause is, there are some things that it can’t prevent you from saying. So if you’re an Ellora’s cave author, editor, or cover-artist, and you would speak up but you’re afraid, say that much. Go on twitter. Post it on your blog or your Facebook page. “I’m an Ellora’s Cave author, and I’m afraid to speak up.”

I want to talk about this for a minute. Fifteen years ago, I was in a pre-IPO startup with a culture of silence and fear. Two years ago, I finally wrote about it. I was only able to write about it as a fable, thirteen years after it happened. Here’s another side of the story. I am $COLLEAGUE in this telling—and I’ve never said that publicly before. The stress cost me a hospital stay with a kidney infection.
So: I get it. It’s one of the reasons I want to help provide support.
If you are willing to state that you’re an EC author afraid to speak out, and have non-EC titles to promote, I’ll add you to the Ellora’s Cave Author Exodus Support Thread.

The Flush Pile

The advice I was given by a number of senior writers back when I was learning the ropes was: money in hand is important, but reversion clauses are a critical negotiating point that may, in the long run, be even more important.
Carolyn Jewel’s post The Flush Pile – An Author’s Perspective is one of the single best posts I’ve ever seen about the business of writing from the school of hard knocks. You should read it, engrave it onto copper plates, and frame that sucker. Okay, I exaggerate. A tidge.

Do not assume a publisher has an interest in your book selling well. They should, but they don’t. Their interest is in seeing which books unexpectedly hit. That’s it. If it’s not you, you’re screwed.

Gulp. Welcome to the post-Kindle world of publishing.

I added three important updates to the Ellora’s Cave Author Exodus Support Thread. that you may have missed.
First, several EC authors have said their copyrights were not registered. This link allows you to check if yours was.
If you’re an RWA member or SFWA member and are having trouble with Ellora’s Cave, there are links to grievance processes. I don’t know much about RWA’s, but in the years I was a SFWA member, I know SFWA’s was pretty awesome.

For the EC Authors Who Haven’t Had Problems

There’s no universal experience with Ellora’s Cave. Some have had problems, some have not. Some have questioned their royalty accounting, and others believe it’s fine.
In short, some people have had absolutely great experiences with Ellora’s Cave, and other’s haven’t. Please don’t assume that others have the same experience you have, and be gentle with the people who can’t quite believe what’s happening because their own experience is so much more positive.
The people who could wind up being the most hurt—and not just financially—are the ones Ellora’s Cave has protected the most: their best-selling authors. They’ve had incentive to ensure that these authors have had premium experiences, possibly at the expense of those in the long tail. And with (if I counted accurately) 934 active authors, there’s quite a long tail.
It’s hard to want to ask for reversions when your experience has been strong, even if some of your titles aren’t selling well. It’s hard to want to go with another publisher for some work when you’ve had an ongoing relationship. However, this leads to having all your eggs in one basket, which can go fabulously well or fabulously poorly, depending.
So here’s what I’d suggest for authors who are in this boat—or, really, any author.

  1. Build your email list. If you don’t already have one, start now.
  2. Work on your marketing. If you don’t have a strategy, Tim Grahl at Out:think Group has a free 30-day course that may help you.

Best of luck to you. Really.

A Question About Discovery

IANAL and TINLA, but….
As I mentioned before, there are some suspicions of hinky royalty accounting. Others have stated their non-EC titles didn’t have the precipitous drop.
So, my question: doesn’t the nature of this lawsuit mean that Amazon can be subpoenaed for the royalties for titles?

A Pithy Thought

You can’t build trust with your entirely pseudonymous author list by outing the real name of a pseudonymous blogger.

Last, But Not Least

You probably saw the image up at the top. It’s free for you to use. There’s a smaller version just above, also free for you to use. The characters, ΕΞΟΔΟΣ, literally mean “exit” (or “going out”) in Greek. Of course, it’s also where the name of the second book of the Bible, Exodus, comes from. I admit I wasn’t thinking about the deeper historical meaning of the Israelites leaving slavery in Egypt, and I mean no disrespect in using the term. The ankh, well, that symbol’s all over Ellora’s Cave’s site.
I’ve made several products on Redbubble, and here’s the plan. Several of you may wish to speak out. Several EC authors have said that they are quite poor. Thus, for them, calling in testimony in Dear Author’s case may be prohibitively expensive for them.
I’ll make 75% of my royalty on these items (10-20%, depending on the item) available for people for whom it would be prohibitively expensive to speak out. Every month when I get my royalty statement, I’ll update how much is available below. I don’t expect it’ll be much, though, based on past experience.
Here’s a 100% detail of the background on the non-clothing items:

: Ellora's Cave Author Exodus Support Thread

[![Greek Sphinx, Delphi](/images/2014/09/greek-sphinx-695x700.jpg)](/images/2014/09/greek-sphinx.jpg)Greek Sphinx, Delphi

This post is for authors, editors, and cover artists who’ve left, or who are trying to leave, Ellora’s Cave. I’ve got a section for other resources for EC authors at the end of this post. ## Authors

At least one of the following needs to be true:
1. Asked for your rights to be reverted in 2014 (or 2015) or had your rights reverted in 2014 (or 2015). Or, and I hope this isn’t true for you, your rights were reverted but EC is still selling your titles.
2. Have taken your EC titles off your website. Or, if they’re reverted, have re-published at least some of them.
3. Have spoken up since December 2012 about late royalties, missing royalties, or suspiciously declining royalties in a public post (blog, facebook, google+, whatver) or tweet.
4. Have had an EC title for which EC has sold the contract to another publisher.
5. Have publicly posted that you’re afraid to speak up. (Thanks for the idea, Courtney!)
You must also have a non-EC title to promote, since many of the readers of this thread may not wish to enrich Ellora’s Cave.
Click on author name for the author’s website.

  1. Cat Grant. She’s gotten her three Ellora’s Cave titles reverted (soon to be re-published) and has more than twenty titles from other sources.
  2. Kit Tunstall. “What I do know is I haven’t been paid for three out of the past nine months[…]” Later received a check, commented, “The low amount of my check is hardly indicative of the financial health of the company.” Note: she later deleted those posts, and they were not archived on
  3. Evanne Lorraine. talks about deleting the covers of her EC titles from her website:

    I loved my editor, thought their cover art was brilliant, and was very fond of the regular royalty checks.
    Yesterday I deleted those covers from my website, which makes me want to sob.
    I still adore those stories, but Ellora’s Cave isn’t paying me. I sent them formal notice requesting payment and the reversion of my rights. I received an automated response to both emails stating they’re overwhelmed with requests.

  4. Avril Ashton. Spoke about royalty issues. “I’m going to say that once again Ellora’s Cave isn’t paying royalty checks. I’m going to say that once again, emails and phone calls and fucking homing pigeons are being left unanswered. Silence on all correspondence.”
  5. Jan Springer. Commented on DA, “Jan, one of the EC authors not getting paid and fighting to get her rights back.”
  6. Trista Ann Michaels. Spoke about royalties not arriving.:

    Another month has gone by and no check from EC. Emails and phone calls go unanswered, just like always. I have no doubt if I was to go up there in person, I would find the office doors locked.
    . . . .
    It’s a shame that we at EC have to resort to such a tactic, but I’m adding my name to the list of authors who are asking that readers not buy their EC titles. We’re not getting paid for them anyway.

  7. Lex Valentine. Lex commented on Passive Voice: “I got a lovely check September 23 dated August 31 for May royalties. It was $43 and change. The only thing I found curious was how it took nearly a month for that check to get from Ohio to Southern California and that I got a check at all considering some of my EC author friends haven’t been paid.”
  8. Lynne Connolly has said “I just want my rights back.”
  9. India Masters, also writing as Keira Cole. She comments below, “My last check, covering royalties earned for the month of April, was $48.94 – around 1/4 of my usual earnings.”
  10. Abigail Barnette/Jenny Trout. One of my favorite people, and I’m a fan of her Boss series. She says:

    I’m an Ellora’s Cave author. I only have one book there, and it has never been a bestseller, but I love it and I would be heartbroken if it were to end up as part of a bankruptcy settlement. So, I asked for a reversion of my rights last week, after a summer of rumblings from other authors who weren’t happy with their experience with the company. I myself have never had any payment issues with Ellora’s Cave, but having been in the business for almost a decade, I’ve learned that when authors are saying that they aren’t getting paid, other things aren’t getting paid, either. As Litte points out in her post, if a company goes bankrupt, authors can lose their rights permanently, so some Ellora’s Cave authors are faced with a difficult, possibly bridge-burning choice right now. I’ve never met an Ellora’s Cave staff member about whom I could say a bad word, and it pains me to cut ties with a publisher that I feel has treated me well, but in business you have to make hard decisions to protect your interests.

  11. Lynne Connolly. Comments below, and has removed her EC titles from her website as well as gotten reversions on her unpublished titles.
  12. Shoshanna Evers. Comments below, and has gotten several titles reverted.

    I would also like to add that everyone who works at or for EC has always been awesome to me, and Romanticon used to be my favorite convention. I’m sad this is going down the way it is.

  13. Cassandra Carr. Comments below. Has gotten two shorts reverted, but still has several titles at EC.
  14. Regina Cole. Has a non-EC book available for pre-order, Draw Me In.
  15. Suz deMello. Commented below, asking for rights back on five titles.
  16. Kate Sherwood. Tweets: “Please don’t buy my EC novella. I don’t want any profits from it to contribute to EC’s lawyers’ bills. #notchilled” She’s got other titles available.
  17. Liz Crowe. Commented below, and generously offered the Stewart Realty series ebook for our readers.
  18. Kelly Maher. Asked for reversion of her EC titles.
  19. Lissa Matthews. Spoke up about royalty accounting and also getting a cover that wasn’t compliant with Amazon’s standards.

    I have one book filtered at Amazon and I don’t even have a year’s worth of sales numbers on it, but I can tell you it definitely meets the ‘sells less than 100 copies in a calendar year’… No one even knows the book exists unless I tell them. And it’s filtered because I didn’t specify No Nudity for the cover. Okay, I took blame for that, but how was I supposed to know I had to tell Ellora’s Cave what their distributors would and wouldn’t allow on covers in order for them to be found by readers and not stashed so deep into the abyss? I had never had to specify that before and believe you me, I learned that lesson. Because the next and final book that I submitted specified on the cover art form NO NUDITY!

  20. Berengaria Brown. Comments below. She’s got plenty of non-EC titles for you to read. Thanks, and welcome!
  21. Delphine Dryden. Comments below. I have read and enjoyed her Cosmo/Harlequin titles, but she’s got plenty of others.
  22. Leigh Ellwood. Comments below. She’s got quite a few titles out and is a very versatile writer.
  23. Lolita Lopez / Roxie Rivera Wrote a heart-wrenching blog post about her EC relationship. She has plenty of titles to entice you with, especially if you like paranormal or sci-fi in your romance.
  24. Nina Pierce. Comments below, and has asked for reversions on her EC titles when her sales started slipping.
  25. Angelia Sparrow. Comments below. Many of her EC books reverted before the recent issues with EC.
  26. Lynn Rae. Pinged me on Twitter, and has other non-EC books featured on her website.
  27. Emily Ryan-Davis. Has gotten reversion on her Ellora’s Cave titles. She’s got plenty of other books for you to read!
  28. Kate St. James. Has gotten reversion on her EC titles and has other titles for you to read.
  29. Blair Valentine aka Bonnie Vanak. Has spoken out about EC’s slow royalty payments and asked people not to purchase her EC titles.
  30. Jane Leopold Quinn. Has asked for reversion, but also has non-EC books to check out.

There is a Kindle book list of EC authors who have non-EC books for authors who’ve contributed to the Dear Author/Jane Litte Defense fund.
Additionally, A. Nonny Mouse comments below, “I’m an EC author who’s received obviously backdated checks, suspect royalty statements missing books, whose questions and concerns have gone unanswered by TPTB. I’ve removed all EC books from my website and have asked for all my rights to be returned. Obviously, they haven’t bothered to respond.”

To Participate

Please comment with, email me with or tweet me with your pen name and website (and link to the post if #3), and I’ll add it to this author list. Fan of an author not listed? Let me know!
Note: EC covered a wide variety of erotic romance tropes, and there’s no guarantee that any particular author will write something that speaks to you as a reader.


You’ve commented publicly, even if anonymously, that payments to you are currently, or have been recently, late.

  1. Just sayin’ comments: “I am a former EC editor and have not been paid since the beginning of the summer.” I believe, but obviously can’t be sure, this may be the same “Just sayin’” who comments below.
  2. And me commented below saying they have not been paid since early summer.
  3. This makes three adds, “I’m yet another EC editor who hasn’t been paid.”
  4. Me too also comments below, “I’m an unpaid editor too.”
  5. Lemon Squeeze Editing is a group of laid off EC editors now offering their services as freelance editors.

Cover Artists

You’ve commented publicly, even if anonymously, that payments to you are currently, or have been recently, late.

  1. Dar Albert Commented on Avril Ashton’s blog:

    They owe me for covers for two months. They worked me like a dog, took the art, and now tell me nothing. Or that they have no idea when I will be paid. I am really frustrated. Got bills, got a life, got just me, no back up, and now I have no loyalty for a company I served for six years as an artist.

    If you need covers for a book project, you can contact Dar at Wicked Smart Designs. I’m sure she’d appreciate the work.

Promotion Opportunities

  1. There’s a Google Doc form for each non-EC book by an EC author for bloggers to promote. Here’s the tweet. This is a great project to help get exposure for authors. Here’s the resulting web page.
  2. Felicia would like to feature EC authors on Top Off Tuesday. (I’m not affiliated with that, just passing along the info.) Covers should have a male with a top all or partly off.
  3. Angela would like to feature EC authors with non-EC titles on Boosting the Signal.
  4. Kastil Eavenshade tweets that her blog is open for EC authors to promote non-EC titles.
  5. Agents of Romance tweeted that they would love to help EC authors promote non-EC titles.
  6. Romancing Rakes wants to feature non-EC titles by EC authors for the entire month of November. Whoa.
  7. ScuttlebuttReviews comments below. “We currently cannot commit to reviews, but can accept author promos, guest posts, and the like. Please note that we only accept GLBTQ books, the bulk of which are MM/Gay.”

Several EC authors have noted that Ellora’s Cave did not register their copyrights. Victoria Strauss tweets how to check if your copyright was registered. More direct link is here.

Romance Writers of America

By the way, if you are an Ellora’s Cave author and an RWA member, you can file a complaint with RWA. #notchilled

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) September 29, 2014

Here’s how you do it. (1) Here is the Industry Code of Ethics: There is no easy way to report… #notchilled

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) September 29, 2014

…so step (2) is to e-mail the RWA president (emails here: and say you’re reporting a violation. #notchilled

— Courtney Milan (@courtneymilan) September 29, 2014

Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America

If you’re a SFWA member and are having trouble receiving payment, or believe your royalties aren’t accurate, you may be able to use SFWA’s Grievance Committee resource. Not all EC titles fall under SFWA’s purvue, but many stories are science fiction, paranormal romance, or similar genres.

Comment Note

Note: Comments use gravatars. If you wish to comment anonymously, be careful. To the extent the law permits, I will protect anonymous commenters. Also, all comments are moderated unless there’s a previously-approved comment from you.

: Ellora's Cave Sues Dear Author


Tweeple! @ellorascave has sued me for libel / defamation so I need a good Ohio attorney. If you have a recommendation, let me know!

— DearAuthor (@dearauthor) September 26, 2014

Dear @ellorascave I welcome your suit and look forward to inspecting all of your books. Truth is a defense in defamation cases.

— DearAuthor (@dearauthor) September 26, 2014

The suit link here hinges on several claims Jane made about payments and economic status of the firm.
What’s of particular interest here is the statements in the lawsuit open up the Ellora’s Cave books for discovery since it does indeed revolve around whether or not authors, editors, and employees were paid properly.
I tend to think that Jane probably has her tail covered, or at least mostly so.
Popcorn, anyone?

The House in West Hollywood

I thought I’d add the small amount of fact-checking I tried to do for my own self on the West Hollywood house thing.
Here’s today’s DA tweet about it:

And here is the FB status of Jaid Black/Tina Engler announcing her move to West Hollywood @ellorascave

— DearAuthor (@dearauthor) September 26, 2014

So here’s what I was able to find.

  1. On March 2, Jaid Black/Tina Engler announced on facebook that she was moving from Venice Beach to West Hollywood.
  2. On March 3, Jaid named William Cerqueira as her real estate agent in a facebook post.
  3. Cerqueira has a website, but all the sales listed on it are at least four years old. There’s also this link, which lists no sales at all. That page links to a different, dead website.
  4. Cerqueira’s Yelp listing has an endorsement from Jaid B., who says she leased a home with him as her agent. (Note: I just found this today.)

So here’s the thing: Jane saying that Jaid purchased (rather than leased) a home isn’t inherently defamatory. Even if it were, it’s about Jaid’s personal life in California, which makes me wonder if it’s a valid cause of action for a state suit filed about an Ohio business in state court in Ohio against an Iowa LLC.

: Cat Grant Gives Away Her Unreverted Ellora's Cave Titles

[![Cat Grant, photo by Adam Bouska](/images/2014/09/CatGrantAuthorPic.jpg)](/images/2014/09/CatGrantAuthorPic.jpg)Cat Grant, photo by Adam Bouska

Cat Grant asked troubled erotic romance publisher Ellora’s Cave for rights reversion on three titles. She got an answer: two thousand dollars.
Over on Absolute Write, poster junierob said: > That is on the low end of what other authors have been told–by a lot. I wonder if they were more reasonable with her because they knew she’d post it publicly.

After that, Cat thought about it, then decided to give away her three Ellora’s Cave titles for free.

No, I’m not kidding. I would rather give these books away than see EC make another penny’s worth of profit from them.
I’m tired of being told to “sit down, shut up & do what we say or we’ll sue you.”
So go ahead, EC. Sue me. I double dog dare you.

Author Tymber Dalton commented:

If they try to sue you, that means they will be forced to go through the discovery process, which is something I sincerely doubt they want made public. If they were smart they’d simply revert your rights.

Exactly so. As I pointed out in my prior post on Ellora’s Cave, EC refused to produce documents about their business records when sued by one of the owners of the company for her share of the profits. There’s no way they’d open up their books for an author, even in court.
Cat got a lot of support for her move, and speaks out more in a later post:

I don’t have a “day job” to fall back on. I’m a disabled widow who’s been writing full-time since 2008. I have a back list 30-odd books strong. This year alone I’ve had six releases, with another two, possibly three, in the pipeline. Not as prolific as some, but I’m not exactly lazing around the house all day doing nothing, either.

I have to admit that, uh, I have several Cat Grant titles, but I haven’t yet gotten around to reading them. So I can’t personally recommend her work, but I found her through her co-author, L. A. Witt, who happens to be one of my favorite erotic romance writers. I’m just still catching up on Witt’s titles, and thus the purchased-but-as-yet-unread co-authored titles with Grant. (It’s not personal, I’m about 40 Witt books behind still, having discovered her only last year.)
In addition to Ellora’s Cave, Cat Grant is published through Samhain, Riptide, and others, including quite a few self-published titles.
Anyhow, if you’ve never read any male/male erotic romance, and might be interested, consider giving Cat Grant a try. If the titles she’s giving away aren’t of interest, please consider at least reading a sample of one of her other books.
Meanwhile, Ellora’s Cave owner Jaid Black/Tina Engler posted this classy photo as her facebook profile pic.
Ellora's Cave owner Jaid Black/Tina Engler recently selected this classy photo as her facebook profile pic.

: Forget Curious, This Is Downright Bizarre

One of the things that truly fascinates me is how things fail. How businesses fail, how wars start, how bridges collapse, and how factories explode. For Ellora’s Cave, a long-established erotica and erotic romance publisher, it’s a complex tale of tax liens, slow royalties, broken promises, complete lack of communication, and the founder’s weird paranoid ramblings. Technically, EC hasn’t failed yet, but it certainly appears to be flirting with the drainpipe if not outright sucking it.
Jane at Dear Author (DA) has a great post, The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave, that documents the tax liens, including an unpaid lien dating to July of last year.

At the same time, court records showed repeated tax violations by [EC founder Tina] Engler [aka Jaid Black] and Jasmine Jade Enterprises. Since 2009, Engler has had a tax lien filed against her by Ohio Department of Taxation in every year except 2010.

Last year’s lien is $35,853.21, and this year’s is $105,819.92. The ongoing nature of the liens and their size suggest poor cash flow.
Yet, in August 2013, the Akron Beacon Journal profiled Ellora’s Cave quoted the CEO stating EC sold $15 million per year—200,000 books.
Royalty payments have been late. Not once, not twice, but on an ongoing basis. Roslyn Holcomb speaks out. Avril Ashton and Cat Grant have asked people not to buy their Ellora’s Cave titles, hoping that will reduce their sales enough to get EC to agree to a rights reversion—as well as cut their losses on royalties due. Avril self-published her latest book instead. (Avril talks more about that choice in this post.)
Quite a few are afraid to speak out about their own troubles with EC. Kenzi comments on DA’s post:

I’ve been terrified to say anything publicly. It isn’t just dealing with the repercussions at EC; it’s also the fear that you’ll make yourself undesirable to other publishers. Who wants to be seen as a troublemaker?
Ms. Black claims on her Facebook page that this is all lies. There is no proof. I wish someone would call her out and ask which parts are a lie. When was the last time her editors and artists were paid? Is she claiming they have been? Is she saying it’s untrue that authors have been told their books will be copyedited and released without their input? Even though a lot of us have gotten those emails? Does she really want us to start posting these things publicly as proof?

Eden Connor comments about a similar experience with Silver Publishing:

Speaking out is the right thing to do. And I’ll mention here what I said to the publisher at Silver when he threatened to sue me for speaking out: Sue me. Please, please sue me. Because in order for any court to determine if slander took place, step one would be for you to turn over the books for a forensic accounting by a court-appointed auditor.
And he did not sue me, because having to open his books was the last thing he wanted.

Ellora’s Cave has also been particularly reluctant to open their books, as you’ll see later.
There’s also talk about hinky royalty accounting: (Note: this was a link, but at the request of said post’s author, I’ve removed it and the quoted content.)
EC also claims that it hasn’t talked to Amazon about a massive drop off in sales.
Summary so far:

  1. Massive tax liens.
  2. Downsizing.
  3. Paying royalties late, and paying smaller than perceived correct royalties.
  4. Claiming there’s a massive drop off in Amazon sales, but not talking to Amazon about said dropoff.
  5. Three other authors say that the dropoff is not true for them with books published by other publishers (including self-published).
  6. EC principals accusing people talking about late or non-payments of lying, causing others to be more afraid (or angry) about speaking out.

On the surface, it appears that:

  • The slump, to the extent that it’s real, is related to cover art issues and EC’s ebooks being too expensive.
  • Hinky royalty accounting.
  • If the money isn’t in EC’s accounts (which late royalties imply), could money have been diverted to other ventures and/or people?
  • Authors have been left in the dark.

Some Thumbnail Numbers

Let’s make the following assumptions.

  1. The tax lien amounts are directly related to sales.
  2. The $15M number is true for 2013, correlating to the $105k Ohio tax bill.
  3. Engler/Black was hit with a $29,679.52 tax bill from the City of Akron in March. The City of Akron tax rate is 2.25% on adjusted net income (cite: tax form). Ergo, the adjusted net income for 2013 was $1,319,089.78. That’s after all expenses such as royalties. (Paid royalties if it’s cash-based, accrued royalties if it’s accrual-based.)
  4. If 15M/1.32M are for the same tax year, then the business has 8.8% net profit.

The obvious question: where’s the million-and-a-third bucks?
DA goes on to say:

In the meantime, Engler boasts of her Rodeo Drive shopping trips and her new property purchase in West Hollywood on her Facebook page.

I see.
Pity her real estate agent’s website is four years out of date.

EC’s Prior Lawsuit

Once upon a time, someone threatened me with a lawsuit. I didn’t have a good response handy, so I said, fliply, “Well, discovery should prove interesting.” It proved to be the exact right thing to say. Obviously, the lawsuit never happened.
In 2008, Ellora’s Cave was sued by Christine Brashear, who went on to become the founder of Samhain (a press I like very much). You can read her lawsuit against Ellora’s Cave six years ago, which sounds like some of the same ongoing issues. PDF here.
During that suit, Ellora’s Cave got quite the smackdown from the judge. Not only did they refuse production of documents, they no-showed for the final pre-trial conference:

Defendants willfully evaded the production of discovery, resulting in unnecessary delays of this case and increased legal fees. Defendants’ actions in this case have crossed the line from a zealous defense to malingering, malfeasance, sabotage and delay. […]
It is suspect that all three of them failed to appear for the final pretrial. The Court could understand if one of them had neglected to put it on their calendar or “forgot” to come. But the absence of all three, who concede to receiving notice of the hearing, is questionable. […]
Such continuous, systematic delays and flagrant disrespect for court orders resemble an unwillingness to defend and bad faith attempts to derail the case from moving to a resolution.

Brashear won on summary judgment. This is pretty damn rare in business lawsuits.
Personally, I’d never have been an author with them after that point. If they evaded discovery in a lawsuit, there’s no way I’d ever trust them to pay royalties accurately.
Meanwhile, there are two threads over on The Passive Voice: one two.
From the EC letter PV links to in the second article:

Also, please note that almost all the royalty checks have been mailed, with the exception of a handful that should be out by end of week. We are not bankrupt (rumors) and are not in any kind of shape to even file bankruptcy.

[We] are not in any kind of shape to even file bankruptcy. Wow. That’s so comforting.
Commenter Antares says:

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.

Antares later follows up with:

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. […]
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.

In this particular case, I’m not sure if discovery would prove interesting or not. I’m very curious about what happened to all that money. Disappearing gobs of money plus weird paranoia tends to scream one thing to me.
However, if you’re an EC reader, you might not want to add to the pile at present. Support your favorite authors in other ways. If you’re a writer, I’d strongly suggest not submitting to EC. If it’s too late, ask for a reversion.
If your payments are late and are significant, I strongly suggest you consider Antares’s words.


Meanwhile, EC is still open to submissions, and is still holding their $325 per person annual convention in Akron, Ohio next month. Complete with Cavemen.
Edited to add: and in the extra bonus unhappiness round check out the comment from Adam (sorry, no direct link, so I’ll quote one paragraph):

Wasn’t it you who told me at Romanticon™, who cares if one of the models inappropriately touched a teenaged fan, that is what the fans are here for? Wasn’t it you bragging about how endowed some of the Cavemen were because you had personal experience? Wasn’t it you who said it didn’t matter how a book was crafted, or how many typos were in it, as long as it was nasty? As the father of teenaged daughters, this is something I am very unlikely to forget, and a life lesson I want my girls far, far away from. Were this the first such incident, it would have been perturbing. But, this was just the latest in the chain of strippers behaving inappropriately with women, sometimes for money. See Romantic Times, circa 2008 and the semi-public sex one of your Cavemen engaged in for money.

Anyone happen to have that RT issue handy?
Kit Tunstall has also asked that people not purchase her EC titles. (Note: Kit has deleted this post.) Also Evanne Lorraine.
Cat Grant reports on what the buyback offer for her three remaining titles was.

: Throwing Down My Teeny Weeny Gauntlet

For the last three months, there’s been a loophole on SFWA’s site about who qualifies for membership. Specifically, it’s Rule 3:

One paid sale of a work of fiction of under 40,000 words for which the candidate’s income equals or exceeds $2,000.00, such income to include a simple payment or an advance and/or subsequent royalties after the advance has earned out. Detailed documentation of payment will be required.

Rule 3 does not specify that said work must be sold to a “qualifying professional market”, but Rule 1 and 2, which list other ways to qualify, do.
When I questioned that, I was told that it didn’t overrule the bylaws, which still prohibited qualifying based on non-qualifying markets.
By that time, however, I’d had a lot of time to think.
This morning, SFWA sent a seven-question survey about whether or not indie and small press publishing credits should count for SFWA membership. Consider this a broader answer to those question.

Case 1: Lori Witt

In March, Lori wrote this post about writing income, which I’ve previously written about.

…whereas I’ve made over $8,000 from a novella published in 2011.

That description narrows the book in question down to two possible novellas, but I believe it’s this one. [Edited to add: I was wrong; see note at bottom.]
Riptide’s a small press, specializing in LGBT books, with around 50 authors. As is Samhain, which is a much larger digital first romance publisher that publishes both straight and gay romance.

Case 2: Michael Bunker

Michael Bunker lives off-grid and writes Amish science fiction. He makes a significant part of his income doing so.

The Point

As I’m writing this, I’m eligible for Associate (junior) membership in SFWA based on my sale of a short to Baen in 2003 (published in 2004).
Lori and Michael are eligible for absolutely no SFWA status based on their writing.
Back when SFWA was formed, essentially you sold to qualifying markets or you weren’t making significant money writing science fiction. The world has shifted in recent years, and that’s no longer true.
Any writers’ organization that privileges my one-time sale to a Baen anthology in 2003 where I’ve earned less than $400 over the last 11 years over far more significant current income from working writers—that’s an unjust system.
My opinion.
It’s frankly been idiotic for me to continue to pay for SFWA membership; I’ve essentially paid out all I took in from that one sale (so far) several times over.
Therefore, I’ll start paying for SFWA membership again when the whole qualifying market thing changes.


Well, I guessed wrong on which novella. It was this one, which isn’t sf/f.

@deirdresm @mbunker Wow, interesting. (for the record, the novella was AJ’s Angel, but I believe Chip meets the criteria too)

— L.A.Witt/L.Gallagher (@GallagherWitt) August 23, 2014

: Building a Brand: Object Lessons

I wrote this some time ago; it’s been a draft sitting on my computer for quite a while. It’s as true now as it was then, though.
Looking at prospective panelists, I’m surprised at how many published writers trying to promote themselves do not or cannot:

  1. Have their own domain name,
  2. Have an excerpt up on their site,
  3. Write a paragraph introducing themselves,
  4. Understand what a paragraph is,
  5. Bother to mention a URL where their book is,
  6. (for the non-indies) Mention who their publisher is.

And yet want to be on a panel about building a brand or give a solo presentation about same.

: Amazon, Invoking WW2 and Getting it Wrong

Amazon invokes World War II. (Do Not Linkified because why should they get all the Google juice?)

Also, structure of email opening is remarkably similar to from @andrewtshaffer (which has full Orwell quote)

— andrea vuleta (@alv65) August 9, 2014

Except, of course, they said “World War II” rather than 1939 because that carries so much more emotional weight. It’s Godwin’s Law by proxy.
Also, as a technical point, this was an innovation in the US, and the US wasn’t involved in WWII in 1939 (not until Pearl Harbor in December, 1941). Not only that, as Andrew’s article points out, the paperback started in June, 1939, and World War II is generally considered to have started with the Invasion of Poland on 1 September, 1939.
So not only did they invoke WWII for all the emotional baggage it carries, their email opening is factually incorrect.

@alv65 When you google “paperback history” or “paperback revolution,” my story is the first hit. So it’s possible they just crammed it.

— Andrew Shaffer (@andrewtshaffer) August 9, 2014

@GlennF They also twisted the Orwell quote to make it look like he hated paperbacks. Just the opposite:

— Andrew Shaffer (@andrewtshaffer) August 9, 2014

@GlennF Looks like they took it—and their opening graf—from my Mental Floss article. I dunno. Crazy no matter what.

— Andrew Shaffer (@andrewtshaffer) August 9, 2014

@GlennF Now that I look back into the quote, looks like he thought paperbacks were good for readers, bad for trade.

— Andrew Shaffer (@andrewtshaffer) August 9, 2014

@GlennF I still don’t think he was literally suggesting publishers collude, though, which is what Amazon’s letter seems to suggest.

— Andrew Shaffer (@andrewtshaffer) August 9, 2014

Then Amazon gives the email address of Hachette’s CEO, but not their own.
Because Amazon wants to play fair, right?

Cora Buhlert Has an Even Better Point

Edited to add Cora Buhlert’s fabulous tweets:

@deirdresm @cathryanhoward Besides, Germany has had paperbacks since 1867.

— Cora Buhlert (@CoraBuhlert) August 9, 2014

@deirdresm @cathryanhoward And they cost 20 pennies, 25 pennies from 1917 on. I demand a return to the prices of the Second Empire.

— Cora Buhlert (@CoraBuhlert) August 9, 2014

@deirdresm @cathryanhoward In case you need a reference for the 1867 paperbacks, try this one:

— Cora Buhlert (@CoraBuhlert) August 9, 2014

: Indie Book Launch Secrets Workshop

Tim Grahl of Outthink, and Michael Bunker, one of his clients, are giving a three-hour training session next month.
Tim’s had five authors on the New York Times Bestseller list simultaneously, and indie author Hugh Howey is one of his clients.
However, for this particular workshop, he’s using another, lesser-known author who still has unarguable success as an indie. Michael Bunker writes Amish science fiction, which you could argue is a limited market. It’s the kind of specificity that indie was designed for.

Michael’s latest book Pennsylvania Omnibus sold 4183 copies in 48 hours.
Michael’s latest book Pennsylvania Omnibus has sold 13,000+ copies since its launch in January 2014.

$4.49 * 70% * 13,000 = $40,859 (assuming the price has stayed constant)
Not shabby at all, especially for a single title.
If that’s not for you, Tim’s got a ton of free resources on his site for both indie and traditionally-published writers (and aspiring writers).

: Rejecting Bad Writing Advice

There was a time when I was so starved for any writing advice, I’d take whatever crap would fall in. Granted, I was a Scientologist at the time, so you could say I was particularly primed for not only sources of bad advice, but also the unquestioned acceptance of same.
Over the years, I found that my brain became so constrained by all the bullshit I’d accepted that I found it impossible to write at all. I was bound by the red tape.

If You Want to Sell a Novel, Sell Short Stories First

Look, having any kind of respectable publishing credits helps. No question.
But not all novelists can write short. Even if they can write short, they may be nowhere near as good a short story writer as they are a novelist.
So here’s my revised answer to that: Write short stories because you want to. Submit them because you want to.
If they don’t speak to you, there are plenty of other, better ways to spend that time.

You’re Never Going to Make a Lot of Money as a Short Story Writer

I heard this last weekend. Verbatim.
Do I believe it’s true? No, I do not. Edward D. Hoch made a living as a short story writer.
Do I believe the odds are against you?
Sure, if you insist on thinking of it in terms of odds, which I don’t think is helpful.
Rather, I prefer to think of it this way: if you want to make a lot of money as a short story writer, you’d likely need to have a large number of relatively uncomplicated (in the sense that it’s a “short story” idea rather than a “novel” idea) ideas that you can write and polish to professional levels.
I know me: I have a smaller number of ideas but they’re more complex, and thus I’m a novella or novel kind of writer.
There’s also the issue that how much you make from short fiction depends on what venues are available for you to sell it, including film and television. Excluding self publishing at the moment, I’d argue that novella length has new life in the digital first markets.
Case in point:

We both have short stories and novellas, which frequently don’t make it into print except in collections or magazines. Those collections and magazines tend to pay token amounts if at all — contributor’s copies are common — whereas I’ve made over $8,000 from a novella published in 2011. Aleks and I co-wrote a short story that was released last year and has made each of us just under $2,000.

(Quoted from here.)
I’d say that most people would think $8,000 was “a lot of money.” Somewhat fewer would consider $4,000 ($2,000 x 2 writers) “a lot of money.”
But $10,000? For two pieces of short fiction? That’s a lot of money.
Ahh, but she writes male/male romance, you say.
I say that’s not the point. The point is that this construction, “You’re never going to make a lot of money as a short story writer,” assumes things one cannot possibly know about me and my future. It’s a prediction that my future will suck because someone else’s past (e.g., the speaker’s) has sucked.
Besides, Clive Barker did pretty well with this one novella. There are other examples, too.
Rather, it’s more helpful to know what kind of writer you are and whether or not that road would be easier or harder for you. If you’ve got a background writing short non-fiction, then writing short fiction may be easier for you.
Just because it’s a hard road isn’t a reason not to do it. A hard road is still a path, just a difficult one.
There are plenty of kinds of writing, if writing is what you want to do. If it’s not, there are plenty of things to do in almost any field. I really wish I’d understood this early on, because I felt roles were far more rigid when I was in high school. Maybe that was my mistake.

You Should Write in Third Person Because It’s Easier to Sell

To which I respond: my favorite novel’s in second person.

You’re four hours into your shift, decompressing from two weeks of working nights supervising clean-up after drunken fights on Lothian Road and domestics in Craiglockhart. Daylight work on the other side of the capital city comes as a big relief, bringing with it business of a different, and mostly less violent, sort. This morning you dealt with: two shoplifting call-outs, getting your team to chase up a bunch of littering offences, a couple of community liaison visits, and you’re due down the station in two hours to record your testimony for the plead-by-email hearing on a serial B&E case you’ve been working on. You’re also baby-sitting Bob—probationary constable Robert Lockhart—who is ever so slightly fresh out of police college and about as probationary as a very probationary thing indeed. So it’s not like you’re not busy or anything, but at least it’s low-stress stuff for the most part.

Second is very voicey, and it’s both a boon and a bane because of that.
Write in whatever viewpoint you feel happens to fit the story best, including second if you’re so inclined. If you’ve never tried it before, consider rewriting a scene in second person. See how it feels. Try the same scene in first and third emphasizing different viewpoint characters.
There’s no single right answer, but some genres are more frequently in one or the other.
I’ll give an example, though, of where I think first person really hurt the book.
Edward hovered over Bella at night in part because he was protecting her against rogue vampires that she didn’t know existed. Because the book was written in first person, it made Edward look more manipulative and controlling (and for worse reasons) than was actually true. because the book’s POV only showed things that Bella knew, and she didn’t know the whole story.
Read the partial of Midnight Sun (Twilight told from Edward’s POV) alongside Twilight. The two taken together, plus the movie, are a rare opportunity to learn from POV choices and mistakes.
So, if the motivations of another character are important to understanding the piece as sympathetically as possible, consider writing in third. Or, you know, some other POV that’s not a single first person POV.

That Odds Matter

I know a lot of heartbreaking stories in publishing. People having solicited manuscripts lost in piles in a publisher’s office for years. People having their novel abandoned when an editor goes on maternity leave and the replacement editor quits to go into the food business.
There are all kinds of narratives about publishing, and one of the ones I want to address is this: that there is such a thing as odds that determine whether or not you’ll sell a story or whether it’ll do well.
When I receive, say, 100 submissions for BayCon, the odds that I accept your story is not 1 in 100. I don’t roll any dice. Did you write the best story I received? Does your story mesh with my taste? Does it fit the theme better than other stories? (We don’t require that it fit the theme, but it doesn’t hurt.) That’s not a matter of odds.
More than half the time, I reject a story on the first page. I’m sure every writer did the best they could on their first page. Sometimes, it’s a matter of fit. I’ve said that the story we buy has to be family friendly, so “fuck” on the first (or any) page is a non-starter. And yes, I’ve rejected more than one story for exactly that reason.
It’s entirely random that I once, back in the Abyss & Apex days, received two short stories in a row with first sentences that had unintended flying trees. Yay misplaced modifiers. (Both of those were rejected on the first sentence.)
So you’ve survived the first page. Does your piece plunge immediately into backstory on page 2 or 3? That’s probably the single most common reason I reject stories on pages 2 or 3. And yes, this can be done right, and it so frequently isn’t. I’ve done it badly myself. Recently. (First draft, so there’s that.)
Let’s say I get to the end. More than half the time, I’ll still reject the story. Most frequently, it’s one of: the story you started isn’t the story you finished, or you didn’t nail the ending.
Another common failure is what I call the “this feels like a novel chapter” problem. I didn’t really understand this phrase until I saw it a few times as an editor. If you’ve raised more interesting questions/problems/plot points that are referred to in the narrative but don’t happen in the narrative present, it’ll feel like it’s a piece of a longer work. The only way I know of to fix one of these babies is to trim off the glittery parts that point out to other plot lines and story arcs until it feels like the story is resolved in the short form.
But selling a story? That’s not a matter of odds.
Let’s say the first page is solid and interesting, and pages 2 and 3 are strong enough to keep me going, and I finish the piece, and you have a great ending. You’ll likely wind up on the short list.
If anything in the process involves odds, then it’s what happens on the short list, because generally there are more pieces than there are slots we can publish. Since we’re picking newer writers, name isn’t a consideration. It’s just which stories the various people like the best. (I pick the short list, but that’s winnowed down by a small group.)

If I Had to Give Advice…

Three little things.

  1. Is this beginning actually the best entry point for your story for a reader? Not just where you started writing.
  2. Love your piece for what it is. Every piece has issues. Do what you can, then move on. I remember going over another author’s piece in a critique session. The author was worried about how it would be received because of a structure issue. I thought it was fabulous as it stood. It was later nominated for a major award, pretty much as I read it.
  3. Don’t overwork a piece in response to critiques. One of the death knells of an opening is often over-response to a critique like: “I wanted to know more about X in the beginning.” Then the writer edits it in, destroying the opening. Someone wants to know more about the character? Good. Read on.

: Coming Soon: An Older Story, "The Duchess's Dress"

My birthday’s on Wednesday the 9th, and I’m going to celebrate by doing two things.

  1. I’m going to release an old short story that I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. More about that in a minute.
  2. I’m going to discount the pair of short stories I currently have on my site if you buy both directly from me. For a month, so July 9th to August 9th. Yes, the story will also be available through other outlets, including iBooks, Amazon, Nook, and Kobo, though it may take a couple of days to wind up there.

I’ve been thinking about the story because it is the only story I ever submitted to Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Fantasy Magazine, and it received a personal rejection that said it had “no sense of wonder.” This was back before the myriad of forms Marion started sending in lieu of personal rejections.
My writing teacher said, “That’s her problem, not yours.” Yay writing teacher.
More stories of MZB’s infamous rejection letters here.
That particular rejection smarted. Did I think it was the best story ever? No, but it has some interesting stuff in it, and it remains a sentimental favorite of mine.
There are some structural issues in the story that aren’t solvable without killing everything I happen to like about the story.
I no longer read medieval fantasy, nor do I write it, which has left this story in limbo for many years. It was an offshoot of a fantasy trilogy that I never revised, instead writing a tangential book that fundamentally changed the nature of the world. The seer of this story also appears in that book in that new world—which still needs to shift again, orphaning this story even further. It can’t bend that far.
I wrote the first draft in 1992, then revised it lightly when I was in grad school (2001-2004), trying to keep up with at least some of the world’s changes.

: Hachette. Amazon. Hugo Nominations.

The Hugo Awards
I’ve been meaning to post this for a while.
In light of my changing feelings over the Hachette/Amazon battle and reminders of same like this Salon piece, I’m changing the reading order for this year’s Best Novel Hugo nominees, putting the Hachette authors first.
Because I support Hachette in their game of chicken against Amazon.
My usual method for reading the Hugo novel nominees is: read first chapters until I get to a book I can’t put down, then finish that. Then either read other first chapters or pick which one I liked next best from the first chapters. Lather, rinse, repeat until we’re all out of time or until I’m done.
I now have all the books.
Also, in my prior piece, a badly worded sentence, when taken without surrounding context, said that I was going to vote something last.
I vote on what I’ve read. If I haven’t read it, I don’t vote for (or against) it. I also don’t vote things higher or lower because I like or dislike the author or what they’ve said. That may affect the order in which I read things, but it doesn’t affect how I vote directly. It does indirectly in that I may not get to certain authors’ works in light of my current workload.
Hope that’s clearer, because I actually felt bad that I’d failed so spectacularly until called out on that sentence.

: Using Contests for E-Book Covers

e-book covers mockup
The subject of using contests (like 99 Designs) for making e-book covers has created huge controversy in the graphic design world, including complaints of driving down prices, etc.
My own feeling is that not every designer works the same way, and e-book contest covers can be a compelling way to get a decent cover at an affordable price.
Below is a comment I submitted to this post on Joel Friedlander’s blog, The Book Designer, about using contests for e-book covers.
I’m a writer who has, in the past, done graphic design for a living—everything from layout to burning plates and occasionally minding the paper folder. Catch is, that was the 80s, and it’s a huge technology shift that I haven’t kept current on. In the 80s, I joined a consultancy that had a mix of software engineering and graphic design clients, though we also did some music-related stuff for a gaming company.
At one point, my partner and I decided that we were too unfocused and we should concentrate on one thing, so however we earned the most money in the next six months would narrow our focus. We made more money in software engineering, thus gave up the design part of our business. In retrospect, I think that was a mistake.
In between software gigs, I did still work in graphic design on occasion, though not through the partnership. After the company folded, I went back to graphic design for several months before heading off to Ireland. I was burned out and fried, and working on setting travel agency ad copy and laying out restaurant menus was far less stressful. I was the first to use the new typeface Lithos for Mexican restaurant menu design (for El Torito), and every time I see another Mexican restaurant using the face, I smile. It may be a super-small trend I set, but it was a move away from more stereotypical ethnic typefaces.
I’ve done cover designs on 99designs. Never won a gig, but I’ve been in the final round several times (mostly for hidden contests). I get asked to submit designs every now and again.
There are good and bad things about it, so I’m going to be frank with what I feel works and doesn’t work about 99 designs—and why I bother to do it at all.
First, I’m not an illustrator in any sense of the word. I’d love to have that skill, but not so much that I take the thousands of hours it’d need to really develop it. I’m really, truly at the “daisies like a six-year-old draws” stage of illustration skill. After I get my current book done, it’s actually part of my commitment to myself that I’m going to learn how to draw better as well as finally learn Illustrator.
I view the contests as “Photoshop homework where I have a risk of making some money.” That’s it. I’m looking for a challenge as an artist: what do I feel I have to say about this topic? And what can I challenge myself to learn? Also, do I have a photo that I think works for this?
Especially where there are photo-based covers, sometimes 99designs can feel like a race to find the killer stock art. For Tim Rymel’s forthcoming book Going Gay, when I saw the artist submit the winning cover, I inwardly folded. What I’d found was nowhere near as good. Tim obviously agreed, as he ended the contest early. Could he have gotten a better cover? Possibly. But I think it does an awesome job. In that contest, only a handful of designs were submitted.
The other extreme I’ve seen is where the client just keeps chewing up designer time. This contest had a mind-boggling 1265 entries. But, because they were paying $450 (rather than the more typical $200 or $290), people kept on submitting. I don’t want $450 that badly; I’m so glad I was eliminated early. I’m guessing the winning designer probably earned around $2 an hour.
Another problem is the person who’s self-published a book with an awful cover, then comes back to get a better one when their book isn’t selling. Catch is, if their taste was that appalling to begin with, it isn’t much (or any) better now. They’ve only decided it’s worth spending (more) money for. For you great designers out there, these people were likely never your customers. They’ll often reject good design. The beauty of 99designs for these kinds of situations is that you can look elsewhere for how you make your money. There are plenty of people willing to be awful for the client.
Look, I get that those of you who are real designers for your day job feel that these contests are a threat. And those of us who design a cover every now and again when we have the time aren’t really in your business at all. I’m far more interested in the one-off client where there’s no future implied obligation because I’m a writer first and designer second. You generally would prefer to have repeat business or at least referral business.
For those of us who find this kind of thing a bizarre form of entertainment, one of the reasons I do it is to hone my sense of design. To play with my font library. To try to figure out how someone else did something and have a go at it myself (not to knock off the design, but just to learn). To see what I like (and don’t like) about other people’s entries, and try to articulate why it does or doesn’t work for me. For me, that’s what the real benefit is: not the money, but the education.
One of the things I’ve had to spend a lot of time on is documenting the rights I have. Do I have rights to use this in a commercial project?
Speaking of fonts, I’ve learned how much of a font freak I really am. When some unexpected money came my way, I decided to go to TypeCon in July. Their program and workshops sound fabulous. So that’s a direct result of 99designs contests.
Almost every penny I’ve earned this year is as a designer. (I’ll have books out later this year, and I expect that, at year’s end, design will only be a minor part of my income. One hopes.) Did I design my own covers? Yes I did. Ultimately, that’s why I’m doing this: so I can do a better job for myself. Even if I get to where I think hiring someone else is a better choice, I will be better working with a designer because of my experience.
Until then, I’ll just write every day, publish books when they’re ready, and sell a bunch of t-shirts and the occasional clock or shower curtain.
Note: Book mockup template in header by Picseel.

: Book Mockups

Recently, I’ve become impressed with some of the stuff available on Creative Market, and some of the categories of things I didn’t feel I needed until I saw them.
Now, this is a pretty good business card if I do say so myself.
But this? Looks compelling on an entirely different level.
The above is one of the mockups included in this package of 4 business card mockups from Silviu Stefu of Pixelglow. $7 (and you’ll need Photoshop)
So, what does a book mockup look like then? I’m so glad you asked.
Here’s a sample cover.
coffee-and-canopy small
But here’s the mockup, using another mockup package from Pixelglow, also $7:

: Creating a Media Kit for Yourself

Confession: I have been to more than my fair share of webinars of late. I’ve learned that “webinar” = “We will sell you something.”
That’s not always a bad thing, though.
So I attended (aka sat in my living room chair in my jammies) a webinar earlier today about creating media kits and press releases for indie authors. Except, as it turns out, not just indie authors.
In this webinar, I learned there are seven audiences for your media kit:

Seven Audiences for Your Kit/Book

  1. journalists, which includes freelancers
  2. bloggers
  3. book reviewers
  4. retailers
  5. individual buyers
  6. event planners
  7. anyone who wants to promote you or your book (editor, podcaster)

When they got to #6, I was sold. Remember those frustrations I’ve been uttering over the years, speaking as a programming head? About how someone wants to speak and how it can be hard to figure out who they are with minimal effort?

Your Number One Goal

  • make their job easy

Yes, please.
Rick has a saying that I try to keep in mind, “Make it easy for people to help you.”

Another Confession

I love media kits. Not just for people, but for hotels. Did you know the Burj al Arab has a media kit? And that you can download beautiful high-res pictures like this one in 3500×2533 size, perfect for any desktop background?
Yeah, I get that we’re probably not going to wind up as a desktop background for anyone. But that’s not the point. The point is: make it easy for people to get the information they need for writing about your work or contacting you.

But…My Publisher

Yes, if you’re a writer published by a larger house, your publisher probably has made a media kit for you and your book. Depending on how they work things, you may not be able to provide an electronic form of that on your website.
The catch is, your publisher’s interest only extends so far. Their goal is to promote their current catalog. Your interest is to promote you.
You can make your own media kit for you as a writer, though you shouldn’t work at cross purposes to the publicist at your publisher without a good reason. (A good reason can include: you’re also being published elsewhere, including indie publishing, or you’re about to branch out into a different genre, etc.)

Flipping the Table for a Minute

Speaking as a convention runner for a minute, I’d like to give you some ideas of what it’s like coming in to run programming for a convention.

  1. You’ll get a long list of people you mostly don’t know, or don’t know well. Sometimes that list is literally just name and email address. Sometimes you have a short bio, but that’s unusual in my experience. It’s also unusual to get the person’s website, so you have to look them up.
  2. Some people will write in to be on programming. Some of these people are wonderful, and others are people you shouldn’t consider for any reason. Naturally, it’s not obvious which is which. Note: if you are writing in to be on programming, please assume the person receiving your email has no idea who you are. Provide information about who you are and why you’d be interesting, but also please do not be overly familiar. Receiving something lewd intended for someone else is awkward at best.
  3. You’ll need to make a balanced schedule, including some from the first two lists, and some new names.
  4. You have to make a call based on really limited information, such as what’s on someone’s web site, about whether or not to have them as a speaker.
  5. A media kit is more than I need, typically, but it wouldn’t hurt.

Coming Back Around to the Webinar

The intro pricing on the media kit template, good through Monday May 26th, is incredibly competitive at $67. Here’s the link to purchase. (Note: not an affiliate or anything.)
If you don’t currently have any media kit or anyone doing public relations for you, then this package seems to be a great place to start. The author, Joan Stewart, has been a newspaper editor, and has therefore been on the other side of media and press kits over the years.
Another thing I don’t know if the kit mentions: please give photo credit to your photographer(s) and also specify photo rights. This is the standard in journalism, and too frequently I see zero credits given. Any media outlet is going to need to know that they have the right to reproduce a photo for editorial use, so please make the rights clear.
Also: please have black-and-white photos available, too, because that photo that looks great in color is going to look horrible if it’s converted without care. Many print publications are in black and white.

Most of the writer sites I’ve been to, including my own, don’t have a media kit link that I can find. The usual places you’ll find that linked are:

  1. From the “About” page, which is typically a top-level page. Example from Tiffany Reisz.
  2. From the links in the footer that include things like Privacy Policy and Copyright. Example from Apple. Note: if you have infinite scrolling turned on as a feature (which I hate), don’t put anything here.

Those are the two most likely places to look. If you have anything in the footer, the media kit link should also be here. The footer has the advantage of being one click from any page, where a media kit link off the About page is generally two clicks.

One More Tiny Plea

If you’re published by a small press, in your book blurb on your site, please make the publisher name be a live link to their site and, if possible, your book on their site. I know this sounds incredibly obvious, but you’d be surprised how infrequently it’s true.

: Don't Sell Your Books Through Blurb

If you’re doing any indie projects, don’t sell your books through Blurb.
Passive Guy, who is a contract lawyer, says:

PG says that any licensing provision that is one immensely long sentence raises suspicions in his ever-suspicious mind that counsel is trying to put readers to sleep so they don’t pay attention to the sentence.
He will suggest, however, that the presence of words like “worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use, reproduce, perform, display, distribute, adapt, modify, re-format, create derivative works of, and otherwise commercially or non-commercially exploit in any manner” should raise concerns in any author’s mind.
PG hasn’t read the rest of this document and it is possible it includes other provisions that ameliorate the rights grab in this paragraph. However, PG doesn’t believe this is good drafting practice either. PG has tried a number of cases involving complex contracts and has seen judges completely screw up interpretation of complex contract provisions.

See also Meryl Yourish’s post here:
She highlights a point and says: “Here’s a clause that no writer, ever, should agree to.”

Going on the TOS alone, I would recommend that no indie ever publish with Blurb. These are terrible terms of service, and a horrible rights grab designed to screw the author.

That’s my take on it as well.
Blurb responded to me via Twitter with a link, saying, “We totally understand your concerns. We put together an FAQ that we hope clears things up.” Here’s the link.
No. A FAQ does not change the terms of the contract. It clears up nothing. It changes nothing. It expresses the current stated intent of the company, but it is not binding.
Blurb is demanding irrevocable rights.
Back to PG. He adds the following:

The combined length of Blurb’s various TOS documents is far, far longer than the longest New York publishing agreement PG has ever reviewed. (And PG is not holding New York publishing agreements up as any sort of paradigm of clarity.)


One of the things PG would do is call the CEO of the company to the witness stand and ask him/her to explain the meaning of various parts of the TOS. That would be a lovely show.

Can’t wait.
Just don’t want it to be over your book.

: Manuscript Wish List & Ten Queries

Some of you know about the Twitter hashtags #mswl (manuscript wish list) and #tenqueries.
A friend of mine has started a site that tracks recent entries of these and a couple of other things. Stuff can roll off Twitter faster than you can sneeze.
The first is #mswl, which is editors and agents requesting manuscripts. Each has the original tweet link.
The second is #tenqueries, which is agents responding to ten queries they’ve received.
Other tabs have query tips and publishing tips.
The site is

: For Authors Who Do/Want to Do Direct Digital Sales

Please feel free to repost. Or, if you know of other, similar posts/threads, to link to them in comments.
If you’re an author doing direct digital sales from a web site you manage/control (meaning in addition to whatever you’re doing through Amazon, B&N, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, Direct2Digital—or whatever)…

Questions for Authors Already Selling Directly

  1. What method are you using? Gumroad? Shopify? Easy Digital Downloads (plus WordPress)? WooCommerce? Sellfy? Some other?
  2. How’s that working out for you, and why did you make the choice you did?
  3. If you’re willing to share this information, what percentage of your total sales are direct sales?
  4. Has it been worth the hassle for you?

Questions for Authors Considering Selling Directly

  1. What programs have you looked into?
  2. Do you have any questions about the process?

For those who wonder why one would do such a thing, there are two primary reasons:

  1. If you have more than one thing to sell, you can offer custom discounts.
  2. You can offer them subscriptions to your email list; third-party vendors are completely transparent to you.
  3. Higher pay and faster payment.

For example, selling via EDD on my own site for a $3.99 book, I’d take home $3.52 today. If I sold the same book on Amazon, I’d receive $2.79 sixty days after the end of the sales month. For Nook, I’d receive $2.39 sixty days after the end of the sales month. For iTunes, $3.52 45 days after the end of the month. For Kobo, if the amount owing is > $150, then they pay monthly, otherwise every six months.
Obviously, $3.52 today sounds better, but it does require a savvy enough customer to sideload the book (drag to their reading application).

: More Author Earning Data: Making a Living or No?

I haven’t updated the spreadsheet I pulled a few weeks ago, but here are the numbers from the last I pulled.
There are some data quality problems here. The low end of people who say they’re making a living writing? I don’t think $450 is a likely real response. Likewise, some of the higher numbers from people who say they’re not making a living writing would be perfectly respectable incomes for many. I’m not judging people’s responses here, just pointing out that there may have been some incorrect yes/no responses.
And, as always, this is self-reported data, so take it with a grain of salt.

Authors Saying they Make a Living Writing

Type # 25% 50% 75% 90% 95% 100%  
Self 160 25,000 51,000 140,000 305,000 500,000 13,000,000  
Hybrid 103 55,000 103,000 235,000 540,000 1,025,000 3,663,000  
Trad 27 18,300 55,000 100,000 215,000 250,000 450,000  

Authors Who Say They’re Not Make a Living Writing

Type # 25% 50% 75% 90% 95% 100%  
Self 571 150 800 5000 15,000 24,000 113,000  
Hybrid 78 2,300 10,200 20,000 40,008 50,000 89,150  
Trad 54 500 4,000 17,500 35,000 50,000 60,000  

: The NYT Bestsellers by Genre

Several people have said to me, “Yes, Deirdre, we all know romance sells well.”
I think, in trying to let the data speak, I gave too little context about what surprised me.
It doesn’t surprise me that some bestselling self-pub titles are romance. It does surprise me that so many of them are. There were, for example, zero science fiction titles.
So, just to point out the difference, here’s the NY Times list (I used a single week, but you’ll get what I mean):
Names, titles, and genres I used at the bottom.
By comparison, here’s the Smashwords chart from before, using the same color coding per genre:
See how many more titles there are in other genres on the NY Times list? Also, the NY Times list has quite a few more titles written by men. (Still mostly women, though.)

Current NY Times Fiction Bestsellers

NIGHT BROKEN, by Patricia Briggs. (Ace.) Fantasy
AFTERSHOCK, by Sylvia Day. (Harlequin.) Romance
POWER PLAY, by Danielle Steel. (Delacorte.) Fiction
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR, by Jeffrey Archer. (St. Martin’s.) Mystery/Thriller/Suspense
STONE COLD, by C. J. Box. (Putnam.) Mystery/Thriller/Suspense
THE GOLDFINCH, by Donna Tartt. (Little, Brown.) Fiction
THE INVENTION OF WINGS, by Sue Monk Kidd. (Viking.) Historical Fiction
THE HUSBAND’S SECRET, by Liane Moriarty. (Amy Einhorn/Putnam.) Fiction
ORPHAN TRAIN, by Christina Baker Kline. (Morrow/HarperCollins.) Historical Fiction
SYCAMORE ROW, by John Grisham. (Doubleday.) Mystery/Thriller/Suspense
WORDS OF RADIANCE, by Brandon Sanderson. (Tor/Tom Doherty.) Fantasy
PRIVATE L.A., by James Patterson and Mark Sullivan. (Little, Brown.) Mystery/Thriller/Suspense
THE ALCHEMIST, by Paulo Coelho. (HarperCollins.) Fiction
THE CHASE, by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg. (Bantam.) Mystery/Thriller/Suspense
THE BOOTLEGGER, by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott. (Putnam.) Mystery/Thriller/Suspense
AMERICAN GODS, by Neil Gaiman (Morrow) Fantasy
THE CHANCE, by Robyn Carr (Harlequin Mira) Romance
STILL LIFE WITH BREAD CRUMBS, by Anna Quindlen (Random House) Fiction
FATED MATES, THE ALPHA SHIFTER BOXED SET, by Skye Eagleday (Excessica) Paranormal Romance
CONCEALED IN DEATH, by J. D. Robb (Putnam) Mystery/Thriller/Suspense
KILLER, by Jonathan Kellerman (Ballantine) Mystery/Thriller/Suspense
GONE GIRL, by Gillian Flynn (Crown) Mystery/Thriller/Suspense
ME BEFORE YOU, by Jojo Moyes (Penguin) Romance
WILD HEAT, by Bella Andre (Dell) Mystery/Thriller/Suspense
FALLING FOR A STRANGER, by Barbara Freethy (Fog City) Romance

: Smashwords Self-Publishing Bestseller Genres

Publishers Weekly has been publishing the top 25 bestselling self-published works on Smashwords each month. Here’s February’s list.
I’m not the least bit surprised that Romance is the top-selling category in terms of those top 25. What does surprise me, though, is the overwhelming percentage of those titles that are romance: 2/3 if you include the related genres of YA Romance and Paranormal Romance. I’m also surprised that Fantasy does as poorly as it has been.

: The Amount of Time it Takes

Just for the record, the amount of time it takes from the time someone decides to to use a new pseudonym to:

  1. Google the potential problems with the name, then register the variant that’s the most promising.
  2. Wait for DNS to propagate.
  3. Find a theme for a landing page site template.
  4. Upload the bare bones to the writer’s server of choice.
  5. Find the right stock art and fonts for the right look. Requires searching five different sites, but you think you nailed it for not just the one book, but the planned series.
  6. Start setting up the email accounts. This needs another round of DNS propagation for reasons you never have figured out, and it’s two in the morning already.
  7. Restart Apache. Whoops.
  8. Web server down! No………..
  9. Obligatory teeth gnashing step.
  10. Oh, that’s why. Doh.
  11. Web server running again. Phew.
  12. Design the book cover from scratch. Fuss with it a few times.
  13. Hack and saw the web site template into something resembling what you need right now.
  14. Verify that the email accounts now work. Woohoo!
  15. Hack and saw the background image that isn’t as perfect as you thought it was. What’s that jaggy edge? Ewww.
  16. Write all the copy for the web page.
  17. Have the author sign up for Twitter.
  18. Have the author sign up for Smashwords.
  19. Figure out how you broke the author’s web site’s layout. Twice.
  20. Fix it, declare victory!

…eight hours have passed. And $35 or so ($15 for domain, $12 for landing page template, $8 for art).
Just in case you’re ever inspired to, you know, do the same.
I can has nap nao?

: Jackie Barbosa's Son

Most of you reading this will have no idea who Jackie Barbosa is. Nor who her son is.
Jackie’s a romance writer. Last week, her teenage son was driving to school and struck by an oncoming car. Dear Author mention is here, including link to a fundraiser.
I don’t know Jackie, but I do know what it’s like to have a husband suddenly die, and it really and truly sucks.
So, what I’m asking: here’s her booklist. If any of those are your cuppa, consider reading a sample and see if it’s something you want to buy and read the rest of. If you know other people who might like her work, consider telling them about her stuff.
She has a blog about publishing matters (she is a hybrid author, meaning both published traditionally and self-published). You might wish to read that. Like, for example, this post about metadata ownership concerns in publishing contracts. So, even if you don’t care about the romance genre, if you write, there may be something of interest to you in there. Maybe even if you don’t write.
From my own experience and that of others I’ve known in grief support groups since my first husband’s death, it’s going to take 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 years to be fully productive again. I don’t know how many of you read the linked Esquire article in my recent MH 370 blog post, but part of what was disturbing about it for me was how the article really communicated how differently people grieve and how that can drive a wedge between family members when someone dies. And in the case of that article, between parents who’d lost a child.
I wish her (and her family) the best.
Update: Kensington has put one of her books on sale until 4/1. Link has details.

: On Reviews and Critiques

The single pull quote that has stuck with me the most from the Algonkian Conference I went to last November is this one:

A one-star review means that the wrong reader has found your book. —David Cole.

(I think I have the attribution correct.)
If you think about it, it’s quite profound.
With a book, you signal expectations with:

  1. Cover
  2. Title
  3. Any other copy on the front
  4. Blurb on the back if it’s a physical book
  5. The book’s opening or sample

If someone hasn’t figured out what to expect from the book by that point and they get something different than what they expected, they will be disappointed. And, at its heart, a one-star review is a failure to meet expectations. (Save the “I read 50 Shades knowing I’d hate it because everyone else read it” sort of reviewer.)
So, working backwards:

  1. Does the cover correctly lead the reader to grasp the genre and feel of your book?
  2. Does your title signify the wrong genre and prose expectations? Look, if I’m going to pick up Cum for Bigfoot (which I have not read), I’m not going to expect scintillating prose. If I get scintillating prose on top, I’ll give it a better review.
  3. Does any other front/back copy support same?
  4. Does the book’s sample actually lead the reader to expect how the book resolves? Or is it, like Greg Bear’s Darwin’s Radio was for me, which I would give a one-star review to? As one of my grad school colleagues put it, “It’s like a hard SF novel and a romance novel had a violent accident.” That. So much. Look, I like most of Greg’s books (haven’t read them all) and like him as a person, I just hated that book. It happens. But, hey, it won the Hugo award and the Nebula award. Clearly I’m in the minority. (At the time I read it, no sequel had been announced, and it was my understanding that it was intended to stand alone. I still would have disliked it, but if I’d known it wasn’t the whole intended story, I’d have felt differently.)


It must be “ask Deirdre advice” month, as several people have asked me similar questions about getting a critique from a better-known author in their genre. I’ve been to a fuckton of workshops where I’ve gotten that, so I’m going to tell a tale first.
When I was at Clarion, there were a few days when we had two writers (the anchor team) and an editor giving critiques along with the sixteen of us plus the author being critiqued. For this particular story, the writers-in-residence were Tim Powers and Karen Joy Fowler and the editor was Patrick Nielsen Hayden of Tor.
So the story being critiqued was, at its heart, a black Conan pastiche. And, well, I hadn’t read Conan because it really isn’t my thing. As a group, we were pretty horrible about the critiques.
Then it got to PNH, who said he liked the idea, pointed out that Tor published (at least some) Conan books, and I remember him particularly admiring the “strenuously operatic dialogue.”
I remember a particular line of Karen Joy Fowler’s about this piece. Or maybe it was about my own attempt to branch out. “An interesting failure is much to be admired.”
I’ve secretly wondered since then if Greg wasn’t smarter than all of us. Sure, the piece wasn’t ready, but he was trying something really different.
Point is: a writer knows how to make their writing their writing, only better (via self-editing). An editor’s job is to know how to make your writing your writing, only better. These are not the same thing.
Does that mean that paying a writer for a critique of your work is a bad idea? No, it does not.
If you’re going to pick someone like that, you want to know that the writer you pick likes the same kinds of things you like. Just because you like their writing doesn’t mean the opposite is true. Don’t expect them to love your book. Don’t expect them to blurb your book when you do sell it, though they might.
So, my advice is: choose wisely.

Overworking Your Piece After Critique

When I read slush, I saw a lot of pieces where the prose had simply had been overworked after critique. That’s particularly true of openings, where critiquers are likely to say things like, “I can’t see this.” So the writer tends to counteract by overexplaining, slowing the opening down.
First, you should read this entire piece by David Mamet even though it’s in all caps. I’ll spare you the caps in the section I’m requoting below.

Yes but yes but yes but, you say: What about the necessity of writing in all that “information?”
And I respond “Figure it out” any dickhead with a bluesuit can be (and is) taught to say “make it clearer”, and “I want to know more about him”.
When you’ve made it so clear that even this bluesuited penguin is happy, both you and he or she will be out of a job.
The job of the dramatist is to make the audience wonder what happens next. Not to explain to them what just happened, or to suggest to them what happens next.
Any dickhead, as above, can write, “But, Jim, if we don’t assassinate the prime minister in the next scene, all europe will be engulfed in flame”
We are not getting paid to realize that the audience needs this information to understand the next scene, but to figure out how to write the scene before us such that the audience will be interested in what happens next.

So when you get your critique, remember that it’s an opinion about your work. You get to decide what to do about that opinion. Up to a point, a reader wanting to know more about a character than is on the page is a good thing.
Also remember that you can bend reality good and hard. Nalo Hopkinson was talking about one of her pieces, “Whose Upward Flight I Love,” once. She said, “In this story, trees fly. Deal with it.” She never explained why trees flew. It wasn’t important to the story.

: Vera Nazarian / Norilana Books Bankruptcy Challenge

Over on Passive Voice, Vera stated a criticism of what I’ve posted in the past:

The $100,000 money borrowed from my now deceased friend will be paid back in full to his heirs, and was in fact retained voluntarily by me as a debt instead of having it be dismissed through the bankruptcy.
His family is fully aware of the situation, we have an agreement, and everything is above board.
The person who has posted this originally with their own spin on it, seems to have a personal interest to do me harm.

If I’m wrong, it was unintentional. However, having just re-looked at the entire case, I don’t believe I’m wrong.
Rather than listen to what Vera had to say, I looked at what the filings actually said. There is nothing I saw in those filings that says that 2/3 of her total debt, a loan from a friend, is not discharged where the other 1/3 is.
No bankruptcy court would allow that and the other creditors would have a hissy.
Here’s the essence of how bankruptcy works: you either throw everyone under the bus, or you throw no one under the bus. There are exceptions and nuances (like secured creditors), but the entire point is to be a clean slate, especially in Chapter 7.

Here’s a Challenge

I’ve gone and zipped up Vera’s entire filings including the docket report.
I invite you to see if I missed something. I will pay $50 to anyone (except Vera) who can demonstrate, with the filings themselves, that I am wrong about the bankruptcy court having discharged Kevin J. O’Donnell, Jr.’s loans to her of $100,000 plus interest. (But you might want to first look at docket item 13.)
That money can go to you or it can go to your choice of the authors she’s named in the Indiegogo as third-party authors published by Norilana. But not to Vera.

: Norilana Books Again

Previously on Norilana Books and Vera Nazarian, Something Needs To Be Said and Something Else Needs To Be Said.
Let’s note that it really is and here: Norilana is a sole proprietorship and therefore legally the same person as Vera Nazarian. (Last I checked, which was admittedly a few months ago.)
Today, Vera Nazarian started an Indiegogo campaign to raise money for back royalties owed Norilana’s authors.
She did not list the authors as creditors in her bankruptcy discharged in 2012, even though she hadn’t paid royalties since (apparently) 2009.
Further, now she’s apparently preferentially wanting to pay her author creditors amounts that should have been partially discharged in bankruptcy even though this is unlawful. Does anyone have contact information for Kevin J. O’Donnell, Jr.’s heirs? They may be interested in getting the bankruptcy overturned.
You know, the guy dying of cancer that she snubbed to the tune of $109,364?
Sarcasm alert:
But, of course you should believe that the $19,198.36 of back royalties that she’s raising the money for herself (rather than having an independent party doing it for accountability purposes) is going to her authors.
And of course you should believe that $19,198.36 is in fact due.
Which, let’s look at.
Here are the titles from third parties that aren’t public-domain authors. I’m assuming Val Noirre is Vera’s pseudonym (because it’s not on her list of authors due royalties) and thus am excluding.

Titles that Norilana Still Publishes Where Royalties May Be Due

  • 2011: Delusion’s Master by Tanith Lee (Note: Tanith Lee had an advance setaside in the creditor matrix, so any royalties due would be dependent upon it earning out) (reprint)
  • 2011: A Song of Awakening by Roby James
  • 2011: Phantas by Jeffry Dwight
  • 2011: The Birthgrave by Tanith Lee (reprint)
  • 2010: Death’s Master by Tanith Lee (reprint)
  • 2010: Warrior Wisewoman 3 (anthology)
  • 2009: Sounds and Furies by Tanith Lee (single-author collection)
  • 2009: The Captain’s Witch by Rosemary Hawley Jarman (reprint)
  • 2009: Under the Rose edited by Dave Hutchinson
  • 2009: Night’s Master by Tanith Lee (reprint)
  • 2009: Warrior Wisewoman 2 edited by Roby James (anthology)
  • 2009: A Cold Day In Hell by Ken Rand
  • 2009: Lace and Blade 2 edited by Deborah J. Ross (anthology)
  • 2009: The Memory Palace by JoSelle Vanderhooft
  • 2008: Warrior Wisewoman edited by Roby James (anthology)
  • 2008: A Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects by Catherynne M. Valente (single-author collection)
  • 2008: Lace and Blade edited by Deborah J. Ross (anthology)
  • 2007: Leaving Fortusa by John Grant
  • 2007: The Covenant by Modean Moon
  • 2007: A Little Peace and Quiet by Modean Moon
  • 2007: Evermore by Modean Moon

Titles that Norilana No Longer Publishes (But Royalties May Still Be Due)

  • 2011: Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword And Sorceress XXVI (anthology)
  • 2011: Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword And Sorceress XXV (anthology)
  • 2010: Clockwork Phoenix 3: New Tales of Beauty and Strangeness (anthology)
  • 2009: Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword And Sorceress XXIV (anthology)
  • 2009: Returning My Sister’s Face: And Other Far Eastern Tales of Whimsy and Malice by Eugie Foster (single-author collection)
  • 2009: Clockwork Phoenix 2: More Tales of Beauty and Strangeness edited by Mike Allen (anthology)
  • 2009: Another Chance at Life: A Breast Cancer Survivor’s Journey by Leonore H. Dvorkin
  • 2009: Business Secrets from the Stars by David Dvorkin (reprint)
  • 2009: Mearsies Heili Bounces Back: CJ’s Second Notebook by Sherwood Smith
  • 2008: Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword And Sorceress XXIII (anthology)
  • 2008: A Stranger to Command by Sherwood Smith
  • 2008: A Posse of Princesses by Sherwood Smith
  • 2008: Clockwork Phoenix: Tales of Beauty and Strangeness (anthology)
  • 2008: The Journey to Kailash by Mike Allen
  • 2008: A Posse of Princesses by Sherwood Smith
  • 2007: Over the Sea: CJ’s First Notebook by Sherwood Smith
  • 2007: Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword And Sorceress XXII (anthology)
  • 2007: East of the Sun and West of Fort Smith by William Sanders (single-author collection)
  • 2007: J. by William Sanders (reprint)
  • 2007: Senrid by Sherwood Smith

For the next part, let’s assume the following gross oversimplifications:

  1. An author’s royalty for a given work is equal year-to-year and book-to-book (and across authors).
  2. Reprints earn half the royalties of original works.
  3. Collections and anthologies often don’t earn out. Let’s assume these count as 15% of an original title. (This is extremely generous, though.)
  4. If an author or editor withdrew the work, then I’m assuming in-print and royalties due in 2010 through 2012 (or the first two years) as stuff really started blowing up in 2013.
  5. Royalties due per book run, on average, $1.25. Royalty rates for trade paper generally start at around 7.5% of list price, and many run around $15, so $1.125. This is a little generous for trade paper only, but there were often both hardback and trade paper editions, released at the same time.

It’s Spreadsheet Time

a.k.a. Time to check Deirdre’s arithmetic.
So, what does this mean, gross oversimplifications aside?

  1. Assuming Vera’s royalty number is true, the average Norilana author sold 196 copies of any given book in any given year. Reprints would be 98 copies, anthologies and collections 29.4 copies that royalties would be paid on.
  2. If you want to assume every book sold the same number of royalty-paying copies over time, there’s 41 titles, 4 years, that would be (19198.36/41/4/1.25), or 93.65 copies per book per year.

So That Selling Books Thing

Vera Nazarian aka Norilana Books simply has no idea how to actually sell books. If you’re a publisher and consistently, on average, selling under a couple hundred titles per year with dozens of titles to market….
You’re doing it wrong.
Especially if you publish twelve such titles in one year and then the next year, “Oops, can’t pay royalties.”


Everything about this Indiegogo campaign is intensely problematic. We don’t really know that the money is owed (except for Eugie Foster having opened the can of worms). We don’t really know how much is owed, and we only have vague ideas of to whom. It’s possible some authors have been paid (while others have not). There’s also what someone called “the Vera factor” in all this. I’ll let you figure the meaning.
Raising money to pay debt like this is also problematic. Vera already received that money. She spent it on other things (like her cable bill, which she details in one of her comments to my first post linked at the top).
All I can say at this point is: I don’t even.

: Sell to Where the Reader Reads (and Shops)

I’m not a book marketer, okay? But I do know how you can sell books to me, and I’ve worked in a bookstore, so I know how things work at the other end, too.
Sell to where the reader reads (and shops).
There’s a book I’d like to buy, but it’s only available for Kindle (which I read on my iPad). My main ebook library contains 829 books (all items I bought; I have been buying ebooks since 2005). How many Kindle books do I have?
One of them is QF32, which is an awesome story.
So, when I’m looking for books to read, where am I looking?
Not in my Kindle library. I never think of it unless I happen to remember it’s there. When I buy a Kindle book, I read it right away, and never think of my Kindle library again unless I want to read another book I can’t get another way.
Every book on the digital shelves I peruse, meaning my not-Kindle library, is an advertisement for your next book. I have lots of bookcases there, and I sort my books. I keep most of the books I’ve read (or re-read) in the last year on my iPad. Books are small.
If you want me to think of your book, remember your book, remember it the next time I’m looking for another book to read by an author I liked (and, honestly, I’ll like your book better if I get to read it in an application where the font choices don’t annoy me), then you’ll make the choice to sell it in one of two ways:

  1. Through Apple’s iBooks.
  2. Non-DRMed through another vendor (e.g., Nook, Smashwords, your own website) so I can sideload it into iBooks. This means it’s got to be an EPUB, which isn’t the Kindle format.

And yeah, I could de-DRM the books and convert them using a piece of crap usability nightmare like calibre, but I’d actually like to use the remaining hours of my life for something actively, you know, useful. Plus it only works for one of the two underlying Kindle formats, and I can tell you that the Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction is of the other format.
Frankly, most people won’t bother with this. They shop where they shop, and if it’s there, it’s there, and if it’s not, they don’t buy it.
Every fucking time I have to go to the Kindle store to buy a book, I’m annoyed, and that’s not how you want me to feel right before I start reading the sample for your book. I will sometimes buy books without having read a sample on iBooks, but there’s NFW I’ll consider it for Kindle.
On the other hand? If I want to read a piece of trash and never have it sully my iBooks library again…. Ever bought that thing you’re completely embarrassed to have? Hate to be reminded of it every time you look at items “Not in My library”? Filed a feature request for a “Never Let Us Speak of This Again” button? (Unless, you know, you’re overtaken by insanity and you actually want to hear Duffy again. And by Duffy, I mean the meh solo works by Stephen Duffy, not the rather awesome Welsh singer.)

Well, my Kindle library is a great place for that kind of book, even if it’s available on iBooks. Just so you know what kind of company you’ll be keeping in those 24 books.

: Two Takes on Writing for a Living

First, from Lauren Gallagher/L.A. Witt, a writer who has an impressive number of titles out:

In 2010, with a steadily growing backlist and fan base, my income turned us from sweating over every dollar to being able to go out to a nice dinner (not terribly expensive, just not “fries with that”), and in 2011, the royalties roughly equaled what I’d been making at my previous day job. In 2012, it doubled. In 2013, it doubled again. It’s entirely possible the pattern will continue in 2014.

Another pull quote:

As of right now, Aleks has 32 books on Amazon. Between my two pen names, I have 66. It’s not just novels, either. We both have short stories and novellas, which frequently don’t make it into print except in collections or magazines. Those collections and magazines tend to pay token amounts if at all — contributor’s copies are common — whereas I’ve made over $8,000 from a novella published in 2011. Aleks and I co-wrote a short story that was released last year and has made each of us just under $2,000.

vs. Emily Gould’s “How Much My Novel Cost Me”:

In 2008 I sold a book-in-progress for $200,000 ($170,000 after commission, to be paid in four installments), which still seems to me like a lot of money. At the time, though, it seemed infinite. The resulting book—a “paperback original,” as they’re called—has sold around 8,000 copies, which is about a fifth of what it needed to sell not to be considered a flop. This essentially guarantees that no one will ever pay me that kind of money to write a book again.

Having only one book and having its marketing be at the mercy of a big house’s ad budget is having no Plan B. Lori’s plan B was to write more words. That has been really successful for her—she’s made most of her living writing gay romance and is now making four times her old day job doing it. Granted, it took her a while to wind up, but go look at the titles on her site and count up how many, many words she published.
Note that these two women are talking about publishing in approximately the same timespan, and both are talking different forms of traditional publishing. Most of Lori’s titles are digital first, and many are digital only. She’s self-published a couple of items off her backlist.
As a random geeky aside, I love the fact that the number 8,000 figures in both stories in very different ways. I believe the novella that Lori refers to is this one, which is science fiction (despite the use of the word “vampire” in the description).

: Fun Data from the Author Earnings Spreadsheet

This page is not affiliated with Rails app to generate this can be found on GitHub. Some earlier charts are here.
Table columns are percentiles: 25% means that, if you line everyone up in order, 25% made that or less.

Self-Published Earnings, 2013

# 25% 50% 75% 90% 95% 100%  
914 300 3000 24000 91000 200000 13000000  

Traditionally-Published Earnings, 2013

# 25% 50% 75% 90% 95% 100%  
265 800 7000 38000 100000 200000 1200000  

Self-Published Earnings by # Books Self-Published

# 25% 50% 75% 90% 95% 100%
0-2 100 500 3200 15000 30000 130000
3-5 200 1600 14000 46000 70000 500000
6-10 1000 10000 45000 140000 200000 500000
11-25 3000 19000 78000 270000 380000 3500000
26-50 3000 24000 100000 400000 1000000 13000000
51-9999 5000 20000 80000 102500 1000000 1000000

Traditional Earnings by # Books Traditionally Published

# 25% 50% 75% 90% 95% 100%
0-2 200 1000 7876 50000 100000 190000
3-5 2000 17500 40000 150000 380000 500000
6-10 1500 10000 40000 100000 100000 200000
11-25 4214 30000 70000 250000 450000 550000
26-50 2500 10000 60000 153000 200000 1000000
51-9999 35000 65000 100000 1200000 1200000 1200000

Self-Published Earnings by Cover Art Type

# 25% 50% 75% 90% 95% 100%
My Own 150 1500 15000 50000 104000 3500000
Pre-Made 100 500 2000 11500 60000 100000
Hire a Pro 500 5000 35000 113232 250000 13000000

Self-Published Earnings by Editor Type

# 25% 50% 75% 90% 95% 100%
None 200 3500 20000 38000 165000 1000000
Friends & Family 150 1200 12000 70000 100000 567000
Critique Group 125 800 6000 50000 64000 1000000
Freelance Editor 600 6000 40000 140000 300000 13000000

: You Didn't Fail

Context: this post from Cassie Alexander.
Cassie, I’ve known you for a long time. We’ve spent nights writing in chat, on Twitter, at conventions, all kinds of things. I remember you bringing your (impressively large) box of rejection letters to BayCon one year before you had a pro sale.
I love you so much I even set foot in a Scientology building for you (because I said I’d be there for you for Writers of the Future) even though I hadn’t done that in many years.
I’m sorry that St. Martin’s has dropped your series, which I’ve loved. (And I feel guilty that I didn’t do as much as I’d have liked to help promote it, and I’m a shitty friend that way. Sorry.)
I’ve never known anyone as dedicated to their art as you are. You’ve written nine novels in the same time I’ve written four (and a half). I keep getting novel ideas, though, and series ideas.
The early days of self-publishing (via POD) were fraught with peril. I remember when I worked at Kepler’s that we wouldn’t order them because they were often so poorly produced (and I’m not just talking badly edited, I mean the covers would fall off, etc.) that they were just too problematic.
The world has changed, though. The production values on POD are now indistinguishable from traditional printing, and e-books have available samples, so there’s little risk. Now you can look and determine if it really is something you want to buy.
There’s a very, very real market and some good strategies for reaching it. And, I’m finding out, that the strategies that work for that are those that don’t work for the traditional market at all.

The Dip

One of the problems with The Dip is that you tend to look at your failures, but not your successes. Losing a book contract is a hardcore dip point.
What’s easy to overlook is that you’ve had amazing success as a writer. You were contracted to write a five-book series—and you did. Four of the volumes are in print and one will be out soonish.

Moving on to Indie Publishing

A few thoughts:

  1. Out:think has some great resources. Read everything.
  2. Reading all the email I got from Out:think led me to start reading Write. Publish. Repeat. I haven’t finished it yet, but so far it’s an amazing book.

Many of the successful indie authors have an seasonal/episodic approach to books. It’s a familiar paradigm in this culture of TV viewers. Instead of one longer novel, the books are novella length, and released as episodes. A season is often six episodes. Because they’re novella length, three makes a nice size paperback.
So the marketing goes like this:

  1. Publish and sell episode 1.
  2. Temporarily drop the price (perhaps free) of episode 1 when episode 2 comes out.
  3. Temporarily drop the price (perhaps free) of episode 2 when episode 3 comes out.
  4. Create an omnibus of episodes 1-3. Create a print book to go with.
  5. Temporarily drop the price (perhaps free) of episodes 1-3 omnibus when episode 4 comes out.
  6. Temporarily drop the price (perhaps free) of episode 4 when episode 5 comes out.
  7. Temporarily drop the price (perhaps free) of episode 5 when episode 6 comes out.
  8. Create an omnibus of episodes 4-6. Create a print book to go with.
  9. Create an omnibus of episodes 1-6. Temporarily drop the price (perhaps free) of that when episode 7 (aka season 2, episode 1) comes out.

It’s rather brilliant, actually.
I was thinking about the whole idea of episodes, and, personally, I’m a fan of thirteen episodes to a season. Gives a great chance for reversals of fortune, too. Two six-episode arcs, a thirteen-episode arc, and a standalone in the middle.
The real point, though is to publish and market fairly consistently: have a predictable release schedule.

A Comment on “Real Writer”

But at the time, I thought, oh, no way, that’s too silly. I’m a Real Writer and I shouldn’t concern myself with smut…even though I happen to be perfectly good at writing it, heh!

Faruk Ateş raised the “real” issue on Twitter today, so I’m going to quote two of his tweets (the first not being aimed at you, obviously, it just gives context as he was wound up about someone’s writing):

“Real” as an attributive adjective has taken on the meaning of revealing that the author doesn’t know what they are talking about. link
“Real women” — meaningless; every woman is a real woman. “Real work” — no work is more “real” than any other. “Real game” — please shut up. link

It’s all real.
So do some cool stuff. I’ll be along for the ride.

: Fodera Apologizes

Text here.

I want to apologize to Mary for doing that. Mary, if you are reading this, I really am very sorry for my inconsiderate and insensitive response to the question, and my later posts. Our estrangement (admittedly by my own choice) has been painful to me, and I should not have done this to you, nor should I do such a thing to anyone. I don’t expect us to become friends again, but I hope for the sake of our earlier friendship, and what you did know of me, that you will believe the sincerity of my apology. In any event, I fully intend to leave you in peace, Mary, and I wish you continued success.

Update: Mary accepts. (My bad on the initial wording of this; I was chatting online at the time about the wording of Sean’s apology and made an unfortunate gaffe. I have not actually seen Mary’s post, but others have linked to it and hope it comes back online soon.)
Note: as of this update, the site with the linked-to posts is down. Screencaps on Pretty Terrible post here.

: Oh Colleagues, My Colleagues

Here are my core values:

  1. I believe that true communication can be healing for all parties. Catch is, true communication can be difficult at the best of times. In some cases, I will grant, it is impossible.
  2. I believe that name calling, whether it be twelve rabid weasels or unperson, or anything else, cannot be true communication and therefore is not healing. I don’t care who does it, and I’ve seen it from both sides, and can we please all just be better people?
  3. I really, really don’t like being told who I can or can’t talk to. (Yes, there are professional limitations with confidentiality or conflict of interest, duh, but I mean apart from that.) That this has happened in the past and people have ragequit being my friend because I wasn’t #$(*#$& enough just reinforces this.
  4. Anyone looking to find fault with another never needs to look far. We are human. Because of that, I try to focus not on the fault but on the positive.

I also want to say that there’s a very real “tone argument” problem with the way one of the posts was treated (linked above). Yes, the content is problematic, but there is an underlying point.
Let me translate it without the tone problem:

  1. A member spent significant time working on a document of use to the membership.
  2. Another member asked that it be given to her to post on the new SFWA site.
  3. He (member in #1) said he wouldn’t post it as long as he didn’t have access. (There’s an additional clause too.)
  4. She said he’d had a chance to influence the site, but hadn’t logged in.
  5. He had repeatedly requested an account, but never received a response. Others had the same problem. (Note: I was one of them, which I’ll talk about in a minute.)
  6. As a side effect of being blocked from joining the new site, he quit SFWA.

Now, given the current blow-up, you might think that’s a good thing. I don’t know about that, I’ve known him for quite a few years and have always thought, as Scalzi says, that he is generally a decent and good person. People hit their breaking points in strange ways. He apparently hit his.
Partial aside: I think Susan’s post about communities is important, and I agree. And yeah, I can relate to the hurt/comfort narrative she alludes to (and, full disclosure, also guilty of posting comfort in the thread she mentions). It’s one of the reasons I don’t read LJ or FB much.
There’s a very real difference in how “usenet” people and “web forum” people interact and how they like to receive their information. The usenet approach has always been less controlled and more decentralized. Posts can be canceled, but not edited. There are managers, but they’re very hands off. The forum approach is far more about active management, including editing of posts. Or deleting them wholesale.
Like this one, riffing off this post on my site and its followup:

This was exactly my point. Stop creating more legal and moral debt. Even a non-exclusive right diverts the authors’ sales into what are essentially Vera’s pockets at present.
Oh, and, in a related note: stop trying to show that they are loyal to you, and instead show that you are loyal to them (and their bottom lines) — by reverting all rights. That’s the only statement that’s unambiguous and clear.

Now, I could have rephrased and posted something milder after the above two paragraphs were censored, but I’m going to point something out right now: that someone is still a member of SFWA. So, if you read that thread on forums (sans my bit o’ content), you might not realize that you’d actually get more real information if you’d just saved your SFWA membership $ and read the Absolute Write thread instead.
So back to the thing I said I’d talk about. Many of us who were active on found that we couldn’t get logins that stuck. It’d work for a day or two, then not work. Then we’d ask for a reset, none would come, then we’d whine again. Everyone complained in the SFWA Lounge.
Honestly, it never occurred to me that we were being deliberately kept out, but that seems to be the narrative now. Also, I volunteered more than once, do web development for a living and not once was I even contacted to help.
I very nearly quit SFWA over it.
So I can understand why Member the First would have been upset. I understand why he quit. And I can understand why he might still be angry about it, even having experienced only what I have. The rest? I don’t understand that.
There were and are very real problems, and there’s a lot of pent-up anger from people who’d been SFWA members for a long time who have felt shut out for years.
This takes us back to core value #1, doesn’t it?
Speaking of: there’s a reason that while my name is on this timeline, I’m one of the very few who never got a letter from a lawyer, raided, sued, or stuff like that. When sides are disagreeing loudly, you’ll generally find me in the buffer zone.
Edit to respond to a couple of points raised in private conversations:
1. This was about persistent trouble getting onto the site, not the one.
2. I was asked if I knew of other incidents involving Member the First. I had never heard of any until this recent incident.
I’ll say this, just so it’s clear: if there were people who “should be” blacklisted for any reason other than people who had previously behaved badly on panels at at a convention I’m working on (which, frankly, was only a very few people and as many women as men), I’ve never been privy to any list of people guilty of bad behavior. I have been on the programming staff of a Worldcon and programming head for a Westercon and several regional conventions.
The kind of bad behavior I’ve heard of (these are real things that happened): monopolizing conversation on a panel so hard that con ops had to be called to shut the panel down before it erupted into violence; blowing off a panel with the other panelists and taking the Guest of Honor offsite so they missed an important event, then gaslighting the programming staff. Then there’s the episode with Harlan Ellison, the Klingons, and the speakers playing loud dance music…. (Harlan won.)
Footnote to add link to later apology.

: New iTunes Connect Sales Charts

E-mail from Apple:

We have released a new version of Sales and Trends on iTunes Connect that introduces interactive features to help you better understand your sales data.
You now have the the ability to:

  • View sales within a selected time period
  • Group your sales data (for example, by territory)
  • Filter sales by one or more values (for example, by book title and transaction type)
  • See your estimated proceeds (in U.S. dollars)
  • If you have any questions, contact us.

The iBooks team

I love charts and graphs.
So I log in.
Sad panda.
Wait, there’s now a lifetime tab….
So. There you go.
Love the update. Thanks, Apple!
This post has the iBooks numbers in context with other sales outlets. For context, this is a republication of a short story which I also sell directly.

: Premature Optimization

“Premature optimization is the root of all evil.” — Donald Knuth

Case in point.

  1. An ex-SFWAn and some colleagues put up a petition about feared changes in editorial policy of the SFWA Bulletin. Link.
  2. The Internet reacts. Including me.
  3. Some of the people sympathetic to the petition signers, but not to those in step 2, counter-respond. Link.
  4. One person in particular says a bunch of stuff that, frankly, can’t be unsaid. This person happens to work at the publisher where the person (who happens to be a woman) he’s saying something about is being published.

People have lost their jobs over about as much. Case in point.
And—to what purpose? Really?
I get that, as science fiction and fantasy writers, “if this goes on” is one of our primary memes. It’s the launching point for many book ideas. We’ve all got more than a little Philip K. Dick in us. Institutional paranoia isn’t a bad thing to have, up to a point.
I understand the very real sexism of aiming that fear at the highest woman on the SFWA board at one point—and not at her male peers. Mary’s post is worth reading. As is Scalzi’s. I get the sexism, especially after as long as I’ve spent in the computer industry.
No one is obligated to like anyone, but Mary is a colleague of ours, and I expect Mary to be treated with the same professional courtesy that (most of) you would treat your favorite of the genre’s masters if they were suddenly to walk into your living room.

Premature Optimization

I can’t help but think, though, that if premature optimization weren’t such a human tendency, none of this would have happened.
Knuth’s point about premature optimization is about wasted effort. Many engineering projects fail because a lot of effort is spent optimizing in area A when area B is a substantially more significant problem in the actual use case. It’s just that area A’s problems were seen earlier.
In the current SFWA thing, the premature petition put a drag on all of our time and energy due to the very real problems that surfaced as a result of the initial premature optimization. I’m being kind here: the petition itself was ill-conceived, and quite a few people spent time working on it that they undoubtedly could have better spent doing other things.
Look, I know it’s a Myers-Briggs J vs. P approach to problems thing. Truly I do. Even as someone who is very, very P, I sometimes have to tell myself “Wait.” Still.
When it comes to events here in reality, respond to reality.


You can spend a lot of effort heading off potential problems that would never become actual problems.
There is a long tradition of lobbying against laws being passed, and that’s arguably not premature optimization when we have the text of the proposed bill. But there’s also the fact that every single progressive mailing list I’m on has asked me to rail against certain proposed bills that had no chance of passing. Unfortunately, some bills we thought had no chance of passing occasionally do anyway.
It’s a different thing when a law passes than when a relatively small organization makes a structural change, though. I’m not going to say that SFWA is agile, but it’s at least arguably more agile than a government.

And Yet

Worth reading: Mark Tiedemann, “On The Extraction of Feet From Mouths”. I’m glad something good came out of all this. (Note: post is from last June, so is about the issue that the current controversy is responding to, not the current controversy per se).
Popehat writer Ken White gives an awesome legal analysis of the defamation lawsuit threat.

: Two Corrections for the E-Book Royalty Calcumatic

Both are good news. I like good news.
First, Kobo payments are monthly if—and this is kinda confusing so I’m just going to quote them directly:

Payment will be issued on a monthly basis if your content has generated over $100.00 USD. If after 6 months, your content has not generated over $100.00 USD, we will deliver all of the earnings your content has generated at that point.

Hat tip to reader Jerry for that. Thank you!
I’m not sure what “content has generated” means here, though. Sales? Royalties? I have a cold and just don’t have the energy to read the other pages in the document right now.
Source: pp. 29-30 of their User Guide
Second, I’d had on my pages forever that Apple’s iBooks paid out only once you reached $150. Then I noticed I’d had a payout of a bit over $5 a few months back, so that’s not the case. Yay.
I have updated the notes page accordingly.

: Author Earnings Survey: Initial Glance

There’s a lot of interesting information in the Author Earnings survey that Hugh Howey and others are working on. Hugh’s posted a preliminary link on Twitter, and you can watch the live data coming in.
I decided to do some breakdowns of the really early data: self-reported 2013 income.

  Trad Self
Median 6,000 3,000
Mean 37,000 67,000

Let’s look at the self-published percentile numbers a little more (and the clever plug for a forthcoming book that neatly echoes the graph’s shape). (Click to embiggen)
Above 97.5%, everyone’s over $200k, and the top 5 reporters are over $1M, with the tippy top at $13M.
Me? I’m still at the “carryable number of lattes” phase and I haven’t yet entered my data. Soon.

: The Reality of Romance Covers

Everyone in science fiction knows romance novel covers are awful, right?

And *Fifty Shades of Grey* is a lurid book that can’t possibly have an understated, tasteful cover, right? Because that’s not the kind of book it is. Well, okay, it has a tie on the cover, and it’s a, well, I don’t know what the hell to call it, frankly. [Jenny Trout has a whole bunch of points about why it shouldn’t be called a romance novel, nor BDSM, nor whatever](, so I’ll just link to her site and back away slowly. In terms of marketing categories, though, *erotica* or *erotic romance*. (Yes, they are different, and they are also different from the marketing categories of both *porn* and *sexy romance*.)
Why, *50 Shades* started out as fanfic of *Twilight*. But the cover on that can’t actually be too horribly awful (right?), given that Bella and Edward both retain their v-card throughout the duration of not one, not two, but three volumes of this saga. So it has an apple and vampires don’t eat apples. Mmmkay. But it is about temptation, though most of the temptation is on Edward’s side, and that’s only ever chronicled in a [partially-completed manuscript, *Midnight Sun* told from his POV](, rather than *Twilight*, which is told from Bella’s.
So now that I’ve basically admitted to reading all the *Twilight* books and none of E L James’s, how about some other covers? I remember someone recommending *Outlander* once upon a time. I randomly opened it, happened to be on a sex scene, and I backed away slowly. It’s one of those where I really kinda wish I cared about it. I’ve tried to break into it a couple of times and it’s never quite caught for me. There sure are a lot of people who love it, though. [Like Pam.](
An oft-recommended book was Tiffany Reisz’s *The Siren*, which is a complex series to explain. There are a ton of interrelationships (possibly the only thing more complex than Torchwood as far as who has/had slept with whom), and a ton of plot threads. I read the four-book series over Christmas week. I bring this one up because it is the most overtly sexual cover on her four books. Yet, it’s still quite understated, especially given the content of the book. As far as content: Nora’s a dominatrix on the side and an erotica writer by day. She’s got a difficult relationship with an editor who starts out hating everything she stands for. She’s got a live-in assistant who’s a 19-year-old virgin. (As Rick put it, “that’s just stunt casting.”) And then there’s the ex, but that would be a spoiler.

Are all romance covers like those above?

No. They are not.
Let’s go back to last year, about a claim Mike Resnick made that I’m disappointed that no one called him on.
Here’s what Resnick said (click for pic of text, quoted below)

And a lot of it abounded in bare, raw, pulsating flesh, totally naked from the neck to the navel. No question about it. It’s there for anyone to see—and of course, since such displays seem to offend some of our members, to picket.
You know where I found it?
In the romance section. I’d say that just about every other cover shows a man’s bare torso, lean and muscular, usually with a few more abs than Nature tends to provide. The man’s head is rarely portrayed. Clearly these are erotic covers, designed to get a certain readership’s pulse pounding.

Personally, I’d love to see pulsating flesh on a book cover—at least the first few times. Never have. That would be science fictional.
Last year, I posted a screencap of 25 (I said 30 yesterday and was wondering why the math didn’t add up) covers that was sort of a side commentary to the SFWA Bulletin issue. I don’t mind admitting I read erotic romance, nor do I mind admitting that I write the stuff. Part of the reason I’ve read so much was to get a sense of the market.
I’ve gone and made a current screencap, too.
In both cases, there’s no censorship about what I’ve read. These are, in order (most recent in upper left, oldest in lower right), the last 25 titles I’d read in the erotic romance genre in both pics. The only thing I’ve done is filter out the non-romance titles I’d read.
Itemizing Resnick’s points:

  1. Covers with men.
  2. Who are totally naked from the neck to the navel.
  3. Man’s bare torso […] usually with a few more abs than Nature tends to provide.
  4. The man’s head is rarely portrayed. (How many covers without heads?)
  5. How many covers with men who are naked, frontal, and without heads?

Difference is? This new batch of covers is infected with teh gay as several are M/M books or have M/M subplots. More men, therefore more likely to meet Resnick’s criteria, right?
So, here’s 25 books from last year.
Here’s 25 books from this year, ~8 months later. Four of the 25 are solely M/M, and two (Tiffany Reisz’s) have M/M subplots with concomitant sex scenes.
2014-02-10 17.39.33
Note: the cover for Where Nerves End got lost somewhere in the ether, but here it is for reference.

  1. Covers with men. 2013: 13 (52%), 2014: 20 (80%)
  2. Who are totally naked from neck to navel. 2013: 4 (16%), 2014: 9 (32%), though 3 of those are M/M.
  3. Frontal enough naked neck-to-navel such that one can see excess abs. 2013: 1, 2014: 1. (Tempting Adam has a frontal cover, but his abs are within the realm of normal.)
  4. Headless men (I counted them as headless if you couldn’t see most of the face). 2013: 2, 2014: 8
  5. Frontal headless men. 2013: 0, 2014: 0.

Lest you think my taste is different than the reality of the market as a whole, here’s a curated list that’s a combination of Amazon sales and Goodreads reviews. Scan down the first 100 covers on the first page and tell me the results are significantly different.
Let’s be clear here: several of the books I read (two from Maya Banks, two from Natasha Moore, one from Cathryn Cade) focus around sex clubs, and a sex club forms part of the plot unifying Tiffany Reisz’s series.
Even those covers are less lurid than the SFWA Bulletin cover for Issue 200.
Just sayin’.
As if all that weren’t enough, this Mary Sue post nails it.
I call bullshit on Resnick’s alleged experiment.
Link: Silvia Moreno-Garcia nails it.

: Village Voice on Writers of the Future

I had missed this piece from March 2012, even though it quotes me.
Because I’ve never posted this on my own blog and I think it’s important, I’m going to quote what I posted over on John Brown’s.

If you haven’t seen documentation about Scientology’s systemic abuses, you really have been avoiding looking, frankly. I’ve got some links on my WotF-tagged posts.
How can Galaxy Press afford to keep the anthologies in print, you might ask? Because I assure you, they benefit from the church’s own internal human trafficking to do so.
You may not know that Scn owns their own presses, operated by Bridge Publications. There’s frankly no way, despite their claims of massive sales, they could afford to keep the anthologies in print using commercial printers, especially the older anthologies where the sales have tapered off.
Here’s a lawsuit from a former Bridge staffer who, as a minor, severed a finger in a guillotine that had no safety guards. Minors are prohibited by federal law from operating such equipment, and Montalvo was offered no compensation.
Meanwhile, workers at Bridge Publications? Are Sea Org, and Sea Org women are prohibited from having children and coerced into abortions. I have a post about that here.
The camera crew for the event come from Gold Base, where the security is insane. Look at the inward-facing motion detectors, razor wire, spikes — all designed to keep people in (granted, as well as out).
These are the working conditions for the people who actually make the bright shiny anthologies so that people can say there’s no connection. It’s not just about the surface details, that’s just gloss.
Here’s the California penal code for human trafficking.
d1: Scn does this with Sea Org staff. Don’t believe me? Look at the spikes in the link above.
d2: Scn controls passports and IDs of its Sea Org staff.
e: Scn does this with Sea Org.
Watch the testimonies from the Human Trafficking Conference. Of these, Will Fry’s is most relevant as he was actually Sea Org at Bridge Publications.
Look deeper. I will be.
Until then, ponder: what social costs are you willing to pay to get a check for a few hundred or a few grand and have your story perpetually in print?
As Nick Mamatas has pointed out, you have been recruited. Your post is proof that you are indeed doing PR for them with this post.

I remember talking with Tony before this story went to print. One of the things he said was that he couldn’t use Montalvo as a source because the case had settled. However, I’m not bound by the same rules of a journalist. The lawsuit is a matter of public record.

: 2-1/2 Years of E-Book Sales Data

In two charts.
I worked at Apple, so it’s not surprising to me that I sold more copies through iBooks than is generally true for other authors. What did surprise me was the relative number of Nook book sales.
Because this is a short story, here are the royalty percentages per sale: Amazon 35%, Nook 40%, and iBooks 70%.
As far as absolute amounts, let’s just say that it’s possible to carry the number of lattes I could order with the amount of money I’ve made, but it would be an awkward number to carry, even from expensive frou-frou coffee places like Blue Bottle and Chromatic.

[![](/images/PubNumbers/PubNumbers.002.jpg)](/images/PubNumbers/PubNumbers.002.jpg)Unit Sales to Date
[![](/images/PubNumbers/PubNumbers.003.jpg)](/images/PubNumbers/PubNumbers.003.jpg)Royalties to Date

I made, to the penny, identical amounts from Amazon and iBooks. Amazon includes foreign sales from Germany and UK; iBooks included Canadian, Australian, and UK sales. For Nook, I only have US sales, though I have enabled worldwide sales.

: A Few Book Covers

Things coming out Real Soon Now, in probable release order.

Coffee & Canopy

Coffee & Canopy is a forthcoming book about our experiences in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Monkeys! Crocodiles! Bats! Venomous sea snakes! Volcanoes! Cover photo is one I took of Nicaragua’s Masaya volcano.

The “travel diary” series will be novella length, have selected color photos (as well as the occasional black and white), and will be digital only. I’ll also have PDF as a format option for this series. Price will be $2.99.

So You Want to Travel the World

Would you like to travel more? See the world? Get discouraged by how many things there are to do and see? So You Want to Travel the World will help you divide and conquer the problems so you can get more of your travel goals accomplished. The cover photo was one I took in Venice, Italy in December, 2011.

This book will be in both digital and print. Pricing will depend upon final size, so I’m waiting to announce that.

Deep Pacific

Deep Pacific will chronicle our journey from San Francisco to Valparaiso, Chile to Easter Island, Pitcairn, Moorea, Tahiti, Bora Bora, and finally back to San Francisco. The cover photo is one I took on Easter Island.

This is also a digital-only member of the “travel diary” series. Price will be $2.99.

For more titles coming out later in the year, see my home page.

: Self-Publishing and Quality

Chuck Wendig has a great post out: Self-Publishing Is Not the Minor Leagues

I have to admit something: I’ve only ever submitted fiction to a semi-pro market once.

The letter I got wasn’t a rejection, it was more “You misread the guidelines, but if you do A, B, and C, I’ll publish it.” Though I don’t think the publisher figured out that I’d misread the guidelines. I wrote a near miss story despite that.

I withdrew the story, because what they wanted wasn’t the kind of story I wanted to write.

It’s a good thing I did withdraw, because the story happened to have an unfortunate trope in it, and now I can cringe at the Bad Trope in the drawer and not be embarrassed every time someone calls me out on it. Some day, I may pull the stuff I like out of that story and evict the Bad Trope.

In all other cases, I held my stories until I thought they could go to a pro market, and basically wasn’t going to go to semi-pro markets until I was selling more consistently to pro markets.

It really only was for the reason of wanting to avoid the obvious stupid mistakes. I figured I’d probably learn something by then, and there might be more pro markets–or at least some different editors at the same pro markets. I’ve avoided having a lot of stupid stuff published because I haven’t bothered digging down to the “Bazooka Cannibals in Space” tier of possibilities.

I’m at the stage of personal rejection letters, which is a nice place to be, but it hasn’t been translating into sales. That is likely more a function of my paucity of submissions.

On the other hand, because I am really selective about submissions, I can say that “A Sword Called Rhonda” sold both the first and second time I submitted it anywhere.

So you can imagine how I felt, given that I’ve just confessed to basically being an obsessive perfectionist, when I was at a NaNoWriMo meeting and someone said they wanted to self-publish their book because they “didn’t want to do all that extra work readying it for market.”

You’ll be very proud of me: I did not leap over the table at the pizza place with an editorial pen of my own devising.

Meanwhile, for a book I’m planning to come out with later in the year that’ll be both in paper and e-book form, I realized that Pages wasn’t going to cut it, and it was driving me crazy anyways. Pages does allow you to save to EPUB, but the book templates are really only designed for PDF books, and no one’s making ones for common trade sizes.

Which leaves InDesign, and I have forgotten so much about using production aspects of PageMaker/InDesign it’s not even funny. Back in the day when I worked at agencies in between contract programming gigs, I would frequently wind up at a specific ad agency doing page layout. I’ve always enjoyed it.

I’ve continued doing it over the years, but some of the advances in book publishing in InDesign were features I’d never learned. I’m not going to argue that it’s brain surgery, but it takes a non-zero amount of time to pick up.

There’s also a lot of frustration to it. Like, say you want a PDF version of your book. Your main book design has spreads so you can have odd/even pages (because odd/even headers are A Thing). By default, that means you can’t make an interactive PDF (with live links) that doesn’t have spreads.

Honestly, if you think editing your book is all that complicated, you shouldn’t be self-publishing. There’s a lot to it, and it’ll show if you don’t respect that–and I’m not just talking typos or grammar.

For the same reasons, I’m delaying production of a couple of other titles by a bit until I can finish up the conversion to InDesign. In one case, I got pretty close to final draft before realizing I was barking up the wrong toolchain.

So that will be fun.

On the other hand, I’ll have lots more experience with current multi-document production in InDesign, and that could come in handy.

One never knows.

: Why I Wrote the Calcumatic

Bonjour to all my Francophone visitors!

A French site has linked to my E-Book Royalty Calcumatic, and there are a couple of points I wanted to address.

First, it is US-based, and it is my intention to expand it to other regions and vendors. It’s not my intent to be exhaustive, though.

One of the comments on the above link says (Original in French first, then a rough translation):

Etant donné que les ventes sont imprévisibles et aléatoires, ça en fait un outil complétement inutile!

Given that sales are unpredictable and random, that makes this tool completely useless!

Okay, it’s a fair point. Let’s look at why I did write it and get back to what it does and doesn’t mean.

There were a few reasons I wrote the tool the way I did (remember, I first wrote it in 2011):

  1. I worked on the Safari team at Apple and there was a cool new input element—range sliders—in HTML5. Every new toy must have a use case, right? This was mine. (I’d really love to have a pie chart slice draggy thing, honestly, but I’m not going to write one.)
  2. I wanted to convince some friends not to leave money on the table. Specifically, as someone who uses the Kindle format as my “last resort” choice, I wanted to convince them not to leave my money on the table. To this day, some people still only publish through Kindle’s program. Look, I get that there are compelling reasons for introducing books through Kindle’s store and giving them a 90-day exclusive. Truly I do.
  3. I figured I might actually educate some people who were readers, not writers—people who might think to take that extra moment to get the book from a different source that pays the authors better next time they were purchasing a book and had a choice of vendors.

However, there are always things you can’t control, right?

  1. You can’t control whether someone buys your book. Or not.
  2. You can’t control where someone buys your book (unless you sell it only in one place, which is a poor choice).

There are things you have some control over, though.

  1. You can put your book in multiple bookstores.
  2. You can preferentially feature stores that offer you better deals on your website. You don’t have to list Amazon first. (Yeah, I used to work at Apple, but this is just me being me, not me being an Apple alumna.)

See, I read in iBooks. I only read in iBooks.

Why? I think the layout and rendering is the best there. I like Apple’s choice of fonts. Iowan/Night theme gal, here. I like having all my books together in one big happy library.

I have a handful of Nook books. They are now in iBooks. I have a handful of Kindle books. They are ignored.

If you want me to purchase and read your book, you’ll put it somewhere in an EPUB. It’ll be available without DRM or it’ll be available in the iBooks store.

I don’t mind going to Smashwords to buy your books if I know they are DRM free. Heck, I’ll buy them off your website if I want to read the book and you sell direct. It doesn’t cost me anything extra, but you get paid faster and more money. Sounds like a win win to me.

Just don’t send me to the Kindle store, because you’ll lose the sale. Well, unless you write something so spectacular (like QF32) that I can’t resist buying the book. Still haven’t read it, though. But—you go ahead and land the biggest passenger airplane after an engine blows out and I’ll go to the Kindle store to buy your book, okay?

For years, I didn’t read The Hunger Games. Not available non-DRMed or on the iBooks store. Same thing with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo when it was hot. I think we actually bought that one in paper—and Larsson’s heirs lost a few bucks accordingly.

I’m sure there are people equally fervent about their reading app of choice. Sell to them, too.

: January Indie Monday: Francesca Forrest's Pen Pal

January’s Indie Monday book is Francesca Forrest’s novel, Pen Pal. An excerpt is linked from this page.

Em is a twelve-year-old girl in a floating community off the Gulf Coast. Kaya is a political activist in a terrifying prison. They are pen pals.

Em’s wistful message in a bottle finds its way to Kaya, imprisoned above the molten lava of the Ruby Lake. Both are living precarious lives, at the mercy of societal, natural, and perhaps supernatural forces beyond their control. Kaya’s letters inspire Em, and Em’s comfort Kaya—but soon this correspondence becomes more than personal. Individual lives, communities, and even the fate of an entire nation will be changed by this exchange of letters.

Pen Pal is a story of friendship and bravery across age, distance, and culture, at the intersection of the natural and supernatural world.

She had me at volcanoes.

Have my copy in hand, can’t wait to read it!

: Updated: E-Book Royalty Calcumatic

What’s new: direct sales calculations, assuming PayPal as your payment gateway.

There are some nuances that aren’t easily calculable, including Google Books’s rather opaque approach to remuneration.

Without further ado, the E-Book Royalty Calcumatic.

: Updated: E-Book Royalty Calcumatic Notes Page

My E-Book Royalty Calcumatic has needed some updating and TLC, but I had to update all the notes and references first. This is now done.

Hat tip to Diane Patterson who helped me find the impossible-to-locate and depressingly-obtuse Google data.

I’ve also added the cold harsh reality that is payment timetables at the bottom, so don’t miss it!

: E-Book Royalty Calcumatic: Have Suggestions?

I have an e-book royalty calcumatic that needs some TLC, which I’m about to do.

However, since it is one of my more popular pages, I thought I’d ask in case someone needed something I hadn’t thought of.

Selling Off Your Own Site

Back when I wrote the Calcumatic, there were reasons I didn’t include the option of selling off one’s own site. However, there are now good tools to do so. For example, Easy Digital Downloads is a WordPress plugin that does all the heavy lifting. There are add-ons for cost, but the basic setup is for PayPal, and is free (apart from the cost of using PayPal).

Here’s a quick-and-dirty comparison of the existing options. (I may need to tweak this data.)

[fancy_table] | Sales Source | Revenue per 1000 sales for $2.99 book | |---|---| | Amazon Select (not combineable with other options) | $2093 | | Amazon KDP | $1046 | | iBooks | $1046 (requires ISBN) | | Nook | $1046 | | Easy Digital Downloads + PayPal or ZenCart + PayPal | **$2603** | \[/fancy\_table\]

There are other options for selling off your site, like various shopping cart programs, some of which have ongoing monthly costs.

The Monthly Cost Problem

Because I’m trying to do something back-of-the-envelope, ongoing monthly costs really affect the way the bottom line is calculated. Then you’d have to calculate what percentage of those sales are from the site and over what time period in order to figure out effective revenue.

Catch is, most e-books sell under 200 copies, meaning: it probably isn’t cost effective to commit to anything with ongoing costs.

Unless some of you think that’s useful, I probably won’t bother with it for now.

What Else Would You Like?

I’m interested in other options I may have overlooked that you might be interested in. Suggestions?

: First Mondays Are Indie Book Mondays

We all hate Mondays a little bit, right? It’s always like spring back Daylight Savings Time. Week after week after week.

Until now.

Once a month, on the first Monday of the month, I’ll post some of my comments on your indie published book. Well, someone’s book. Maybe yours. But only if I like it. Which means I have to know about it.

Here’s the rules:

  1. You must have a web site. I don’t care if it’s for you as an author or the book (or the series of books).
  2. There must be an excerpt of your book on your web site. ~2 pages (500 words) is a good start.
  3. There must be a link that offers a downloadable sample (e.g., through iBooks). I’m sample girl. The book must be available somewhere in EPUB format. I don’t read on a Kindle or with the Kindle app, and I don’t read paper books any more.
  4. If it’s part of a series, I’m only interested in the first book.
  5. Your book must have been published for the first time within a year (to the nearest month), but must be available on the posting date. So for the Jan 6, 2014 edition, anything published between Jan 1, 2013 and Jan 6, 2014 is fine.
  6. It must be in a genre I read. (See below.)
  7. How to be considered:

    a. Email me: (spell carefully). Deadline is two weeks before the post date, so Dec 23.

    b. Make sure you list your web site, book, and its publication date.

    c. Note that I will actually look at your excerpt and, if I like that, your sample. And, if I like that, I’ll have a go at the rest of the book.

    d. Your book doesn’t get picked unless I like it.

    e. If you leave any of the necessary bits out, I will probably not approve your comment. (At this time, all comments are moderated unless you have a previously-approved comment.)

  8. Even if I don’t pick your book, if I find you have an interesting-sounding excerpt that isn’t quite my thing, I may give you a shout-out in the Indie Monday post.
  9. Women writers, writers of color, LGBT* writers are all encouraged to participate.
  10. If I don’t feel that I’ve found an indie published book via your submissions of your own work that I’d love to give a shout-out to that month, I’ll still post about an indie book, just not one that was submitted. This is a last resort, though.

Anything I didn’t cover? Feel free to ask questions below.

What I Like to Read

Science fiction, fantasy (except of the good vs. evil sort), paranormal romance, romance (any heat level), mystery, travel essay.

I like funny books and upbeat endings and complicated plots, but none of those elements are required.

What I Won’t Read

Horror of most kinds, lifestyle BDSM, Christian-themed books, tragedies, strenuously dramatic works, overly derivative works, and erotica that’s too out there for publishers like Samhain.

: So You Want to Travel the World

Indiegogo campaign page.

Hi, I’m Deirdre.

As a kid, I was given a globe, and I was fascinated by it. I kept imagining that I would go to all these wonderful places, especially the islands where all the lettering squished together on the globe. Or weird places like Ifni, which was on my globe and existed for only 11 years as a separate province.

For years, I traveled for business only, and I was able to travel to several continents. I wanted to travel for pleasure and had a long list of places I wanted to visit, but no real idea of how to make things happen. So many places to go. So many things to see. Learn how to reduce the possibilities to a manageable list, then how to plan your trips.

Then, earlier this year, I had a once-in-a-lifetime trip planned. Eight days before I was due to leave, I had a wrench thrown in my plans and had to either a) scrap the trip entirely, b) have it suddenly cost thousands of unplanned dollars more; or c) change my trip so fundamentally that it no longer resembled what I originally planned. Learn coping strategies for adversity.

It’s a big world. Let me help you get out there.

My Background

While I’ve primarily been a software engineer most of my life, most recently at Apple, I’ve also worked in the travel industry.

For (now defunct, but not my fault) Eastern Airlines, I was a reservationist with the group booking desk, planning trips for the Caribbean and northern South America. You can see an old Eastern Airlines route map here.

I’ve also worked in several capacities on several cruise lines, mostly Premier Cruise Lines (also now defunct, but also not my fault), from purser to medical records consultant to computer consultant–also mostly in the Caribbean.

More recently, I worked in reservations at (the still existing, yay) Classic Vacations, the luxury division of Expedia. Like everyone, I started on the Hawaii desk, booking custom air-and-hotel packages for travel agents’ clients. Then I expanded to the other locations they had at the time: Mexico, Canada, Caribbean, and Europe. Eventually, I worked in product development as a product administrator, specializing in Turkey and Western Canada.

Here’s a map of my travels in 2013. (233,863 km or 145,316 miles)

As a traveler, I’ve been to 61 countries as recognized by the United Nations, or 88 countries and territories as recognized by the rather-more-liberal Traveler’s Century Club. I’ve been around the world twice. After I failed to go around the world twice. I’ve visited six of the seven continents, five of them more than once.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying: I get this. This isn’t yet another Indiegogo campaign about someone wanting to fund their first trip to Europe.

I’ve delivered sixteen published books on time. In my past, I wrote twelve short adult western novels under pseudonyms. I have published four technical books through Que and Sams, and had a daily column of Linux tips for Earth Web in 1999.

The Calendar (and its pictures)

I also occasionally take decent photos, as you can see from the calendar here.

Note About Postcard Perks

Physical postcards can, unfortunately, take a long time to deliver. I always send myself a postcard at the same time as I mail them to others. When I sent postcards in early April from the Maldives, I received them in July. That’s unusual, but three to four weeks is not unusual.

There’s also a special case for Pitcairn: a) it’s one of the most remote islands in the world with very limited shipping to and from the island; b) there’s always the possibility we won’t be able to go ashore at all. Pitcairn has no airport and no harbor and is one of the most isolated places people live on Earth.

Because of delays in delivery, I’m also offering a virtual postcard, by which I mean a pretty photo I took at the location in question, e-mailed either from the location (available bandwidth permitting) or shortly thereafter, using a postcard application on my iPhone.

I’ll also take photos of the fronts and backs of postcards I send.

Why I Need Your Help

There are a bunch of other software engineers in the world, but there aren’t that many people who could–or would–write this book.

Historically, I can’t do significant amounts of writing at the same time as I’m doing software development. It uses too much of the same mental processes, unfortunately. In order to get this book written, I need to spend my time writing the book, not doing other things like looking for software engineering contracts or learning or refreshing existing skills. I need to turn down or delay other work in order for this book to happen.

Additionally, I’ve recently written part of a novel draft. The idea, synopsis, and opening was strong enough that I won $150 (2nd place) at a writer’s conference and was asked for a full manuscript (rare) by an agent at that conference. Story here. So I’d be putting this project on hold, too. The reality of traditional publishing timelines is such that it’s not particularly likely this book would provide income in 2014.

I’ll have expenses for software (updating InDesign) to produce the physical books, as well as expenses related to cover design and editing services. Ideally, I’d like to get my camera repaired.

I have two (already paid for) trips coming up where I’ll be able to talk to people who are even better traveled than I am. We’ll be on a segment (partial) world cruise. I’ve been trying to get on one of these my whole life, and this is an opportunity to write about it.

After It’s Over

Once my hand recovers from all the typing and signing….

My plan is to continue to self-publish So You Want to Travel the World in both electronic and paper form, then go on to publish the occasional travel journey as a separate short book.

: Some Self-Published Love

Now that I’ve whinged a bit on self publishing issues, I thought I’d spend time giving some love to some self-published authors whose books I love. I’ve picked from quite a few genres here.

Self-Published Books That Sold To Publishers

In one of the first sales of its kind, John Scalzi sold Old Man’s War to Tor after serializing it on his blog. It was nominated for a Hugo award in 2006 and optioned for a film in 2011, and it was largely on the basis of this book that he won the Campbell award. Not too shabby.
Jay Crownover self-published Rule, a new adult romance, then picked up a publisher for it. It’s the first new adult book where I really got the category, and it’s well-written and realistic. I loved this book, one of my favorites of the year. And, okay, the cover’s full of win. Here’s a gushing review by someone who does read a lot of new adult. I agree: the characters are really distinct and interesting, and it’s well done. I also read Jet, but didn’t love it quite as much. Still a very good book, though. Can’t wait for Rome.

Self-Published Books That Stayed Self-Published

Jenny Trout became infamous for her take-down of E.L. James’s 50 Shades of Grey (et seq). It was really enlightening to read some of her takes on consent issues in the books, and make me think about things that are important. She talks about this from the perspective of someone in a long-term BDSM relationship. And then she went and wrote (as Abigail Barnette) The Boss, which was serialized in a blog, and The Girlfriend, which was e-book only. Those are parts 1 and 2 of a trilogy. It’s erotic romance and adults only. (I’ve linked to Smashwords, but these are also available through other services, too.)
Sarah Stegall wrote Deadfall, a mystery about the ghost of Wyatt Earp in present-day San Francisco. Sample is here. Disclaimer: Sarah’s in my writing group, so I read this prior to publication. She can actually write, and she has a passion for San Francisco that I love.
Dario Ciriello wrote a great book about his family moving to Greece. And then not. It’s called Aegean Dream. He’s excerpted the tale of his first Easter in Greece in this blog post. If you want to know why Greece’s economy is so screwed up, this book has that story on a micro level. It’s amazing they have a country at all. Disclaimer: I’ve been in the same writing group with Dario, and we nearly visited him in Greece in 2007, but, you know, things fell apart. See: Greece.
Those are a few that I’ve seen, but I’ve always been interested in others, too.
Note: in comments, its okay to promote your own work on two conditions: a) you have a sample that I can read on your website, b) you don’t mind my commenting on it (there’s always a risk I won’t like it).

: Miscellaneous Thoughts on Self-Publishing

When I was the head of programming for a local convention, I always cringed when someone self-published wanted to be a panelist.
It’s not that the self-published had little to say, or that they couldn’t be interesting. It was the baggage that tended to come with: wanting a place (often in the sold-out dealers’ room) to sell their books directly to customers, wanting to hijack panels to talk about their publications rather than the topic, wanting to hide the fact that they were self-published. In one case, a prospective panelist vehemently denied being self-published even after I went and looked up his “publisher’s” corporate registration and called him on it.
There’s no shame in being self-published, okay? Never was, never will be.
The issue comes in what a person who’s only been self-published can speak to vs. what someone who’s been traditionally-published can. If people want to hear (as many do) about experiences selling to industry editors, that’s not something the self-published can talk about with any authority. But they will always volunteer, in my experience.
Just. Don’t. It’s fucking annoying.
Especially these days, where a lot of traditionally-published writers are self-publishing their backlist or oddball works, the traditionally-published who’ve also self-published (aka hybrid-published) still have an advantage talking about self-publishing because they have informed opinions about which works for a given piece — and why. That may actually be more useful than a panel on self-publishing per se.
But there I was, having to make too many decisions about authors late at night, and all I had was their emails, websites, and Amazon (et al) to go by.

Let’s Give an Example

I happened to be searching on Google a couple weeks ago and came across an author site for a self-published author I don’t know. So, I’m sorry author-I-don’t-know, I’m going to use this site site as an example of what not to do.
First, let’s open the page for a random book on the author’s site.
Starting from the top of the content area (don’t get me started on the author platform in the menu):

  1. The first thing you see about a book shouldn’t be the literary prizes, especially not “buy the prize” offerings like this one. Above the fold should be a short synopsis (like this site has). See? [Update: she’s removed those links. Yay!]
  2. I’m not generally a fan of putting reviews before the synopsis, but it works for me if I can see the synopsis without scrolling. On the example site, I can’t.
  3. If you are a self-published author and you do not put an excerpt on your site, you are telling people that you think you’re a bad writer. I cannot emphasize this enough. Especially if you’ve paid over $100 to get literary prizes to attempt to lure buyers. [Update: she has now added an excerpt. Yay!]
  4. Reviews: 3-5.
  5. Do not post pingbacks from your own site on your site. That just looks stupid.

If you know anything about marketing and lead conversion and stuff like that, you’ll know the following: the fewer clicks it takes someone to get to what the reader wants, the more likely they will stick around and get it from you. Also, look at the way most sites are designed: you only send someone outside your little garden if there’s an actual need.
Sure, someone could follow a link off-site and get an excerpt of your writing. Is that what you want? For them to be distracted by all the other authors’ books? Maybe buy a DVD of Vin Diesel instead of your story? Perhaps they’ve forgotten all about that colored titanium spork they were looking for. Until now.
Do the lifting on your site. Look, no one’s going to sell to everyone. It’s the way it is. At Milford, we’d say, “I’m not your target audience.” However, some people will be captured, and those people you want to capture as soon as possible.
Which you can only do when you’ve got an excerpt on your site, right?

Show That You’re Interesting

Unfortunately, this site is pretty typical of what I see from self-published writers. There’s a whole bunch about “being a writer” and not a lot about being a generally interesting person that might be interesting to have as a panelist — or whose book may be interesting to read. The blog largely consists of cross promotion that can come off as a circle jerk (even though it is the most interesting content). Though I will give her props for having more interesting blog content than I’ve seen on some similar sites.
A few weeks ago, I was at a technical talk, and a woman who was interested both in math and traditional art was asking around for advice. She was insecure because others knew more than she did.
As a generalist, I feel this problem all the time. I’m rarely the person who knows the most about X, whatever X is. But if you happen to want to have a topic-shifting conversation about sound recording, the history of astronomy, SQL quirks, Leica cameras (and rangefinders vs. SLRs generally), similarities between Middle Egyptian and Hawai’ian languages, fascinating aspects of virology, writing Cocoa applications, and a bunch of random other stuff, well, I’m probably on your short list.
What I said to the woman was: the aggregate of what you’re interested in vs. what you’re not interested in is unique. Look carefully at what you care about vs. what you care less about, then look at what you don’t care about and what you really don’t care about. That combination makes you different, and you can use that to find your way into the right career track.
If you’re a writer and talk about what you’re interested in on your web site, some of the people who come to your web site will care about some of those things. Others will find your web site because search engines noted that you used those words, and they’ll lead other people to your pages.

An Example

So I take a lot of travel photos. I’d like to think I’m good at them. I’ve had a flickr account for over 8 years. I’ve posted a few of my travel photos on flickr here and there.
But my most popular photo is this one, taken at a chairmaking class with master craftsman Brian Boggs a few years ago at Northwest Woodworking Studio. It’s not a great photo. It’s not about the glory of sunsets. It’s about a good old-fashioned honest tool: a shaving horse (used to clamp an irregularly-shaped piece of wood while using tools on it, like so).
Probably, when you think of me, traditional woodworking doesn’t come to mind. That’s okay. It’s a part of who I am.
That photo is also three times more popular than the first photo that’s not about traditional chairmaking: a photo of a couple in the Mediterranean, taken from a beach near Alexandria, Egypt. They were the only couple there that day.
The story, as we were told, is that women on public beaches in Egypt are pretty much not allowed to go into the water. They aren’t prohibited from it per se, they’re just shamed into not doing it. So women who want to swim use private beaches, which this was one of. Some modern women swim in rather modest swimsuits, but going into the water in traditional dress isn’t unheard of. But that’s not why the photo’s unusual.
What’s led almost 350,000 views to my flickr pages is the sum and aggregate of who I am. I post irregularly and in weird increments, posting nothing for months at a time, then posting just one photo here and there. If I actually tried to game it, I’m sure I could get a lot more views even if my photos weren’t any more interesting than they are now.
What would have been a mistake, though, would be not posting about chairmaking because I thought people wouldn’t be interested in that part of me. Clearly, there are quite a few avid traditional chairmakers out there.


Because long post is long, I have two stories.

Story the first

Here’s a funny moment out of that class that I’ve never shared, but it’s one of the moments that sticks with me (apart from the moment where I cut myself with a drawknife and was embarrassed so I superglued myself back together so no one would know). The back legs were steam bent, and I had watched the other people force theirs into the forms we’d built to hold the leg in place while it dried.
I am not a small woman, but I am extremely strong. I was seriously worried that I was going to break the rear leg bending it to the form. I had visions of the wood splintering into bits–and we had had people try to bend the legs too quickly (or with too little steam), causing exactly that to happen. Instead, I found that I didn’t weigh enough to force the leg into the form using only my strength, and two guys pitched into help. Thanks, guys.
Every weird experience you have, like that one, is something that makes you different than everyone else out there. Use your distinctiveness.

Story the Second

I was at a convention talking with a BNA (big-name author) who’d published a lot of books and won a lot of awards, who turned the tables on me. Asked what kind of book I was writing.
I gave him the elevator pitch.
“Oh, I couldn’t write that,” he said.
It stopped me cold. I was stunned. “What do you mean, you couldn’t write that?”
“Your character’s on open ocean in a small boat. I’m afraid of water. Hotel pool’s okay, but that’s enough water for me.”
Which is why my favorite piece of writing advice isn’t, “Write what you know,” but, rather, “Write the book that only you can write.”
Now go make a web site to match that.

: Making Book: A Technological Evolution

Once upon a time, I lost all the poetry I ever wrote, including the stuff I’d published. It was published in journals so small I’d be lucky if a single copy survives to this day. It’s possible dozens of people read my work.

Of all of those poems, I’m saddest about the piece I wrote the day I was in Belfast. The day we weren’t supposed to be in Belfast. The day I got a rifle pointed at me. (If you ever happen across Metropolis, a journal of urban poetry, with my poem titled “Belfast Brunch,” I’ll pay you for the copy.)

I thought: I’m a software engineer, why don’t I add all the stuff I’ve written into source control? But then you have two problems, as the old joke goes.

This was back in CVS days, and what CVS really didn’t like much was binary files. And me with a bunch of Word documents. Oh, and AppleWorks documents, because we know how forward-compatible those suckers are. (The current version of Apple’s Pages will not open them, but then it won’t open RTF, either.)

Novels and short stories don’t actually consist of a lot of sophisticated markup, though. There’s the occasional italics, the section breaks, the chapter headings. Because HTML was too much work to generate cleanly, I just wrote in plain text. With underlines around italics. You know, like Markdown. Though Markdown hadn’t been announced back then.

Eventually, I switched over to Subversion for source control. (I recently switched to git due in part to feedback on this post.)

However, getting stuff ready for critique or submission was another story entirely. I was talking about this with Serah Eley, and she mentioned using XSLT and XSL-FO, and had a perl/java toolchain that worked well enough, so I incorporated it into my own work. By this time, I was running my submissions through my own Ruby on Rails app, and it was slick enough that it knew where a project’s files lived, and would generate all the meta information needed by XSL-FO in order to make a PDF to print. (At that point, RTFs weren’t really possible as they were still the realm of proprietary software.)

So why XSL-FO? Part of it was the beauty of the templating system. You could make a stylesheet that specified double-spaced courier and to add an address block for a submission to an editor. You could make it single spaced in Garamond with no address block if it’s something you wanted to hand to someone you didn’t want to have your address. You could have a cover page and exclude your name on subsequent pages for contest submissions.

The downside, though is that XSLT is pretty fiddly and I had a toolchain from hell that required not only Ruby and Perl and Java, but a lot of dependencies that would occasionally drive me mad when they broke or balked.

And Then An Amazing Thing Happened

Apple decided to adopt EPUB for iBooks. Before that, there’d been a far more confusing array of choices for electronic formats, but then people started veering toward EPUB. Plus other tools had come out like calibre, which will convert your books (so long as you don’t mind it getting its grubby paws all over your markup and inserting its calibre-isms).

Then jugyo wrote eeepub, a ruby gem to make EPUB files. And, hey, I already had valid XML files from my earlier process, right?

Not long after that, I was the head of programming (by which I mean scheduling of people and rooms, not software engineering, though I also almost all of that, too) for BayCon and Westercon 64.

One of the things I wrote the code for was the generation of the tabular data for the program grid. From there, especially with jugyo’s excellent gem, it wasn’t that far to getting a program book in EPUB form. (Reusing work I’d done in 2003-2007, I was still using XSLT + XSL-FO + InDesign for things like table tents, back of badge stickers, room signs, and the schedule content for the body of the program book.)

I remember sitting down one night a few days before con, wondering if I could actually make an ebook version of the program schedule. I wrote it on too little sleep when I had a case of shingles, but hey, it works! PDF and EPUB versions of the file are linked on Westercon 64’s site. The PDF used the same intermediate XML that generated the EPUB, but I used InDesign to generate the final product.

Here’s the code to make the EPUB version. The tl;dr version of what it does:

  1. Figure out what days the convention runs. Get the names of those days.
  2. Calculate what public program items run, in order, and spit them out along with their program participants, one file per day. Make sure the program participants link to their bios. (Non-public items were things like meetings for exec staff and stuff we didn’t want to schedule against, e.g., when someone wasn’t planning to be in the masquerade but didn’t want to miss it.)
  3. Generate a file, in alphabetic order, of the program participants and their bios. Note: this file takes too long to render in the EPUB, and one of the changes I’d make if I were doing it again would be to break it up by first letter of last name or smaller groups to make the rendering faster.
  4. Commented out code used for Westercon: add the bylaws.

Simplifying the Novel-Production Process

Somewhere around 2008, Ruby had better Markdown support and I’d become aware that I was really writing drafts in Markdown, so I was able to eliminate part of the toolchain I had.

More recently, I discovered textutil, which does the back-end work I’d been using XSL-FO for. So, I can take an HTML file (which I get from Markdown) and get an RTF and a DOC and a PDF out of it? With almost no pain?

To quote Ben Grogan: I call that winning.

As the saying goes: now you have one problem.

General Casing the One Problem

I’ve been working on a more general case solution, both in Ruby and Python, for taking Markdown files and making a book out of them without having to do quite so much of the work.

I’ve tried a number of Markdown editors over the last couple of years, and I have standardized on ByWord on both Mac and iOS. For things that I’ve got in source control, I use git on Dropbox with my repository on BitBucket. I use a nightly script to push repository changes in case I forget to do so.

In my current process, I no longer have rails generate XML template files, nor do I need prose DTDs, etc. I just have rails generate a YAML file, and I’ve moved much of the configuration into the rails app. But now I need to push some of that back out into CSS. And maybe I want it to be a Cocoa app, you know?

I’m still thinking about ways to do that when I want to still be able to produce the following variants with no change of my Markdown files:

  1. Novel proposal, meaning synopsis (formatted one way) plus first three chapters or (as a programmer, I hate this one) no more than 50 pages.
  2. Novel chapter for critique, which usually means slightly different spacing and more whitespace for comments, but doesn’t need all the fancy fancy.
  3. Reading copy, which would be formatted pretty but not include author address (or legal name, necessarily).
  4. Final book format, which can include a lot more data than the above three, e.g., ISBN.
  5. Contest entry format which suppresses author name on pages other than the first. (Or, sometimes, at all, as it’s included only in a cover letter.)
  6. A relatively easy way to create variant style definitions and keep them together without requiring the rails app I’m currently using.

Most of that’s fairly easy, but some of it’s surprisingly subtle.

And here you thought I just flung words on pages.

: Author Platform: Well That Was Embarrassing

I’m not particularly easy to embarrass.
Sometimes, that’s actually a fault of mine: I can speak frankly about things that make other people blanch, and I’m not always sensitive to that. Sometimes I’m an asshole about it.
A couple of weekends ago, I went to the Algonkian Write to Market Conference. One of the exercises was intimidating but simple: four of you would get up in front of the room, each would deliver your pitch that you’d readied for an agent, and you would do a Q&A session about it.
Simple enough, right?
Except that I was pitching an erotic romance novel.
Probably anyone not already published in that genre would be nervous about it. Reasonable.
Then there was the Q&A part.
Question from the back: “What makes you think you can write a sex scene?”
This is an author platform question, essentially.
Fiction writers often don’t get grilled on them. I’ve never lived in a post-apocalyptic Palo Alto, never been on a space station, nor have I ever lived in a mythical world. But I’ve written about them.
Erotic romance novels are different than “hot” romance novels. Passionate Ink has category definitions, but I prefer my own:

Porn: about the reader’s journey, not the characters’. It has a happy ending — of sorts. Generally ends with a sex scene for obvious reasons.
Erotica: about one character’s sexual journey, and doesn’t require a happy ending. Classic example: the book version of Nine and a Half Weeks by Elizabeth McNeill, which does not have a happy ending in the romance sense, but does have a happy ending in other senses.
Erotic Romance: about characters in a relationship and their mutual sexual journey, requiring HEA (happily ever after) or HFN (happily for now). Removing or toning down the sex causes the story to fall apart. So the question posed of me was also asking: can you not only write a sex scene, but do you have enough skill to make that sex scene a necessary part of the plot?
Sexy Romance: about characters in a relationship who have explicit sex, requiring HEA or HFN. I do agree that the sex can be toned down without losing structure. Frankly, I don’t like these much and find myself skipping over the sex scenes in them.

Author platforms are critical in a lot of non-fiction: why would anyone want to read your cookbook? What authority do you have to write a self-help book? A travel guide? A medical reference?
But there are so many things saying how essential it is for an author–any author–to have a platform. I have a pent-up rant coming about this, so we’ll just table that for now. Let’s just say that even Forbes has gotten into the buzz.
For a fiction writer, that platform can be as simple as: be yourself, just a bit more out there.
There I was with a question–and any number of ways to answer it, and lots of pleasant memories from my callow youth volunteering their services. Oh, black sand beaches of Martinique…. I digress.
This is publishing, and I happened to have a track record, which I’ve written about before.
So I said, “Well, I’ve sold twelve porn novels for money, and I made more writing them than I did programming during that period.”
Which is true.
I’m not sure what compelled me to add that second part, though.
I’ve generally said it was “half” my income, but the truth is it was a tidge over fifty percent, partly because software engineering salaries in South Florida at the time were reprehensible, and partly because I had writing deadlines and checks that came in like clockwork.
It’s always been embarrassing to me: not that I wrote porn for money. More that I took money for writing books I wouldn’t read for free. It was hard work, and not work I’m proud of, but it did teach me how to approach writing seriously even if the subject is generally not regarded seriously. When I went on to write and sell four computer books, it was incredibly useful experience. As awful as I think the porn books were, I’m pretty sure none of them are as bad as the examples in this (seriously NSFW) blog of sex scene WTFery.
The question from the back changed my perception of my prior work. Suddenly, it became relevant. Instead of writing in another field, it was at least arguably relevant to something I’m doing in the present. For the first time, I felt like I was at peace with my time in literary brothels.
The other writers applauded, and not just the polite sort of applause. It was a difficult and pointed question to get through, and I’m sure they were all very, very glad it wasn’t a question they had to answer.
I came home with a 2nd place synopsis/opening contest win (and accompanying check), and I didn’t even get through my newly-revised pitch before the agent I stood in front of requested a full.
Go, me!

: Ahh, Book Reviews

Once upon a time, I thought I’d actually find new books by joining up on Goodreads and adding a handful of people whose taste I liked and — I’d find new books that way.
Then my friend Kathryn, got sick (and has since died) and wasn’t reviewing as much, and hers was the only taste I knew relative to mine well enough that I could tell whether I’d like a book or not.
What I discovered fairly quickly was that I became profoundly uncomfortable with the idea of reviewing books. These were my colleagues, even if I happened to be the junior leaguer of the bunch. The other thing is that I feel there’s an inherent narrative if I tell you what I am (or am not) reading, and that’s my bigger problem with Goodreads. I feel like there’s some accountability for my taste. Why am I not reading X? Why did I not like Y? I find the mere thought of that kind of meta-narrative paralyzing.
Oh, and “You should read Z.” That goes over really well with me. Not.
Whenever anyone asks me to write a review, my inner snark comes out. Spare us both and don’t ask.
Over the weekend, I heard the following line: “A one-star review means the wrong reader found your book.” The reader is someone who wanted to like your book.
The truth is, I happen to pick up a particular book to read it because it feels like the book that would appeal to me most in the moment. That’s all there is to it.
I think I’m going to just do it this way from now on: I’m going to occasionally post reviews on Goodreads (even though this author probably wishes I didn’t) that are primarily “I really loved this particular book” reviews. That means I’m not going to review, or attempt to review, most of the books I read. I’m removing all my shelves soon.
While I’m on the subject of reviews, congrats to all the people I know on the RT list, including Susan Mallery (whom I went to grad school with) and Vivi Andrews and Kelly Jamieson, who wrote two of my favorite books this year, and Lauren Beukes, who’s up for the big prize. Sadly, Lauren Gallagher, who wrote my so-far-favorite of the year, didn’t make the list. And I’ve added a few books to my to-read pile off that list….

: Fascinating Breakdown of NY Times YA Bestseller Lists

Here’s a fascinating breakdown of New York Times Bestseller Lists answering the age-old question: do women really dominate the YA lists?
tl;dr version:

The first thing I wanted to know was how well men and women were represented on the lists. I’ve always suspected that men outnumbered women on the list, and when I’ve made that claim before, I’ve been told that’s not true.
But actually, it’s startlingly true.

Possibly just seems like women dominate the list because the field is more equal than others?

: Nine Years Ago Today

Nine years ago today, Turn the Other Chick came out from Baen with my story “A Sword Called Rhonda” in it. That week was the first time I’d been to the World Fantasy Convention, and I participated in the mass signing, where people actually brought (and bought) the book.
In hardcover.
As a side note, the book is also Cassandra Clare’s first professional publication, though she was already well-known for her fanfiction, specifically, The Very Secret Diaries, still the funniest thing written about The Lord of the Rings like ever.
So, happy literary birthday, TOC sister!

: Something Else Needs To Be Said

…about Vera Nazarian and Norilana books, because it’s bigger than I thought.
Let’s talk about $170,000 in 2008 and 2009 — and not enough money to pay royalties at the beginning of 2010.
I remembered she’d had a bankruptcy, and when I went to look, I didn’t see the second bankruptcy because of how I searched.
Bankruptcy happens, and I’m not going to judge anyone, including Vera, for taking advantage of it, but two Chapter 7 discharges is unusual. National average for repeat filings is around 8%.
Before you object to divulging of some of the numbers below, remember that this is a public record. You could get the same information I did. There is a point, I’m just drawing circles around it for you to make your own conclusions.
2002: Bankruptcy, Chapter 7, California. Case 1:02-bk-12569-AG
2008: Borrowed $50k for business operation loan from Kevin O’Donnell, Jr. (source: 2012 bankruptcy filing)
2008: Fundraiser ($30k) to save house from foreclosure (which I helped run)
2009: Borrowed another $50k for business operation loan from Kevin O’Donnell, Jr. (source: 2012 bankruptcy filing)
2009: Business income of $41.8k (source: 2012 bankruptcy filing)
So: $50k loan + $30k fundraiser + 50k loan + 41.8k income = more than $170,000. That number excludes business income in 2008 and all other sources of income in 2008 and 2009.
2010: Public statement about Norilana being late in paying royalties
2010: Postponing several anthologies
2010: Business income of $37.4k (source: 2012 bankruptcy filing)
2011: Foreclosure finally happens, then move to Vermont
2011: Business income of $13k (source: 2012 bankruptcy filing)
2012: Bankruptcy, Chapter 7, Vermont. Case 12-10003, debts discharged $158,064.27. Of those, $109,364 is due O’Donnell. Link to PDF of her schedules, which has some information Norilana’s cash flows. Link to her filing, which has more data.
This is interesting:
Vera Nazarian
dba Norilana Books
…yet there is nothing showing any royalties due any authors. They are not on the creditor matrix. They should have been.
2012: Kickstarter to fund one of Vera’s books. Funded about six months after her discharge.
2012: Kevin J. O’Donnell, Jr. dies of metastatic lung cancer. SFWA renames their service award after him.
2013: Eugie Foster announces she has cancer, then, tells people she hasn’t received royalties from Norilana for three years.
2013: Current Indiegogo fundraiser to fund Vera’s next book.
Edited to add: this Indiegogo fundraiser from Aug-Sep 2013 that I had not previously known about.

: When Coerced Abortion Is a Sacrament

I keep hearing about people who want to have religious exemptions for contraception in medical policies. Few people realize there’s another side to that coin: a religious exemption for coerced abortions.
Well, right, but who would do such a thing you ask?
The Church of Scientology, of course.
I’d previously mentioned Claire Headley’s case, but she wasn’t speaking at the Human Trafficking in Scientology Press Conference I went to two years ago because of that case. There was, however, a similar story.
Laura Decrescenzo talks about joining the Sea Org at 12, being coerced into an abortion despite wanting kids, and how she attempted suicide to get out of the Sea Org:

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Maureen Bolstad was camera crew for Gold, here’s some of her story (including some of the conditions she did camera work under). Note that she did what some of the other Gold crew have done for Writers of the Future. Note in particular the circumstances in the second video when she talks about some of the conditions she worked under while severely injured. She is a representative sample of the Gold camera crew filming the Writers of the Future events.

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Here’s part of the ruling (currently under appeal) in Claire Headley’s case:

Even so, she [Claire Headley] argues that she is a victim under the TVPA [Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act] because: (1) Defendants coerced her into having two abortions; (2) Defendants placed restrictions on Sea Org members’ ability to leave; (3) Defendants pursue Sea Org members who leave without routing out and attempt to dissuade them from their decision; (4) Defendants discipline Sea Org members who even express a desire to leave; (5) Defendants censor Sea Org members’ communications; (6) Defendants’ discipline of Sea Org members includes sleep and eating deprivation and heavy manual labor; and (7) Defendants attempted to force Plaintiff to divorce her husband. (Pl.’s Opp’n 17-18.)
In contrast to Bollard and Elvig, Defendants here represent that the challenged conduct was doctrinally motivated. (E.g., Defs.’ Reply 10-11, 15-18.) Therefore, inquiry into these allegations would entangle the Court in the religious doctrine of Scientology and the doctrinally-motivated practices of the Sea Org. It would also require the Court to analyze the criteria Defendants use to choose their ministers and the reasonableness of the methods used to enforce church policy and encourage members to remain with the organization and the religion itself. For example, inquiry concerning the pressure Plaintiff allegedly faced after becoming pregnant would require review of Scientology’s doctrine prohibiting Sea Org members from raising children. In order to determine whether Defendants’ means of persuading members to remain with the Sea Org, etc. fall within the purview of the TVPA, a trier of fact must inquire into Scientology’s policies,practices, and scriptures.
The Court rejects Plaintiff’s argument that the challenged conduct was not doctrinally motivated.

The judge is, essentially, full of it. In fact, L. Ron Hubbard’s writings are very much anti-abortion, so you could argue that the theology of Scn is anti-abortion but the current practice, at least for Sea Org members is exactly the opposite, and therefore it is a triable matter of fact as it can’t possibly be doctrinally motivated.
Here’s the background for how Scn prevented Sea Org members from leaving Gold base, including coercion and motion sensors. Here’s the judge’s statement in a hearing (pacer link, which requires a fee):

You submitted evidence that they did believe that the Church did not want them to leave the property, and if they did, that they couldn’t be members of the Church anymore. That’s an entirely different thing from being held against one’s will and being forced to work.

I can’t lather up enough rage for the judge’s complete inability to consider testimony.
A longer history of Scientology and abortion can be found in the Wikipedia article. Possibly the best reference on the change from anti-abortion to the coerced abortion situation, though, is this post about the institution of the “no kids” in the Sea Org when one of L. Ron Hubbard’s kids, Suzette, was pregnant. However, it should be noted that there were coerced abortions before, too, including time in the 60s on the ships with L. Ron Hubbard at the head of the church, but it was not as widespread or among as many people as it later became. So, really, the implied policy has always been more about serving the church’s goals and needs than about the actual theoretical doctrine.

: On the Alleged Separateness of Writers of the Future and Scientology

I have been following the contest (and some of the people involved in its administration) since 1984 when I first worked the combined Battlefield Earth / Writers of the Future booth at the World Science Fiction convention in Anaheim.
All Scientology organizations are legally separate from one another. This is a manifestation of L. Ron Hubbard’s paranoia about Scientology being taken over (by your paranoid theory of choice). Nevertheless, all things are micromanaged from the top down.

  • At the start, WotF was administered by Author Services, which is apparently completely controlled by the Church of Spiritual Technology, both of which are part of Scientology.
  • Author Services is also the corporation David Miscavige (current leader of the church) came up through the ranks out of (his wikipedia page is a little bit out of order here; Author Services existed before L. Ron Hubbard died in 1986 and Miscavige overthrew the Broekers around 1987 and took over; before then, Miscavige was the head of Author Services). If there were no relationship between Scientology and Author Services, how could that possibly happen?
  • There is very little money separate in Scientology. It’s always an upward pull week-by-week. I was on the financial planning committee of Tustin for several years. We’d send $5,000 up even when we couldn’t afford toilet paper. I’ve been science fiction convention staff at several conventions involving WotF and I see the same Scientology fingerprints all over: not having the budget to buy a dealer’s table until the end, pleading with the staff, and wanting programming to accommodate them at the last minute. There was a commitment to Westercon last year — and then, nothing. If their money was *really* separate, I’d think they’d be more consistent with their planning and not act like everything’s a last-minute emergency the way Scientology does every frakkin’ week. As for budget specifics, obviously none of us have seen them.
  • When I went to the Athenaeum at CalTech in 2007 for the WotF event, they checked the column marked “Wog.” The other column was marked, “Scn.” I said, “Oh, I’m a Scientologist.” (partly to see what they’d do) They changed what box they checked. Why use a racist slur (also commonly used to mean non-Scn) if they were not affiliated? Why track Scientologists separately?
  • The camera crew at the events are Gold Sea Org (Scn’s religious order) members. This means they normally reside and work at the same location where Debbie Cook was tortured and Marc Headley was run off the road trying to leave. I’ve actually point-blank asked a few of them, “Oh, are you from Gold base? I always thought that would be so cool!” (Because of my film background, people were pressuring me to go there when I was in, but now I’m super-glad I did not.)
  • In 2008, the event was held at the Author Services building in Hollywood. Canapes were served by Sea Org staff.
  • I’ve never met a WotF staffer who wasn’t a Scientologist (more specifically, a Sea Org member). Galaxy Press is a secular organization, so in theory they can’t discriminate on the basis of religion, disability, color, and (most especially in California) sexual orientation. So where are the people of color? The disabled? The queer? The people of other faiths? If the contest administration is truly separate, is it also a secular organization? If so, same question.
  • I seem to recall Will Fry talking about some of the aspects of fiction publishing when WotF books were still published by Bridge Publications (where he was Sea Org), but I will need to look that up. He did talk specifically about gaming the NY Times bestseller list, though.

Regardless of the nitty-gritty details of any separation between WotF and the church, you’ve still got the problem of putting the name of a guy who put kids in chain lockers on the cover. This should not be forgotten about.

: Why I No Longer Support the Writers of the Future Contest

Trigger warning for those of you who need such, especially about bullying.
For a long time, I supported Scientology’s “Writers of the Future” contest. A couple of years ago, I quietly dropped my support for it as my views on the current state of the organization changed. (Note: I am a former CofS member and staff member.)
There have been tales going on for years about some of the bad stuff the Church of Scientology has been into, including the largest known infiltration of the US Government in history, and a secret IRS agreement that gives Scientology preferential tax treatment over all other faiths despite having lost a US Supreme Court case.
But that’s old news.
Why I’m posting about this now? On Feb 9, 2012, for the first time, a senior insider to the organization documented inhuman behavior at the highest levels under oath.

Cook: We were made to do these confessions…one time in front of 100 people, yelling at you. I was put in a trash can, cold water poured over me, slapped. One time it went on for 12 hours…There were times I was accused of being a homosexual, a lesbian.

The same story from another POV:

For the next twelve hours Debbie was made to stand in a large garbage can and face one hundred people screaming at her demanding a confession as to her “homosexual tendancies”. While this was going on water was poured over her head. Signs were put around Debbie’s neck, one marked in magic marker “LESBO” while this torture proceeded. Debbie was repeatedly slapped across the face by other women in the room during the interrogation. Debbie never did break. And fittingly she was rewarded with what turned out to be a break in another sense of the word.

Debbie Cook is also saying that she would have been unable to leave, and that is why she signed the document she did. Some people find that difficult to believe, but I challenge any of you to read the first chapter of Marc Headley’s book Blown for Good, where Scientology staffers from the same base came after him in an SUV to run his motorcycle off the road so he could not escape. You can read the opening on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or download a sample from iBooks. There is contemporary evidence; here’s the sheriff’s report. Here are spikes that would have kept both Debbie and Marc from escaping, along with inward-facing motion sensors, cameras, and guards (some of which are documented here).
It’s all very nice to dangle a few dollars in front of talented sf/f writers and illustrators so new blood can give new cred to L. Ron Hubbard, but please remember there are people’s lives being destroyed by the surrounding organization.
If that’s okay with you, feel free to continue to support the contest. (Look, past winners are past as far as I’m concerned. I’m more interested in people’s actions from this point forward.)
If it’s not, I ask that you link to or repost this (but please include the trigger warning at the top).
I have never spoken out in this context about my own harassment. In February, 1995, Scientology goons came to visit me in rural Vermont. However, I lived on a rural route and they couldn’t find me, so they harassed my friends they could find, sending private investigators around. I was the first ex-member to have a personal bully on the ‘net. One of the things I was accused of (to give you an idea of the truth level): marrying a post-op transsexual. At that point, I’d never been married. I do have an ex who transitioned, but our romantic relationship was before, not after.
Not even that was enough to make me speak out against the contest (having rationalized that the contest was good and only tenuously connected to the organization at large). In the larger sense of things, my own experience was small potatoes. Thankfully.

Cook said she was held there seven weeks with more than 100 other Scientology executives. They spent their nights in sleeping bags on ant-infested floors, ate a soupy “slop” of reheated leftovers and screamed at each other in confessionals that often turned violent. For two weeks, she said, Miscavige had the electricity turned off as daytime temperatures in the desert east of Los Angeles topped 100 degrees.
Cook testified Thursday that the experience in the summer of 2007 gave her nightmares and was part of the reason she was so eager to leave the Scientology staff later that year and sign a severance agreement never to speak ill of the church. (source)

Just keep that in mind.

: The Fitzhenry & Whiteside Situation

For those of you who don’t know, Doranna Durgin asked for reversion from her publisher, Fitzhenry & Whiteside, and they have stalled despite being contacted by SFWA’s Grievance Committee (aka Griefcom). Griefcom frequently handles issues like reversions when they get sticky, but the situation went south. You can read more on Doranna’s blog.
[blockquote quotes=”true” cite=”Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing” citeLink=””]According to her version of the story (a version corroborated by independent sources, like the Science Fiction Writers of America’s Grievance Committee) Durgin’s publisher is most certainly not keeping her book in print per the terms of their contract. The fact that they’ve demanded that Durgin buy back their leftover copies of book as a condition of holding up their end of the contract is without precedent — indeed, it’s a breathtaking violation of publishing norms, the sort of thing you’re more likely to encounter from ripoff vanity publishers and not a respected house like Fitz and Witz. Writer Beware indeed.[/blockquote]

: Miscellanea

First, I’ve been starting to send out rejection letters for BayCon’s flash fiction submissions. I’ve sent out about a quarter of them so far. Sorry for the delay, I wanted to re-read pieces because I wasn’t reading them in my best frame of mind with shooting shoulder pains for several weeks. I expect to get the reject/hold notices sent out this week; we’re starting to prepare the progress report the story will be in, so I need to get a move on.
Second, filtering words. It’s a difficult topic to search for, so here’s a good blog post on it. I don’t like all of her examples, but it explains why adding that layer of indirection isn’t always a great idea.
Third, showers. There I was in the shower this morning thinking it was one of the great wonders of civilization, and I realized I’d never heard (despite reading a lot of Libertarian books in my youth) how either Libertarians or the Tea Party would handle things like sanitation engineering and water management. What changed me from being Libertarian was seeing that public health simply wasn’t doable that way, and Laurie Garrett’s The Coming Plague was the final nail in the Libertarian coffin for me.

: Seanan's Book Event for One Salt Sea

Last night, Rick and I went to Borderlands Books for the launch of Seanan McGuire’s book One Salt Sea.
Now, it’s not just a reading, it’s an event. We stayed for two of the three musical sets plus the Q&A session. Sadly, by that time, we were hungry, so we left before the actual reading part of the evening.
It was awesome fun. If you get the chance to see one of these events of Seanan’s just go.

: Revision Habits

I’m really really really not a one-draft writer. At some point, I hope to dazzle you all with an illustration of how much I’m not a one-drafter, but today is not that day. Generally a first draft for me runs very short — somewhere between 1/3 and 3/4 of the final length.
To paraphrase how Tim Powers described my first drafts at Clarion: the stage is bare, the actors are auditioning as the scriptwriter’s in the front row re-writing the piece, and there’s only tape on the stage to tell them where to stand. They’re not quite that threadbare, but the layer I get written first is the plot (the piece he said this about, I’d gotten the bones down for a three-plotline short that was 3,800 words and, at most, 1/3 to 1/2 its final length).
Vylar Kaftan talks about her revision statistics, including her A, B, C system for stories.
So below are mine. My first drafts fall kind of between A and B. Right now, they’re in C shape, but if I were done re-thinking them, they’d be moved up to the next categories. Submitted Previously, well, those are Bs. Out at a Market and Sold, obviously, are As.
Until such time as I have a sufficiently developed draft, there’s no point in categorizing it, but most of my pieces need significant steeping. The most recent piece I have out at market was one I wrote the first draft of in 2007. The oldest is one I wrote the first draft of in 1990, one of the first shorts I wrote and one of the most difficult pieces I’ve written.

: BayCon Submissions Breakdown

There’s often questions about markets’ submission breakdowns, particularly by sex. BayCon’s submission period just closed, so here’s the breakdown of the submissions we received over two months. All statements are rounded numbers; the charts are more exact.
1. We received twice as many Short Story submissions as Flash submissions.

2\. We received 15% more fantasy submissions than science fiction. [![](/images/2011/09/Stats.002-800x600.jpg "Stats.002")]( 3\. We received a third more submissions from men than from women. [![](/images/2011/09/Stats.003-800x600.jpg "Stats.003")]( 4\. Women submitted twice as much fantasy as science fiction. [![](/images/2011/09/Stats.004-800x600.jpg "Stats.004")]( 5\. Men submitted 25% more science fiction than fantasy. [![](/images/2011/09/Stats.005-800x600.jpg "Stats.005")]( 6\. We received almost exactly the same number of fantasy submissions from men and women; we received twice as many science fiction submissions from men than from women. [![](/images/2011/09/Stats.006-800x600.jpg "Stats.006")](

: Publishing: Beating the Odds

Many of you know I’m the submissions editor for BayCon’s nascent fiction market (gentle reminder: submissions close 9/15; currently, submissions are running 40% flash and 60% short stories). In a practical sense, that means I’ll be reading all the submissions, culling it down to a short list for each of the Flash and Short Story pieces. Because I’ll be reading all of them, I added minimum and maximum qualifications so that we wouldn’t need a staff of editors to make the first cut.
I’ve heard from three different people that, because we’re only publishing two stories this year, they don’t think the “chances” of getting in are good, so it’s not worth tying up a story. Now, I’m not criticizing where people want to submit (your writing career, your goals, after all), but I can say something about the “chances” aspect.

Publishing Is Not a Lottery

Like acting, success in publishing is showing up at the right place at the right time with the right presentation on the right project. There are no “odds” except that the person seeing your work happens to give it the best read possible, and the number of times you submit a piece increases the likelihood it’ll find its way onto the right desk at the right time. Frankly, you don’t know what the “right” timing is because you don’t have the experience of the flow of submissions from the other side of the desk.
We’ve all heard stories about how many times J. K. Rowling was turned down, and I’ve seen the ream of rejections some friends have accumulated. Then there’s the flip side: some things sell first time out. “A Sword Called Rhonda” did. It also sold the second. That doesn’t mean I’m especially clever, truly it doesn’t. It just means I had the right piece at the right time for the right market. I’ve accumulated my fair share of rejections.
If there are 100 submissions, that 101st submission doesn’t affect the likelihood your story will get accepted unless your story was already borderline. If it’s superb, it’ll still be superb. If it needs work, it’ll still need work.
Anyhow, it’s not a lottery, and it’s not a game of chance. In this case, a good story could get you between $50 and $200.

: I'm a Guest Blogger

I’m a guest blogger for Greater Portland Scribists on the subject of self-publishing.

: "A Sword Called Rhonda" Now Available as an E-Book

“Hey, Karma,” Rhonda the sword whined, “I need to go, like, shopping.”

She hung from the wall of my small home in what used to be suburban Palo Alto. Being far away didn’t help. I could hear her just as clearly as if I’d held her in my hand with her voice coming out the end of the hilt. I’d tried hanging her from my waist at first, but she just yelled loud enough for everyone to hear. Now, I carry her over my shoulder so she talks in my ear.

I hadn’t responded, so she yelled. “Are you listening?”

“Yeah, yeah, I hear you,” I replied.

Two weeks ago, I bought the sword at the city’s disincorporation sale. It was a fine sword, made of good strong steel that could take a beating. At the time, it seemed like a good deal.

Cover Art by Manu De Mey

Finally available in a standalone, DRM-free e-book from the following resellers:

[Purchase this book from iTunes (EPUB)]( [Purchase this book from Amazon (Kindle)]( [Purchase this book from Barnes and Noble (EPUB)](