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Monday, September 15, 2014

The Death Spiral of Another Publisher

In 2000, Tina Engler started a little publishing company. Her sexy contemporary stories were constantly rejected by bigger publishers as too risque. The publishers claimed there was no market for contemporary, fantasy or sci-fi erotic romance. Tina proved them wrong when she launched Ellora's Cave.

Not only did Tina prove there was a market for those sub-genres, but she did something unique. She launched new stories as e-books first. If they proved popular enough, a paper version of the book was published. Remember, this was over ten years ago. Very few e-readers were on the market at the time, the most prominent manufacturer of which was Sony.

EC was the first erotica publisher to gain mainstream prominence. Their books were shelved in Borders and Barnes & Noble. They were getting noticed by financiers and mainstream press. EC was featured in Forbes. They were raking in the dough.

So why haven't EC editors and writers been paid for several months now?

That's the question on everyone's mind. Jane Litte at Dear Author provides a breakdown of the sequence of events. She believes incompetence and/or fraud is responsible for the tailspin EC finds itself in.  On top of salaries and royalties, state taxes haven't been paid. Writers are asking their fans NOT to buy their EC titles. Requests for reversions of rights go unanswered.

Unfortunately, the real life drama at EC sounds just like the sequence of events at other publishers and a certain retailer by the name of Borders Group, Inc., before they crashed.

First came the complaints from the occasional writer, who was subsequently labelled a troublemaker. Then came the late payments. Just a computer glitch; nothing to worry about. Layoffs of publisher staff, or reorganization as they called it. Royalty statements didn't match sales figures from Amazon or Barnes & Noble. The payments stopped being late and didn't come at all. The smart writers got their lawyers involved in a desperate attempt to get their rights back. Some writers succeeded; other couldn't get their calls, letter or e-mails returned. Finally, the company collapsed and writers found their rights sold to another publisher.

Think I'm talking about EC? Nope, this was the exact sequence of events at Dorchester a few years ago.

We're seeing the same pattern over and over again in the current disruption of the publishing industry. EC is simply the latest.

And I fear Barnes & Noble may be next.

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