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Reminder: Ellora’s Cave has rebranded as EC for Books, so all posts will contain both the old and new branding in the first paragraph for a while.

Since last October, EC for Books/Ellora’s Cave has completely reverted two New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Authors: Amanda Ashley and Lora Leigh.

But one of the reasons it’s not easy to say how many authors or books there are, exactly, is the error rate in the metadata for things like: what authors’ names are, what the title of the book is, when it was published, and so on.

Also, farther down, I’ll share spreadsheets of both the All Romance eBooks parsed data as well as the Amazon data I have, which will help both authors and Ellora’s Cave/EC for Books verify their data.

The Metadata Mess

First, I’d expect the number of books a publisher has for sale on two domestic markets to differ by less than 1%. Yet, when Amazon’s showing 2,744 books (with two different publisher names) and ARe is showing 2,929 on the same date, that’s closer to 6.3%…and that’s just the error rate for the number of titles.

The Author Whose Name Is Sometimes Wrong

As someone with a weird name, I feel for Melani Blazer. She first showed up on Ellora’s Cave’s site in 2004, back when her name was correctly spelled. Same in 2013. Since the new site, however, it’s been Melanie.

Reverted Title Still In Print Because of Author Name Typo?

EC author Ann Jacobs has had a number of titles revert. One of those titles is Perfect Master, a title that reportedly reverted to Ann in October of last year.

Here’s a screenshot I just made on All Romance eBooks, showing Ellora’s Cave is still publishing that title.

Reverted Ann Jacobs story still being published by Ellora's Cave with erroneous author metadata.

Instead of looking for both the author name and the title, someone may have quickly checked the author name, didn’t see the book, and didn’t flag it for reversion. But because the name was incorrectly entered, the book was missed.

Other Mis-Entered Names

There are a number of mis-entered names, and here are a few: Calista Arman (should be two Ls), Rhyannon Bryd (Byrd), Nora-Jean Perkin (should be Perkins), Moffitt. Jody (Jody Moffitt), Sierra Summer (Sierra Summers), and Jayme Whitfield (Jayme Whitefield).

Ellora’s Cave: Partying Like it’s 1969

Here’s another issue that happens with All Romance eBooks—quirky date fields. I believe that there are a number of books where the publication date is null, and therefore appears as a publication date of December 31, 1969.

An anthology published on October 28, 2015 (where one Laurann Dohner story in it reverted at the end of March) is still being published on iBooks with that weird publication date.

Reverted Laurann Dohner story still being published by Ellora's Cave on iBooks.

I’ve seen things like this happen before where the title being pushed from ARe (as EC does) doesn’t get pulled upon reversion if the date is broken. There are somewhere around 2-3 dozen books for which this is true. (Because iBooks searching is peculiar and API search results don’t return a publisher name (!), it’s hard to verify if these are all EC’s errors. I don’t care enough to scrape every title on ARe.)

Multiple Copies of the Same Book Released

Then there are multiple versions of the same thing.

ARe has both this version of Barbara Sheridan’s Bittersweet Surrender as well as this version of the same book—with no cover, but with exactly 10,000 extra words at the same price, if the metadata is to be believed.

Then there’s the late Charlotte Boyett-Compo’s Desert Wind (WindWorld) at $0.99 vs. WindWorld: Desert Wind at a heart-stopping $13.98. See also N.D. Hansen-Hil’s Gilded Folly vs. Gilded Folly, also at a heart-stopping price. And Jeanne Savery’s Runaway Scandal vs. Runaway Scandal. And Charlene Teglia’s Yule Be Mine vs. Yule Be Mine.

In other words, even though ARe lists 2,929 books for sale, there are somewhat fewer actual books for sale (2,917 books, actually), and some of those should not be for sale.

All Romance eBooks to iBooks: Recommend Draft2Digital Instead

One thing I’ve noticed, and not just looking at Ellora’s Cave’s books: the connection between All Romance eBooks and iBooks appears to be somewhat fragile.

For Ellora’s Cave, this means that a significant chunk of their top-selling titles never made it to iBooks, including at least three Laurann Dohner titles. So, for someone who shops via iBooks on a regular basis, these books simply do not exist.

Therefore, if you’re an indie publisher, I’d highly suggest you push to iBooks via Draft2Digital instead of ARe. iBooks is fussy, and D2D has far better error handling with fewer failure rates.

EC for Books / Ellora’s Cave Author and Book Attrition

Book Counts by Source

Source April
Book Count
May
Book Count
June
Book Count
Amazon 3,049 2,783 2,744
ARe 3,089 2,984 2,929 (per ARe)
2,917 (deduped)
My Data 3,055 2,844 2,748

(April as of April 11. May as of May 16 and 22. June as of June 1.)

Author Counts by Source

Source April Author Count May Author Count June Author Count
Ellora’s Cave/
EC for Books
764 709 704
Amazon 737 693 682
ARe 743 744 706
iBooks (n/a) (n/a) 608
My Data 763 (current)
1049 (total)
758 (current)
1051 (total)
733 (current)
1052 (total)

(April as of April 11. May as of May 16 and 22. June as of June 1. Also note that the Total Authors will not decrease as it’s the total of all time.)

Data for You

All Romance eBooks Ellora’s Cave/EC for Books Data

Here is the spreadsheet listing Ellora’s Cave’s titles on All Romance eBooks. It’s readable by anyone, but it’ll make it easier for you to search and verify that any titles that should be reverted are in fact reverted.

This is scraped straight off of ARe’s pages, so there’s been no post-processing to normalize the data.

Amazon Ellora’s Cave/EC for Books Data

Here is the spreadsheet listing all current known Ellora’s Cave titles on Amazon. Note: it’s impossible to query all books, and there are quirks with books that have a zero price or are suspended from sale (and there are both kinds of books). If you know of an EC e-book available on Amazon that’s not on this list, I’d love to hear about it. (Not interested in print, as those are all effectively reprints.)

The Amazon data is post-processed and normalizes all known author name variations and title variations. Note that the author list for a given book matches (I hope) the current Amazon data for that book, but it may not match the cover, table of contents, or royalty statements.

iBooks Ellora’s Cave/EC for Books Data

I have done the import, but I screwed up my first run, so I need to fix the rest of that before I release that info. I’ll likely update this post rather than create a whole new post.

New Naughty Literati Anthology

Heatwave-PBK-PNG-600x784In happier news, today’s the release date for Naughty Literati’s Naughty Heatwave, a boxed set of quite a few romance authors including former Ellora’s Cave authors. You can read more about it here or purchase directly from these links: Amazon Kindle, Amazon print, iBooks, Kobo, Nook, Google Play, or All Romance eBooks.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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EC for Books (fka Ellora's Cave) Blog Post Header

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.

May has some interesting updates, so here’s a summary of them:

  1. EC for Books’s lawyer, Steven Mastrantonio, sent a letter to the Romance Writers of America (RWA).
  2. More Ellora’s Cave/EC for Books author attrition since last month.
  3. Some forthcoming reversions.
  4. Susan Spann and the #PubLaw hashtag.

Steven Mastrantonio’s Letter to Romance Writers of America

I’d heard excerpts of this letter for a couple of days, but hadn’t seen the whole letter until Jan Springer posted it yesterday. Because of questions surrounding one paragraph, I didn’t want to post until I’d read the whole thing.

Allison Kelley, CAE | Executive Director
Allison.kelley@rwa.org

RWA has no standing in relation to contracts between authors and Ellora’s Cave. Therefore, RWA’s role is limited to advocating for fair treatment of authors, and RWA has been in correspondence with Ellora’s Cave, repeatedly, regarding allegations that Ellora’s Cave has failed to make payments due and failed to revert rights to authors.

Contracts offered by Ellora’s Cave Publishing state “Publisher shall pay Author royalties in accordance with a schedule to be determined at Publisher’s discretion but in no event shall payment be made less frequently than three (3) calendar months.” The problem with this clause is the lack of specified period for which royalties will be paid. RWA continues to receive complaints from authors who report they have not received royalty statements or payments for many months.

Several authors who contacted the publisher about missing payments and have requested their rights be reverted have received the following response from Ellora’s Cave:

Dear author or agent,

I’m sorry, you have misinterpreted the contract the author chose to sign. Breach of clause 16 regarding royalties payments (or any other contract clause) does not void the contract nor revert book rights to you. When a contract is breached, the party claiming breach has the option of waiting for the other party to correct the situation or may pursue legal action to gain correction of the situation. In such case, the court would typically set a deadline by which time the situation must be corrected (“cured”), and if not corrected the court would decide on further action.

The only conditions set forth in the contract for reversion of rights are in clause 1.1. If your book qualifies (meets all the conditions listed), you may send a request for reversion of rights, stating it is based on clause 1.1.

Therefore your request for reversion of rights is not granted. Ellora’s Cave continues to hold all publishing rights to the contracted books. The author has no rights to distribute or sell these books in any format or channels.

I am sorry, we in Contracts have no information on royalties payments. We can only advise you to email Royalties@ellorascave.com.

In September 2015, RWA contacted Patty Marks who admitted “currently we are not as up to date with royalties as we want to be and will be,” and added that the company is trying to catch up.

Failure to pay authors in a timely manner is a violation of RWA’s Code of Ethics for Industry Professionals. Violations of this Industry Professional Code of Ethics may result in loss of privileges such as (but not limited to) listing in Market and Agent Updates, participation in workshops and pitch sessions, and the opportunity to advertise in RWA’s publications.

Allison Kelley notified Ms. Marks in September 2015 that Ellora’s Cave must refrain from contacting members or chapters regarding new submissions and refrain from participation in any RWA or chapter event until the company has achieved satisfactory resolution of the Code of Ethics violation.

Ellora’s Cave continues to be banned from RWA programs and services.

RWA has repeatedly contacted management at Ellora’s Cave to demand payment to authors. RWA has also requested that the publisher revert rights if it is unable to pay authors in full. The response we received was a letter signed by Steve Mastrantonio, attorney for Ellora’s Cave, in which he states, “any premature comment by RWA that Ellora’s Cave is in breach of their agreements is reckless, false and Defamatory.” Mr. Mastrantonio asserts that Ellora’s Cave is paying authors as it should, and “any false comments by RWA to harm his clients reputation will be dealt with in a forceful manner.”

Further actions considered:

There is little anyone can do without proof. In September 2015, Allison Kelley contacted an auditor who specializes in royalty reviews to get an idea of what would be involved in order for the board to consider funding an audit.

The following challenges were identified:

  • An audit would not be comprehensive—RWA could provide funding (in the form of a grant) to conduct audit/s for one or two author/s who requested to have earnings audited.
  • Accounting records maintained by Ellora’s Cave would have to be auditable. In the past, RWA funded an audit, and all we learned was that the publisher did not follow any kind of standard bookkeeping or accounting practices. Sales were difficult to determine, so there was no way to prove if royalties had been paid properly or not.
  • We saw how vigorously the attorneys for Ellora’s Cave fought to keep the books from being audited during the lawsuit against Jane Litte.

RWA also requested legal advice related to authors’ rights to cancel agreements for ongoing uncured breaches of contract. We were told the issue would depend on Ohio state law, and the likelihood of success would depend on the outcome of an audit. Again, RWA has no standing to conduct an audit, and audits can only be done upon author request, and the findings would apply to authors whose earning had been audited.

The remainder of the letter was the RWA’s policies on use of funds, which can be seen in Jan Springer’s post.

What people were questioning was this phrasing:

In the past, RWA funded an audit, and all we learned was that the publisher did not follow any kind of standard bookkeeping or accounting practices. Sales were difficult to determine, so there was no way to prove if royalties had been paid properly or not.

I don’t believe this was about Ellora’s Cave/EC for Books, but rather another publisher. I don’t know which one, though.

Update

Allison Kelley shared this with someone and I was given the okay to share.

I have no idea if the accounting records at Ellora’s Cave are kept in compliance with GAAP and are up-to-date. Hopefully, they are. The comment cited below pertains to another publisher. I felt I had to include that disclaimer so authors would be aware that audits do not always yield the information desired.

Where “cited below” in this case means the one I quoted above and commented on.

EC for Books / Ellora’s Cave Author and Book Attrition

Book Counts by Source

Source April Book Count May Book Count Net Change
Amazon 3,049 2,783 -8.7%
ARe 3,089 2,984 -6.0%
My Data 3,055 2,844 -6.9%

(April as of April 11. May as of May 16 and 22.)

Author Counts by Source

Source April Author Count May Author Count Net Change
Ellora’s Cave/
EC for Books
764 709 -7.2%
Amazon 737 693 -6.0%
ARe 743 744 0.2%
My Data 763 (current)
1049 (total)
758 (current)
1051 (total)
-0.7% (current)

(April as of April 11. May as of May 16 and 22. Also note that the Total Authors will not decrease as it’s the total of all time.)

Ellora’s Cave Forthcoming Reversions

Some authors received notice that they’d have stories reverting that appeared in anthologies, including the caveman anthologies. (I’m not certain if that’s all anthologies, especially since EC has some new ones out.)

The reason for the difference between Ellora’s Cave author counts and my data are simply that EC has already removed some authors from their site where their last EC books are mid-reversion. However, some of those authors may still have books available on Amazon and/or All Romance E-Books.

If Ellora’s Cave/EC for Books reverts all anthologies except those published this or last year, that will drop their author counts by 153 authors. This isn’t a bad thing, though, because paying royalties for multi-author volumes chews up a lot of staff time that could be better used for, say, writing checks.

Susan Spann and the #PubLaw Hashtag

Susan Spann’s a publishing attorney who posts about legal issues and publishing law. I just found her feed today, so I’m going through her feed, but this is one of the things she’s gotten the idea for because of claims like those of Ellora’s Cave’s/EC for Books’s authors.

And perhaps her most salient point:

If you’re looking into traditional publishing (and I’m lumping in digital first here), she’s got a lot of eye-opening content that could be useful to you.

Launch Party for EC for Books Author Kerri Zane

Kerri Zane is one of the new EC for books authors; her first book with them came out this month. Here’s a profile of her launch party at a Porsche dealership in Beverly Hills.

It’s unknown how much, if any, EC for Books contributed to fund this launch party.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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Ellora's Cave Blog Post Header

Quite a bit of Ellora’s Cave news in this post, including:

  1. First quarter publications update;
  2. A bigger look at historical author counts;
  3. A comparison of author and book counts on various plaforms (tl;dr: they don’t agree!)
  4. Tons more!

One of the reasons I went to this effort was that there’d been something nagging at me over the months. From one of EC’s filings in the Dear Author case, Patty Marks declared:

7) […] In the first eight and a half (8 1/2) months of 2014, prior to Lampe’s bankruptcy scare, Ellora’s Cave had a total of 154 books go out of print for various reasons—mostly sales below threshold for rights reversions. In the twelve days between Lampe’s defamatory blog [post] and the filing of this suit, Ellora’s Cave had requests for reversion of 404 titles.

8) Since Lampe’s defamatory blog, Ellora’s Cave has reverted over 1250 more titles and still have requests that they are working on. In the one year since the defamatory post, Plaintiff has had almost double the number of rights reversions than it has had in its entire previous 14-year history. […]

I could see this as a word problem where the problem is phrased to carefully skate around holes in the data proffered, e.g.:

  1. How many reversion requests were there pre-TCCoEC (“The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave” published September, 2014) in 2014?
  2. What percentage of the 404 requests immediately post-TCCoEC were for books below reversion threshold? If all or most of them, then there was no damage.
  3. How much did Ellora’s Cave make off selling rights reversions? (Because I’m betting that the 404 and 1250 numbers included those, and if the price was right on those, there was no damage.)
  4. What percentage of EC’s total catalog did the 154, 404, and 1250 numbers comprise?

It was the 1250 that stuck with me. Ellora’s Cave had published around 500 books (thumbnail I had) over the prior year, so 1250 would be 2-1/2 years of work. Based on the assumption that they’d very recently hit their peak (in 2012 and 2013, then there was the 2014 reported Amazon sales drop), I expected that other years would have fewer books published.

That expectation turned out to be in error on my part…which I’ll get to after I update the usual.

Methodology

Essentially, I sucked in publicly available data from various sources.

  1. Archive.org scrapes of EC’s site from various time periods, including when EC’s site was on Jasmine Jade (dot com).
  2. Ellora’s Cave’s site for more recent time periods.
  3. Fictiondb’s publisher series pages.
  4. All Romance Ebooks.
  5. Amazon.

Historical Author Counts

Up until now, I’ve only had author counts going back to 2013. Before then, Ellora’s Cave’s site was different, and was hosted for years on jasminejade dot com rather than ellorascave dot com.

Thanks to archive.org, I’ve got author counts going back to early 2004.

Ellora's Cave Author Counts Long

A bit later, I show that the current active (per Amazon) data is 737 authors, so Ellora’s Cave has lost nearly 200 authors since the peak screen grab in September 2014, back when it claimed EC had 933 authors in print.

This last month, EC published three new authors, bringing Ellora’s Cave to a total of seven new authors published this year.

Summary of the differences between my author numbers and Ellora’s Cave’s:

  1. I count 22 authors from in-print Amazon ebooks who are not included on EC’s site. One of them is Tia Isabella, a pseudonym of Tina Engler’s.
  2. Ellora’s Cave’s site shows 42 people whose only books are paperbacks, or paperbacks and ebooks (and the ebooks are not on Amazon), or no books at all. All but a handful are authors whose books are in the process of reverting.
  3. The remaining differences are data issues of various kinds:
    • Not all authors are listed on multi-author books on Amazon. Notably, the 72-story boxed sets of Cavemen stories show one author each.
    • In cases where all authors are listed on multi-author books, not all authors of those books are listed on EC’s site. Example: Doreen DeSalvo.
    • Author is new to EC and doesn’t yet have books on Amazon (or EC’s site for that matter).
    • Author is listed more than once on EC’s site.

Book Releases Over Time

As far as books published, here are the updates to two charts I’ve provided in the past:

Ellora's Cave Releases by Month

Ellora's Cave Quarterly Releases

But now I also have all the information for books I vacuumed in from various sources named up top.

DISCLAIMER: This is based upon limited information. If anything, the numbers pre-2012 are artificially low. And yes, there really was a ginormous spike in November 2009; Amazon data shows EC has at least 920 ebooks with a release date or publication date of November 1, 2009.

That said, according to the information I have, Ellora’s Cave published fewer books last quarter than they have since at least Q1 2004.

Ellora's Cave Quarterly Releases (Long Form)

(Note that these numbers exclude known reprints, and therefore I’m looking at ebooks only, as Ellora’s Cave is a digital-first publisher.)

From this, my initial intuition was incorrect: 2012-13 were not the best years of Ellora’s Cave in terms of number of books published.

Excluding the anomaly quarter (Q4 ’09), the highest number of books per quarter appears to be Q3 ’10, when 191 books were published. After Q1 2012 (when Fifty Shades of Grey came out in ebook form and first hit the NY Times Bestseller list), Ellora’s Cave’s release numbers held in the same range (a third below the peak) until the second quarter of 2014, and have been dropping since.

Ellora’s Cave Reverted Books by Year Published

Year Books
Published
Books
Reverted
% Reverted
2012 526 256 48.7%
2013 510 216 42.4%
2014 452 94 20.8%
2015 186 3 1.6%

Data Source Comparison

Source Book Count Free Books No Sales Books Author Count
Amazon 3,049 24 4 ?
ARe 3,089 25 ? ?
Ellora’s Cave ? ? ? 764
My Data 3,055 24 4 737 (active)
763 (current)
1049 (total)

(Data as of April 11th)

You might think that, okay, 24 of the 25 free books are the same books on ARe and Amazon. That would be incorrect. Four of the ARe titles aren’t free on Amazon (or not on Amazon at all). The reverse is also true, naturally.

Retention

One of the things I’ve talked with various authors about is fixed-term contracts, and at least one author I know is a fan of seven-year contracts.

So imagine my surprise when I chart this, which asks the question: How long between when an author’s first seen (first book or first seen on EC’s web page) and last seen (last book or last seen on EC’s web page) in quarters?

Ellora's Cave Author Retention in Quarters

(Note: previous disclaimer about pre-2012 data also applies to this chart.)

Note that these numbers may represent one or many books, though I’ve excluded authors first published this year.

  • A quarter of the authors left within three years.
  • Half the authors left within 5-1/2 years.
  • A quarter were still with EC at 35 quarters (8-3/4 years).

These numbers may adjust significantly if I get more information about earlier periods of time.

However, they do lead into the three new charts I have.

Of the existing EC authors (whether Ellora’s Cave still publishes them or not), when was their last EC book published? I grouped this into time periods.

Ellora's Cave: All Authors' Last EC Book Publication Time

Unknown includes those where I have no publication information or those who do not yet have a book out with EC.

So what this is showing us is that just over half haven’t published in at least three years, and that’s a long time before TCCoEC. Further, another quarter of EC’s authors haven’t published a book with EC in the interval between TCCoEC and three years ago.

Now, let’s look at the same, but only for authors with current EC bestselling books (per Amazon). This is an answer to the “Who’s left?” question.

Ellora's Cave: Bestselling Authors' Last EC Book Publication Time

As you can see, half of them haven’t published with EC in at least three years, and almost a quarter stopped publishing at some point between three years ago and TCCoEC.

Two of Ellora’s Cave’s post-TCCoEC authors have been fairly high ranking for EC, though not in NY Times/USA Today bestseller territory.

Perhaps the most disheartening chart, were I an EC principal, might be this one.

Ellora's Cave: Current Bestselling Books' Publication Time

Eighty-seven percent of the current bestselling books (per Amazon data) were published three or more years ago. I don’t know what to say other than I’d expect to see a greater portion of more recent books as bestsellers…if Ellora’s Cave were a healthy publisher.

This can’t be anything relating to TCCoEC since three years ago was well before the article was published. Nor can it be the effects of TCCoEC, since we’re looking at the top 100 bestsellers published by Ellora’s Cave—and not relative to other publishers. Up until TCCoEC, Ellora’s Cave allegedly had the pick of the pack, new author wise.

Three years ago was Q2 ’13. Ellora’s Cave has published 1,046 books from the start of Q2 ’13 through the end of last quarter, comprising 34.9% of the 3,049 books still in print. So why do those thousand-ish books comprise only 13% of EC’s own bestseller list?

A Thumbnail View

Ellora's Cave Publishing Thumbnail
(click to see full size)

Notes and Updates

Ultimately, I’m putting together a WordPress plugin of books that had previously been EC books or written by former EC authors. This is more an interesting exercise in plugin writing and dealing with the frustrations of figuring out how to fetch Amazon data.

Random fact: did you know you can’t query to find out what a Kindle book’s price is? Nope. Can’t. You can query most or least expensive, but that’s it. Very strange.

Note: part of this post I wrote as much as a week ago, so some of these numbers are out of date.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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Ellora's Cave Blog Post Header

There are a few things going on in the Ellora’s Cave world of late, so this is a catchup post. (March 16 Edit: there are some corrections, which I’ve detailed in an update at the bottom.)

Ellora’s Cave Titles Per Month Decline

I’ve previously shown a chart about the long decline in Ellora’s Cave’s titles published per month.

Here’s an update on that chart covering the last few months including January and February, probably the biggest title push months for romance publishers. January gets a big bump because many people get e-readers (or new e-readers) for Christmas, plus publishers want fresh stock for Valentine’s Day.

EC-releases-by-month-2

Year over year, you can see the decline since the events of August and September 2014 (with the layoffs and defamation lawsuit, respectively).

That chart is pretty devastating, but not as much so as looking at a chart of the quarterly releases since the beginning of 2013:

Ellora's Cave Quarterly Releases

Ellora’s Cave Author Numbers Decline

In addition to publishing fewer titles over time, Ellora’s Cave has also had declining numbers of authors, as this next chart shows.

First, before I present it, there are some caveats here:

  1. The information is taken from screen scrapes of Ellora’s Cave’s website over time, both by myself and by archive.org, so it’s limited to the accuracy of the underlying page. In at least one case, I know of an author signed to EC who never had a book published by them, but the author’s name appears on their screen scrapes. I have no idea how many authors this is true for.

    In other cases, the same author was on the Ellora’s Cave pages more than once. Right now, EC’s author page lists both Allie Standier and Allie Standifer even though her name on the former’s book cover is spelled like the latter. It’s not like editing is supposed to be a core competency of a publisher or something.

  2. Authors appear on these pages before their first EC books are published (because preorders), so this isn’t a true correlation with the books published charts above.

  3. The time intervals aren’t as linear as neat columns make them appear to be, and this causes some horizontal distortion.

Ellora's Cave Author Counts

When I first showed an earlier version of that chart, what people wanted to know was: how many new authors was Ellora’s Cave signing?

That’s a little bit harder question to answer, so I took my handy screen scrapes, cobbled together a simple Ruby on Rails application and imported the data. This involved some cleanup, as author name variants and URLs had changed over time.

Then I tried to normalize the data into quarterly time periods (save for the last, which is two months and a week), assuming people joined or left linearly along the time span between scrapes. Unsurprisingly, there’s still a huge inflection point in the third quarter of 2014.

Ellora's Cave: Authors Gained vs. Lost

Since the end of the third quarter 2014, existing authors have been leaving Ellora’s Cave at five times the rate new authors have been joining (210 vs. 41 authors, respectively).

How Many Books Have They Lost?

Ellora’s Cave has lost a ton of authors, and many more have had rights revert on some books, but not all books. The question, though, is: how many? In other words, how big is their book catalog vs. how big was it before?

That’s a question that eluded me on how to answer for some time.

It turns out that All Romance E-Books allows one to search by publisher, which is pretty genius.

Ellora's Cave Catalog Size on All Romance E-Books.

Further, archive.org has saved some of those searches. So, while I have four points of data, I can make a reasonable estimate of a fifth by adding the books published between the end of the second quarter and the end of the third quarter 2014.

Ellora's Cave Catalog Size

Between the end of second quarter 2014 and the end of the third quarter 2015 (so 15 months), Ellora’s Cave lost a net 1,037 books. In the same period, they published 345 new books, so the total books reverted (or canceled) was 1,382 books, or 92/month. (Assuming information provided to All Romance E-Books was accurate, of course.)

In the five months since, Ellora’s Cave has published 41 new books but is no longer publishing 574 books, so they’ve reverted (or canceled) 615 books, so just over 120 per month.

Regardless of how you slice it, it’s not a happy picture of what’s going on at Ellora’s Cave, and my sympathies for all the writers who still have books there and would rather not.

Robin L. Rotham’s Post

Robin L. Rotham blogged about her experience with Ellora’s Cave. She was one of the early writers to provide a declaration in support of Dear Author’s side of the Ellora’s Cave lawsuit.

What is new in this post is her revelation about how Ellora’s Cave’s alleged unilateral change of contract affected Robin personally:

3. EC made a deliberate unilateral change to the payment terms of my books (and those of many other authors) contracted before the spring of 2008, and as a result, they’ve underpaid my royalties by more than $18,000 since late 2011. Because they’d suddenly made their royalty statements long and difficult to analyze, with many and varied amounts supposedly received from Amazon for each book, I didn’t detect the underpayment until late 2014, when I audited all of my royalty statements. I sent EC a spreadsheet detailing the underpayments, demanded immediate payment and offered to accept the rights to my books in lieu of payment.

Ellora’s Cave Performs Extreme Manscaping on EC Romanticon Site

I note a distinct lack of male cover models compared to an archived version of the site. Instead, there’s a lot of flames and incensed rhetoric, but without the lovely lingering scent of church incense.

So I guess Romanticon, formerly an annual convention, is officially dead then. Not a surprise, just an…what’s the word I’m looking for?…unusual way to announce its demise.

Tina Engler Moved Back to Ohio

Tina Engler, Ellora’s Cave founder and majority owner, announced on Facebook that she’s moved back to Ohio. I don’t think this will come as a surprise.


Corrections

March 16th Update….

There are a few significant corrections that have affected the charts I’ve provided above. In the interest of transparency, I’ve linked the original versions below.

Releases by Month

This and the next section are for corrections made on March 16th, 2016.

Corrected graph is here. Link to uncorrected version.

  1. January 2013 inadvertently counted five February 2013 releases (that were also counted in February, yay weeks split between two months). This changes the scale of both monthly and quarterly charts.
  2. August 2015 inadvertently omitted one release.
  3. December 2015 missed six releases late in the month due to a formula error.
  4. February 2016 incorrectly included two re-releases. My intention was to include only first-time releases as I believe that shows a truer picture of publisher state.

Releases by Quarter

Corrected graph is here. Link to uncorrected version.

Corrections are the same as noted above.

An Early Look at Earlier Years

Okay, we’re done with corrections. New Topic.

Here’s an early look at some data I’ve imported from FictionDB’s Publisher Series Lists. I haven’t imported anthologies yet, though I have imported smaller multi-author titles.

First, it appears that their information for 2012 is really incomplete (and almost non-existent for later years), so don’t make any assumptions about 2012 based on this. Also, it appears their information includes mostly in-print books including both print and e-book versions. I de-duped any duplicate entries, keeping only the earlier entry.

That said, given that this dates well into the Kindle era, it’s quite possible that a significant fraction of these titles are re-releases, I’d just have no easy way to know that.

Lopping off the years 2001-2006 (as those also seem to be incomplete), here are the numbers for 2007-2012 imported from FictionDB.

2013 and after are from direct import.

Ellora's Cave Annual Releases per FictionDB Data

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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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.

Docket item 69 is a transcript of the case management conference that took place on January 26, 2015. There are a lot of tidbits in this 22-page document that are interesting, and I’ve included three highlights below.

Discovery Dispute Wasn’t

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 5.14.09 PM

Transcript of the above (emphasis added):

MR. MASTRANTONIO: Your Honor, essentially I would go forward with the depositions of the persons I would need to depose, namely the author of the article and perhaps some of her associates.

I do have some written discovery. There may be some subpoenas I have to issue as well.

The thought would be that I would do all of that. Defense counsel would not have to go through the prolonged process of deposing my clients, going through records and so forth, unless after a summary judgment motion is filed and not granted, then he would be able to take those steps.

But the thought would be that if I do my discovery first and he’s confident he’s going to win on summary judgment, we’re going to save everyone a lot of time and money in the discovery process.

In other words, Steven Mastrantonio, counsel for Ellora’s Cave, stated the very discovery plan that Randazza later claimed they agreed to, in contradiction with Mastrantonio’s filing in docket item 48.

Ellora’s Cave Offered A Settlement

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Excerpt from screencap:

[THE COURT:] Has there been any settlement discussions? What has been the plaintiff’s demand?

MR. MASTRANTONIO: Your Honor, the demand was to have the article retracted and for $50,000.

THE COURT: Has there been any offer in the case?

MR.RANDAZZA: No, Your Honor.

THE COURT: All right. Well, then there is no need for mediation, arbitration, summary bench trial if there is not any real efforts at this point. If you are so far apart, I’m not going to waste anyone’s time in that regard.

You’ll note that the Curious post is still up, and was later the subject of a relatively small correction post.

Judge Asks About Another Case…That Randazza Worked On

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THE COURT: Am I mistaken? Maybe I’m thinking of another case or another issue. Is there not a case out of the Sixth Circuit? Wasn’t there a case down in Cincinnati involving a cheerleader of some sort who was the subject of a blog or subject of some disparaging remarks?

MR. RANDAZZA: Yes, Your Honor.

THE COURT: And didn’t she prevail at trial or something of that nature?

MR. RANDAZZA: It was Jones versus Dirty World Entertainment, Your Honor. I actually worked on that case.

THE COURT: Did the plaintiff receive, what, $38,000 in damages there?

MR. RANDAZZA: It was overturned on appeal.

It’s actually the only case law I could find on CDA § 230 in the Sixth Circuit. Still, gotta be disheartening to be opposing counsel when the defense’s attorney is so so so far ahead of you.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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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.

Because Laurann Dohner has been the only bestselling author for Ellora’s Cave (to hit the national lists in recent years), this really does signal that Laurann’s time there is coming to a close. The only question is how long it’ll take for her other titles—no doubt still earning significant money for both Ellora’s Cave and the author—to revert.

The reverted titles are, in alphabetical order:

  1. Claws and Fangs
  2. Lacey and Lethal
  3. Mine to Chase
  4. Propositioning Mr. Raine
  5. Raine on Me
  6. Something Wicked This Way Comes Volume 1 (an anthology with one of Laurann’s stories)
  7. Something Wicked This Way Comes Volume 2 (an anthology with one of Laurann’s stories)

I find the anthology reversions fascinating because of some of what Ellora’s Cave authors have been told in the past, e.g.:

Update: Laurann has said that she will be reissuing these titles.

What Will Become of These Titles?

While Ms. Dohner’s site hasn’t been updated with new publishing information (or a blog post), if you’re interested in those titles, the best place to keep up with her new releases is to check her web site or her author page on Facebook.

In Other News….

Laurann’s first indie book, Drantos has been doing well. She’s just announced that it’s now available in paperback for those of you who prefer tree books.

The highest ranking I’ve seen for this book is #123, but I know it hovered in between 100 and 200 overall ranking for its first week, at least when I checked. Also interesting: many authors have reported that a new book bumped up sales of their Ellora’s Cave titles, too. That bump is reported to be the reason Lolita Lopez went dark for several months. In Ms. Dohner’s case, it looked like her EC book sales ranks held but neither increased nor decreased.

Also: Amber Quill Press & Samhain News

Amber Quill Press has announced that they are shutting down effective March 31, 2016. All rights will revert to authors by that date. Apparently, they too were struggling with the recent market changes. However, their web site hasn’t been updated to reflect their closing date. For a sense of the size of Amber Quill, they have almost 1600 books listed on All Romance Ebooks, making them smaller than Ellora’s Cave (3500 books) or Samhain (2700 books). They’re also smaller than Siren. I wish all Amber Quill staff and authors the best. If you’ve purchased titles directly from Amber Quill, now would be a good time to ensure you have backups of everything so you don’t lose your library.

Samhain, meanwhile, has announced that they’ll be becoming a virtual company in May as they won’t be renewing their office space. Submissions are currently closed except for current authors. I think it makes sense to reduce overhead costs in a competitive market like this, and hope that these changes really help Samhain to be stronger. I’ll have another post about Samhain (tomorrow or Monday) and it’ll invite people to discuss their favorite books and authors.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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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.

IT IS SO ORDERED.

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.”

Links to More Authors Speaking Out

(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.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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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.

…and…

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 www.pacer.gov.
  2. Log into Ohio Northern District’s case filing system at ecf.ohnd.uscourts.gov.
  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.
    ec-v-da-suit-home-screen
  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.

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  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.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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A couple of weeks ago, I got a heads up that Ellora’s Cave would be announcing new boxed sets of their Cavemen anthologies. There’s been something gnawing at me about that, but it didn’t occur to me until today what that was. I’ll first go through a few things that I don’t think are going to happen.

Sure enough, they went up for pre-order a few days ago.

EC-cavemen-boxed-set-2

Cash Grab by Ellora’s Cave

One question/comment I’ve heard is: this is a cash grab.

Well, technically all books published are something of a cash grab, if they’re not free books. I don’t consider that particularly remarkable.

For a set of twelve volumes that were previously $3.99 each in digital, that’s a rather massive discount. It suggests that the old pricing was far out of line with current market conditions. It’s also kind of insulting to the authors to discount that deeply. And there are other problems, which I’ll go into in a bit.

Granted, with quite a few authors continuing to report late royalty payments (example), one wonders if the anthology authors will be paid promptly and accurately.

Attempt to Hit a Bestseller List

If you look, there are virtually zero anthologies that have hit the NY Times Bestseller lists recently[1] and none that I can recall were romance boxed sets. So that doesn’t strike me as probable. Besides, some of these stories have been published for more than a decade.

When I looked at all the Ellora’s Cave authors who’d left who were New York Times or USA Today bestselling authors, quite a few of them did make the USA Today list in a bundle of some sort. Still, those were far newer works than most of the Ellora’s Cave Cavemen books.

The Big Gotcha

It’s been gnawing at me for a couple of days that there was a bigger issue. I re-read the contracts I’ve seen, wondering if it covered repackaging like that, or if a story was bound to a specific volume. That seemed okay. I didn’t re-read the rest of the contract again until today.

That’s when I realized the problem.

Here’s one of the contracts from 2006 from Ann Jacobs (p. 13 in this ECvDA exhibit):

Ellora's Cave Anthology Royalty Rate

Note that it covers royalty rates for books with 1-6 works, but not books with 7-72 works. Other contracts included in that document have a similar structure.

Near as I can tell, Ellora’s Cave would need to pay 6.25% of cover price for each of the 72 authors in each work, or a total of 450% of the cover price for authors with similar (pre-mid-2011) contracts.

One wonders if EC’s new contract with Amazon translates to 35% or 70% for 99-cent books. Either way, they seem pretty screwed by their own terms.

The good news for them is that those Cavemen boxed sets are only pre-orders at this point, so they’re free to unlist them.

Update: Screenshot from a 2008 Cavemen Contract

Royalty Section of an Ellora's Cave Cavemen Contract

Again, this is built around a 6-works anthology, not around a 72-works anthology. There is no defined royalty rate for a 72-works book.

As Ann Jacobs mentions below, there is also no reversion clause. Zip.

List of Authors in the Cavemen Series

Alexa & Patrick Silver
Alicia Sparks
Allyson James
Angela Knight
Angelia Sparrow & Naomi Brooks
Anna J. Evans
Annie Windsor
Anya Bast
Ari Thatcher
Arianna Hart
Ashleigh Raine
Aubrey Ross
B.J. McCall
Brigit Zahara
Callista Arman
Cara Carnes
Cathryn Fox
Charlene Teglia
Charlotte Boyett-Compo
Cheryl Dragon
Cheyenne McCray
Cindy Spencer Pape
Cricket Starr
Cynthia Rayne
Dawn Halliday
Debra Glass
Delilah Devlin
Denise A. Agnew
Denise Rossetti
Desiree Holt
Diana Hunter
Doreen DeSalvo
Elayne S. Venton
Elisa Adams
Elizabeth Lapthorne
Fiona Jayde
J.C. Wilder
Jaci Burton
Jaid Black
Jan Springer
Janne Lewis
Jenna Reynolds
Jory Strong
Kate Douglas
Kate Hill
Kate Willoughby
Katherine Cross
Katie Blu
Kimberly Dean
Kris Starr
Kristin Daniels
KyAnn Waters
L.A. Day
Lacey Alexander
Lacey Thorn
Lani Aames
Lena Matthews
Liddy Midnight
Lillian Feisty
Lora Leigh
Lyla Sinclair
Lynn LaFleur
M.A. Ellis
Madison Hayes
Mandy M. Roth
Margaret L. Carter
Marianne LaCroix
Marly Chance
Mary Wine
Mary Winter
Megan Kerans
Melani Blazer
Melany Logen
Mlyn Hurn
Myla Jackson
N.J. Walters
Natasha Moore
Nicole Austin
Nikki Soarde
Paige Cuccaro
Patrice Michelle
R. Casteel
Ravyn Wilde
Rebecca Airies
Regina Carlysle
Renee Luke
Rowan West
Sahara Kelly
Samantha Kane
Shelley Munro
Sherri L. King
Sherrill Quinn
Sherry James
Shiloh Walker
Solange Ayre
Sylvia Day
Talya Bosco
Tawny Taylor
Tielle St. Clare

Oh, And…

If anyone cares to share a Caveman anthology-specific contract, at least the portion with the royalties and reversions, I’d love a screen shot.

Edit Notes

[1] I intended to qualify this with a timespan, and was having difficulty searching the NY Times lists the other day and wound up giving up, accidentally omitting the timespan. It definitely used to be easier to make the NY Times list with an anthology than it is now. Edited to add recently.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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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
Belonging
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….

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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Ellora's Cave Blog Post Header

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:

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.

Paid for Print Book that Ellora’s Cave Never Published?

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.

Olivia Waite reports the same issue:

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.

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.

What’s Really Disheartening…

…is trying to get existing issues resolved.

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.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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EC-author-stats.001

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 :)

Tina/Jaid

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.

EC-author-stats.001

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.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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pubnt avatar pumpkin

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.

Claiming to Be a Legal Blogger and/or Law Student

Courtney’s 1L Test

Covered in this post here.

Tax Liens

(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

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.

$15 Million in Cash in the Bank

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

Wrong Rubbish, et al

Banned Pariah

Asking Randazza

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.

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.

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

Lightening

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.

Credits

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

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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ellora's cave blog header

Today there’s big news in this year-plus long defamation case: plaintiffs Ellora’s Cave and Defendants Dear Author and Jane Litte have settled.

Ellora's Cave Case Settles

In an email to EC’s biz loop, Ellora’s Cave CEO Patty Marks said:

From: patty@ellorascave.com [ec_biz]
Date: Thu, Oct 22, 2015 at 9:50 AM
Subject: [ec_biz] Settlement with Dear Author

We are pleased to announce that we have reached a settlement with Dear Author. The terms are confidential, so we will not be discussing that. We are very happy though to now put all of our time and efforts into Ellora’s Cave, the authors and staff without further distraction.

Thank you for your patience and support.

Patty Marks

Defense’s Parting Gift to the Case

Those of you following #notchilled recently will recall discussion of a footnote in case document 71-main (p. 11):

Further,Ellora’s may be planning for bankruptcy even at this time–but have refrained from doing so in the hopes that this SLAPP suit will bear fruit. In fact, Ellora’s counsel has reported to the undersigned on numerous occasions that Ellora’s has failed to pay his bills.

This was a footnote that Randazza had apparently intended to delete, and it led to plaintiffs filing a motion yesterday to strike the footnote, pointing out that this case had received a fair amount of discussion on Twitter’s #notchilled hashtag.

Which led to defense’s response document.:

The real value of the evidence Plaintiffs offer in support of their Motion is that it shows that there is widespread public interest in Ellora’s Cave and thus this controversy, belying any claim that the Plaintiffs are not a public figure as they disingenuously claim.

Boom.

The Identity of @pubnt

In doc 73, plaintiffs also accused defense of waging a social media war:

And while the merits of this case are before this Court to decide, Defendants have resorted to internet and social media outlets to gather support from followers for their position (and to solicit online donors to pay their legal expenses) in what is basically a public relations war against the Plaintiffs’ case.

Let me be clear: Those of us posting on #notchilled are a diverse group who (mostly, since at least two purported Ellora’s Cave employees have posted to #notchilled) agree on one thing: the case against Dear Author and Jane Litte was filed to quell free speech.

In short, we agreed with this Courtney Milan post (excerpt):

But in this country, we want to make sure that people have the right and ability to talk about matters of public concern, to express their opinion on them, and to speak freely without worry that their speech will be chilled. So if you inject yourself into an issue of public concern, you may be a limited purpose public figure–that is, someone for whom the standards differ.

[…]

It seems to me that the business of Ellora’s Cave–a multi-million dollar business, one where the owner has sought and obtained media attention from national news media, a business that deals with hundreds if not thousands of authors, editors, and cover artists, and who has thousands if not hundreds of thousands of readers who take an interest in it–is a matter of public concern. It seems to me that Ellora’s Cave and its owner, Jaid Black, by seeking out that media attention, by broadcasting announcements to its authors–announcements that were reprinted and referenced in publishing news ranging from Publishers Weekly to The Passive Voice–is a limited purpose public figure.

And the standard for defamation actions for limited purpose public figures is substantially different than for private citizens. The standard is that the speaker must be acting with actual malice: that is, they must know (or be reckless about knowing) that the statements they are speaking are false. What that means is that if I say something and I have a good-faith belief that what I am saying is true–even if it later turns out to be false–I am not going to be held liable for defamation.

I point this out because I am extremely, extremely pissed off about this lawsuit. I believe that this lawsuit was filed for the purpose of chilling speech–and for the purpose of chilling true speech about a matter of imminent public concern. And I think that despite the outpourings of support, it’s working. This lawsuit is about teaching authors to sit down and shut up, even if their livelihood is at stake.

Which is a pretty good statement of the unifying principles of the #notchilled regulars. Some are EC authors. Some are former EC authors. Some are readers, but not authors. Some (like Courtney and myself) are writers, but not for Ellora’s Cave.

But we weren’t posting specifically because of who the defendant was, but what the issue was.

Defense’s response in doc 74 (p. 3):

Defendants further note that Plaintiffs offer no evidence that Defendants are waging any sort of a “public relations war against Plaintiffs’ case.” Indeed, there is no evidence to be found. The purpose of this accusation is clear – to try and negatively color the Defense. However, should the Plaintiffs wish for Defendants to address this issue in earnest, the Defendants have preserved publications and statements by Ellora’s Cave’s founder, Tina Engler, about this case, as well as her “sock puppet” twitter account, which would scorch them with hypocrisy—should the court be interested.

The “sock puppet” referred to @pubnt (and possibly others), whose identity will likely never be known as a matter of law, but here’s the complete archive of 2,620 tweets.

What’s Up Next?

There’s still the matter of several hundred Ellora’s Cave authors, quite a few of whom have publicly stated that, as of this writing, they’ve not been paid royalties for periods later than February 2015. I do not know of anyone reporting having received payments for a later period, and February was eight months ago.

Here are a few sources:

http://twitter.com/KellyJamieson/status/655140492712083456

http://twitter.com/Lori_Ella/status/653291224296722437

http://twitter.com/trista_michaels/status/654783745560473600

Given that Ellora’s Cave still has (as of a few days ago) more than 800 authors, that’s a seriously large quantity of royalty checks to be behind.

Let’s not forget the declaration of Romance Writers of America executive director Allison Kelley:

Based on complaints from authors, we contacted Patty Marks, CEO of Ellora’s Cave, in August 2014 to express concerns that Ellora’s Cave was unilaterally changing the terms of its contracts without authors’ written consent. Ms. Marks responded, “I’ll talk to Raelene and have our publishing department request signed amendments now and from here on out.”

In September 2015, I contacted Patty Marks regarding complaints about the company’s failure to issue royalty statements and checks to authors. Ms. Marks recently admitted to me that Ellora’s Cave is not up-to-date with paying its royalties and has not paid its authors in a timely manner.

Failure to pay authors and comply with the terms of contracts are violations of the Romance Writers of America’s code of ethics for industry professionals.

As a result of Ellora’s Cave’s violations of the code of Ethics, Ellora’s Cave has been suspended from certain privileges with the Romance Writers of America. This means that Ellora’s Cave is prohibited from contacting members of chapters regarding new submissions and may not participate in any Romance Writers of America chapter event until it has paid its authors all amounts due.

I don’t know if that’ll ever happen, but I hope for authors’ sakes that it will.

Until then, I leave you with Lieutenant Commander Ivanova. Not quite as satisfying as having all the answers and full restitution for all authors, but it’s what I have to offer.

Addenda

Tymber Dalton’s post Ellora’s Cave vs Dear Author: Not with a bang, but a whimper. Features this nugget comment by author Ann Jacobs, who attempted to intervene in the Dear Author case:

I believe there’s a good chance there will be a class action filing. My attorney has other authors who’ve expressed interest, and it will be a topic of conversation next week. Meanwhile, I know no more than anyone else, except that my motion to intervene in the DA defense is moot, since the suit has been settled.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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ellora's cave blog header

Authors Who Reverted Between Sep 2014-Sep 2015

Based on screen scrapes taken of Ellora’s Cave author page on September 24, 2014 and September 29th, 2015. So, it’s as accurate as that data is.

Boldfaced means the author has been an author of either a NY Times or USA Today bestseller.

Note that some unknown percentage of these had titles that were below the threshold for reversion, and the remainder were likely rights that were bought back.

A. Q. Fredrichs
Adele Dubois
Ainsley Abbott
Alicia Maddox
Allyson James
Alvania Scarborough
Angela Knight
Ann Bruce
Annabeth Albert
Anne M. Calhoun
Annie Windsor
Ashleigh Raine
Ashlynn Pearce
Aurora Rose Lynn
Ava Bradley
Avery Aster
Belle Scarlett
Camryn Rhys
Cat Grant
Cat Marsters
Cathryn Fox
Charlene Leatherman
Cherif Fortin
Chris Power
Claire Thompson
Courtney Sheets
Crystal Kauffman
Cynnamon Foster
Dawn Halliday
Delphine Dryden
Denyse Bridger
Dominique Adair
Doreen Desalvo
Eden Avery
Eileen Ann Brennan
Eilis Flynn
Elise Hepner
Emily Ryan-Davis
Emjai Colbert
Emma Petersen
Erin Richards
Eryn Blackwell
Faye Adamos
Georgie Lee
Grace Samuels
Graylin Fox
Heather Elizabeth King
Heather Hiestand
Helen Hardt
Hetty St. James
J.C. Wilder
Jambrea Jo Jones
Jane Davitt
Janie D’Avril
Janina Henderson
Jaycee Clark
Jayne Rylon
Jennifer Colgan
Jennifer North
Jessica Lee
Jillelaine Hughes
J.L. Wilson
Julia Templeton
K.D. King
K.Z. Snow
Kaily Hart
Karen McCullough
Kate Pearce
Kate St. James
Kathryn Lively
Katie O’Sullivan
Kayelle Allen
Keira Andrews
Kelly Ferjutz
Kelly Fitzpatrick
Kelly Maher
Kelsy George
Kendall Grace
Kimberly Killion
Kirstie Abbot
Kylie Scott
L.H. Merci
L.J. Garland
L. Rosario
Lacey Alexander
Lauren Dane
Laurie Breton
Leannan Mac Llyr
Leigh Court
Leta Blake
Lila Dupres
Lilian Feisty
Lolita Lopez (as Roxie Rivera)
Lucy Muir
Lynn Sanders
Mandy M. Roth
Marcia James
Marie Bellevaux
Megan Kerans
Melissa Lopez
Melynda Price
Michelle Pillow
Minx Malone
Nancy Corrigan
Nicole North
Olivia Brynn
Paige Tyler
Patrice Michelle
Patricia Mason
Piper Leigh
Raine Latimer
Rebecca T. Michaels
Renee Luke
Rhian Cahill
Richard Jeanty
Rilee St. Chris
Riley Murphy
Roxana Blaze
Ruby Duvall
S.W. Vaughn
Sally Apple
Sally Painter
Sam Cheever
Sami Lee
Sara Dennis
Savannah Stuart
Sherry Morris
Shoshanna Evers
Stella Price
Stephanie Burke
Sue Swift
Susie Charles
Sylvia Day
T.J. Michaels
Tamara Gill
Teal Ceagh
Terri Beckett
Tracy Cooper Posey
Trixie Stilletto
Vicky Burkholder
Viki Lyn
Zannie Adams

Ellora’s Cave’s Unreverted Bestselling Authors

With the notable exception of Laurann Dohner, the New York Times and USA Today bestsellers I could find from these authors were all published by other houses. Because Ellora’s Cave is a digital first publisher, the “Most Recent EC Title” column means: the most recent unreverted Ellora’s Cave ebook release date.

Also, even though an author still has titles at Ellora’s Cave doesn’t mean some of their titles haven’t reverted.

Name (made list as) Most Recent EC Title
Abigaile Barnette (as Jennifer Armintrout) Jan 2013
Amanda Ashley Dec 2014
Cheyenne McCray Jul 2007
Dakota Cassidy Aug 2011
Delilah Devlin Sep 2011
Jaci Burton May 2009
Jaid Black Oct 2015
Jan Springer Feb 2014
Joanna Wylde Jan 2013
Joey W. Hill Aug 2014
Jory Strong Dec 2013
Koko Brown Feb 2013
Laurann Dohner Oct 2015
Lora Leigh May 2014
Madeline Baker Aug 2014
Mari Carr Nov 2012
Marie Harte Jul 2011
Roberta Gellis June 2012
Sabrina York Jul 2014
Shiloh Walker (as J.C. Daniels) Apr 2014
Tawny Taylor Apr 2011

Update March 19, 2016: More Reversions

  1. Amanda Ashley’s titles have completely reverted.
  2. Joey W. Hill is down to a couple of discount print titles; all her e-titles have reverted.
  3. Laurann Dohner later announced that she would be self-publishing future titles.
  4. Lora Leigh has had all books reverted except for stories she has in anthologies.
  5. Madeline Baker is down to a few discount print titles; all her e-titles have reverted.
  6. Shiloh Walker wrote a blog post. Apart from one discount print title and several cavemen anthologies, her titles have reverted to her.

Six major changes out of their 21 remaining NYT/USAT bestselling authors in five months.

(end update)

Bestselling Authors Who Reverted Their Ellora’s Cave Titles Prior to Sep 2014

There may be a much longer list here, but I don’t know all the early Ellora’s Cave authors.

Rhyannon Byrd
Sarah McCarty

Author Counts Over Time

I’ve scraped the Ellora’s Cave site a few times, and have used all of archive.org’s available scrapes as well. I have a reason for posting this, but after the graph, I’ll post a timeline, then wrap it up so you can see why I think this is significant.

elloras-cave-author-counts

Here are some dates to keep in mind when looking at this chart:

  1. Ellora’s Cave layoffs announced August 18, 2014 (report on AW), published in Dear Author the following day and Publishers Weekly a week later.
  2. The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave, published Sep 14, 2014.
  3. Lynne Connolly also spoke up on Sep 14:

    No, I can’t have my rights back on those two. If I don’t cooperate with the editing, Ellora’s Cave will exercise its contractual right to edit and publish the books anyway. If those books do come out, I will make a statement to say I had nothing to do with the editing and the books are released without my cooperation. After that, it’s up to the reader to decide.

    By “editing,” they mean “light editing.” The editors are not even allowed to alter spelling mistakes, because that would be changing the “author’s voice.”

  4. Cat Grant says Ellora’s Cave would allow her to buy out her contract on Sep 20, 2014.
  5. The following day, Victoria Strauss, maintainer of Preditors and Editors posted:

    Rights buybacks are disgraceful. Failing or not, a publisher should either revert rights or not revert them—but it shouldn’t hold authors’ books for ransom, even if the motive isn’t to make a quick buck before the ship goes down.

  6. Lawsuit against Dear Author and Jane Litte over the Curious post was filed September 26, 2014.
  7. The following day, Cate Cameron asks for a guide to requesting rights reversion. The day after that, I linked to one I’d found.
  8. News of the lawsuit hit Publishers Weekly on September 29th.
  9. On October 1, Victoria Strauss posted a reversion guide on Writer Beware and posted a link to that on the Absolute Write EC thread.

Ellora’s Cave’s Claims re: Reversions

From p. 18 of this EC filing:

In the first eight and a half (8 1/2) months of 2014, prior to Lampe’s bankruptcy scare, Ellora’s Cave had a total of 154 books go out of print for various reasons—mostly sales below threshold for rights reversions. In the twelve days between Lampe’s defamatory blog and the filing of this action, Ellora’s Cave had requests for reversions of 404 titles, an astronomical increase. Since Lampe’s defamatory blog, Ellora’s Cave has reverted over 1250 more titles and still has requests that it is working on. In the one year since the defamatory post, Plaintiff has had almost double the number of rights reversions than it has had in its entire 14-year history.

So here’s the thing. The standard reversion language is given by example here on p.44, and you’ll note it takes (up to) six months for the process to complete.

In other words, if people had asked for reversions solely and only because of the Dear Author article, then those reversions would have occurred between September 14th, 2014 and March 26th, 2015.

If you look at the total number of authors EC had as of March 21st (5 days before the end of that window), they had the exact same number of authors (though not necessarily the exact same authors) as they’d had after Jane Litte’s Curious article.

In other words, the overwhelming majority of authors leaving Ellora’s Cave entirely appear to have done so so after the effects of Ellora’s Cave filing a lawsuit, not after Jane Litte’s article published by Dear Author and before the lawsuit.

Also (note that I’m talking about net additions here):

  • In the 14-1/2 months leading up to July 28, 2014, Ellora’s Cave added exactly 100 authors…an average of 6.8 per month (1.6 per week).
  • In the two months between July 28, 2014 and September 24, 2014, EC added two new authors…an average of 1 per month.

  • In the six months between September 24, 2014 and March 21, 2014, EC added zero new authors…an average of 0 per month.

  • In the following six months, EC had a net loss of 125 authors (142 left, partially offset by 17 new authors). That’s an average of 21 leaving per month and 3 added per month.

  • In the last three weeks, EC’s added five new authors.

And Now I Quote from Patty Marks

From her August 18th letter announcing the layoffs (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.

I believe this translates as: “We lost a lot of money by adding 100 more authors so quickly, especially once sales also dropped.”

Comments Welcome

If I’ve missed any author links or have any incorrect links, please let me know.

I do have the data to do more in-depth analyses of the authors who left over time, but the old site used Lastname Firstname and the new site uses Firstname Lastname, and I have zero spoons for that. If anyone would like the raw data, please let me know.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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Laurann Dohner photo

Yesterday, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Laurann Dohner said she’d have some news today. Today, she posted the news: she has one book completed and another in progress, both to be released in December. The really big news happens in the first and second comment:

Laurann Dohner Making Leap

For the visually impaired, Valerie asked:

Will this be a self-published venture or through your regular publisher?

(All of Ms. Dohner’s previous books have been published by Ellora’s Cave.)

She replied:

You go right for the tough one, Valerie. LOL. This is my project. It’s my baby.

Which several people interpreted to mean these two books will not be published by Ellora’s Cave.

Existing Series

So far as I know, all of Ellora’s Cave’s recent NY Times or USA Today bestselling titles have been authored by Laurann Dohner.

Ms. Dohner did say further along in comments that, “I still have a “to write” list a mile long for my other series.” So we can expect to see more in those lines, though she hasn’t stated whether or not those books will be published by Ellora’s Cave. Legendarily, Ms. Dohner signed a 75-book contract with Ellora’s Cave in 2011, but of course we don’t know exactly what the terms of that contract are.

I’m happy for Laurann and her new books, and I’m glad she’ll be able to bring them out independently. I could even pick up copies without breaking my “no Ellora’s Cave titles” rule. During this last year, I’ve met some huge fans of Ms. Dohner’s writing, and I’m looking forward to being able to see what the fuss is about.

Comments

I’d love to hear your comments, but please keep them polite. It’s a big step announcing a shift to being an indie writer, and it can be a scary time.

Also, this post may (or may not) have been brought to you by repeated listenings of Ozan Çolakoğlu’s song “Aşk Gitti Bizden” featuring Tarkan on vocals (English lyrics).

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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ellora's cave blog header

Let’s look at the last few years of New York Times Bestsellers for which Ellora’s Cave is the publisher. So near as I can tell, the only author that’s hit the list with a book published by EC since February 2011 is Laurann Dohner.

NYT List Date Book Title E-Book List Rank
1/15/12 Brawn 35
3/25/12 Wrath 7
4/29/12 Tiger 9
5/19/12 Moon 5
9/16/12 Obsidian 8
11/18/12 Shadow 9
12/20/13 True 10
10/12/14 Darkness 8
11/16/14 Smiley 10
9/27/15 Numbers 8

Note: she’s also ranked on the combined print + e-book list multiple times, but the matching print book has not been out at any time she’s made the list, so I haven’t included those numbers. With only the e-books available, the combined ranking is more of an indicator of how well print vs. e-books did that week than about Ms. Dohner’s rankings per se.

“Yeah, well? What’s your point?” I hear you say.

I’m glad you asked.

In short, looking at Ms. Dohner’s NY Times Bestseller list positions, it doesn’t appear that the Dear Author article did any damage to her ability to make the list or her position on the list.

When I thought to look this morning and see how Laurann’s newest book was doing, I’m reminded of something Tor editor Patrick Nielsen Hayden said to me at Clarion.

To paraphrase: what you see at writing conferences and workshops and science fiction conventions is only a small part of your readership, and don’t overinterpret what’s going on in the small groups because they’re rarely reflective of one’s readership as a whole.

Let’s visualize the ranking in a scatter plot, which will make my point clearer. Note that lower numbers are better.

Ellora's Cave NY Times Bestseller Rankings 2011-Oct 2015

In a nutshell, compared to the e-book market as a whole, Ms. Dohner’s e-books are not faring worse after the EC layoffs and Dear Author’s Curious article than they were before.

For the last table, I’m not a statistician. That disclosure out of the way…here’s what I know.

Before Layoffs/DA Article After Layoffs/DA Article Before & After Combined
  E-Book   E-Book   E-Book
Mean 11.9 Mean 8.7 Mean 10.9
Median 9 Median 8 Median 8.5

To translate that into English: on average, Laurann Dohner’s e-books rank 3.2 places higher (11.9 before vs. 8.7 after) on the New York Times Bestseller list after the layoffs and Dear Author article than before. The median of is one place higher (9 before vs. 8 after).

None of which means sales are necessarily higher, just that they’re strong relative to the other contenders in the market.

Ellora’s Cave’s Claims About Reversions

In EC’s filing objecting to Defense’s Motion for Summary Judgment, Ellora’s Cave had the following to say:

In the first eight and a half (8 1/2) months of 2014, prior to Lampe’s bankruptcy scare, Ellora’s Cave had a total of 154 books go out of print for various reasons—mostly sales below threshold for rights reversions. In the twelve days between Lampe’s defamatory blog and the filing of this action, Ellora’s Cave had requests for reversions of 404 titles, an astronomical increase. Since Lampe’s defamatory blog, Ellora’s Cave has reverted over 1250 more titles and still has requests that it is working on. In the one year since the defamatory post, Plaintiff has had almost double the number of rights reversions than it has had in its entire 14-year history.

cough

The Bankruptcy “Scare”

Let’s look at who created that bankruptcy “scare,” shall we?

On August 19th, Dear Author republished the layoff letter Patty Marks had sent to the EC biz list that had previously been published on Absolute Write. It included this choice quotation from Patty Marks:

We are not bankrupt (rumors) and are not in any kind of shape to even file bankruptcy.

Many of us read that as: “we are in too poor a shape to file bankruptcy.”

Many of us also saw that article signal boosted onto The Passive Voice, where the commenting got quite spirited. Many of us read and latched onto antares’s comment, specifically:

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.
‘[N]ot in any kind of shape to even file bankruptcy.’ How do you know unless you have consulted a bankruptcy attorney? And I think this statement is in error (best case) or deliberately misleading (worst case).

Later on, antares clarifies in another comment:

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.
My suit leaves me still in the unsecured creditor category, but, as Orwell said, some animals are more equal than others.
I know of bankruptcies that paid a hundred cents on the dollar. Never had one myself. I also know of other suits that paid a hundred cents on the dollar to, say, eleven of twelve members of the creditors committee and screwed the twelfth with a 2¢ on the dollar payout.
As for filing bankruptcy only when you are insolvent . . . no. That’s the worst time to file.
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.

And yes, antares is exactly right: you want to jockey position against other creditors if you believe there are not enough resources to pay everyone. I believe this is one underlying concern of Ann Jacobs’s Motion to Intervene and her counterclaim.

The Reversions Numbers Game

So there are three reversion numbers given in the EC paragraph I quoted:

  • 154 books go out of print in the first 8-1/2 months of 2014, mostly because they were below sales threshholds.
  • 404 books had reversion requests between Jane Litte posting TCCoEC and the lawsuit commencing (12 days).
  • Since TCCoEC, Ellora’s Cave has reverted more than 1250 books, more than in its entire history before TCCoEC. (Note that this probably includes a significant number of the 404 immediately preceding.)

Those 1250 books were reverted for one of the following reasons:

  1. Low sales. Since they weren’t selling, I don’t see how Ellora’s Cave can or should complain about these. I also expect that this is the largest category. These only take people points because they should have been reverted long ago when there wasn’t a stampede.
  2. Buyout of contracts, which netted Ellora’s Cave an average of several years of expected royalties—thus they cannot reasonably complain about these.
  3. Finesse, by which I mean lawsuit threats, loopholes, and generally being a pain in the ass. I expect this to be the smallest category in number of books, albeit the one that uses the largest amount of people points per book and the highest downside risk.
  4. OMGWTFBBQ? Because one always needs an option like that in a discussion like this.

Option 1 is cash they’re not entitled to unless the author leaves it on the table. Given that most of the 154 were in this category, I’m betting most of the 1250+ were, too.
Option 2 is improvement of cash flow.
Option 3 & 4, well that’s just business.

None of the above are Dear Author’s fault. That’s how I see it, anyway.

Ellora’s Cave Should Have Chopped the Long Tail

Please Release Me

First, a sanity check on the 1250+ number: as of July 9, 2014 (just over a month before the layoffs), Ellora’s Cave had 4745 titles according to All Romance E-Books and as of today, 3694 titles according to ARe. In the meantime, Ellora’s Cave has published new books, so 1250+ seems perfectly credible to me.

I wrote this piece a year ago about reversion theory, and it included this bit:

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).

When Ellora’s Cave was having difficulty with the new royalty system and (likely) having to do everything twice? Even then was too late for this task. Those books should have been cut long enough before the transition that the work load would have decreased before the royalty system changeover started.

Suppositions for this hypothetical:

  1. Let’s say (pulling a random but plausible number out of the air) that cut 50% of the 1400+ books reverted from 2014 onward.
  2. We know that there were 928 authors on 7/4/14 (thank you archive.org) and 808 as of 9/29 (looking on EC’s new site). Granted, EC’s added authors in the interim, but let’s handwave that complication away. Let’s say that half the drop in authors (i.e., 60 authors) wrote those 700 books.
  3. Let’s say the 154 books were averaged out between Jan and mid-Sep (154 / 8.5 = 18.1), and then since then the other 1246 evenly.
  4. Let’s say they added their 349 new books evenly distributed as above.
  5. Let’s say that, for books still in EC’s fold, each unreverted book has averaged sales from three outlets per month.
  6. Let’s assume the early reversions have 5 book sales per month on average from a single outlet, the average sale price is $4.99, and the author earns 37.5% royalty and is paid on a post-mid-2011 contract.
  7. On average, each number entered/uploaded needs to be entered once (into each royalty system) and checked once.
  8. Let’s assume the data entry rate (per a GPO estimate) is 5,200 keystrokes an hour, and that each piece of data contains an average of six strokes/digits/letters. So, 1,000 pieces of data x 6 digits / 5,200/hr = 1.15 hours.
  9. Assume a random Akron-area rate I found for skilled data entry/bookkeeping at $13.50.
  10. Using the number of pieces of data for each book per sales outlet here (i.e., 7)…
  11. I’m not assuming any information about those who bought out their contracts, because what I’m looking at is how much it cost to just produce royalty statements, not how much is paid in royalties.

We now have enough information to do this:

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 12.38.46 AM

The tl;dr version: It would cost an estimated $28,378 (times two for two royalty systems) in bookkeeper/data entry costs to pay royalties to Ellora’s Cave authors since January 2014 to the end of August 2015 (assuming no backlog and assuming all were actually paid).

If EC had instead cut the list early when the accounting system was going in, they would have lost an estimated $1,777 in royalties, but would have saved an estimated $2,839 (times two for two royalty systems) over that period. So, net savings of $3,901.

Like I said, chop the long tail.

While I’m at it, The Kicker

I seriously, seriously underestimated how many pieces of data Ellora’s Cave would need in order to prove substantial truth. Why?

I didn’t know about the mid-2011 contract change and how it could create accumulating debt coming into 2014.

Therefore this needs to change:

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.

Let’s assume an average of 4000 books, and we’re going to have to look from mid-2011 to the end of the lawsuit. So it’s already four years and a quarter.

Let’s assume 3 stores per book.

4,000 x 3 stores x 7 pieces of data = 84,000 pieces of data per month. Times 51 months = 4.28 million pieces of data. (Why 51 months? Damages calculation assuming they’re able to prove things substantially true.)

4.28 million pieces of data x average of 6 chars / 5,200 entered/checked an hour = 4,943 hours at $13.50 is an absolute minimum of $66,731. Just for the data itself, not for the interpretation of it. Not for the double-checking against vendor (e.g., Amazon) records.

Good luck with that.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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ellora's cave blog header

Are you an Ellora’s Cave Writer who: asked for your rights back as a response to this Jaid Black post (August 12, 2014)?

For context, that would be the week before the editor (and other) layoffs, before the Curious article by Jane Litte, and before the lawsuit.

If so, Dear Author’s defense would like to hear from you. Please email me (deirdre@deirdre.net) or ping me on Twitter, Facebook, or AbsoluteWrite.

(They may still want to also hear from authors who requested reversions for reasons other than the Dear Author Curious post, too.)

Throwing a Bone to Everyone Else

Jaid Black and Richard Stansbury have a new project: Serial Killers Anonymous. It’s about a bunch of serial killers who meet in a group. You know, like twelve step. It gives a date of June, 2015.

I don’t want to say it’s been done before, but there’s an identical title and similar concept from this 2013 posting by Alexander Williams.

There is an in-development title of the same name listed on IMDB, but whether it’s about Alexander’s script or Jaid and Richard’s (or someone else’s entirely), I could not say. The production company given is Orchard Place Productions which is a Pittsburgh, PA company. Their web site does not list SKA, however.

The movie they released last month, though, featured this song from Supervoid, which is a little hard for my taste. Good though.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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ellora's cave blog header

Some more action on the Ellora’s Cave vs. Dear Author case filed in court over the last couple of weeks:

  1. Motion to add RWA Executive Director’s Statement to Defense’s Summary Judgment Motion
  2. Ann Jacobs as Counterclaimant—additional documents filed by, well, everyone
  3. Motion for Further Discovery filed by Dear Author
  4. Court hearing scheduled for October 8 on discovery dispute (note: there have been requests to reschedule on Oct 22 or 23)
  5. Julie Naughton’s Declaration (will cover in a later post because this is 2800 words and I hadn’t started on it yet…)
  6. Plaintiff’s Opposition to Defense’s Motion for Summary Judgment (will cover in a later post)
  7. In non-legal news, Ellora’s Cave books have disappeared from Amazon Australia and Amazon Netherlands, and many books have disappeared from the Amazon India site
  8. Jaid Black facebook timeline blips in and out of existence again

For those of you hanging out on #notchilled, some of this will be very old to you, but I’ve had the post half-written for a while.

Motion to add RWA Executive Director’s Statement to Defense’s Summary Judgment Motion

This motion was filed on September 15th as document #54. The interesting part for the onlookers isn’t the procedural part in the motion itself, but the newly revealed information in RWA Executive Director Alison Kelley’s declaration:

Based on complaints from authors, we contacted Patty Marks, CEO of Ellora’s Cave, in August 2014 to express concerns that Ellora’s Cave was unilaterally changing the terms of its contracts without authors’ written consent. Ms. Marks responded, “I’ll talk to Raelene and have our publishing department request signed amendments now and from here on out.”

As a reminder of the timeline in this case:

  1. On August 18, 2014, Ellora’s Cave laid off many of its staff. This was reported by Dear Author’s Janet the following day.
  2. On September 14, 2014, Dear Author published The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave (sometimes abbreviated TCCoEC on Twitter) by Jane Litte.

  3. On September 27, 2014, Ellora’s Cave and Jasmine Jade filed suit against Dear Author and Jane Litte.

In short, it seems…hmm, how does one phrase this?…stretching credulity that Ellora’s Cave did not know there were issues in royalty payments prior to filing the lawsuit.

Getting Behindier

Let’s take a new look at Ann Jacobs’s counterclaim, specifically bottom of p. 4-top of p. 5 (note substitution of her pseudonym for her legal name):

Multiplying the cover price ($5.95) times the contractual royalty rate (37.5%) times
the number of Kindle books sold (257), [Jacobs] was entitled to receive a total
royalty of $573.43 for March 2012 Kindle sales of In His Own Defense.

However, Ellora’s Cave paid [Jacobs] a royalty of only $77.49. The reason for the discrepancy is that in March 2012 Kindle copies of In His Own Defense were sold at a substantial discount from the cover price, and Ellora’s Cave improperly calculated the royalty based on the sale price rather than cover price.

In other words, with the receipt of the check for March 2012, Jacobs claims that she didn’t receive the full royalties she was due.

Now, had that been, say, a car or mortgage payment with certain banks, the monies received would have been put aside into an escrow account until the full payment is received and then the monthly payment’s applied when it’s received in full.

Something like this:

getting-behind

So you see, over time, even with a simple $63 transposition error, someone can seriously fall behind over time, and one month behind slips to two and three as time goes on.

It seems likely, with the $193,000 claimed as due Ann Jacobs, that there have been a number of months with shortfalls that, taken cumulatively, may well mean that as of September 2014, payments had slipped six months or more behind.

By which I mean to say that this statement by Jane Litte in the Curious post would be actually true, not just substantively true, that, as of September 2014:

There is a set of authors who have not received royalty payments in over six months.

Possibly because even checks received in, say, January through early September were paying royalties owing for more than six months, and not received for months January through early September of the current year.

In other words: if, because of a publisher’s underpayment of royalties, an author is only fully paid through (example) March 2013, receiving royalty checks in Jan-Sep 2014 does not mean those checks were for the periods Jan-Sep 2014 even if the accompanying royalty statement claims that is the case.

The check should be applied to the oldest amount outstanding due the author. That’s how a bank would do it, after all.

In other words, I believe Jane Litte’s statement is actually true in a way the defense has not yet shown. It doesn’t even matter if Jane knew about it at the time of writing. Substantial truth is a defense, and that would still be substantially—if not fully—true.

Ann Jacobs as Counterclaimant

  1. Completely unsurprisingly, Ellora’s Cave objected to Ann Jacobs becoming an intervenor.
  2. Completely unsurprisingly, Dear Author and Jane Litte disagreed.
  3. Ann followed up with her own response to Plaintiffs.

Ellora’s Cave’s opposition claims are, essentially:

  1. Motion is Untimely. As Courtney Milan has pointed out, this is the weakest aspect of Ann’s motion.
  2. Ann’s motion doesn’t have sufficient common question of law. In other words, it’s off point.

Nowhere does Ellora’s Cave (or Jasmine Jade for that matter) claim Ann Jacobs’s filing was untrue.

So here’s how I feel about that. I believe the fact of the lawsuit revolves around the “set of authors” phrase I quoted above. That, were it not for that one phrase, the case probably wouldn’t exist.

Digression paragraph, bear with me: Except perhaps for Tina’s desire to see “that the offending site be shut down”, perhaps, and her statement that “one of my cases was in the UK” (leading one to wonder how many there had been, exactly). And yes, I’m 99% sure that’s Tina we’re talking about: See the email address at the top of p.22 of this Brashear v. Ellora’s Cave case and then this page giving the same email address on the same site (not to mention the purpose of the site, one of Tina’s interests). And, if not Tina, it’s someone at EC who was also involved in the Brashear litigation. End digression.

Given that EC isn’t opposing the substance of what Ann is claiming, that makes it look even more likely that Ann’s claims are correct than if EC had filed nothing.

Ultimately, Ann Jacobs’s case is about the heart of the truth of Dear Author’s statements. As I pointed out above, questions about royalties paid to Ann in 2013 (or even earlier) are crucial to understanding whether any checks issued to her in the first 9 months of 2014 were in fact covering payments due in 2014—no matter how much Ellora’s Cave wants to flail madly in their filings and say prior years are not relevant.

As I’ve pointed out in an earlier post, “A set of authors” could be a set of one, in which case Ann’s factual situation could settle the truth of the underlying claim all by her lonesome.

If so, then fighting Ann’s joining the case means committing to massively higher expert and legal expenses to prove that all 900+ EC authors in September 2014 had been paid for not just all months in 2014, but that they were not in arrears to any author causing 2014 payments to be applied to earlier months and even years. Your call, EC.

EC Filing WTFery

Most WTF moment in the EC brief was this little gem at the bottom of p. 1:

Permissive intervention by a nonparty to a pending case is governed by Fed.R.Civ.P. 24(b). A denial of permissive intervention should not be reversed except for clear abuse of discretion by the trial judge. Meyer Goldberg, Inc. v. Fisher Foods, Inc., 823 F.2d 159, 161 (6th Cir.1987)).

I just can’t even with that cite. This might be relevant if Judge Adams had already ruled and the motion were being appealed, but it’s not relevant at this point in time.

The ruling is about May Company’s (this is an old case) attempts to unseal records from a case that was already closed so it could have them for discovery on the same issue. It wasn’t about a party intervening as a claimant. However, it was a 6th Circuit ruling that reversed the district court’s ruling anyway. Like, dude, I don’t know why you picked it, but that case ruling is the exact opposite of the part you cite.

So, Mastrantonio’s chosen case is cited by a Larry Flynt (yes, as in Penthouse) ruling from the 8th circuit. Let’s look at an excerpt of that:

The appellees assert that the district court did not err in denying Flynt’s motion to intervene under Rule 24(b), and seem to suggest that since Flynt admits he could file a separate lawsuit to address the merits of unsealing the judicial records in question, his rights of access are not harmed. We disagree and find Rule 24(b) intervention an appropriate procedural vehicle for parties seeking to intervene for the purpose of obtaining judicial records.

Given the district court’s terse orders denying Flynt’s motions, we are left to some degree to speculate what the district court meant when it said “[a] generalized interest in a subject of litigation does not justify intervention.” To the extent the district court denied Flynt’s motions because it believed Rule 24(b) intervention was the incorrect procedural mechanism, the district court applied the incorrect legal standard in holding that Flynt’s generalized interest in the subjects of the Zink and Ringo cases did not justify intervention under Rule 24(b). Normally, parties seeking permissive intervention pursuant to Rule 24(b) must show: (1) an independent ground for jurisdiction, (2) timeliness2 of the motion, and (3) that the applicant’s claim or defense and the main action have a question of law or fact in common. United States v. Union Elec. Co., 64 F.3d 1152, 1170 n.9 (8th Cir. 1995).

As a background, the cases Flynt tried to intervene on were those of his shooter.

In his motions to unseal, Flynt stated he had an interest in the sealed records as a publisher and as an advocate against the death penalty. Flynt also said he had a heightened interest in these cases because Joseph Franklin, a man who had confessed to shooting Flynt, was an inmate on Missouri’s death row and a plaintiff in both cases. Franklin was executed on November 20, 2013, and on that same day the district court denied Flynt’s motion to intervene in the Zink case as moot.

Yet, in the Flynt case, the appeals court reversed and allowed Flynt to intervene.

Which still isn’t relevant to the Ellora’s Cave v. Dear Author case, because the motion to intervene was only about access to discovery and/or records. It was also granted after the dude had been executed and that was considered sufficiently timely.

Maybe I’m expecting too much. 😉

The Timeliness Dig

Mastrantonio has a snarky little footnote:

The timing of the filing is curious. Intervenor acknowledges that the discovery deadline has passed and apparently seeks to use this intervention as a way to reopen discovery. Motion to Intervene, Doc 40, p. 2.

Which says (emphasis added):

The intervenor additionally notes that while the preliminary discovery deadline has recently passed, it would appear from the defendants’ recent status reports (such as dkt. 38 and dkt. 39) that no representative of the plaintiff has yet been deposed and that relatively minimal paper discovery has been produced by the plaintiff.

That word. Preliminary. It does not mean what you think it means.

Motion for Further Discovery filed by Dear Author

So, there’s a discovery dispute. Are you as unsurprised as I am? It’s over the word—I know, I know, I’d never sell a story with foreshadowing this heavy handed—preliminary.

I agree with Courtney Milan that it doesn’t seem like the whole story is in the filings, so we’ll just have to see what happens with the upcoming hearing.

Ellora’s Cave Books Disappeared from Three Amazon Regional Sites

  1. Go to amazon.com.au.
  2. Search on Ellora’s Cave.
  3. How many search results do you get?

Repeat for amazon.nl and amazon.in. Compare with the same search on amazon.com (or .ca, .co.uk, etc.).

Note that .au, .nl, and .in are the three most recent country sites for Amazon: Australia, Netherlands, and India. (Amazon has separate retail websites for United States, United Kingdom & Ireland, France, Canada, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Australia, Brazil, Japan, China, India, and Mexico.)

What does this mean?

I’m not sure. I held off posting to see if something else would come up.

Knowing that Laurann Dohner had recently had a new Ellora’s Cave release, I checked out her FB page and found this:

ec-books-on-amazon-au

But it’s not just affecting Laurann’s books, but those of all current Ellora’s Cave authors.

Nevertheless, the promise of some canned statement tempted me, so I wrote to Amazon PR:

Dear Amazon PR,

For almost a year, I’ve been reporting on the lawsuit filed by Ellora’s Cave against romance industry blog Dear Author and its founder Jane Litte (pseudonym for Jennifer Garrish-Lampe). http://deirdre.net/tag/ecda/

It came to my attention today that Amazon.com.au is no longer offering Ellora’s Cave titles except for three published very recently: Myra Leigh (Maddening Desire), JL Taft (Burning for the Fireman), and Tina Donahue (Wicked Times Too).

It’s my understanding that Amazon.com.au customers who’ve written in have received a prepared statement about why books from some of their favorite Ellora’s Cave authors aren’t available from your Australian store.

Does Amazon have an official statement on the matter?

Thank you in advance,
Deirdre Saoirse Moen

I received no response, however those three titles disappeared from Amazon AU within two days.

Then I decided to do a customer service chat on Amazon AU (emphasis added on key line):

You are now connected to CS from Amazon.com.au
Me: Can you tell me why Ellora’s Cave (publisher) books aren’t on Amazon.com.au right now? Laurann Doehner just released a new book and none of her books are showing.
CS: Hello, my name is (CS). I’m sorry to hear about this. I’ll be glad to help you.
Me: Thank you.
CS: Please allow me a moment while I check this for you
Thank you for being on hold
I am sorry to inform you that the titles of these books are not available due [to] publisher restrictions.
Me: Thank you for your help, (CS).
CS: I regret to inform you that we’re only the online retailer and the availability for Kindle content mostly influence the publisher decision who are the owner of the Kindle content. I hope you’ll understand our restrictions.
I will immediately forward this to the publisher to let them know you are interested in the availability of their titles.
Me: Thank you.
CS: I would request you to give us sometime while we work with publishers actively on this issue.

On September 8th, Tina Engler emailed the biz loop:

Sent: Tuesday, September 8, 2015 4:58 PM
Subject: [ec_biz] Amazon AU

We are aware of the situation and are handling it. Our rep at Amazon has her team investigating this; we’ll report back to you when we hear from her.

Tina

On September 9th, Raelene sent a longer email to the biz loop:

Sent: Wednesday, September 9, 2015 2:50 PM
Subject: [ec_biz] Update: EC books on Amazon AU

Amazon informed us this afternoon that they have found a glitch in the payment system for publishers who are participating in the new program EC moved to in mid-July. (See ec_biz announcement of June 29, 2015.) They say this affects only the newer Amazon territories — Australia, Netherlands and India; all other territories are fine. Because Amazon’s software isn’t able to correctly generate payment information for this publishing program in those territories, the territories temporarily removed books from sale.

Amazon’s development team is investigating a workaround until they can make the needed software changes. Obviously everyone – Amazon and the publishers in this program and all authors – want to get the books available for sale again as quickly as possible in the affected territories. I feel confident Amazon is working hard on the problem. They will be giving us an update end of day tomorrow. We will let you know when the problem is resolved. In the meantime, you can certainly suggest readers purchase from the EC webstore (it’s then easy for them to convert the file onto their Kindle).

See what I mean about promoting buying from their own web store? When they’ve burned customers before by not restoring their books (like mine) after migrations? Where there’s no external audit information available for authors to discover in the case of hinky royalties? Yeah, no.

As far as Raelene’s statement goes, yes, Netherlands, Australia, and India are the three most recent Amazon stores. The next-most-recent is Mexico. However, I find it difficult to believe that Amazon would put a publisher contract in place if they didn’t have the means to use it with certain stores yet.

I’m not aware of any later statements on this topic by Ellora’s Cave, and it’s been going on for more than three weeks at this point.

Jaid Black’s Facebook Is Back…and then it’s not.

Jaid Black’s facebook page was back for a few days, then blipped back out, quite possibly to screencap posts for plaintiff’s filings.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

deirdre: (Default)

ellora's cave blog header

This was an interesting Google find that you can locate by searching on: USDOT Ellora’s Cave and clicking on the fmcsa.dot.gov 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.

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.

Originally published at deirdre.net. You can comment here or there.

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