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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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