Sunday, August 28, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday

The Set up
Detective Danielle Delacroiux just stepped out of the shower after a long day of investigating a murder. She races to answer the door before her nosy neighbor pokes her head out to find out who is ringing the bell in the middle of the night. With nothing but a towel and a handgun, she's more than shocked to discover the chief suspect standing at her door, holding her cell phone in his hand.

The Six

“Thanks, sugar, I’d love a glass of wine,” he said and headed to her small kitchen. He began to rummage around, getting glasses, a bottle of wine, and started looking for the corkscrew.

Dani raced after him, “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Getting my reward for returning your phone and I think a glass of wine is a small price to pay, don’t you?”

“I’m not giving you a glass of wine—” she broke off as he stepped close to her, backing her up against the counter and forcing her to look up to meet his gaze.

“If you have something else in mind to show your appreciation…” he trailed off suggestively.

Forbidden Love is available at Amazon and All Romance eBooks.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday

Last week's Six Second Sunday received so many comments, I thought we should look at how that little scene plays out. If you remember, KC got the best of Susan in a little verbal sparring match. Now she's having second thoughts, because the man she walked away with is also the Sheriff. 

If there's one thing KC doesn't do-it's cops.

The Six:

“Susan isn’t known for her gentleness around other women; around other things, yes, around other women, not so much,” Quinn added with a throaty growl.

“Oh really…what types of other things?” I asked sweetly, as if I cared. I didn’t care if he wanted to boff some woman old enough to be his…okay, maybe not his mother, but surely, she was old enough to be his older sister—much older sister.

I didn’t even like the muscle-bound Sheriff; although looking at him in his dark gray slacks, and form-fitting jade sweater, I had to admit he did clean up well.

“Oh, you know,” he said, lowering his head conspiratorially, “the things that make a man feel—”

“Excuse me Sheriff, I see my date,” I said and walked toward Jason, leaving Quinn hunched over, whispering to where my ear had been an instant before.

Read Sample or Buy at Amazon 

Read Sample or Buy at ARe


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Six Sentence Sunday

The Set up
Katherine "KC" Carmichael inherits the Honey House, a Bed and Breakfast that decides who will and won't be staying. This scene is early in the book, set at a party in the courtyard of the Honey House to welcome KC. Sheriff Quinn shows up with a pretty, but bitchy blonde Susan on his arm, which doesn't exactly thrill KC, since she's not overly fond of cops. Susan is introduced to KC, and immediately insults her by saying she finds nicknames rather juvenile. Why is it some women can never resist a challenge?

The Six
I looked up innocently and said, “Poor Quinn, I’m sure she didn’t mean it about your nickname.” Then I dragged him to the fire pit, well out of Susan’s reach.

He was shaking when I let loose of his arm, and I looked up expecting to see fury all over his face. Instead, he was struggling to keep his face composed; it was laughter making those big shoulders shake. With his back to Susan, he grinned, the first genuine show of anything directed at me, other than supreme irritation. “Okay, round one to you, Ms. Carmichael."

Read Sample or Buy at Amazon 

Read Sample or Buy at ARe

Friday, August 12, 2011

Happy Anniversary? Harner and Cobblestone Part Ways

A year ago, my first book, Whiteout, was published by Cobblestone Press. An hour ago I received my legal release from my contract. I spent the last few minutes removing all the cover art for those two books from my blog and Facebook pages, and contemplating if this was actually the end of this ugly chapter.

Unfortunately, it is not. I admit that I’m tempted to grab my rights and run, get working on editing and designing two new covers. That part is pretty exciting for me, and I am already pouring though Dan Skinner’s galleries, imagination running wild.

Before I can completely move on, there is still the lingering matter that I haven’t been paid for the books that have been sold. I have an email promise to pay me the missing $87.33 for the months of February through May, and statements that show the only place my books were sold was the Cobblestone Press website. On July 18, I did receive a much larger check that included sales on the All Romance eBooks site for the first quarter only. My books were not on the ARe site for the whole quarter, so I know I’d like to see the statement and the check from the second quarter and the first six weeks of the third quarter. I would also like to receive the royalties from the Fictionwise sales for those same periods.

And damn it, it’s not all about me…every Cobblestone author deserves to be treated with respect, receive timely communication from their publisher, and above all, be paid for the books they sell.

So, I will not go quietly grateful with my books clutched to my chest, and willing to leave my money behind. Cobblestone Press needs to make this right and pay all their authors the money that’s owed.

For those following this saga on my blog and on other sites listed below, you know a big area of contention is the lag or lack of putting the books up for sale at retailers, other than the publisher’s website. The Cobblestone Press website submissions FAQ section for authors considering publishing with them has the following information:

Q. Do you distribute your books to vendors?

A. Yes, we currently have contracts for distribution with Fictionwise, Barnes & Noble, All Romance eBooks, and Amazon Kindle.

Q. Why should I publish at Cobblestone Press?

A. We’re dedicated to producing quality. Everything about Cobblestone is designed to create a positive, creative, and attractive experience for both authors and readers. Our contracts are pro-author and demonstrate our dedication to the success of our authors while they are with us and beyond.

After all was said and done today regarding the agreement to return the book rights and pay me the money for the missing checks, one of the owners felt the need to make one last comment. Other than the legal notice, which was signed by an agent of the company, this is the final line of communication I received from Deanna Lee, one of the owners of Cobblestone-Press. I have copied the entire line, including her embedded signature.

Additionally, absolutely no where in our contract does it state when, where, or IF we will distribute books to other venues.
 All the best,
Deanna Lee, Publisher & Editor-In-Chief
Cobblestone Press, LLC

The emphasis is hers- I did not edit the word ‘IF’ for dramatic effect, she did. She is absolutely correct, I read through my entire contract and nowhere does it say they would sell it at any other retailer. 

Consider that statement and tell me why any author would sign a contract with Cobblestone Press ever again?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Cobblestone Updates

I’m Sensing a Pattern

In the world of e-commerce, there’s one tool that must be at your disposal: email.

Communications have been sketchy, at best between Cobblestone and its authors, and far more than email has been slow to come out of the publishing house. Recently, another author and I have taken the discussion public because of our extreme frustration with the business practices and lack of response from this e-publisher.

Now some are suggesting we should feel bad because one of the owners has claimed to be hit by a computer virus. I have no problem admitting when I’m wrong, really I don’t. But don’t you think that a pattern can sometimes indicate a deeper problem? This is at least the third documented extended email outage in the last six months.

Let’s think about this in terms of good business practices.

Let’s say you and a partner own a company, and 100% of your business is conducted through e-commerce. Email is the primary way your customers, your suppliers, and your secondary distribution outlets communicate with your company.

In my little scenario here, let’s further imagine one of the partners believes she may have a computer virus. Quick…what would you do?

A. Buy a cheap lap top and access my online storage files, then download the information I need from the secondary distributors. Business continues as usual after a day.

B. Partner Number 2 would take over the business communication until I was able to resume my usual duties.

C. Ignore my business obligations, and assume everyone will understand because it’s not my fault I have a computer virus.

Right, now, times up. How many of you picked answer C? That’s what I thought.

How many of you pay your bills online? Have a mortgage? An electric bill? Credit card bills? How long would any of your creditors allow you to skip payments because you have a computer virus?

Let’s be clear, I am not unsympathetic to anyone who picks up a virus, however, that cannot be an excuse to ignore your business obligations. A professionally run business has on obligation to develop and implement contingency plans in the case of natural or man-made disasters.

Having said all that…writers- run, don’t walk to back up your files to an external source. We can all learn from this experience.

Late Update

I just received an email from Cobblestone, indicating an agreement with my request that our contract be dissolved. It was very polite and professional, which I appreciate. I will update you as the status changes.. . ie, the books are removed from distribution, I'm paid the royalties for books sold, and a letter indicating that the rights have been returned is received.

New again, before I even hit post:  Rescued and Whiteout are no longer available on the publisher's website or at All Romance eBooks. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Unhappy Authors at Cobblestone Press

There’s no such thing as whistle blower protection for authors, unless it is the adage there’s safety in numbers.

Several weeks ago I asked a writer’s group I belong to about how to handle a situation I was experiencing with my publisher. Initially, I kept the identity of the publisher to myself, I was still in the ‘wait and see what happens mode.’ I didn’t hide the name when asked directly, I just wasn’t quite ready for a public confrontation.

Interestingly, several people said, “That sounds like my publisher,” and more often than not- it was! It seemed as if there were a lot of unhappy Cobblestone Press authors out there and I realized there was something very wrong at the publishing house. Authors reported that payments were late or missed, statements were late, the new releases web page has not been updated in weeks, and emails are going unanswered.

My own complaints against Cobblestone Press are business related, not personal. Authors have a right to expect payment for their books, a reasonable distribution to retailers, and to be marketed through a functional website and book reviews. Authors also have the right to question the business practices of their publishers.

My first book, Whiteout, was released on August 12, 2010. It wasn’t released to a secondary distributer until February, at Fictionwise, and January at All Romance eBooks, according to the dates listed on the websites of those retailers. Five months. And it has yet to be released on Amazon, as promised. In March my second book, Rescued, which had been released on the publisher’s website at the end of November, 2010 was also made available to Fictionwise and ARe.

Now, I have reason to believe my books did very well at Fictionwise, because Rescued made the best seller list in multiple categories. There are 75 readers who have taken the time to rate my books, and wonder of wonders, I even was listed on the “Best Selling Authors: Recent” list for several weeks. Why is that important? Because I have yet to receive a single payment for any book sold at Fictionwise. Not one. Fictionwise is not even listed on my statements as a source.

ARe pays their publishers 45 days after the end of the quarter. Royalties from January through March are paid approximately May 15th. I received payment for first quarter sales from ARe on July 18th. It was the first royalty check I received from Cobblestone since January 28th. Enough…you get the point.

So let’s back to the whistleblower protection and safety in numbers.

It is reported on the AW site and other places that Cobblestone Press tried to intimidate their authors in the past, but I wouldn't know about that. The ePub world has changed so much in the past 24 months, and authors are no longer dependent on the good graces of a single publishing house. There are a huge number of e-publishers just waiting for good books, not to mention the explosion of Indie Publishing.

As my own frustration level reached its peak, a mutual friend introduced me to Mercy Celeste on the very day she posted her first blog about her problems with Cobblestone Press. Not about to leave her hanging out there in the blogosphere without some support, I quickly chimed in to lend another voice, as have others, albeit anonymously.

Now, there are several blogs out there asking what’s going on with Cobblestone Press. I will post the links and you can decide for yourself. All authors deserve to get paid for their work. It is the reason we scour the Internet and send out copyright violation notices when we find pirated copies of our books or “sharing” sites. Taking books without paying for them is stealing. No matter who does it.

I am sure those involved would all have rather handled this situation less publicly. On August 2nd, I sent an email to Deanna Lee and Sable Grey at Cobblestone Press, requesting the electronic rights of my books be returned and that I be paid the royalties owed me. I have yet to receive any response, and yes, I have followed up with a second notice and a certified letter. The simplest way to keep such a discussion from going public is to honor your contractual and implied obligations, maintain impeccable records, and keep the lines of communication open through timely responses to emailed questions.

The power of the Internet and social networking is that none of us has to go up against any publishing house alone. If others are having similar problems, word will spread quickly. Mercy and I are not the only authors questioning the business practices at Cobblestone Press. It is my hope that other authors will be willing to join in and lend their support. You always have a voice here and at Mercy’s blog, even if you post anonymously.

My final thoughts on this for today are, you shouldn't have anything to lose by asking for your rights back early, if your publisher is in violation of the contract. Even if they have not completely violated the contract, once both parties lose faith in each other, what’s the point of continuing the pain? If the company is unwilling or unable to market a book effectively, why would they care if the author had the rights back early? Sales from a publishing house peak after 4-8 weeks. After that, no one's making any money if the book languishes on the publisher's website.

Want to know more? Visit the following websites:

Beg for Mercy- Mercy Celeste

Absolute Write

Erotic Romance

The Naughty Bits

I will continue to update the links list and the blog with any progress.

Hugs to all of you who have offered your support,