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,



  1. Wow. Wish you all good luck and victory in your efforts to get your books back and get paid. Disgusting to cheat authors, who make so little on their books to begin with.

  2. Editors and Predators website has done a good job in the past of red lighting questionable agents/editors. With the boom in epub and indy pubs I haven't noticed if they've expanded into that market or not.

    I'm making the suggestion to talk with someone there as they have been a bit hitter in the past.

    Thanks for your courage to post your experience.

  3. Wow, and they've been around for a long while. I hope you get your money and they give you your rights back.

  4. I am not a writer but the wife of one. This is something that could have been avoided by the publisher. Open communication and mutual respect have disappeared in this situation. The publishers lack of response speaks volumes! All that have wronged deserve what is owed them and the rights to their books back!

    My thoughts will be with you


  5. Thanks everyone. Alexx, you are so right. Had Mercy or I been responded to, our questions and concerns taken seriously, this never would have happened.

    Eden, I'll look again at P&E but the information seemed pretty dated, and I couldn't easily find a way to talk to anyone there. I am keeping Absolute Write Beware section updated.

  6. That truly stinks! I am so sorry. It's hard to know who to trust and who not to. With so many new epubs popping up (even ones with the best intentions)the opportunity for disaster increases.

  7. Wow! I had been thinking about subbing to them at one time. I'm so glad I didn't. I wish you all the best!

  8. Wow, that is truly a concern of mine with any publisher. All of mine have been awesome but I am grateful you are letting us know about this one.

    Good luck in getting everything you deserve!

  9. Good job Laura and thanks for standing with me. My issues with Cobblestone as of August 9, 2011 are minor. 1. No answers to email queries during the editing and release process of my two books. In which several small issues could have been resolved. and 2. Not listing my books with any outside distributor in a timely fashion. My March release was listed with both Fictionwise and ARe in mid-July. My April release was listed with ARe in mid-July and Fictionwise just yesterday August 8. Neither book is listed with Barnes and Noble or Amazon as of this writing. These four distributors are on their forums site as who they list with. Just when they get good and ready if ever.

    As of right now I have been paid each month. I have not received a statement for the month of August. I have read that an email was sent out on the first that their computer was hit with a massive virus and statements would be delayed. I did not receive this email.

    And really who keeps all of their business documents on one computer? Even if that one computer is infested you should have back up sites so that you don't lose all of your information. I'd be a fool to have just one copy of my manuscripts. I back those puppies up religiously.

    And that's my story. It will not change.

    Mercy Celeste

  10. Laura, this is a very disturbing and frustrating experience to read about. I took back my rights on my first two books. The ownership was changing hands and the new owner did not have a focus on eBooks or erotic romances. I didn't see the benefit to my career or sales to keep them there. While not a contract violation, certainly my books didn't fit with those they were seeking. I know you don't take this lightly.

    One last thing - I don't recommend ANYONE to market their books at Fictionwise. They are at least 6 months behind in their payments and there have been numerous complaints about them. Steer clear of them if anyone is planning to self-pub.

    Good luck.

  11. I'm so sorry to hear you've been having problems, Laura. It is a timely reminded for me to do my homework when selecting publishers.

  12. As of this evening (8/10), there is a new email from Deanna Lee, describing ongoing problems caused By a computer virus. I sincerely hope this is the perfectly ordinary explanation for all the recent silence, in which case, some of us will want to offer apologies for jumping to frustrated conclusions. In return they will, I hope, offer apologies for not utilizing other chanels to keep in touch. They will still have to address other issues that have surfaced here and elsewhere. I do sincerely hope this will be the case.

  13. Can anyone here confirm for me whether or not Cobblestone will send out a monthly statement even if the sales for the month are zero? I ask, because I got an email telling me that statements have gone out, but I did not receive a statement. It's quite reasonable that I might have received zero sales, but I can't find anything in my contract or elsewhere that states what happens in that case, nor have I received replies to two inquiries to Admin@.

  14. Please, anyone? I can't even tell if I'm asking too frequently (3 emails in 9 days) but I can't understand what's taking them so long to provide a very simple answer that would take all of 10 seconds to type.

  15. Yeah, I'm beginning to wonder about CP myself. I got a reversion of rights letter for a book and found out that 8 months later, as I got a contract offer for the revised and expanded version, that CP still has it up for sale on their site. WTH? I emailed twice, got one response that they'd take care of it and close to a week later, the book is still for sale on their site. Grrr...seems to me that I'm entitled to 100% of any sales accrued since March, since that is when the contract was terminated. Yeah, good luck getting that.

  16. Well, the good news is, I got my royalties payment yesterday. The bad news is, I never did get a response to my emails to C.P., asking why I did not receive a monthly report. So, I don't know where these sales took place. It's a (relatively) large amount (for me), so I assume it's somewhere that pays quarterly - ARE, maybe?

  17. I have published two titles with Cobblestone Press, the first in October. It is still not available on Amazon. It did go up on All Romance in Dec and Fictionwise in January, and I understand I won't receive any royalties for those for a while, as they pay quarterly. I sent three emails to Deanna Lee asking about a release date for Amazon. I finally had to facebook stalk Sable Grey and received a response from Deanna telling me that my emails had been routed to her junk folder, which I find questionable. She also stated that due to issues with nonpayment by amazon, that they had stopped posting there for some time. But with the new account manager at Amazon had resumed posting titles there and were doing it in order of publication date and had a six month back log they were working through. However, some of the titles that I have seen uploaded to Amazon were titles that were released at the same time mine was. Also, when they did their Twelve Days of Christmas promo, those titles went up on the very day they were released at CP. I just feel that information is not shared appropriately and when it is shared, it is questionable. Will not submit another title to CP. Looking for a new publisher or considering self-publishing at this point.