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
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,