Home » Legal Stuff, Romance » Digital publisher Ellora’s Cave sues Dear Author blog for reporting on its financial troubles

Digital publisher Ellora’s Cave sues Dear Author blog for reporting on its financial troubles

30 September 2014

From Gigaom:

To those who follow the digital romance publishing world, it’s not exactly a secret that digital publisher Ellora’s Cave is struggling. But now the company is suing a leading romance blogger who wrote about the problems it was having.

Ellora’s Cave, launched in 2000, was a very early player in romance ebook sales and for a time was highly successful, selling romance and erotica titles that mainstream publishers had ignored to a passionate audience of female readers. Then things began falling apart, sales decreased and authors started going unpaid.

Dear Author, a romance blog that also covers a variety of digital publishing issues,reported thoroughly on Ellora’s Cave’s troubles earlier this month, citing tax violations by Tina Engler, the company’s founder, and reporting further on delayed or missing author payments. Dear Author also published an email that Ellora’s Cave sent to its authors in which it described a “quick, sharp decline of ebook sales via Amazon in recent months.”

. . . .

Litte, who is also a lawyer, plans to fight the lawsuit and tweeted Monday that she’s hired Marc Randazza, an attorney who specializes in the First Amendment and also played a key role in bringing down patent troll Righthaven.

Link to the rest at Gigaom

Legal Stuff, Romance

58 Comments to “Digital publisher Ellora’s Cave sues Dear Author blog for reporting on its financial troubles”

  1. I feel so sick for the authors caught up in this. I just had a friend sign a three book deal last year, not to mention the ones who’ve already been published with them. What do you do? SMH

    • deedawwning@yahoo.com

      What’s bad is EC started issuing contracts with no expiration dates. That makes their new contracts a lifetime contract. Once upon a time EC was the place all authors wanted to write for, but when I saw that I never submitted there again

  2. As a result of this action, a number of sites have said they will no longer review or promote EC titles. Once again, the authors are getting royally screwed. Lucky for them, I’m sure Authors United will take up the banner and send a strong letter – maybe without typos this time – in defense of these authors. Then the Authors Guild can step up and say something about authors not getting their royalties.

    Wait…….never mind……

  3. The elephant in the room is Amazon! Many more indies pubs will fall.

    • Please elaborate. I feel like arguing.

      Edit to your edit: Amazon has made it a lot easier for indie publishers to compete with the bigger traditional houses. So what’s your point?

      • I assume you’re an indie author with Amazon

        • Yes, yes you do. And you might even be right. Now would you mind answering the actual question?

        • Is there an indie author that doesn’t publish with Amazon?

          Waitasec, guys. You’ll never believe who has an Amazon profile.

          • An author I know self-published her stuff everywhere but Amazon. I find it counterintuitive, but I’m interested to see how it works out for her.

            • deedawwning@yahoo.com

              It works. I’m on ARe, B&N, Apple & Google Play and until recently I made more from that combination than Amazon, but I’ve also ignored them in order build up Amazon.

          • http://www.amazon.com/Dee-Dawning/e/B002DBLFUI/

            You mean her? Little Miss Example?

          • I’m not going to discuss it. Use your eyes and mind. What are Amazon’s policies designed to do?

            • Well, that went nowhere. Makes me long for a DBD appearance.

              • Just give her a troll hug, Dan.

                P.S. We miss you around here. Hope the writing’s going good!

              • deedawwning@yahoo.com

                Sorry Dan, I didn’t mean to sound glib, but I have 150 books up on Amazon, so I don’t want to sound off about Amazon. I am a little dismayed by the disrespectful comments about Ellora’s Cave. It’s obvious no one really knows the impact they had on the business they’re in. One could make case that they were the Mother of eBooks.

                When I got in the business in 2005 they’d been in the business six or seven years they were the first and the ultimate ePublisher. There were other start-ups too, a few of which failed but most did well until Amazon started competing with them. Several have failed since and like I said it’s just a matter of time before most of them go under. Think of Wal Mart and the mom & pop stores.

                Amazon doesn’t pay anything to pub your books but EC and others with editing, covers isbn’s etc could spend up to $500 to $1000 to get a relatively long ms ready before they sell one copy. And that doesn’t count overhead. Then think about how they’re competing with thousands of new free books each day and probably over a 500 thousand $.99 books. Think about how many books at 20cents they would have to sell to stay competitive and break even.

                As for Dear Author, they are knowledgeable and clever, but they are also Snarky as is their readership. Smart Bitches is the same way. When they get you in their sites it’s like a cat playing with a mouse.

                That’s about all I’ll say for now, but if you have a question I’ll try to answer on my own terms. deedawning@yahoo.com

                • Is not Amazon who was and is competing with EC, but other small presses and self-publishers. Or are you blaming Amazon for enabling self-publishers and other small presses to sell their books via their site?

                  I believe that the way EC behaved toward their staff and authors they deserve all disrespectful and shaming that comes their way and then some. You reap what you sow.

                • Nothing you said makes any sense. How exactly has EC behaved to their staff & authors. I don’t how do you?

                  In the last four months two other epubs Red Rose and Silver went out of business. You are naive if you think other epubs knocked them out. Yes they place their books on Amazon, but they can’t drop their prices to match the competition and survive.

                • Who is the competition?

                • Amazon is not your competition, except in a case when you are competing directly with Amazon’s imprints. EC isn’t competing with Amazon’s imprints, but with the small presses and self-publishers that are using Amazon’s platform. So, I will ask you again: Are you blaming Amazon for enabling self-publishers and other small presses to sell their low priced e-books via their site? I don’t understand why is so hard to get it that Amazon isn’t the owner of those low priced e-books. Amazon isn’t the one who uploads them on their platform. Self-publishers and small press are. So, I will repeat it again: Amazon is not your competition, but people using it’s platform are. When you say that Amazon is ruining publishers, the truth is, the free market enabled by Amazon and their disability to compete, are the one ruining them.

                  Apparently you haven’t heard about any of the authors that haven’t been paid, or the editors. Or heard about their refusal to open their book to the court even when they are the one suing (which is really telling). Or maybe you think that it’s okay not to pay your employees and business partners and that when a store goes the way of dodo, suppliers should provide their ware to it for free, since the store was kind enough to offer their items for sale? Or that employees should work for company for free, since the company was kind enough to give them employment, and they even got paid until recently.
                  I, personally, believe that eight months of not-payment as is the case with EC is far too long,and I wish that authors would have spoken sooner. If you don’t agree, nobody is stopping your from giving your work for free to either publishers or your employer, just don’t expect that from others.

                • deedawwning@yahoo.com

                  Of course they’ll let them on Amazon. Amazon will let anyone on. Even people that can’t write a lick. That’s why Amazon went from 1 mil ebooks to over 2 mil in less than 2 years. But being on Amazon doesn’t mean you make enough to pay authors and overhead. Especially when you have to give away a couple thousand books to get visibility to sell, if you’re lucky, a hundred or two. And in order to do that you have to sell only at Amazon.

                  That doesn’t mean there aren’t very successful authors on Amazon. I call them the 1%.

                  Amazon knows what it’s doing. I’m just not sure it’s good for all the authors.

                • Aha. Now we get to the heart of the matter. “Authors and overhead.”

                  Either the overhead pays for services which enhance sales of books or it does not. If it does, the enhanced sales should more than cover the cost of the overhead. If it doesn’t, the overhead is literally wasted money which could be better spent in some other way.

                  Publishers are middlemen. Period, dot. Middlemen must contribute value to the transaction if they expect to remain part of it. Either their editing, cover art, promotional efforts, etc, produce sales sufficient to cover both the overhead costs and the agreed recompense to the author, or they do not. If they don’t, that is not Amazon’s fault: it is the publisher’s fault. They have failed in their mission, they have added insufficient value to the transaction, and they deserve to go out of business. At that point they are not value-enhancers: they are rent-seekers. I despise rent-seekers.

                  There are small publishers and publisher-like-entities which are doing good business. It can be done. If it can be done and you aren’t doing it, it’s you who are the problem. To quote a famous prophet, “I suggest that you go sell shoes.”

                • You say Amazon doesn’t pay anything to pub our books, but that’s the wrong party. The indie author pays for the cover and manuscript editing, nevermind the time they spent writing the book. I’m sure some indie authors slap up unedited manuscripts and terrible covers, but indie authors that are treating their writing as a business generally do not. That is the group that is eating EC’s lunch–not Amazon.

                • deedawwning@yahoo.com

                  Hello Josh, Of course you’re welcome to your views, but I don’t agree. Besides EC books are some of the randiest and most popular in the erotic romance business. No indie authors are knocking them out of the box. Amazon’s policies can be a killer. In fact I think even Amazon thinks so. They used to price match five to ten free books of mine at a time, but now the only do one at a time. The countdown deal is another sign they’re trying to get away from the freebie mania.

                • I appreciate the response. I’m not familiar with EC’s history, but it’s not exactly relevant here. What is relevant is that, not only have they stopped paying authors, but they’re suing a blog for reporting what was already public.

                • deedawwning@yahoo.com

                  Have you noticed the tone of the comments? I for one don’t believe in kicking someone when they’re down:)

                • Wait a minute…Who are the respective kickers and kickees in this?

                  EC is the party bringing the suit. Dear Author is the party on the defensive. If, as EC alleges, the company is in fine fettle, how can you characterize it as being “someone when they’re down?” Can EC be both the victim and the aggressor?

                • You pled ignorant to Elka’s statement above. You must be the only one getting paid, then. Your colleagues aren’t. Here you go, a handy list. If you’re scared to go to the link, here are the first five names on the list of Ellora’s Cave writers who are either not getting paid, or getting post-dated checks, or are fighting to get their books back —

                  1. Cat Grant
                  2. Kit Tunstall
                  3. Evanne Lorraine
                  4. Avril Ashton
                  5. Jan Springer

                  There are 14 more at the link. Those are just the writers. Editors and cover artists have weighed in, too.

                  Also at the link is Courtney Milan’s advice for them to report Ellora to the RWA. Do you think she was wrong? Should it have been Amazon they lodged a complaint about? Was it Amazon that forced Ellora to price their books higher than all the competitiors? Did Amazon file something to prevent Ellora from paying its authors? If the answer is yes, links or it didn’t happen.

                • I’m very sensitive when people in publishing to down the truck-guy are getting a living-wage, but authors, the content providers without who publishing can’t exist, were advised to keep their day job. And now when authors are finally able to bypass the middleman and get their stories directly to readers, and make more than 15% per book, I’m reading these comments (your, the ones coming from AU, …) that imply that publishing companies are entitled little snowflakes for which the free market shouldn’t apply. So, the tone might bother you, but know, that regarding the above and the irritation it cases me (and probably others) the tone is still very polite.

                • In the words of the great philosopher J. Jackson, “What have you done for me lately?”

              • Will I do? Oh, no…never mind.

      • Maybe DBD assumed a new identity.

      • Well, Dan, clearly Mr. Bezos sends his drones to Ms. Engler’s home at night and hypnotizes her into jacking up prices. You don’t even want to know what he’s making her blow the revenues on. He even has her on a steady diet of deep-fried, batter-dipped forest gnomes.
        Those Bezelbots have built in mind control gear, y’see…

      • “Please elaborate. I feel like arguing” — I want that on a t-shirt because it’s my usual attitude toward everything.

    • If indie pubs don’t know how to compete or handle money, then yes, they will fall.

      There is some indication that Ellora’s Cave was up to money shenanigans for a long time, but they were making enough that few people noticed. When sales dropped the house of cards started falling.

  4. This lawsuit is irrational.

  5. How to Wreck a Publishing Company in 7 Easy Steps
    Step 1: Over-price your ebooks.
    Step 2: When indie authors offer similar books at lower prices, fail to change your business model in any way.
    Step 3: Blame Amazon for all your troubles.
    Step 4: Try to get your authors riled up against Amazon.
    Step 5: Whine to the media.
    Step 6: Sue somebody. Or maybe try to get the DOJ involved.
    Step 7: Go out of business.

    Hmm, are any large publishers currently following this same game plan?

    • You left out the step about looting the company.

    • It’s a Stonecutter’s plot. I guarantee it,

      http://www.hulu.com/watch/1183

    • Pretty much this. So sad for the authors involved. In order to avoid this, companies need to see that their world changed overnight and they need to change with it.

      For the big publishers, that would have meant realizing, 10 years ago, that they don’t need to be in NY to conduct business. Slash costs, pay authors more (drawing in more talent) and charge less for their works and stop windowing (attracting more customers) and then build a lead against the competition (instead of colluding with them to screw both readers and writers) and see if anyone can catch up.

    • You forgot the epilogue: Open a new publishing company.

    • You also forgot Step 7: tie up authors’ rights so they can’t get the titles free until the Second Coming, if not later than that.

  6. An attorney specializing in First Amendment rights. This is going to be good. I hope it goes all the way to trial and some good case law gets written re: blogging.

    I confess I don’t know much about the Ohio courts or the sixth circuit though, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it all plays out. There are few things more fun than reading a judge who is annoyed with the idiocy of it all. 🙂

  7. There are few things more fun than reading a judge who is annoyed with the idiocy of it all.

    Agreed. For fun, I’m picturing Judge Judy as that judge. Ellora’s Cave has got it coming.

  8. Just saw that DA needs testimonies

    http://dearauthor.com/misc/elloras-cave-v-dear-author-update/

    (Full copy)

    Today there was a temporary injunction hearing. During the hearing the judge did not grant the injunction, but did request that we come back for a more thorough hearing, where we would be able to provide evidence in our defense.

    Truth is an absolute defense to defamation.

    Therefore, If you are willing, I need help with the following:

    Individual authors, editors, cover artists willing to testify, either in person, via telephone or in an affidavit to payments made/not made.

    It would be best if you could testify in person, but a sworn written statement will be adequate.

    Additionally, if you have any Screenshots of any public statements regarding Ellora’s Cave, those would be helpful too.

    You can reach me at jane@dearauthor.com.

    • Thanks for the update, TheSFReader! Sounds like this may die on a summary judgment, which is good for Jane, but will probably make Tina Engler’s decisions regarding EC more erratic.

  9. She’s got Marc Randazza on her side? The guy that nuked the notorious copyright troll, Righthaven, back into the Stone Age?

    Guys, this is going to be the most hilariously one-sided legal battle we have ever seen. Start making popcorn now, because you’re not gonna want to miss a second of it.

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