The mysterious case of the missing royalty checks from Ellora’s Cave

18 September 2014

From author Evanne Lorraine:

Three years ago Ellora’s Cave contracted Warriors’ Woman and I was thrilled. They went on to publish two more of my books. I loved my editor, thought their cover art was brilliant and was very fond of the regular royalty checks.

Yesterday I deleted those covers from my website., which makes me want to sob.

I still adore those stories, but Ellora’s Cave isn’t paying me. I sent them formal notice requesting payment and the reversion of my rights. I received an automated response to both emails stating they’re overwhelmed with requests.

. . . .

Please don’t buy my Ellora’s Cave titles.

Link to the rest at Evanne Lorraine

Ellora’s Cave

16 September 2014

From author Lynne Connolly:

This is just to state my case. I’m not asking anyone to do anything or to help me, just so people are aware of where I stand in this.

As some of you know I was involved in a similar case years ago. Triskelion went bankrupt and took around 70 authors with it. Ellora’s Cave authors number in the hundreds. This is much bigger, and could potentially be nastier. If management turns the situation around, then I will be the first to applaud them, but I cannot agree with some of the methods they are employing to do that.

I joined Ellora’s Cave in 2007 and for most years since earned good money and was treated well by them. I enjoyed my time there because I was never asked to be “one of the family,” they paid on time, the cover art was lovely, and the editing was rigorous, but excellent.

This year my royalties plummeted so alarmingly that I had to make some serious decisions about working with the publisher. Also, the quality of the cover art is way down, since they fired the artistic directors earlier in the year. The prices of the books are way above the prices any of my other publishers charge.

. . . .

Now things have changed and I’ve been forced to ask for my rights back. I have 19 published books with EC. Two unpublished manuscripts are in the editing queue and have been for over twelve months. I’ve had a response on the two unpublished ones. A form response on the others.

No, I can’t have my rights back on those two. If I don’t cooperate with the editing, Ellora’s Cave will exercise its contractual right to edit and publish the books anyway. If those books do come out, I will make a statement to say I had nothing to do with the editing and the books are released without my cooperation. After that, it’s up to the reader to decide.

By “editing,” they mean “light editing.” The editors are not even allowed to alter spelling mistakes, because that would be changing the “author’s voice.” So a worse-than-spellcheck scenario.

Link to the rest at Lynne Connolly

The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave

14 September 2014

From Dear Author:

Long before there was the Kindle, long before self publishing, long before the emergence of Fifty Shades, a digital first publisher by the name of Ellora’s Cave began to deliver sexy reads that would transform the face of romance publishing. Ellora’s Cave was established in 2000 as an outlet for Tina Engler to publish books with heavy sexy content that were romantic in nature. Because there was no “ebook” in the late 1990s, Engler would create PDFs and email them to reader who sent her money via paypal. In 2000, EC was established and soon thereafter, it would become a powerhouse selling hundreds of thousands of ebooks a year in a world where ebooks did not exist for the most part.

. . . .

As Ellora’s Cave began to flourish, arguments began to spring up about its legitimacy. There was row after online row about whether digital publishing was a legitimate career path. The Romance Writer’s of America (RWA) denounced it and refused to acknowledge digitally published authors in its Published Author Network or for its awards. In fact, it wasn’t until 2012 when a digital first book won the organization’s RITA award. (Fiona Lowe’s Boomerang Bride from Carina Press).

. . . .

As the world began to catch on to digital books and the Kindle was launched creating a second wave ebook revolution, Ellora’s Cave seemed poised to launch itself into publishing super stardom. It had thousands of backlist titles and it had launched many of the bestselling authors today–Bella Andre, Lora Leigh, Christine Warren, Beth Kery, Lauren Dane, Jaci Burton, to name a few.

Yet something strange happened. Growth stagnated. In 2010, it was revealed that EC’s revenues were $5 million but a reported $6.7 million in 2006. How on earth was a digital publisher’s income declining in the biggest boom period of digital books? (This was before self publishing took off).

Word of Ms. Engler’s increasingly erratic behavior surfaced on odd places on the internet and then came the lawsuits. In 2008, former employee Christina Brashears filed suit for unpaid monies against EC. EC countersued. Brashears, Publisher and Chief Operating Officer, left and formed Samhain. Bad blood existed which culminated with EC agreeing to a settlement of undisclosed amount. The damages were alleged to be in the high six figures to low seven figures. EC’s behavior during this lawsuit was so egregious, the judge commented on it in his ruling ordering damages to be paid to Brashears. In 2009, EC filed suit against Borders accusing them of illegal business practices. The suit went nowhere.

In the Brashears lawsuit, EC was accused of inappropriately diverting funds to Tina Engler through overpayment of rent. In 2009, the prevailing market rent for the space EC was occupying in Akron Ohio was around $40K but EC was paying Engler close to $100K per month. EC was providing loans to various officers at no interest and there was no indication those loans were ever repaid.

At the same time, court records showed repeated tax violations by Engler and Jasmine Jade Enterprises. Since 2009, Engler has had a tax lien filed against her by Ohio Department of Taxation in every year except 2010.

. . . .

Many authors and other workers associated with the production of EC books are afraid to speak out. They email me and DM me from made up accounts and beg for secrecy. They speak of a vindictive company who will be unafraid to retaliate and many of them who are owed several thousands of dollars fear that the money may never be paid to them should any outward showing of non allegiance be discovered.

But the problems within Ellora’s Cave are deep and broad and should be brought into the light of day, not only for those existing authors and creators but for future ones.

. . . .

A report from Ohio business record places Ellora’s Cave revenues at $15 million last year. So why is it that tax liens go unpaid as well as the salaries or royalties of creative individuals? It is unknown but it sounds like the money is being mismanaged at best and improperly diverted at worst.

What’s the result? Many people believe that EC will close its doors before the summer is over but at least by the end of the year. If it enters bankruptcy, author’s intellectual property rights are part of the estate and can be sold off to the highest bidder.  It could wind down and revert the rights back but it’s doubtful that will happen.

Link to the rest at Dear Author and thanks to India for the tip.

Asking for an unusual favor… #ellorascave #problems #royalties #writerbeware

12 September 2014

From author Cat Grant:

This is a very strange – and very sad – post to write. Usually I’m on here telling you all about my upcoming books and conference appearances, but today I need to talk about something else. Something that’s happening to me and a lot of other authors. Not many of us have spoken out for fear of being perceived as whiners or just plain unprofessional. But frankly, the way we all have been treated by a certain publisher goes so far beyond unprofessional, I simply have to say something.

Last month Ellora’s Cave sent out a letter to all their authors letting us know what’s been going on at the company this year. It’s basically a long, rambling diatribe on about how Amazon’s screwed them over (join the club!) so we should send our fans to buy direct from EC’s website.

. . . .

The royalty problems have been going on (for me, at least) for well over a year. The excuse they’re still using for paying slowly (and in some cases, not paying at all) is that they had a new accounting system installed last December. Eight months ago, people.

. . . .

I’m nowhere near as bad off as some authors – I only pubbed four books with EC.

. . . .

So, here’s where I ask for a favor…

Don’t buy my Ellora’s Cave books.

They still have the rights to my Icon Men trilogy – The First Real Thing, Appearing Nightly & A Fool for You. I want these books back. They’ve sold next to nothing over the past year, yet EC refuses to return them to me. So don’t buy them.

Link to the rest at Cat Grant and thanks to Kristen for the tip.

On #RoyaltyWatch

11 September 2014

From author Avril Ashton:

It’s that time again, when I’m searching high and low for my check.

Here’s the thing: Most will ask why I gotta talk about it. Why I gotta take it outside the office, put the business all up in the streets. I’d like to ask those same authors how their rents got paid this month. Because you see mine? Hasn’t been paid yet.

I’d like to ask them what they told the gas company and the light company when they called looking for their money? Do you think they’ll accept the excuse “my publisher hasn’t paid me yet, but it’s all good, cause I know they’re good for it. So I’m good for it.” Yeah?

This isn’t gonna be one of them keep quiet and toe the line type of joints. I’m going to say that once again Ellora’s Cave isn’t paying royalty checks.

. . . .

I do not give a damn about saving face. It ain’t my face that needs saving. I don’t care about burning bridges. The instant you stopped paying me you burned that bridge, I’m just here sweeping the ashes to the side. I don’t get why NO ONE seems willing to say that Ellora’s Cave is holding their money hostage. Why. Because they’re big and bad and it’s just little old us so they can come after us? It’s not a lie if it’s true. It’s not slander if it’s true.

Link to the rest at Avril Ashton and thanks to India for the tip.

Ellora’s Cave CEO Confirms Amazon Sales Drop

25 August 2014

From Publishers Weekly:

Ellora’s Cave CEO Patty Marks confirmed the house is downsizing in the wake of what she described as “drastic’ and unexplained declines in its e-book sales via Amazon. Marks confirmed the layoffs of freelance editors, and said the house continues to have discussion with Amazon to find the cause of the sales dropoff.

Marks sent a letter to Ellora’s Cave authors about the major sales dip, and the note was then re-posted online. Marks said Ellora’s Cave sales via Amazon have dropped by as much as 75%.

. . . .

According to Marks, the issue is likely related to a change in Amazon’s search algorithm. Many of Ellora’s Cave’s bestselling authors and titles simply don’t show up in the Amazon search engine anymore.

. . . .

Marks also wanted to emphasize that Ellora’s Cave is paying all royalties on time and, contrary to some rumors, is not considering bankruptcy.

. . . .

“Sales have dropped before, but not like this,” Marks elaborated. “It’s been a drain.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Josie for the tip.

‘New adult’ earns shelf space in bookstores

25 August 2014

From The Globe and Mail:

Author Kathleen Tucker had self-published three young-adult romances when she decided to try her hand at something aimed at a slightly older audience – with more sexually explicit content.

The results were better than anything she expected. A month after she self-published her novel Ten Tiny Breaths online in October, 2012, Ms. Tucker, based in Stouffville, Ont., had raked in more than $50,000 and sold more copies in a day than her three previous books had in a month combined.

. . . .

Since then, countless authors have followed the same route, taking advantage of a new and growing genre of literature aimed at primarily female readers between 18 and 25. Known as “new adult,” the genre features mainly university or college-aged protagonists dealing with early twenties life, in particular romance and sexual relationships.

The segment of the book-buying market is hard to quantify as the wider industry has been slow to embrace the genre and the bulk of sales are made online. But a recent report by author and publishing data website found that self-published books make up as much as 25 per cent of Amazon’s bestseller lists. The overwhelming majority of those were in the romance genre, many of which were new adult titles.

. . . .

It’s a far cry from new adult’s early days, when Ms. Tucker says friends tried to pitch ideas but received little attention. The genre was too new, she added, and many agents felt it was too soon to take the risk.

But mainstream publishers started to embrace the genre in 2012 after self-published new adult titles, such as Ms. Hoover’s Slammed, shot to the top of bestseller lists, proving that the success of Fifty Shades a year earlier wasn’t a one-off.

. . . .

Margo Lipschultz, senior editor at Harlequin Enterprises Ltd., said that although new adult titles have made their way onto tables and featured spaces at the end of aisles, few retailers have gone so far as providing the genre with its own shelf space.

“I think they find the term a little confusing or not specific enough to capture a large readership,” she said, adding that Harlequin has been focusing resources on the genre after observing its digital sales success.

. . . .

“The thing is in … convincing booksellers that it’s not just a fad, it really does exist,” says Judith Curr, publisher and president of Atria. “They haven’t really seen people coming into the bookstores and asking for the books perhaps. Whenever it’s a new area, they ask, ‘If I really am going to dedicate shelf space to a new area, what am I going to take it from?’

Link to the rest at The Globe and Mail and thanks to Dale for the tip.

Ellora’s Cave Cuts Staff, Blames Big Amazon Sales Drop

23 August 2014

From Publishers Weekly:

Ellora’s Cave, the digital-first erotic romance publisher, has laid off both freelance and full-time staff, according to a note sent to its authors by the company CEO blaming the need for cuts on a “sharp decline of e-book sales via Amazon in recent months.”

In a letter sent to authors that was later reposted online, Ellora’s Cave CEO Patty Marks says she has been forced to “cut staff, special EC projects and other expenses.” Mark calls the drop in EC e-book sales via Amazon, “drastic,” and says it has “resulted in large net short-term variable production losses and negative return on investment on almost every new book we publish.”

Marks has not responded to efforts from PW to contact her for comment. This is the latest indication of problems at EC. In May of this year the house addressed complaints of delayed royalty payments, blaming the problems on new accounting software.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Hollywood Is Working Hard to Make You Cry

22 August 2014

From The Wall Street Journal:

These are happy days for people who like to cry at movies.

Opening this weekend is “If I Stay,” about a cello-playing teenager who falls into a coma after a car accident. In the hospital, Mia (Chloë Grace Moretz) has flashbacks about winning the heart of Adam (Jamie Blackley), a super-cool boy given to impossibly romantic lines.

At one point, timid Mia goes to a party dressed like punk-rocker Deborah Harry in hopes that Adam, who plays in a band, will like her more. It’s hard not to choke up when he tells her that the clothes don’t matter: “Don’t you get it? The you you are now is the same you I was in love with yesterday, the same you I’ll be in love with tomorrow.”

. . . .

Over the summer, viewers teared up at “The Fault in Our Stars,” the story of terminally ill teenagers Hazel and Gus (Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort). “Fault,” which opened in June, has brought in $124 million in the U.S., making it the highest-earning teen-romance flick not powered by vampires.

“I have people coming up to me on the street and crying,” Mr. Elgort says. The 20-year-old actor is following up his role of star-crossed lover in “Fault” by playing an anxious teenager in “Men, Women & Children.”

. . . .

Audiences love tearjerkers, but why? How do they work? Horror movies have their clichéd “jump scares” that can get us every time—the demonic face in the bathroom mirror, the knife-wielding maniac suddenly in the doorway. Tearjerkers have triggers, too, but they are more complex, wrapped up in how characters make us feel, with their awkward attempts to connect with each other, their bravery and fears, regrets and unspoken burdens. Other hot-button themes are faith redeemed, struggles rewarded and love requited.

. . . .

Crafting a scene that touches emotions is “not about putting the sugar in the sauce. It’s about every ingredient and decision that you make,” says R.J. Cutler, who directed “If I Stay.” The movie, like “The Fault in Our Stars,” was adapted from a young-adult novel. Before shooting “If I Stay,” Mr. Cutler says, “I read the book again to identify the moments that moved me, and I made a list of those moments.”

. . . .

One such moment unfolds when Mia’s normally stoic and critical grandfather breaks down at the comatose girl’s bedside, saying how proud he is of her. It works, Mr. Cutler says, thanks to a mix of story context, dialogue and the casting of Stacy Keach in the role of Gramps. All those factors help the viewer relate and feel moved.

“The power of the emotion comes from the fact that Gramps is fighting the emotion as much as possible,” the director says. “We know Gramps, in the parenting of his own child, was unable to connect emotionally. Not a man of many words. You want to cast a man for whom that seems to be true.”

Then technique comes in. “Part of the strength of the scene is that there’s no music in it,” Mr. Cutler says. “What the moment needed was no embellishment. And there’s a camera movement that is done there and nowhere else in the film, which is this extremely slow push in that gets tighter than we are pretty much in any other moment—a sustained, single shot that pushes in on Gramps to a very tight close-up.”

That shot with no cuts builds the tension and the reality—the audience doesn’t get a break.

. . . .

Mr. Levy says it is crucial not to overdo the sentimentality. “I remember as a theater student at Yale, the teacher once said if you cry for yourself too much the audience won’t cry for you,” he says. “The character can’t be too self-pitying because then we don’t pity that character. That character is doing our job for us.”

. . . .

In emotion-research labs, one clip that has become standard is the death scene in the 1979 boxing film “The Champ,” a remake of the 1931 movie. A young Ricky Schroder weeps inconsolably over the body of his father Jon Voight, wailing “Wake up, Champ!” Viewers cry, too. The film has been cited in hundreds of scientific papers.

Scholars also have studied why some scenes strike a chord with women and others affect men more. In “Sleepless in Seattle,” Rita Wilson gets misty describing “An Affair to Remember,” while Tom Hanks counters that he cried at the end of “The Dirty Dozen.” Mary Beth Oliver, a Penn State professor who has studied tearjerkers, asked students to propose movie ideas designed to make men cry. “There were a lot of father-son kind of things,” she says. “There were a lot of athletes. There were a lot of war films.”

When asked which films choke them up, many men cite depictions of against-the-odds valor or understated affection, like “Rudy,” “Brian’s Song” and “Saving Private Ryan.” Women name relationship dramas like “Steel Magnolias” or “Beaches” or “When a Man Loves a Woman,” in which Andy Garcia tries to preserve his marriage to an alcoholic Meg Ryan.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

Changes at Ellora’s Cave

19 August 2014

From Dear Author:

To All Ellora’s Cave authors:

You are probably aware of the quick, sharp decline of ebook sales via Amazon in recent months. EC is not the only publisher experiencing this sudden decrease, and interestingly, we are not seeing the same drastic dip from other vendors. But Amazon is our largest vendor, so we are having to make some fairly large changes quickly to deal with the situation until we can understand it and turn it around.

We have already cut staff, special EC projects and other expenses, but the drastic drop in sales has resulted in large net short-term variable production losses and slow and often negative return on investment for EC on almost every new book we publish, with the exception of a handful of the highest sellers. For that reason, for the foreseeable future almost all manuscripts will be edited by in-house editors, and covers designed by in-house artists.

We know that many of you love your current editors and covers, and we are very sorry to lose this dedicated group of talented people (and hope to be able to offer them other opportunities in future). The good news is that our staff editors and designers are highly skilled and deeply experienced, and will bring new perspectives to your books. We are looking forward to this creating a more direct relationship with our authors so we can be more aware of and thus more quickly responsive to your needs, questions and concerns.

If you have a book currently in edits or awaiting edits with a freelance editor, Managing Editor Whitney Mihalik will contact you within the next few weeks about its status.

Ellora’s Cave has weathered storms before and we will this one as well. We are aggressively adjusting our business to the current publishing environment. We will fill you in with our endeavors as they are unveiled­hopefully with the first exciting news later this week.

In the meantime, since these declines are primarily related to Amazon, it is a good idea to encourage your readers to purchase ebooks from the Ellora’s Cave site because it benefits you and your readers. Prices of books on our site are often lower, your royalty rate is higher and you get paid faster for books purchased through our site. You and your books are also much easier to find on our site.

Even readers with Kindles and Nooks can purchase on our site and load onto their devices. The process is not difficult. Our site has instructions on how to do it: We are also working on some fun videos to show people how to do it and will put them on YouTube so you can link to them when they are done.

It is also important to support and promote Barnes & Noble and All Romance Ebooks as well until we are able to determine the reasons for Amazon’s declining sales. Hopefully we will be able to work with Amazon to correct the inconsistencies quickly. However, in the short run your net royalties per book are consistently higher in the following order: 1) Ellora’s Cave, 2) Barnes and Noble, AllRomance, and probably Kobo 3) Amazon, and 4) Google. It would certainly make fiscal sense for you to send your fans to those first venues.

This is by no means meant to be a statement about Amazon. We are not at this time coming to any conclusions regarding the many negative rumors and articles about Amazon­ the Gazelle Project, their disputes with Disney and Hachette, and the 900 authors’ open letter in the New York Times­ which we have been made aware of over and over again. For many years we have had a reasonable business relationship with Amazon, up until this drastic drop in sales, and we are certainly hoping that it will all be resolved as we present discrepancies that we are identifying. We have not completed our analysis at this point and therefore have not had any direct communication with Amazon regarding these issues. We are just saying in the meantime that it makes sense for you to promote your books to be purchased through the venues that are most profitable to you on a per-copy basis (and of course to Ellora’s Cave). This benefits all of us. That way you will make more per sale and, in the unthinkable event that the sales at Amazon continue to decline, your fans will be aware of other venues that are out there for them. Hopefully though, this is temporary and not a continuing trend and Amazon will go back to being as profitable for us as it has been in the past.

I know that there has been some discussion and concern about a new project announced by Jaid Black. We will make an announcement soon with details, but please be assured that no EC funds are being invested in this venture, that it is in no way a publishing company, and that my full attention and loyalty remain to Ellora’s Cave and its authors. We are looking at the new venture as a means to enhance the opportunities and options that are available to our authors­not to take away funds from Ellora’s Cave ­and are very excited about releasing the news to you soon. We are always looking at new projects and interests as they present themselves to us­some connected to the publishing industry and some not. Please be assured, however, that EC always has been and remains our main focus. With the help of our fantastic staff and authors, we are working very hard to adjust to the current publishing environment and remain the premier publisher of erotic romance.

Also, please note that almost all the royalty checks have been mailed, with the exception of a handful that should be out by end of week. We are not bankrupt (rumors) and are not in any kind of shape to even file bankruptcy. While we have had some issues getting the royalty checks out as quickly as we have in the past, we are still within our contracts. We certainly understand why you are concerned and appreciate those of you who have asked questions rather than spreading conspiracy theories and propagating rumors that are only detrimental to fellow authors. We hope all of this does not detract from what all of you do best­WRITING. Rumors are distracting and disconcerting and all of you deserve better.

Thanks for your support and understanding. We do appreciate all of you and respect your talents, your pride in your work and your concern for your careers. Please do not EVER sell yourselves short! What you do is valuable to everyone who comes in contact with you through your stories.

Link to the rest at Dear Author and thanks to Amy for the tip.

Let’s count the red flags:

the quick, sharp decline of ebook sales via Amazon in recent months

the drastic drop in sales has resulted in large net short-term variable production losses and slow and often negative return on investment for EC on almost every new book we publish

Amazon is our largest vendor, so we are having to make some fairly large changes quickly to deal with the situation until we can understand it and turn it around.

we have had a reasonable business relationship with Amazon, up until this drastic drop in sales, and we are certainly hoping that it will all be resolved as we present discrepancies that we are identifying

We are not bankrupt

[We] are not in any kind of shape to even file bankruptcy

we have had some issues getting the royalty checks out as quickly as we have in the past 

PG has no inside information about what’s going on at EC and he doesn’t deal in rumors.

That said, PG has not not heard of any other publisher or any significant number of indie authors who have experienced a sharp decline in ebook sales via Amazon in recent months.

As a general proposition, a small business person doesn’t want to be involved with a business that is experiencing financial problems.

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