Romance

Court Documents Regarding All Romance E-Books’ Disturbing Business Practices Surface

1 January 2017

From Blog Critics:

In a previous article about the sudden closing of All Romance E-Books, LLC and the owner’s announcement that she was not going to pay any royalties for the 4th quarter sales of books from the over 5000 publishers and authors with books on the site.

. . . .

In order to see the whole story, you need to go back to 2014 when a dramatic conflict began between Lori James and her business partner, Barbara Perfetti Ulmer. In fact, Ulmer sued James and All Romance E-Books, LLC in the Sixth Judicial Circuit Court of Pinellas County, Florida – where ARe was established as a legal business entity – on March 2, 2015. Ulmer filed a complaint alleging that James had been “denying access to contemporaneous and current financial information related to All Romance, breach of duties (fiduciary, care, and loyalty) unjust enrichment, inequitable distribution, and judicial dissolution of All Romance.”

The information regarding this lawsuit is easily found thanks to the open court records in the state of Florida, and can be viewed online here.

. . . .

Ulmer and James established All Romance E-Books, LLC together as full partners in 2006. Ulmer was the Chief Financial Officer, and as she was resident in Florida that’s where the physical address of ARe was established. (Remember the three addresses in Florida? One was in Ulmer’s town, Safety Harbor, and appears to be a post office box, which would be understandable as she was the CFO.) James was the Chief Operating Officer, and under the terms of their original operating agreement (Exhibit A) both partners owned 50% of the company and all decisions were to be made by “unanimous agreement” while all financial considerations –  both contribution and distribution – were to be equally shared.

. . . .

According to Ulmer’s complaint, in October of 2014, Dominick Addario, MD – a forensic psychiatrist affiliated with the University of California-San Diego – examined Ulmer to determine whether she was “disabled” and unable to perform her duties under the terms of their operating agreement, which stipulated that if a condition was “permanent or expected to be of an indefinite duration” and prohibited one of the partners from performing their duties, the other partner could assume full responsibility for the company, including all financial and operational decisions.

On November 26, 2014 Dr. Addario sent an email (Exhibit B) to both partners stating that: “…I recommended certain treatment and testing for her and suggest reevaluation in 3 to 6 months at which time she may once again be fit to carry out her duties…”

. . . .

When Ulmer asked to be included in meetings, James told her no and to “stop being a distraction.” When Ulmer asked to return to work, James said no. When Ulmer protested, James told her that “if she did not like what James was doing, that Perfetti(Ulmer) should go get a lawyer.”

Link to the rest at Blog Critics and thanks to A. for the tip.

PG will remind all that the contentions in a court filing are not proven facts.

A quick review of the case summary of Ulmer vs. James reveals that Ulmer’s filing was dismissed “because of lack of prosecution.” This generally means that the plaintiff didn’t do what he/she was required to do in order to move the case forward. There was never a trial or other disposition of the case on its merits.

Publisher All Romance Ebooks: Closing Hits New Low In Stealing From Authors

30 December 2016

From BlogCritics:

The ebook industry has undergone several transitions in the past few years, where authors have become increasingly victimized by e-pirates, vanity presses, and scams designed to keep writers from making money on their intellectual property. Earlier today, December 28, 2016, the industry hit a new low when longtime e-tailer All Romance E-Books (Are), LLC (with its non-romance genre partner Omni Lit) released a surprise notice to its authors and publishers. ARe’s CEO and owner, Lori James, announced that the retailer was closing its doors in three days’ time.

What makes this so terrible is not the fact that they’re closing. What makes this so terrible is how they’re doing it:

We will be unable to remit Q4 2016 commissions in full and are proposing a settlement of 10 cents on the dollar (USD) for payments received through 27 December 2016. We also request the following conditions:
1. That you consider this negotiated settlement to be “paid in full”.
2. That no further legal action be taken with regards to the above referenced commissions owed.

Wait…what?

Let’s break this down. An online retailer is closing down and cannot remit the royalties owed to authors and publishers for the entire fourth quarter of 2016. In lieu of the agreed-upon percentage of 60% of the cover price for each book sold, ARe is proposing that they pay authors TEN CENTS on the dollar of those owed royalties–for books that have already been sold and the money already collected and presumably deposited in the bank account of ARe.

. . . .

The big publishing houses will almost certainly get their money. But the small presses and self-published authors are facing a terrible decision. Do writers allow ARe to steal their royalties? Do they submit for convenience’s sake because the owners of ARe aren’t planning to pay those royalties as they are contractually and legally required to do? Or, are writers willing to stand up to this theft and pursue legal recourse, knowing full well they won’t even see that ten cents on the dollar after all is said and done?

Because let’s be for real here. It’s not like ARe’s owners aren’t paying authors because they don’t have the money for the sales. They do have it. They banked all that cash and are now trying to keep it. And by hanging the threat of filing for bankruptcy out there, the company is attempting to threaten authors into agreeing legally to let them retain that money without future legal responsibility.

And here’s the million dollar question – what did ARe and its owners actually do with all the money they collected from fourth quarter sales? They haven’t paid the authors, obviously. So where is it?

And what about the authors who prepaid for advertising in 2017? What happened to their money? Just last week, ARe sent out notices soliciting ads for 2017. As you can see from their website, advertising cost anywhere from $50 to $2000 per month.

. . . .

There is an underlying lack of legal protections for authors, their intellectual property, and their income in this country. Publishers, false agents, and retailers continue to run these long-term scams, sucking the unwary into their webs and milking them for every dime. But what makes this case stand out is the egregious bullying tone of its owner’s statement to the authors she stole from, and the utter lack of concern James and ARe display for anyone outside of their own personal interests. And sure, most of the authors whose money just vanished into the ether surrounding those multi-million dollar properties in a Big Bear Lake vacation community may be out ten bucks at most.

But that’s not the point.The point is that a retailer announced today that it was stealing the money it’s received for three months’ worth of book sales and has no intention of fulfilling its fiduciary responsibility to the authors whose intellectual property they sold. A retailer has basically committed fraud and has no evident fear of being challenged or behind held responsible legally, either on a criminal or civil level. And unfortunately, that’s probably true. They’ll get away with it, and Lori James will continue to spend part of her time at Big Bear Lake, where she will enjoy the benefits of running a company who blatantly stole from the authors whose books she sold.

Link to the rest at BlogCritics and thanks to Matthew for the tip.

PG believes this whole matter is likely to end up in bankruptcy court where they deal with this sort of situation all the time.

PG hasn’t appeared in bankruptcy court in many years and hasn’t kept up on bankruptcy law, but, generally speaking, bankruptcy judges are experienced in sorting out the kinds of problems mentioned in the OP.

Failing businesses almost always stiff or try to stiff most or all of their creditors. If the owners have diverted significant sums of money from the businesses for their personal use, bankruptcy courts can claw back money and/or assets purchased with that money for distribution to creditors.

To the best of PG’s dated bankruptcy knowledge, booksellers, distributors or publishers would not owe any special fiduciary duty to authors for royalty payments and authors would not receive priority for payments over other unsecured creditors.

The difference between secured and unsecured creditors is important in a bankruptcy. If a bankrupt entity had borrowed money to purchase real estate, the lender (a bank, for example) would have almost certainly required that the borrower grant it a security interest (mortgage) in the real estate. In a bankruptcy, with permission of the court, the bank would be entitled to foreclose on the real estate for repayment of its mortgage loan. If such a foreclosure failed to generate enough cash to pay off the loan, the bank would likely be an unsecured creditor with respect to the remaining balance of the loan, just like other unsecured creditors.

If a failing business attempts to pay one creditor or group of creditors to the detriment of others similarly situated, a bankruptcy judge can require the favored creditors to refund part or all of the money they have received. In the case of a failing publisher, if the publisher attempts to pay some authors 100% of royalties due and other authors 10% of royalties due, the authors who have received 100% can be made to repay most or all of the money they’ve received into the bankruptcy court.

In the case of ARe, if a bankruptcy proceeding is commenced, authors are unlikely to be the only unsecured creditors who are not paid. If a group of authors are paid 10% of royalties due and other unsecured creditors are paid nothing, those other unsecured creditors may ask the bankruptcy court to require the 10% authors to repay some or all of the money they’ve received. Creditor priority can raise complex issues and PG is just skimming over the top of this topic.

Usually the owners of a failing business will file a bankruptcy petition for the business. If a business is, in fact, unable to pay its creditors, the creditors may petition the bankruptcy court to place the business into bankruptcy and bring its assets under court supervision. An involuntary bankruptcy proceeding is sometimes used if creditors suspect the owners of the business have improperly siphoned money or assets out of the business.

These are general bankruptcy principles and PG is neither current on bankruptcy law or privy to any inside information regarding ARe’s collapse.

Given the way authors often support one another, PG wouldn’t be surprised if a group of authors have not already banded together to consult with competent bankruptcy counsel about ways to protect their rights and maximize their return from their books which ARe has sold or licensed. Generally speaking, unless things have changed since the last time PG walked out of bankruptcy court, counsel can often represent a group of creditors who are similarly situated in a bankruptcy proceeding.

If he has not already made himself clear, PG is not currently able to represent anyone in a bankruptcy proceeding. He likes to help mistreated authors and regrets not being able to do so in this instance.

It is with a great sadness that we announce the closing of All Romance eBooks

28 December 2016

From All Romance Ebooks:

It is with a great sadness that we announce the closing of All Romance eBooks, LLC. For the first year since opening in 2006, we will be posting a loss. Despite efforts to maintain and grow our market share, sales and profits have declined. The financial forecast for 2017 isn’t hopeful. We’ve accepted that there is not a viable path forward.

All Romance has always been a labor of love. Over the years we’ve developed wonderful relationships with the vendors we’ve worked with, the publishers whose content it’s been our pleasure to sell, the authors who supported us, and the customers who it’s been our honor to serve. On midnight, December 31 our sites will go dark. Between now and then, we encourage consumers finalize any transactions, download purchases, and back up libraries.

If you directly publish content for sale through our platform or All Romance has acted as your publisher via our Publishing in Partnership program, you should be in receipt of an email from us with additional information. If not, please contact us at info@allromanceebooks.com.

Link to the rest at All Romance Ebooks and thanks to Jacqueline for the tip.

Love Between the Covers

16 November 2016

Love Between The Covers from Java Films on Vimeo.

 

Fixing the Broken Experience of Genre Fiction Retail Online

16 October 2016

From Digital Book World:

For years, the numbers have been telling us that digital adoption among genre fiction readers is at least double that of the general and literary fiction reading audience. In fact, a recent report shows that romance, for example, makes up only 4.4 percent of print sales in the US, but a whopping 45 percent of all ebook sales. Stat after stat and survey after survey have shown similar trends for crime, fantasy and even YA (young adult) books. Yet we still seem to be trying to fit digital readers into one singular mold when we think of innovation in book tech.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever tried buying a book in your favorite genre but find you have to drill down three or four categories on your online bookstore website to get to the ones you want? The high-spending “whales” of reading who have cultivated specific bookish interests with time and are most particular about the titles they like have the most cumbersome shopping experience. This applies equally to readers of ebooks as well as those shopping for their print titles online.

The existing retail system, which is essentially a clickable catalogue dump of all books ever created, is flawed, and the romance, fantasy and crime readers buying in droves are doing so in spite of this broken experience.

. . . .

A good example of the attempts to court romance readers is Simon & Schuster’s Crave app, which connects popular authors with dedicated fans through daily book segments and multimedia content. Whether or not this particular formula works, book hangovers among series readers can be harsh, and this lingering connection to a book universe and its characters is certainly an avenue to be explored by publishers for greater digital immersion (and monetization).

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

Stuff, Things and a Farewell to Ellora’s Cave

6 October 2016

From author Stacia Kane:

I imagine many of you have already heard about the closure of Ellora’s Cave Publishing.

When I started writing seriously in 2005/2006, EC was the biggest name out there in erotic romance. Everyone wanted to be an EC author; it was a goal of mine, and I’ll never forget the day I got that acceptance email from them. I was thrilled.

I know a lot of authors did not have a great experience with/at EC. I’ve heard (a few of) their stories. I know many people felt honestly cheated and betrayed by them, and those stories, those feelings, are valid; their experience was their experience, and just because mine was different doesn’t mean theirs was or is untrue. It’s the nature of publishing, to some degree, that different writers can have wildly different experiences with the same publisher. While I honestly saw/heard nothing that led me to believe EC was being malicious or deliberately mistreating authors, again, that does NOT mean that A) it didn’t happen; and B) that those authors are wrong to feel that they were maliciously or deliberately mistreated. In other words, if there are authors out there telling stories about their ill treatment at the hands of EC, I believe them–I absolutely do–and I’m not at all saying they’re lying or exaggerating.

. . . .

I stopped actively writing for EC because I’d moved in a new direction with my work and didn’t have the time (or the option clauses) that would allow it, but that is the only reason I stopped. I made good money at EC. I loved being, and was proud to be, one of their authors–I always will be proud to have been one of their authors.

. . . .

However, their closure does mean that the rights to all of my EC books revert to me. For a while I’ve been toying with the idea of getting them all together, re-editing them (mostly to remove stylistic quirks put in place due to EC’s rather specific house style, which I admit to never being a huge fan of), and releasing them all.

Link to the rest at Stacia Kane

Here’s a link to Stacia Kane’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

What happened to this industry?

13 September 2016

From author Colleen Hoover:

There has been a lot of divide recently in this writing industry. Many have noticed and many have not. A lot of very serious accusations, a lot of arguing, a lot of “he said, she said” going on. Most of it has been between authors, which is sad for the readers. I’ve been seeing a lot of comments and posts in my newsfeed lately from people who are saying it didn’t used to be like this.

You’re right. It didn’t.

When I first got into this industry at the very beginning of 2012, there wasn’t much of an online reading community. There were a handful of indie authors and a handful of readers who interacted with us. It was all new. It was exciting. It was surreal.

A lot of us had huge things happening in our lives. We were experiencing life changes that took us from being poor to actually making a decent living with the books we were writing. If you’ve been in this industry for a few years, you know that 2012 and 2013 were beautiful years to be an indie. Amazon had yet to introduce Kindle Select and other avenues that promote free books, and piracy was barely even an issue back then. The market wasn’t flooded and I could actually name on my fingers and toes all the indie authors who were writing contemporary romance.

When an indie author published a book, it was likely the only book being published that week, so it got pushed by everyone. The business was growing exponentially. The authors who were in it at the time were getting more and more publicity. We were all flying high and it was great and the world was at our fingertips. It’s easy to not feel jaded or respond negatively to life when everything is going right with your career and the sky is the limit.

And then 2014 happened.

The industry was such a great place to be, everyone became a part of it.

. . . .

When I look at this indie industry now, I am blown away by how much it has grown. There are so many releases each and every day, it’s impossible to keep count now, and that’s a beautiful thing. There are more blogs than we can keep up with, but even with that many blogs, there are more authors than bloggers can review. Every day it grows and every day many reminisce about “the way it used to be.”

I assume we’re all struggling now, but I’m just going to use myself as an example here.

I have a much larger audience now than I did in 2013. I probably had about 20,000 followers on Facebook back then. Now I have over 300,000. My signings in 2013 saw about 20-30 people in attendance. Now I sometimes draw crowds of hundreds, and even upwards in the thousands.

Yet, I sell maybe 1/10th of the books I used to sell.

Link to the rest at Colleen Hoover and thanks to Alexis for the tip.

Here’s a link to Colleen Hoover’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Her Fateful Debut

18 August 2016

For non-TPV veterans, TPV is not a book blog.

To be clear, there’s nothing disreputable about book blogs. Some of PG’s best friends operate book blogs. But just like a frog is not a Chevrolet, TPV is not a book blog.

Which means that PG doesn’t introduce new books, regardless of their merit. That would be Chevroletish.

There is one exception – Mrs. PG’s books.

Her Fateful Debut is Mrs. PG’s 25th book.

Fateful_Debut

Her Fateful Debut is a romance of the Regency persuasion.

What’s it about?

Penelope is a person of the female persuasion. PG was about to call her a woman, but that seemed very Twenty-First Century. Girls are, of course, not to be designated as such these days if they have reached courting age.

So, what is the proper term for Penelope?

Since the BBC is never wrong about proper terms, PG imagined the heroine in a historical BBC production.

Penelope is standing in an ornate drawing room filled with chatty people when the Maggie Smith/Judi Dench character walks in. Looking down her nose, Maggie-Judi takes in Penelope and asks, “Edmund, who is that strange gel?”

Penelope is a spunky gel from Northamptonshire, the British version of South Dakota. Or maybe Alabama. Anyway, Northamptonshire is not London and no one is going to mistake Penelope for a big-city London gel.

Penelope has her own doubts about London – too many unreliable-looking people, including a guy (How would Maggie-Judi say guy? Not as well as gel, PG thinks.) with a lavender jacket.

There’s a person named Lord Winston Saunders, Viscount Wellingham who Maggie-Judie would call Beau and a toffee-colored Pembroke Corgi named Wordsworth. PG doesn’t think we ever find out what color Beau is.

The gel eventually meets Beau and things go on from there. You’ll never look at a lavender jacket the same way again.

Her Fateful Debut is promo-priced on Amazon at 99 cents.

Mrs. PG is 70 pages into book number 26.

 

Fifty Shades Incest Acquittal

17 August 2016

From St. Edmund Chambers:

Last week my client was dramatically found Not Guilty of 8 counts of incestuous rape over a six year period. His daughter had given a compelling interview to the police and my client had absolutely no real defence other than “I did not do it”.

I was brought in very late: 2 days before the ground rules hearing, a week before trial. The week before trial I spent hours poring over the papers and drafting three separate major legal arguments. The complainant’s interview was going to be really tough to crack. She had described not only what her father had allegedly done, but how her body felt as a result. The only odd thing was the use of certain words, phrases and descriptions of how she felt which seemed beyond her years.

My first conference with the client was on the day of trial. Most of what my client described in response to my questions was unremarkable – apart from her favourite book – about a millionaire who takes a young woman under his wing and “teaches her about art”. He had no idea what Fifty Shades of Grey was about.

. . . .

On the morning of Day 3, I started my cross-examination gently to put the complainant at ease. She agreed her father was strict, and that she was really annoyed with him for “ruining her life”. I then went straight to my final question – that she was so angry with her father that she had made this all up. She wavered. I raised the striking similarities between her interview and the book. She suddenly broke and said I was absolutely right. She had made the whole thing up because she was angry with her father and wanted to teach him a lesson. I asked her whether she had got all the ideas from 50 Shades of Grey. She confirmed this book, and others – which she named. After seven minutes we were finished.

The Prosecutor re-examined on each point. She was adamant that none of the allegations were true. The jury were given a break, the prosecutor took instructions and no evidence was then offered. The Judge directed the jury to acquit, stating that this case is “unique” in the whole of his career at the Bar and Judiciary.

Link to the rest at St. Edmund Chambers and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Will Reading Romance Novels Make Artificial Intelligence More Human?

12 August 2016

From JSTOR Daily:

This past spring, Google began feeding its natural language algorithm thousands of romance novels in an effort to humanize its “conversational tone.” The move did so much to fire the collective comic imagination that the ensuing hilarity muffled any serious commentary on its symbolic importance. The jokes, as they say, practically wrote themselves. But, after several decades devoted to task-specific “smart” technologies (GPS, search engine optimization, data mining), Google’s decision points to a recovered interest among the titans of technology in a fully anthropic “general” intelligence, the kind dramatized in recent films such as Her (2013) and Ex Machina (2015). Amusing though it may be, the appeal to romance novels suggests that Silicon Valley is daring to dream big once again.

. . . .

But there is more to intelligence than logic. Logic, after all, can only operate on already categorized signs and symbols. Even if we very generously grant that we are, as Descartes claimed in 1637, essentially thinking machines divided into body and mind, and even if we grant that the mind is a tabula rasa, as Locke argued a half-century later, the question remains: How do categories and content—the basic tools and materials of logic—come to mind in the first place? How, in other words, do humans comprehend and act upon the novel and the unknown? Such questions demand a fully contoured account of the brain—how it responds to its environment, how it makes connections, and how it encodes memories.

. . . .

But if there was a latent romanticism in the field of artificial intelligence, it did not survive the 1980s, a period informally termed the “AI winter.” The ’80s brought not only diminished funding, but also a series of crippling attacks on the field’s basic theoretical conceits. In 1980, the philosopher John Searle argued that the ability of computers to perform intelligent behaviors—his example was reading Chinese—is not a proxy for how human intelligence works because the underlying architecture is so different. A stream of water, for example, always finds the most efficient and expeditious path down the side of a mountain. But to call this behavior an example of intelligence is to depart from the basic meaning of the term. Intelligence, at its roots, means to choose (legere) between (inter) a pair or set of options. Water does not choose anything, since choosing requires something more than the lawful interaction of brute physical particles—it requires consciousness. And even when they are navigating us around the far-flung cities of the world, finding us dinner dates, and beating us at AlphaGo, there is no serious suggestion that these “intelligent” machines are conscious.

. . . .

But we have, in nearly all technologies, from the calculator to the chess-champion computer, made the trade that Turing was unwilling to make: We have exchanged humanness for intelligence. Little surprise, then, that these technologies are ill-equipped to handle many stubbornly human tasks and activities, like putting a patient at ease, interpreting the final stanza of The Waste Land, or teaching someone to ski. For all of its practical and philosophical flaws, there may be something to be said for Turing’s “imitation game” as an index of progress in artificial intelligence. There are, after all, many existing and conceivable technologies for which humanness is, if not all that matters, certainly what matters most.

This seems to be the conclusion that Andrew Dai and Oriol Vinyals, the researchers behind Google’s romance novel gambit, have reached. Dai told BuzzFeed News in May that the project was initiated in the hope that the “very factual” responses of the Google app can become “more conversational, or can have a more varied tone, or style, or register.” Then, for example, Google’s automated email reply feature, Smart Reply, could be trusted to carry on a greater share of a user’s correspondence as he plays in the backyard with the kids. Dai and Vinyals are hoping, in other words, that it can become a fully functional Turing machine, writing emails and messages in an increasingly human voice.

Link to the rest at JSTOR Daily and thanks to Dave for the tip.

PG notes that Google researchers chose romance novels rather than science fiction novels.

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