Tales of the WTF: Dorchester Reverts Rights, But Continues To Sell Digital Books

imageSomething is very rotten in the state of Dorchester.

Both Jane Litte and I have been pretty frank about our hesitation to recommend or buy books from Dorchester since it is relatively well-known that some authors haven’t been paid royalties for years. I know Dorchester’s decision to go digital-first has meant some very tricky and pain in the ass changes for authors, particularly when they were anticipating and planning for a print release that was rescheduled at the last moment for a digital release sometime in the nebulous future.

But I thought the Dorchester drama was, for the most part, over – until I received an email in my inbox from author Jana DeLeon.

DeLeon received the rights to her work from Dorchester on 15 September 2010. She even sent me a PDF of the rights reversion in case I doubted her story. She hasn’t been paid, nor has she received royalty statements in months, but now she has a bigger problem.

Over a month later, her digital books are still on sale pretty much everywhere. (Please note: links to books on sale ahoy. I’m going to do something horrible and ask you NOT to buy them. Please. Do not buy them. I have no faith that DeLeon or any Dorchester author I link to would ever see a dime.)

Her books, including “Showdown in Mudbug,” are online at Amazon.com, and there’s a paper copy available, too.  Barnes & Noble also has her books for sale for the Nook, and independent retailer All Romance also has them listed for sale.

Why? Short answer: Dorchester, despite being contacted by DeLeon and her agent, Kristin Nelson, hasn’t stopped their digital distributor from selling them.

On 9/20/10 my agent sent the first request to Tim DeLong that they take down the ebooks that had reverted. He replied that they would take them down when they did the next data update to the retailers. That did not happen….

On 9/23/10 my agent informed me she had asked Tim for a date when they would do the update and removal but had as yet received no response.

On 10/1/10 my agent sent an email to Tim Delong and Chris Keeslar, demanding that they take down the books that had reverted and she clearly spelled out that they had no rights to sell what they did not own. Chris responded on 10/4/10 with apologies claiming her email went into his spam folder and he’d just received it. He agreed that the issue needed to be looked into right away.

As of today, 10/14/10, we have still heard nothing and the books are still for sale.

I sent DMCA notices to the appropriate departments at both b&n.com and amazon.com, per the instructions on their website. I have received no communication from either site or their legal department. I included a copy of my reversion rights contract with the DMCA notice. My agent has contacted Dorchester every week since the rights reverted and asked them to remove the listings. I have not contacted them directly as my agent handled all the reversion contract negotiations with her attorney.

Today is 20 October 2010 – and DeLeon’s books are still on sale.

But wait, there’s more – DeLeon put me in touch with Leslie Langtry, another Dorchester author.

Langtry’s rights were also returned from Dorchester, and her digital books are still for sale at Amazon and other digital vendors. But Langtry finds herself in an even more uncomfortable situation: after her rights were reverted, her book Guns Will Keep Us Together was offered as a free digital download for Kindle:

[They] offered it free for three weeks, despite my agent’s repeated attempts to get it taken down.  GUNS debuted as the #2 free download for a while and stayed in the top ten for about a week and a half.  It remained in the top twenty another few days and finished at #57.  During that time, I was getting 10-12 friend requests on Facebook and my other books were all in the top 1,000 paid kindle downloads.  GUNS debuted in the top ten on the Paid kindle bestseller list and stayed in the top 50 for a while.  All of my books are still being sold by Dorchester on Amazon, and now I’m getting 15-20 friend requests a day from readers.
 
The problem with this is that fans are asking where they can find my books since Dorchester isn’t selling hard copies now.  I hate to recommend them to Kindle when I know all the money is going to Dorchester, but I hate the idea of losing a budding audience.  It is very frustrating.
 
I’ve had my rights since mid-September and to this day, Dorchester is still selling my books and profiting from them.  I truly believe I won’t even see a royalty check from this.  My agent, Kristin Nelson, has repeatedly asked Tim DeYoung and Chris Keesler to “cease and desist” since the ink was dry on the agreement.  They have either given excuses or refused to answer.

I don’t know what to tell my readers.  If I tell them not to buy my books, I could alienate a new audience.  If I tell them to buy them, Dorchester gets all the money.
 
This is theft, plain and simple. 

Now, I asked a few digital folks what they’d do. One suggestion I received was that the author continue to pester Amazon and BN with weekly email messages. It doesn’t seem that Dorchester will be that responsive.  I also know from my own experience that small bookstores like All Romance are pretty responsive so if you contact them directly about a rights dispute, you would likely see those books removed.  However, if Dorchester isn’t answering, and Amazon and BN aren’t either, you might also try contacting Ingram and Overdrive, the two major digital book distributors, directly. If the book is for sale at any retailer, it’s probably coming through either or both of them.
ETA: I’m informed that not every retailer uses Ingram and Overdrive, though some do. Some buy direct from the publisher. Either way, it seems that the best option is to make as much noise as possible, in as many places as possible.

I am not at all an expert in the backstage mechanics of digital sales, but I should think a month is more than enough time to have this corrected and the books removed from on-sale positions.

For any author, this is a ridiculously sticky situation and I don’t envy your position.

From my perspective, I would say to any reader looking for a new book to read:

Don’t. Buy. Dorchester.

 

Categorized:

Ranty McRant

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Elyssa Papa says:

    Wow. What assholic behavior on Dorchester’s part. Seriously, there is no better word than asshole to describe them.

    I’m so sorry for any former Dorchester author who’s experiencing this—what an incredibly horrible experience.

  2. 2
    katiebabs says:

    This is beyond F’ed up.
    Dorchester is going down in flames and everyone, most of all the authors are beyond screwed.

  3. 3
    Ridley says:

    Man, I’d say Dorchester is pretty much sailing away on the failboat.

    Should I feel guilty about the set of free Dorchester ebooks I downloaded from Kobo a few weeks ago? Did the authors even know about them, I wonder?

  4. 4
    miss_chevious says:

    With regard to Amazon and Barnes and Noble, if the authors haven’t already tried calling, I recommend it.  Here is the contact information for Amazon’s Copyright Agent:

    Copyright Agent
    Amazon.com Legal Department
    P.O. Box 81226
    Seattle, WA 98108
    phone: (206) 266-4064
    fax: (206) 266-7010

    And here’s the phone number for Barnes and Noble’s legal department:
    212-633-3300

    (I got these from the respective companies’ terms of use.) 

    I work for a large company that has occasional copyright issues, and I can tell you that when someone in the Legal Department gets a phone call, especially from an upset but otherwise polite copyright holder, things get done.

  5. 5
    Julie Leto says:

    Since both authors have their rights back, I hope they will digitize the books themselves, put on better covers and undercut Dorchester’s prices so that customers will buy the AUTHOR’s version and the profit goes directly to them rather than to the publisher.  And they might think about getting together and hiring an intellectual property rights attorney to get professional advice.  If Dorchester no longer has rights, they have to be breaking a law by continuing to profit from those sales, right?

  6. 6
    Jana DeLeon says:

    Thanks, miss_chevious! I have tried repeatedly to call and get legal, but only gotten the runaround and voicemail. I will try the numbers you provided!

    Thanks for the support, everyone!

  7. 7
    Jana DeLeon says:

    Julie – yes, they are definitely breaking the law, but the only way to enforce it is through a civil suit. What is the point of suing a company with no money? They are perfectly aware of the position we’re in, which is why IMHO they are taking full advantage of the situation.

    I absolutely intend to make my books available in both Kindle and Nook format as soon as Dorchester takes them down. And yes, I will be offering them at a lower price for readers. I’ve even got the covers designed. :)

  8. 8
    Becky says:

    Trouble in Mudbug was available for free for a while, too.  I’m pretty sure that one was through Kobo, because it’s sitting on my Pocket right now, waiting to be read.  If the Dorchester authors haven’t already, it would be good to check there, too.

  9. 9
    Jana DeLeon says:

    Becky – yes, I did notice Trouble when it was free, and Kobo is on my list of sites that I’ve sent the DMCA notice to. I am glad you got a copy and hope you enjoy it. :)

  10. 10
    Robin Bayne says:

    I agree with Julie—if the rights are reverted, why not sell them to the readers yourself?

  11. 11
    Jase Carrick says:

    Horrible, horrible, horrible! I hate to see this happen to an author, especially Jana, a writer I have grown to respect due to her writing ability and eagerness to help others.

    Do. Not. Buy.

  12. 12
    Tina Burns says:

    I do know from experience that getting books removed from B&N.com is a nightmare and they are non-responsive.  Amazon is usually pretty responsive.

  13. 13
    Meezergrrrl says:

    One other method of distribution not mentioned: iPad apps. There was a deluge of Dorchester books added to Apple’s app store as iPad apps back in September. A quick search reveals that Ms. DeLeon’s books are available there, as well.

    Either way, it’s still not cool.

  14. 14

    Like Jana said, thank you all for your support!  We will definitely be selling our books digitally.  Doing so now would confuse the readers and sellers.  Such a mess!

  15. 15
    Nate says:

    Sarah, I think you were much to nice to Dorchester. They’re committing piracy. They really need to be called out as pirates.

  16. 16

    I hope Dorchester gets sued or taken town flamboyantly for this. This is theft plain and simple and no one should tolerate it!

  17. 17
    Jessica says:

    I take it that Dorchester’s offering the book for free on Kindle even after they lost the rights is their version of revenge (here, have the rights, too bad everyone’s already got a copy so you can’t sell more). And now the books are available for iPad?

    Apple’s legal contacts page: http://www.apple.com/legal/contacts.html

    No words….

  18. 18
    Doug says:

    B&N’s Terms of Use give these instructions for filing a DMCA notice:

    Notices and counter-notices with respect to this website should be sent to: Teresita Rodriguez, Director-Legal Affairs, Barnesandnoble.com LLC, 76 Ninth Avenue, New York, New York 10011, at DMCANOTICE @ Barnesandnoble.com.

  19. 19

    This is terrible, almost worse than what the authors faced when Triskelion closed. It’s happened before, but only with small publishers.
    My practical advice would be to put a statement on the author’s own website, or even open a website specifically for this purpose. Then try to get it ranked high on Google, so it shows up as soon as the book’s title is plugged in.
    Take legal advice and then write something fresh. Because this kind of dispute can eat an author’s career. The stress and the time it takes to sort it out can stop fresh stories flowing, and kill a career.
    I wrote something completely new and sent it to a new publisher, who thankfully accepted it. I felt so much better when that happened.
    Put aside a day a week, or an hour a day, or something of that nature to deal with the hot mess that is Dorchester. Then put it aside and do new stuff. Stuff that will make you happy.

  20. 20
    Sabrina says:

    From a few writer groups I belong to I can say that I know of at least one other author who is in this exact same situtation with Dorchester.

    The whole situation is just so sad.

  21. 21
    Keri Ford says:

    how horrible!

    And Julie took the words right out of my mouth:

    Since both authors have their rights back, I hope they will digitize the books themselves, put on better covers and undercut Dorchester’s prices so that customers will buy the AUTHOR’s version …

    Why wait to sell them yourselves? Considering the dorchestor dealings are public knowledge, why not go ahead? Link on your websites, FBs and whereever else to your digitized editions and start making some money back. At least you’d have somewhere to point all these new readers for more of your books.

    Unless there’s a reason I’m missing on why you shouldn’t go ahead?

  22. 22
    Jana DeLeon says:

    Thanks, Jessica and Doug. Yes, I have followed all the appropriate steps in submitted the DMCA, along with an attached copy of my reversion contract. Not a single vendor has bothered to acknowledge the documents. I am about to start sending another round and attempt phone calls again, which is not exactly an easy process when you also have a full-time job. (sigh)

  23. 23

    Please file a formal complaint with RWA –

    Contact Carol Rittter at Carol.Ritter @ rwa.org

    send all the documentation.

    Thanks

  24. 24
    KD Miranda says:

    This is outrageous behavior. I have to wonder if it violates the bankruptcy proceedings as well. Maybe a little research into the cease to operations required in bankruptcy court will shed a little light too. Hope you nail them Jana!

  25. 25
    Jana DeLeon says:

    Thanks, Lynne. I totally understand your advice from a professional perspective and took it long ago when the ship first started leaking. My first books with Harlequin Intrigue release next year and Harlequin has been an absolute joy to work for. Any author considering them should definitely pursue it. Professional, timely, wonderful staff to work with. I can’t recommend them enough.

    Keri – If they were all offered at the same time, readers wouldn’t know which to order, so you might end up creating more revenue from Dorchester, which the authors are highly unlikely to ever see.

    Cyndi – Everyone in a similar situation, that I am aware of, has notified RWA as well as our agent. They are aware of the situation. Thanks!

  26. 26
    SherylNantus says:

    A pox on their heads.

    There’s a special circle in Hell for people like this…

    :(

  27. 27
    Jana DeLeon says:

    Sheryl – you and I must have shared a similar upbringing. I wholeheartedly agree!

  28. 28
    krystajo says:

    This is outrageous behavior that incorporates both theft and fraud.

    If possible, with the company being bankrupt, I would talk with an attorney about going after the distributors and outlets like B&N; and ALSO about going after the individual people in the company versus the company itself and holding them liable.

    It’s happened before that that has succeeded, just as managers have been held responsible out of their personal funds for fines if one of their workers leaves the job intoxicated on Friday afternoon and has a DUI accident.

  29. 29
    Miriam says:

    Low class, greedy behavior on the publisher’s part. I understand a company having financial problems, delays and whatnot, but this is well beyond “understandable.” Sad for Dorchester’s authors and the readers, who I’m sure want to support the authors, not just the publisher.

  30. 30
    Jana DeLeon says:

    Miriam – I totally agree and have said the same thing. As a former CFO, I understand completely that businesses can experience hardship and sometimes unsecured creditors are the big losers, but that’s just business. However, the continued and willful theft of my property is NOT just business, and that’s what has me so upset. Not to mention that the legal system provides no relief for authors in my position other than to sue for money which the company does not have.

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