Something 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.