Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Writer Beware: More on the troubles at Ellora's Cave.

This is a follow-up to my last post highlighting reports about issues authors, editors, and cover artists are having with publisher Ellora's Cave.

Since then, there have been several developments, including more authors speaking out about their issues with the company, and EC filing a lawsuit against blogging site Dear Author, apparently trying to send out a message to EC detractors.

Unfortunately for EC, it's not only brought more attention to the problem, it's also opened the door to authors and others who feel EC is in breach of their contracts to eagerly watch the proceedings in hopes that the discovery process will bring to light information corroborating their claims about slow/no/underpayments, etc.

There is also a Twitter hashtag being used ( #notchilled ) by people discussing the case and issue. There is a legal term for the type of lawsuit that was filed, commonly referred to as a SLAPP lawsuit, the tl;dr being that it's brought to "chill" people from being outspoken about a company/incident. By threatening to sue, or bringing suit, it's a warning to others not to speak out about the issue.

In this modern age of social media, however, these kinds of lawsuits frequently backfire by bringing even MORE attention to the issue. (Frequently called the "Streisand effect.")

Unfortunately, when a publishing house has problems, they frequently don't do the SMART thing and simply revert rights to the loudest protesters to silence them by having them sign a non-disclosure agreement as part of the deal. (Silver Publishing did this, which allowed them to hang on a little longer.) We've seen the same pattern of behavior and denial when Noble and Silver both went tits-up, as well as others. You'd think that a smart business person would take a look at those cases and, if they REALLY wanted to whitewash stuff, LEARN from those mistakes.

So here are some more links on the issue. (My opinion is that it's stupid for a company whose lawsuit history is sketchy at best to attempt to sue a blog run by...wait for it...an ATTORNEY. Ummm, yeahhhh.)


So if a newbie author was to approach me and ask if they should submit to EC...well, do I REALLY need to answer that question?

I get why some authors don't want to speak out. They might not feel like their payments are being impacted, and maybe they're not. In cases like this, there are always writers who are treated as "teacher's pets" and kept happy and quiet and loyal. Usually the biggest earners/names. Also, I've seen some reports (unconfirmed) floating around from various sources that there have been some veiled threats by EC to reveal author's real names, which for some authors who need the anonymity of a pen name to protect day jobs that, ya know, actually PAY their freaking bills, this could be devastating. (Again, I've seen no official confirmation or screenshots that back that up, but I've seen it posted by more than one person, so as with any case such as this, when there are multiple reports, it tends to lend credence to the claim.)

If this was nearly any other industry, if people weren't getting paid, you can bet they'd be going to their coworkers and asking about it, or maybe even contacting their local TV station and newspaper for help if they couldn't get help anywhere else. There's some sort of codependent, whacky code of silence about not speaking out about bad publishers until it's already well past the critical mass point. I've heard authors tell me that in some cases (with other houses, not this one) that they were directly threatened that their careers would be ruined if they spoke out. Huh? Sounds like, oh, ABUSIVE behavior to me. So screw that noise, I say be loud and make a scene if you've tried all other reasonable and professional routes and still can't get things settled. (I'm NOT saying throw a fit first. I'm saying if you hit a point where your emails are getting ignored, your payments are not coming and no one responds, or they react to you in an unprofessional way, etc. then it's time to make a scene.)

Any authors, editors, or cover artists who CAN speak out, however, take a look at the DA post (the update one) and contribute your statement, your voice, to the issue, to the evidence. You are NOT alone. Those who know me know I'm not a fan of DA. HOWEVER, when friends of mine are getting screwed, AND when free speech is being challenged, the enemy of my enemy is my friend and all that jazz. I've seen a couple of authors crow about DA being sued, that it's karma in action.

Um, let me tell you something. As an author, you NEED a thick skin. Yes, some reviews will suck, or even be inaccurate, possibly deliberately so. Suck it up. I learned that lesson the hard way myself a long time ago. If you're not prepared to take a lickin' and keep on tickin', as they say, then this is NOT the business for you. Anyone who thinks it's a good thing that DA is getting sued for the reason that they don't like DA, then you are NOT seeing the bigger picture here.

DA is reporting information about a company reportedly shafting authors and others. And that same company is trying to get DA to stop reporting on it. If DA was a newspaper, would you be cheering as loudly? No, I'm not happy that DA is getting sued because it's DA. The only thing I'm "happy" about is that this is finally a realistic chance for the TRUTH to come out once and for all about the years of shenanigans we've heard about. (The farking TAX BILL that EC owes? I mean, seriously? That's a massive red flag right there.)

Authors are getting FUCKED OVER. If you're eagerly crowing about karma, just remember it can go 'round again and hit YOU in the ass on the backswing. If it was a publisher screwing you, wouldn't YOU want someone with the knowledge and know-how and resources to fight back fighting for the truth?

With this lawsuit, it means discovery. Meaning authors who probably couldn't have afforded to invoke any existing audit clauses will be able to piggyback on top of any information DA manages to wrangle out of EC. (Given EC's legal history, however, they might end up falling back on previous tactics.) Not only has this backfired on EC by bringing even MORE attention to the issue, and allowing other EC authors who thought they were alone in thinking there was something hinky going on to band together, it's also backfired by opening the door to evidence being pried out of EC's hands and put out to the public record as part of the lawsuit.

Truth is always a defense against a defamation lawsuit.

And, I hope, the truth does come out. I hold out little hopes for authors and others to get any monies due to them, but maybe they'll get their rights back, and maybe, just maybe, it'll help prevent other authors from being screwed over in the process by warning them off.

EDIT 1: Courtney Milan posted a plea for people to speak out, including options for those afraid to.

EDIT 2: The Passive Voice - The Flush Pile - An Author's Perspective

EDIT 3: Gigaom is now reporting on it. (Gee, suing a blogger who is an attorney sure did shut down the discussions, didn't it? [sarcasm] *smdh*)

EDIT 4: Lissa Matthews, an EC author, speaks out

EDIT 5: Lolita Lopez, an EC author, speaks out.

2 comments:

  1. Oh what a tangled web we weave…. This is a major clusterfuck. Again, I am SO sorry for the authors, editors, bloggers, and cover artists getting screwed over here. :(

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    1. I know. I'm SO glad I never subbed or signed with them. I had an editor from there approach me two different times, and I said no. I was never fond of their contract terms, to start with, but I'm happy where I'm at.

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