A lot of insanity and yelling going on over at one of my fav sites, Dear Author, over the lawsuit that Ellora’s Cave is filing against Borders. Yes, that’s right, the bookstore chain. And Ellora’s Cave, for those of you who don’t know, is one of the premier ebook sites that also does print and a TON of erotica/romance books.
Now, the explanation.
The book industry runs on the idea of returns – that a bookstore can order, say, 100 copies from a publisher and if they don’t all sell they can return the unsold copies and get a credit to be used on future merchandise from that same publisher. Which sounds great in theory, but in practice can drive small publishers out of business pretty quickly if they don’t keep a tab on what’s going out and what’s coming back in. When I worked at Penguin Books Canada I remember clearly shipping out literally skid after skid of a hot new release and thirty days later getting BACK skid after skid of same release, now not so hot. It’s a vicious way of doing business and one that AFAIK doesn’t work anywhere else in the business world. But it’s been there for decades and there’s really no way out of doing business in the literary world if you don’t do returns.
Which, of course, is why many small presses freak out on the idea. So either they don’t offer returns and the author is screwed when it comes to trying to get your book into bookstores or they remain as epubs, which is fine as long as you can hit the right audience and get them to shell out for electronic words. Ebooks still only make up about one percent of the market and, as I’ve ranted before, won’t take off until we get a cheap decent ebook reader for under $100 and an established format for everyone. But I digress…
The comments are really what makes this posting scary. EC author after author come onto the site and explain how they’ve been done over by EC and then EC staff come on and snipe back. Really, really nasty stuff. And the usual mantra spouted is that you shouldn’t EVER badmouth your publisher. Even if they’re screwing you left and right, backwards and forwards.
This, I’ve seen in my years of watching, is a common occurrance. The author is expected to take anything from the publisher because they’ve given you Your Big Chance and you’ll Always Owe Them, even if they end up screwing you over in the end. Stay quiet and play the game ’cause otherwise you’ll be blacklisted or something along those lines.
But what often gets lost in the backwash is how the PUBLISHER handles themselves. I’ve seen quite a few of them on AW, in my personal emails and on other blogs race around like rabid pit bulls attacking the author or their supporters for daring to ask afew questions. And this can and does affect their public image and that’s not a Good Thing, no matter how good the books you’re putting out are. There’s nothing like watching a publisher freak out on a AW thread and then rush to delete all their comments to make sure they leave a good appearance – except that the deleted posts point out exactly HOW the publisher reacts. Then it’s up to the potential author to decide if they want to sub to a publisher with that sort of temper or track record. Some still do; the golden ring of being published supercedes the reality of having a bad publisher, unfortunately.
From the EC thread I gathered a few things – never submit to EC if you don’t write hardcore sex and if you’re not willing to be sold out for a few dollars. Not to mention crappy customer service from the customer’s end of it, which is unforgivable in today’s world of Amazon delivering anything to your front door.
It’s an interesting if long read for anyone wondering exactly what’s happening in the epub world, the publishing world in general and EC specifically. Sad, long, and you might recognize a few names since many of the EC authors have moved on to NYC big houses.
So it goes, as Father Kurt would say.