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January 11th, 2009

10:35 AM

Feeding the fire

Some things:

  1. Does anyone know what exactly happened between Ellora's Cave and Cheyenne McCray? My understanding was that Ellora's Cave sold the print rights of this author's works without her permission and poor Ms McCray was forced to rework those books for print? And yet she continued writing bondage stories for them because it was "fun"? And St Martin's Press is publishing a trade paperback of these bondage stories under "C. McCray"? I'm not being facetious here, I'm really trying to understand what the problem is here and how Ellora's Cave has overstepped its bound if it has the contractual right to do what it wanted with Ms McCray's print rights.

    UPDATE I think I know enough details now to fill in the blanks and get the whole picture, and ouch, that really sucks for the author. Thanks to all the nice folks who filled me in!

  2. Did Connie Bailey make Ann Somerville and her Uniquely Pleasurable brigade mad and I didn't catch the resulting chaos? (See also: http://logophilos.net/blather/?p=792) Details, details, I want details! This open display of glee at someone's bad review by a fellow author seems personal. I hope that there is some juicy detail behind this, because there has to be a good reason behind this very open act of burning the bridges, right? (Bonus points for promoting your own review site in the process - talk about adding salt into the injury.)
  3. I refuse to stop using the phrase "dead tree books". It's cute, it's succinct, and it is less awkward than "print books".
  4. Woah, comments on Blog Land are getting too heated lately. Maybe it's time we pause and reflect on our greater sisterhood? Sorry, I can't find any song with such a theme, so just replace "brothers" with "sisters" in this gem:

20 comment(s).

Posted by Jane:

I think, but don't know, that the problem with EC and McCray is that the auction of her print books required SMP to buy them to protect their investment in her and thus they have to now put out those books instead of maybe investing in new books so McCray has to look backward instead of forward.
January 11th, 2009 @ 11:19 AM

Posted by Mrs G:

Oh, I see. Thanks!

I read on the thread in DA that EC didn't even tell the author about their auctioning off her print rights - they could have handled the matter so much better.
January 11th, 2009 @ 11:26 AM

Posted by Anonymous:

I believe but don't quote me that EC sold the subsidiary rights and that EC didn't go to SMP to offer them to her NY publisher first but offered them up for auction and she (McCray) found out about it second-hand. So SMP had to bid against other NY publishers to keep McCray's books exclusive to them and not dillute the marketplace. Rumor had it that McCray also made EC an offer to buy back those rights once she found out but that she was refused. The problem is that she'll have to rewrite those books for the NY audience and that her royalties on those books will come after EC's agent takes his portion, then EC, then her own agent. Basically she'll earn squat even though she'll have to extensively rework them. Luckily she has an editor who believes in her. This had the potential to be very ugly since she was a relatively newbie on the NY scene if I remember the timing. And this happened while she was still writing shorts for them. I don't believe she wrote for them after this except to fulfill her remaining contract obligations. Which if you ask me was very stupid on EC's part because having McCray continue to write shorts for them would've been worth more money and customer base expansion in the long-term than the money they'd receive from the NY advances. Very very short sighted in my opinion.
January 11th, 2009 @ 12:20 PM

Posted by Mrs G:

OUCH. Anonymous, thanks. Having to work on books without getting anything from them? I can understand why the author feels royally screwed by EC if this is true. What is EC thinking to treat their bestselling author this way?
January 11th, 2009 @ 12:25 PM

Posted by Anonymous:

Keep in mind also that many of these stories were shorts to begin with so they'd either need to be packaged together or expanded for the NY page count.
January 11th, 2009 @ 1:03 PM

Posted by Anonymous:

Sorry to hog this thread but I feel I need to spell out one more thing for all other newbie authors out there who might read this.

McCray has a lot of material at EC. A lot. I'm not in the know on which works EC sold the subsidiary rights for but consider for a moment the potential of might have happened had SMP not stepped up to the plate for McCray and purchased those rights. It's not just about the royalty aspect for McCray. The potential here is that McCray's publishing slots for new material could've easily dried up and that the readership base she was establishing in the NY marketplace might very well have been lost because she wrote those stories for EC to fill a niche market not mainstream. Yes, in an ideal world it has the potential to be wonderful for all concerns. But it also has the potential to be very awful.

EC or any publisher certainly has the right to do with their contractual rights what they will to meet their business needs. EC is definitely within their legal bounds here. There's nothing underhanded at all. Ethically, well I'd call it a very dark gray area, especially since this a small publisher that built its business on personal relationships and that McCray was one of their bestsellers who still promoted and wrote for them.

I guess what I'm getting at is this: Authors: Know what's in your contract. Understand the finer points, your obligations, your outs. If you don't understand the potential ramifications of what you're signing and don't trust anyone's personal commitment or verbal so-say. Get a literary attorney.

Publishing is a business. It's all about the contract. That contract will either be a great friend or your worst enemy so know and understand what you're signing away and getting in return. And make sure that the terms and obligations are clearly spelled out. Publisher has twelve months from the date of acceptance to publish your manuscript. Fine. Is that from the date you sign the contract, the date you turn in you
January 11th, 2009 @ 2:21 PM

Posted by Anonymous:

Too wordy I guess. Got cut off.

Is that from the date you sign the contract, the date you turn in your final manuscript, the date the FLE turn around your contract... Try not to accept generic and fuzzy terms. Again, I cannot stress this enough. Read and understand your contract. You may still decide to sign it anyway but do so with your eyes wide open after weighing the risks and benefits.

And with that I bid you good night.

Thanks, Mrs. G for the platform.
January 11th, 2009 @ 2:24 PM

Posted by Nonny:

Anon2's explanation is as I have understood it also.

Honestly, this sort of behavior had been yet unseen from a small press, so I'm not surprised that nobody read the contract and thought this could happen. It's why you get a contract lawyer, yes, but frankly... not everyone can afford one. I've heard of a few people that specifically picked up writing for EC because of the income. I can't imagine having your work auctioned off without your consent and then being required to rewrite the books to fit a NY market. Ugh.

Frankly, this sort of "unseen" incident is why I won't personally sign a e-publishing contract without an "out" clause for the author that isn't overly restrictive in the publisher's favor. Too many things that can happen.
January 11th, 2009 @ 5:54 PM

Posted by Mrs G:

Anon 2, no, thank YOU for the explanation. I really appreciate it.
January 11th, 2009 @ 7:58 PM

Posted by Anonymous:

It's why you get a contract lawyer, yes, but frankly... not everyone can afford one. I've heard of a few people that specifically picked up writing for EC because of the income.

Actually if you really truly believe that your writing might go somewhere, I can't imagine that a couple hundred dollars to sit down with literary attorney on a flat fee basis is too expensive or join a writing organization that offers to review a contract for a small fee. There are ways to learn more about what's in a contract that don't break the bank and I think it's too important not to dedicate the same time, effort and consideration that an author put into their writing in the first place. Maybe you'll be lucky and the business end of things might not bit you in the ass. Why chance it when it's only a few hundred dollars. If EC or any publishers money is 'good,' that's simply a small downpayment from your first sale toward building a career.
January 11th, 2009 @ 8:41 PM

Posted by Anonymous:

Sorry, one more thing. Don't think that it's easier to change a contract once you've 'proven' yourself as an author. You 'might' be able to renegotiate in a 'timely' fashion but the best practice is to always try to do so right from the beginning. If this is really a career for you, treat it with the professionalism it deserves. Don't simply sign a contract to 'get published.' Or if you do so, then make sure that you acknowledge that that's what you're doing. There's so much knowledge and information on this on the web these days. You are not alone, we want you to write and earn a living. Don't screw yourself right out of the gate.

Writing and publishing are businesses. Treat it like one.
January 11th, 2009 @ 9:30 PM

Posted by Nonny:

I'm glad for the people who can afford to take $200 out of pocket to pay a lawyer for a consultation, but I do know a number of writers for whom it would come down to a question of feeding their kids or vetting their contract.

Is it the wisest course? No. It's definitely taking a risk. At the same time, I've seen people outright say that any writer who doesn't get a lawyer to look at their contract deserves to get screwed over, and I have a pretty big problem with that.
January 12th, 2009 @ 10:00 AM

Posted by Nonny:

Oh, and the other thing I would add... is that while there is a TON of information out there NOW... such was not the case when Cheyenne McCray, JC Wilder, and others joined EC. E-publishing was still in its infancy compared to what it's become now.

The majority of the writer's resources at that point in time advised writers against vanity presses and how to deal with NY publishers. E-publishing wasn't even on the radar.
January 12th, 2009 @ 10:01 AM

Posted by Cheyenne McCray:

Thank you for asking the questions, Mrs. Giggles, and allowing for the opportunity for some things to be explained. I appreciate everyone who jumped in to help with that explanation. It's funny, but I had no idea what a stir I would cause by opening my mouth. But when I did it, I did it good!

There are plenty more answers to questions and observations and comments above, but I think I should stop and move on.

Thank you all for looking at each side and pointing out what could and could not have been done on my part or theirs. It is good to look at all sides. I can only say how it affected me. How I have allowed it to affect me. I have choice here and have let this situation have power over me. I don't know yet how to get past it. If anyone has a clue, please email me!

I think I've said enough, more than enough at Dear Author and by commenting here. I'm taking out my wireless internet card so that I can't be tempted to read the blogs and open my mouth any more. :o)

Again, I appreciate all of you for the well thought out questions and answers.

Thank you,

January 12th, 2009 @ 10:53 AM

Posted by AQ:

Nonny, Read your comments and agree with you to a point. E-pub was still in its infancy when Chey and JC came along and there was alot of personal trust expended on both sides. However, I think anon1, anon2, or anon3, was trying to talk about the now, moving forward. At least I hope he was.

If a new author is signing contracts today without understanding what they're signing then they are saying that they accept the risk. That doesn't mean they deserve to get screwed over---no one deserves to get screwed over---but anyone can get screwed over no matter how careful or diligent they are. I just think you make your choices and have your trade-offs. And if you make the decision to sign something you don't understand, then you've made your choice and will need to find a way to deal with the outcome whatever that may be.

Anon2 may be right that legally EC was in the right, however, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Not because they were wrong legally but because Chey had worked very hard to promote not only herself but the company and even though she was making a splash in NY, she was still promoting EC. As I recall JC did the same thing. IMO, they helped EC become a small publishing force to be noticed. They all did their parts. All of them. Tina, Chris, Raelene, JC, Chey, and the rest of the starting authors and crew. One person was not responsible for the success they enjoy today.

And what they built together was amazing. On a certain level it still is. And that's what makes the taste in my mouth so bad because it seems like EC management decided to shit all over that trust and what they built in regards to Chey and possibly others. I know I spoke out on Dear Author about a few little things I saw but let me be clear, EC didn't damage my career, they didn't do anything bad to me personally. If I wanted to write, I'd still be writing.
January 12th, 2009 @ 9:13 PM

Posted by AQ:

But here in regards to Chey, I do have a problem or rather an opinion. Tina is a writer herself. She had to understand the potential impact that selling these rights to NY might have on Chey's NY career and yet she or the company went ahead and sold these rights without even a conversation. Morally and ethnically, I feel that's wrong. Doubly so because of how they all had to work together to build that company. Perhaps I'm in the minority on this but my sympathies lie completely with Chey based on what I've heard here and elsewhere. I believe Chey did the due diligence on her contracts based on what she knew at the time. I believe that although EC may have been well within their legal rights that they made a poor short-term business decision. Maybe it will work out for them, maybe not.

As far as the new author is concerned: Willie Nelson tells the story about selling the rights to song that has gone to be one of the best selling songs of all time for $250. When asked about it, he says, "I needed the 250 bucks." I can certainly understand the sentiment but Willie also understood exactly what he was potentially giving up at the time. He wasn't ignornant of the rules of the game.

Spending $200 on a legal consultation isn't neccesarily necessary prior to signing a publishing contract. However, simply signing a contract without understanding what's in it because it's handed to you and you're grateful (yes, some new authors do do that--not all). Well, then I think the author is accepting the risk whatever that may be.

It doesn't take a writer a day to write a story, it shouldn't take them a day to go through and sign a contract they don't understand.
January 12th, 2009 @ 9:14 PM

Posted by Ciar Cullen:

See, I'm breaking a New Year's resolution, and you're to blame. But the second #1 made me snort my morning coffee. People say that, but I actually did it. And Mrs. G., you are on my list of internet types at my blog ;o)
January 12th, 2009 @ 10:21 PM

Posted by Ciar Cullen:

I meant to say, my blog at the link here. Okay, really, it's not worth visiting, I just can't stand to get things like that wrong. And as I said, I lost some coffee.
January 12th, 2009 @ 10:22 PM

Posted by Sarah Frantz (DA Joan):

FWIW, I don't consider myself part of anyone's Brigade, except for the NC Army National Guard Brigade in which I am a First Lieutenant. ;) I wrote that review after receiving and reading an e-ARC. I had never heard of the author, and my *personal* dealings with Ann Somerville are few and recent--as in, post-review recent. I wrote the review I did because the book pissed me off. Anything that came after that, including the two (AFAIK) blog posts about it, were not part of any sort of conspiracy. No details, just a bad bad book. And I'm glad you enjoyed it! :) I was too flabbergasted, personally.
January 14th, 2009 @ 11:31 AM

Posted by Lee Rowan:

$200 is an extremely low estimate for what it would cost to get a lawyer to look at a contract. Try 2-300 an hour. I recently consulted an attorney on a book contract and it was an education, and I bless the colleague who introduced me, because the bill would have eaten 3/4 of the advance.

However... having the information gave me the leverage to crowbar the e-book royalties up to near equal the print book--still a steal for the publisher, with minimal production costs, but an improvement nonetheless.

I'd suggest googling "publishing contracts" because there are a lot of articles, like this one: http://www.mediachannel.org/views/oped/bookcontract.shtml and writers' assistance sites that provide at least a little notion of where to start.
January 19th, 2009 @ 3:33 AM