I have not publicly shared my experiences with Ellora’s Cave but with events this week, and all the misinformation and rumours out there, I feel that I should do so. What I have written here is my own experience.
When I signed my first contract with EC in 2009 I was thrilled. It had been a goal of mine to be published with them. I adored my editor, I got tons of good reviews for my books, amazing exposure as a new author, and it was overall a great experience.
Late in 2009 my editor left EC, and I was very disappointed about that. But the new editor assigned to work with me was also fabulous.
In 2010, I was becoming concerned because my sales with another publisher had been growing rapidly (yay!) while my EC sales had not. On July 27, 2010 I wrote to EC and asked if there was any chance of pricing changes to EC books at third party vendors, as they were priced significantly higher than other digital books. The response was that they had too many contracts to reduce royalty rates for individual authors. (That wasn’t what I’d asked for.) I was also told that none of their Amazon books were priced above $9.99 and “Despite the publicity given to that price level, a huge proportion of the ebooks on Amazon are actually priced higher than that. And the reality of the future is that ebook prices in general are going to go up drastically.”
We all know that hasn’t happened.
In March, 2012 I submitted a book to my editor (a third book in a series) and it was accepted. I was told to send in the contract. I used the contract form I’d used previously and got an email back from Contracts saying it was an old form and I should use the new form they attached. I neglected to read through this new form before signing and sending it in. This was later a huge lesson for me.
This book was edited and released in April, 2012. My sales had continued to grow with my other publisher, especially at Amazon, and when this book released, I got numerous messages from readers asking why it wasn’t available at Amazon. It typically took a few days/weeks after release to get EC books up for sale at third party vendors, which EC said was out of their control. It was difficult to explain that to my readers, who were largely Amazon customers. I told them they could buy directly from the EC store, but I don’t know how many did. They were used to “one clicking” and having the book on their device. I was afraid this was costing me sales. I reached out again to EC, noting concerns with quick release dates that didn’t give me time to plan promotion, the fact that I didn’t get copies of my books until release day which didn’t allow me to send out ARCs to bloggers to build buzz, the fact that my books weren’t available for pre-order at Amazon, and weren’t even there on release day. They asked me to keep their response confidential so I won’t share specifics, but basically they had no plans to address these issues.
In December 2012 I wrote book 4 in this series and submitted it. It was rejected because it was “not a good fit” for them. In all honesty, I was happy about this rejection. My sales at EC were still significantly lower than my other publisher and it only made business sense to publish somewhere I would reach more readers and make more money. However, my contracts stated that they had the option of first refusal on the “next work that is a sequel or prequel to” the last book. (I had negotiated that with an earlier contract so they didn’t have right of first refusal to any books). I believed that I had satisfied that option of first refusal by submitting the manuscript and having it rejected, and I was free to publish it elsewhere, but I wanted to confirm this with EC so I emailed them. They pointed out that the last contract I signed actually said “ANY work that is a sequel or prequel to”. As I’d mentioned above, I’d signed that contract without completely reading it, assuming the wording I’d negotiated into previous contracts would still be there. Yes, I take full responsibility for not reading the contract, as I said, this was a good lesson. But considering that I’d previously negotiated different language and they changed it back without telling me, this left a very bad taste in my mouth.
This meant that the fifth book in the series had to be submitted to EC even though I no longer wanted to publish with them, and even though the fourth book in the series was published elsewhere. In the end, book 5 was also rejected by my editor.
At that time, I had no intention of submitting anything else to EC unless their business practices changed and my sales there picked up substantially. That was December 2012. I have not submitted anything to them since. That was a business decision based on numbers.
My concerns about EC’s business practices and financial viability escalated with missed months of royalty payments, and peaked with the layoffs of numerous editors and other staff on August 18, 2014. I was concerned that EC might not survive and I wanted the rights to my books back.
On August 23, 2014 I wrote to EC requesting to buy back the rights to six books. I wanted all my books, but I knew I likely couldn’t afford to buy the rights back to all of them. My sales were above the limit specified in my contracts that would consider them “out of print” and therefore they were ineligible for me to get my rights back that way. I received a quote that was in my opinion outrageously high. I’d done some calculations based on my past sales and the steady decline in sales at Amazon, projecting two years into the future. We were so far apart that I did not try to negotiate and I didn't pursue that.
Until February 2015. With several more months of statements and declining sales, I believed it was even more clear that their offer had not been realistic. I reiterated my original offer and they accepted it. It was a substantial amount of money, but I was willing to take that risk because those books were popular with readers, my best-selling EC books, I was so afraid of losing them if EC went under, and my calculations indicated I should be able to recoup that money. (As an aside, this did turn out to be a sound business decision.)
I still had four books with EC. In June 2015 I emailed EC that I had last received a cheque dated April 1/15 which was mailed April 6/15 (for December 2014 royalties). I got an auto-reply.
On July 31, 2015 I had still not received any further payments, and I emailed EC to advise that my contracts state: “Publisher shall pay Author royalties in accordance with a schedule to be determine at Publisher’s discretion but in no event shall payment be made less frequently than three (3) calendar months, unless Author requests in writing a longer payment schedule.” Therefore Ellora’s Cave Publishing was in breach of their contracts with me and I requested the rights to all books be reverted to me for this reason.
Their response was: “Breach of clause 16 regarding royalties payments (or any other clause) does not void the contract nor revert book rights to you. When a contract is breached, the party claiming breach has the option of waiting for the other party to correct the situation or may pursue legal action to gain correction of the situation. In such case, the court would typically set a deadline by which time the situation must be corrected (“cured”), and if not corrected the court would decide on further action.
In other words, my options were to wait for my royalties…or sue them.
After a couple of emails with Royalties at EC, it was determined I had in fact been paid for January 2015 royalties, but nonetheless the cheque was dated May 1, 2015 and it had still been longer than three months since I’d received a payment.
August 3, 2015 I contacted RWA to see if they could assist with this. On September 3, 2015, I was told that RWA had e-mailed Ellora’s Cave CEO, Patty Marks. The e-mail included a notice of violation of RWA’s Code of Ethics for Industry Professionals along with the expected remedy for a satisfactory resolution, which is to pay authors all earnings to date and/or revert the rights to titles if Ellora’s Cave is unable to pay authors for royalties earned.
On October 9, 2015 I received a cheque from EC for February royalties. The cheque was dated September 30, 2015. That was five months after the last cheque I received. That is the last cheque I have received from them as of today December 11/15.
My email communications from EC have always been polite and professional.
I have not been public about my experiences with EC for a variety of reasons. Yes, fear of speaking out is one of them. Fear of being sued and incurring huge legal expenses, fear of public attack, fear of reprisals such as never getting paid or getting my rights back. Another reason was that deep down inside, I still hoped that EC would turn things around and become the profitable, influential publisher it once was and that my books would start selling and I’d want to publish with them again. I have not asked people not to buy my books. I’m not trying to spread rumours. These facts are all taken from the email correspondence and statements I have kept, and can be verified. I think these facts are important for people to know.