My name is Lissa Matthews and I’m an Ellora’s Cave author.
Sounds like an Anon meeting of sorts, doesn’t it? Maybe it should be. It’s not a pleasant thing to be right now, an Ellora’s Cave author. Where once it was for some of us, for others of us, it no longer is.
No doubt you’ve heard about everything going on with Ellora’s Cave. How they aren’t paying on time. How they’ve laid off all the freelance artists and editors, and there’s only a handful of office staff (2 of those handle royalties for all 800+ authors). How there’s a lawsuit that’s been filed by them against Dear Author and it’s owner Jane Litte for defamation. (Links below)
It’s a fucking mess, y’all. That’s the only way I know to put it. I’ve shared my opinions in a very abbreviated fashion, but I’ve received emails, and private messages and instant messages and text messages and direct messages from all walks of social media and well, it’s my blog so, I figure I’d address several things here.
This email is personal to me and full of my own thoughts and opinions and interpretations.
For one, the lawsuit pisses me off to the point that it’s comical. And not in a let’s laugh it up at Jane’s expense comical. It’s a horrible move on the part of Ellora’s Cave and I’m afraid it will push more authors back into the closet in regards to speaking up when they feel they have been wronged by a publisher. Not to mention the artists and editors who are involved as well. I am not a fan of the blog Dear Author. Haven’t been since before I was published and definitely not afterward when I received a big fat ‘she doesn’t know what she’s talking about’ review on one of my first books. But every person who posts on that blog or on any blog has a right to their own opinion and has a right to state it. Jane said nothing that hasn’t been written about in an Ellora’s Cave email or in Publisher’s Weekly or any number of other press outlets. That the emails were suppose to be remain private… Well, yeah, there is that. But when you find out that such drastic changes have been made or are being made and that people you work with are not being treated in a professional manner, yeah, some of that proprietary privacy goes out the window.
There are authors who have begged those who’ve spoken out publicly, whether on social media or on blogs, to please please PLEASE keep quiet, to please don’t make things worse, to please think about how it affects them and their book sales (especially those who have published exclusively with Ellora’s Cave). There are those who will support Ellora’s Cave no matter what happens in the end and that type of loyalty is either to be applauded or it’s to be given a shake of the head and a ‘Bless your heart’ sentiment.
But see, when has keeping quiet EVER done anyone any good who wanted change? I know speaking out will affect your sales and probably mine. Some of us have seen a dip and some of us have seen a huge rise. I know speaking out only pisses off the powers that be. I know it’s seen as a witch-hunt, as fear-mongering, as disloyal, as (fill in the blank with your own terms). But oh well… If it affects my sales to the point where I can get my rights back per the contract terms, fine. Give me my books back and let’s be done with it.
No one should ever be quieted or shushed back into the closet when they feel they have or their fellow man/woman/child has been wronged. People want to speak out against bullying. How is this type of thing any different? Fear of being black balled, fear of being sued because well now it’s a thing, fear of money being withheld or being called a liar and outed, fear of (again, fill in the blank with your own terms) may be legitimate for some, but it’s not going to do anyone any good in the long run and business will proceed as it is and as it has. I’m not okay with that.
But there are those who don’t like to muddy the water, who don’t like to make waves, who don’t want to look like they’ve got little to no class because they’re airing their shit all over, especially when it comes to money.
Dear Author and Jane Litte are not Ellora’s Cave’s biggest problem. Dear Author and Jane Litte haven’t driven the wedge between the authors and the publisher or the publisher and the reader or the publisher and the romance industry’s opinion of them. There is no one for Ellora’s Cave to really blame in all this but themselves.
And honestly, y’all, I for one, am tired. I’m tired of wondering if and when there’s a check coming and I’ll address royalties in a second. I am tired of the stupid, unprofessional behavior and kool-aid drinkers going on about how awesome Ellora’s Cave is. They were once awesome to me, as well. I loved all 4 of my editors. I loved all but 2 of my covers. I was able to work with the contracts department on some clauses and I have in times past been able to email the royalties department with questions and received polite, direct answers.
That is no longer the case and hasn’t been for a little over a year.
I have one book filtered at Amazon and I don’t even have a year’s worth of sales numbers on it, but I can tell you it definitely meets the ‘sells less than 100 copies in a calendar year’… No one even knows the book exists unless I tell them. And it’s filtered because I didn’t specify No Nudity for the cover. Okay, I took blame for that, but how was I supposed to know I had to tell Ellora’s Cave what their distributors would and wouldn’t allow on covers in order for them to be found by readers and not stashed so deep into the abyss? I had never had to specify that before and believe you me, I learned that lesson. Because the next and final book that I submitted specified on the cover art form NO NUDITY!
I have two other books at Ellora’s Cave that I could possibly get the rights back to, but the ones I really want, no, they still sell the requisite 100 copy minimum and more. And this pisses me off too. Why? Because I’m not seeing the profit from them. Because I love those books and would like to introduce new, updated versions of them to readers. Because a couple of those characters are beloved even after 5 years and I am still asked about them, still emailed about them, still having my name recognized because someone knows who Vinter is, who Jaz is…
Now, I say I am not seeing the profit from them. Let me clarify, lest I be called out for being a ‘liar’. I have been paid in the last 6 months. The last check I deposited was on August 18th and it was the check dated the end of July for sales received in my name for the month of April.
I’ll let you do the math on that for a minute. I’ll wait…
There are authors who say they have not been paid for 5+ months. There are artists who’ve said publicly on social media that they were let go from Ellora’s Cave and haven’t been paid for months either while the artwork they did is still being put on books, still being released to the reading world and still being promoted. I’ve also been told this in private from artists who’ve messaged me. That is sad, y’all. Really sad.
We have been told repeatedly that per our contracts, payments are paid quarterly (the contract I have states that Ellora’s Cave will pay us, at a schedule determined by them, but no less frequently than every 3 months). But again, in business communications we have been repeatedly told that per our contracts they pay quarterly though strive to pay monthly. (The contract doesn’t exactly specify (our bad for signing shit contracts) quarterly, but there are those emails and business docs that do say quarterly), so for this purpose, we’ll go with that (though no less frequently than 3 months, which I guess means they will at least pay me something within 3 months but it doesn’t say what, for when, or how much).
The wording is important which is why I keep repeating it. 😉
Are you confused?
In every business I’ve ever been in or heard of, quarterly means you are paid every 3 months (within 45-60 days or so) for the previous quarter, not every 3 months for 1 month out of the last 3 to 5.
Keep in mind, again, we have also been told that Ellora’s Cave pays us early, meaning they strive to pay us every month. So let’s explore that…
When checks were not received in December or in January and questions were raised about this (we’re allowed to email the royalties department after the 14th of the month to state we haven’t received a check and yes, it’s a physical check for most of us, a select few receive direct deposits). But sometime after the 14th of January we were informed that due to the ever changing publishing climate and how difficult it was for the accounting department to keep up with everything, a new software program had been installed and was running with the old software and that payments were being checked and re-checked and checked yet again for any issues and that this was being done by hand and that checks would be mailed out bit by bit (paraphrasing). Some people started receiving checks and 1099 tax statements. Some of us didn’t receive them until the first week of February.
My accountant requested that I ask for a revised 1099 because the check I received in February was dated at the end of December. (So either they printed the check, unsure if the amount was correct and held on to it so they could check and double and triple check it and oh by the way keep that money for a bit longer, OR, they back dated the check when they went to actually send it out. I don’t know the answer to that one. I do know we’ve been told that they do not send out checks in the same order every month.) I did get my newly revised 1099 but was told that the original had that December date on it because it was for royalties received in October and that I needed to understand that I’d likely end up claiming 13 checks for 2014 instead of the normal 12. My accountant and I were good with that.
Needless to say, I don’t think I’ll get 13 checks. I think I’ve received 7 so far and it’s nearing the 1st of October.
So, if we go by what we’ve been told, then our checks should be 2 months behind the way they’ve always been (until the last year when things have been kind of whack-a-do). And they’ve always said that Amazon is 3 months behind. Well, it’s the end of September and the check that will be dated the end of August will be for royalties received in May. That’s about 2 months beyond the normal 2 months behind. (Updated to add that the new Royalties FAQ for the company states that they now pay 3 months after the end of the statement month… January is paid at the end of April, February at the end of May, etc…) And that new release I had from Ellora’s Cave this year back in February, I still haven’t seen sales from Amazon on it. Not quite sure when I will, because the scheduling is so fucked up.
Not sure why it takes Ellora’s Cave so long to calculate royalties, why it takes 3 months to figure it out. If another publisher, roughly the same size at EC can figure out how to pay their authors monthly, without delays, even when putting in new accounting systems, even with employee turn around and changes in the business climate, keeping everyone up to date… Why can’t Ellora’s Cave? Why can’t they figure it out after so many years? Why can’t they treat us like we’re adults rather than condescend to us and hope we’re stupid enough to buy it?
In essence, yes, I have been paid, as recently as August 18th for royalties received in April on my behalf. But I have not been paid for royalties received in May, June, or July. And as it’s about that time for September checks to be cut and distributed for royalties received in June… yeah, I’m not holding my breath.
When authors say they haven’t been paid monies received by Ellora’s Cave, I’m sure there are those who are telling the truth. None have any reason to lie about not being paid. We all look for that check, need it, want it. And I’m going to just about guarantee that there’s not several hundred dollars sitting in an account earmarked for Lissa Matthews that’s come in since May. If there is, why have I not seen any of it? (Now I know thanks to the new Royalty FAQ page that I didn’t know was updated until today. Other authors I talked to didn’t know it either.) This is something my accountant wants to know as well.
Some of us depend on royalties from publishers. Some of us are the sole providers and some of us simply provide supplemental income to our households. But regardless of how we spend our royalties, when we don’t receive them for 45 or 60 days or more, that fucks with a person’s life and livelihood (especially when you’re used to checks arriving monthly). Several of us have had bills that are late, some have received eviction notices, had utilities cut off, etc… For me, I use mine for bills, for groceries, for clothes for my son, for pets to the vet, for coffee, for conferences, to buy promo.
I haven’t been able to do any of that since the last check I received.
Ellora’s Cave has also said that their Amazon sales are down by as much as 75% over the last few months. Their prices are still high, the covers have not been up to par, and the editing is not all that anymore either. They have also encouraged us to send our readers to other vendors and said they were going to be doing their own assessment of the situation but that they hadn’t spoken to Amazon about it yet. Well, why the hell not?
Why did I go into all this? Because it’s fucking wrong. The lawsuit is wrong. The royalties being behind is wrong (which from what came out recently, it’s because again, of the same software issue they have been experiencing for 10+ months). The layoffs and non-payment to artists is wrong. We are left with nothing but speculation. Authors talk. Industry people talk. And when you respond only by automated response to questions because you’re overwhelmed, well, that’s not good business.
I can’t tell readers what to do. I can’t tell you to read or not read Ellora’s Cave books. I can’t tell you not to buy my books from them. What I can tell you is I won’t be reading them or writing any more of them. I loved Ellora’s Cave once. I loved being published by them once. Not anymore. I will be supporting those authors in other ways and buying their non-Ellora’s Cave books. I will also be supporting those artists who’ve been laid off by giving them my self-publishing business when I need graphics or book covers.
Again, this is all my opinion, stuff I’ve been told, stuff I’ve read in emails, my own interpretations, my own experiences, and paraphrased to the best of my ability. You are free to have your own opinions as well and to interpret as you see fit.
(UPDATE: As you’ve likely seen elsewhere, authors have received checks in recent weeks. I am no different. On Cctober 2, I received payment for May royalties. The check was dated August 29. I have never said that payments have been missed, only that I never know if or when they’re going to come. That is a true statement. They show up, sometimes within a couple of weeks of the date on the check and sometimes a month to a month and a half almost two months after the date on the check. Which, still begs the question, of which no one seems to have an answer: IF you print the check on August 29, why in the hell is it taking until October 2 for me to get it? If you’re not sure the amount is correct, which by the words ‘they check and double check to make sure’ indicate that you’re not, don’t print until you are. On the other hand, IF you are sure that the amount is correct, why is it taking 5 weeks for it to arrive in my mailbox. Yes yes, I know checks aren’t sent out in the same order every month, but really? C’mon man! Gimme something I can believe and work with. No one I know in the business world, and I know quite a few people from accountants to attorneys to business consultants to professors to business owners, understands this sort of accounting. And by the same token, why is it this is the one publisher I have that can’t seem to figure it out? Samhain Publishing sends out statements like clockwork and deposits funds usually within a few days to no later than a week after. Loose Id, sends out statements like clockwork and I can count on the payment hitting my account around 10 days later. Amazon, the same thing. All Romance eBooks pays quarterly, like clockwork, 45 days after the end of the quarter. Why is Ellora’s Cave the one publisher I have that seems ambiguous in it’s royalty policies? Anyway, I simply wanted to give an update so no one can say I have fibbed about payments.
Oh, and my other update… We are allowed to email the royalties department after the 15th of the following month. I think. But given Ellora’s Cave’s contract terms and statements to the tune of ‘pay quarterly but try to pay monthly’, which 15th of the month would that be? The 15th of October? Since payments ‘should have’ gone out at the end of September? Or, the 15th of the month after the end of the quarter since they pay no less frequently than every 3 months, but try to pay monthly. This is all technicalities and splitting hairs, I know. But the devil is in the details and the little details are full of WTF! When we all email on the 15th to say we haven’t received the checks dated at the end of September, we’ll either get the new standard autoresponse of we’ll get back to you in 2 to 3 weeks depending on the priority of your email, or we’ll get a form letter from someone in the company stating that checks will be a little later because they were all at Romanticon and the offices were closed and they’ll be playing catch up for a little while. How fun.
What I say may seem redundant, but if you work for or are a contractor for a company and that company cannot be relied upon to set a payment schedule and stick the hell to it for longer than 2 months at a time, normally people would leave. Businesses can’t run like that forever. I’ve been a contractor for other companies who paid when they say they were going to pay. Editors have said they left because of irregularity in payment for services rendered. This should not ever happen. But sadly it does. I reiterate the contract terms and the things we’ve been told from Ellora’s Cave because that’s what they always go back to.
The publishing climate has changed and I don’t know all the ins and outs of it. I will be the first to admit that I don’t. I do know what regular royalty payments look like for books I have sent to publishers or published myself. I do know there are reports and rumors all the time about publishers and Amazon and the big bad wolf. I do know there are uncertainties about Ellora’s Cave and nothing they say is new or really even believable at this point. They laid off the editors and they laid off the cover artists who actually knew what the hell they were doing and they said it was because of the downturn in Amazon sales. They said they had money set aside for this because they knew it would happen eventually. They said they weren’t worried about it because they had new revenue streams they were working on. They said they have some hard and fast decisions to make about editing now because it costs too much to edit and publish a book that may or may not bring the return on investment. So, what now? What as an author do you do? Take a stand? Walk away? Throw up your hands and mutter ‘whatever’? Maybe Ellora’s Cave will never get the royalty thing down the way other publishers have managed to do. Maybe they won’t get over their own self importance long enough to really look at the people who’ve trusted them with their art, their words, their work. I know too many who are weary and tired and I’m sure you are too. I don’t know the answers, I only have questions for which there seem to be none.
As stated previously, these are my own opinions, interpretations, and experiences. Make of them what you will.)