Monday, September 06, 2010

Author Beware

There's not much that pisses me off more than hypocrisy. When a frank, honest post to a publisher's closed author loop is removed from the message archives because it disagrees with what the publisher wants the authors to believe, I see red.

Y'see, there was a thread of discussion about the payment of royalties. The publisher has traditionally paid monthly (late, per my contract terms, but monthly nonetheless). The publisher has also repeatedly claimed that its contracts stipulate quarterly payments. Recently, the publisher announced that it would be transitioning to quarterly payments. Okay, fine. That's certainly the publisher's prerogative. Renegotiate contracts, as needed, and implement change. No problem, right?

When a question was asked by an author, another author replied that the contracts stipulated payment 60 days after the end of the period. I pulled up my contracts to check and each clearly specifies payment 45 days after the end of the MONTH. Not 60. 45! And not QUARTER. MONTH!

I posted a reply to that effect. It contained no bolding, no "shouting" in all caps (as I've done above). It simply stated what my contracts said along with the fact that I've not been asked to sign any modifications to my contracts.

That post has been unceremoniously deleted from the Yahoo!Groups message archives. The publisher then posted that "Some older contracts stipulated 45 days after quarter ends." Perhaps some do. But some (e.g. mine) of the older contracts (And, "older" equates to 2008, by the way.) say: "Royalty statements are produced monthly within forty-five (45) days after the end of each sale month."

I'm not going to speculate on the reasons for this censorship. I'm not going to make assumptions about the fiscal health of the publisher. I'm simply putting the facts out there for authors to decide for themselves whether they wish to do business with a publisher who operates in this fashion.

I pulled most of my works of fiction from this publisher's catalog in January 2010 due to the persistent discrepancy between what my contracts stipulated and when the publisher reported and disbursed royalties. I was quiet about it. I didn't make a fuss. I did not want to publisher to experience any backlash from my decision. Some folks did inquire privately, and I couched my replies very cautiously. I still have a vested interest in the success of this publisher, after all, because all of the publications for which I did cover art and/or editing pay an ongoing royalty. I want it to succeed. I cannot, however, remain silent in the face of this sort of unethical practice.

Interestingly, my contract for cover art does specify quarterly payments, and I was willing to continue in my role as art director for this publisher. The publisher, however, chose a knee-jerk reaction and ousted me from that position. I was a bit stunned by that seemingly churlish & puerile move, but... well, whatever. At the time, it simply served to reinforce the wisdom of my decision.

This latest behavior will result in the removal of my remaining work from the publisher's catalog. I apologize to the other authors who are impacted. I do not feel I have any alternative but to distance myself to the maximum extent possible.

peace & passion,

~ Alessia