Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Writer Beware: More on the troubles at Ellora's Cave.

This is a follow-up to my last post highlighting reports about issues authors, editors, and cover artists are having with publisher Ellora's Cave.

Since then, there have been several developments, including more authors speaking out about their issues with the company, and EC filing a lawsuit against blogging site Dear Author, apparently trying to send out a message to EC detractors.

Unfortunately for EC, it's not only brought more attention to the problem, it's also opened the door to authors and others who feel EC is in breach of their contracts to eagerly watch the proceedings in hopes that the discovery process will bring to light information corroborating their claims about slow/no/underpayments, etc.

There is also a Twitter hashtag being used ( #notchilled ) by people discussing the case and issue. There is a legal term for the type of lawsuit that was filed, commonly referred to as a SLAPP lawsuit, the tl;dr being that it's brought to "chill" people from being outspoken about a company/incident. By threatening to sue, or bringing suit, it's a warning to others not to speak out about the issue.

In this modern age of social media, however, these kinds of lawsuits frequently backfire by bringing even MORE attention to the issue. (Frequently called the "Streisand effect.")

Unfortunately, when a publishing house has problems, they frequently don't do the SMART thing and simply revert rights to the loudest protesters to silence them by having them sign a non-disclosure agreement as part of the deal. (Silver Publishing did this, which allowed them to hang on a little longer.) We've seen the same pattern of behavior and denial when Noble and Silver both went tits-up, as well as others. You'd think that a smart business person would take a look at those cases and, if they REALLY wanted to whitewash stuff, LEARN from those mistakes.

So here are some more links on the issue. (My opinion is that it's stupid for a company whose lawsuit history is sketchy at best to attempt to sue a blog run by...wait for it...an ATTORNEY. Ummm, yeahhhh.)

So if a newbie author was to approach me and ask if they should submit to EC...well, do I REALLY need to answer that question?

I get why some authors don't want to speak out. They might not feel like their payments are being impacted, and maybe they're not. In cases like this, there are always writers who are treated as "teacher's pets" and kept happy and quiet and loyal. Usually the biggest earners/names. Also, I've seen some reports (unconfirmed) floating around from various sources that there have been some veiled threats by EC to reveal author's real names, which for some authors who need the anonymity of a pen name to protect day jobs that, ya know, actually PAY their freaking bills, this could be devastating. (Again, I've seen no official confirmation or screenshots that back that up, but I've seen it posted by more than one person, so as with any case such as this, when there are multiple reports, it tends to lend credence to the claim.)

If this was nearly any other industry, if people weren't getting paid, you can bet they'd be going to their coworkers and asking about it, or maybe even contacting their local TV station and newspaper for help if they couldn't get help anywhere else. There's some sort of codependent, whacky code of silence about not speaking out about bad publishers until it's already well past the critical mass point. I've heard authors tell me that in some cases (with other houses, not this one) that they were directly threatened that their careers would be ruined if they spoke out. Huh? Sounds like, oh, ABUSIVE behavior to me. So screw that noise, I say be loud and make a scene if you've tried all other reasonable and professional routes and still can't get things settled. (I'm NOT saying throw a fit first. I'm saying if you hit a point where your emails are getting ignored, your payments are not coming and no one responds, or they react to you in an unprofessional way, etc. then it's time to make a scene.)

Any authors, editors, or cover artists who CAN speak out, however, take a look at the DA post (the update one) and contribute your statement, your voice, to the issue, to the evidence. You are NOT alone. Those who know me know I'm not a fan of DA. HOWEVER, when friends of mine are getting screwed, AND when free speech is being challenged, the enemy of my enemy is my friend and all that jazz. I've seen a couple of authors crow about DA being sued, that it's karma in action.

Um, let me tell you something. As an author, you NEED a thick skin. Yes, some reviews will suck, or even be inaccurate, possibly deliberately so. Suck it up. I learned that lesson the hard way myself a long time ago. If you're not prepared to take a lickin' and keep on tickin', as they say, then this is NOT the business for you. Anyone who thinks it's a good thing that DA is getting sued for the reason that they don't like DA, then you are NOT seeing the bigger picture here.

DA is reporting information about a company reportedly shafting authors and others. And that same company is trying to get DA to stop reporting on it. If DA was a newspaper, would you be cheering as loudly? No, I'm not happy that DA is getting sued because it's DA. The only thing I'm "happy" about is that this is finally a realistic chance for the TRUTH to come out once and for all about the years of shenanigans we've heard about. (The farking TAX BILL that EC owes? I mean, seriously? That's a massive red flag right there.)

Authors are getting FUCKED OVER. If you're eagerly crowing about karma, just remember it can go 'round again and hit YOU in the ass on the backswing. If it was a publisher screwing you, wouldn't YOU want someone with the knowledge and know-how and resources to fight back fighting for the truth?

With this lawsuit, it means discovery. Meaning authors who probably couldn't have afforded to invoke any existing audit clauses will be able to piggyback on top of any information DA manages to wrangle out of EC. (Given EC's legal history, however, they might end up falling back on previous tactics.) Not only has this backfired on EC by bringing even MORE attention to the issue, and allowing other EC authors who thought they were alone in thinking there was something hinky going on to band together, it's also backfired by opening the door to evidence being pried out of EC's hands and put out to the public record as part of the lawsuit.

Truth is always a defense against a defamation lawsuit.

And, I hope, the truth does come out. I hold out little hopes for authors and others to get any monies due to them, but maybe they'll get their rights back, and maybe, just maybe, it'll help prevent other authors from being screwed over in the process by warning them off.

EDIT 1: Courtney Milan posted a plea for people to speak out, including options for those afraid to.

EDIT 2: The Passive Voice - The Flush Pile - An Author's Perspective

EDIT 3: Gigaom is now reporting on it. (Gee, suing a blogger who is an attorney sure did shut down the discussions, didn't it? [sarcasm] *smdh*)

EDIT 4: Lissa Matthews, an EC author, speaks out

EDIT 5: Lolita Lopez, an EC author, speaks out.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Cover typography must-read post.

Dropping this here, it's an AMAZEBALLS post by Courtney Milan on cover typography. This is a must-read if you're self-pubbing. She explains all the "wrong" things I've seen on books, and while she focuses mostly on historical, the same types of guidelines apply regardless of the genre.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Newbie Author Tip 2: Develop gator hide. NOW.

I think some writers get into writing with HUGELY wrong misconceptions. I'm talking flat-earth notions that really take them aback when they get to doing this writing gig stuff.

Now, for starters, let me clarify. There are two basic kinds of writers: fun and business.

If you're writing for "fun" and don't give a patoot if/when/how you're ever published, or you don't care if you'll make any money, then knock yourself out.

For those of you who want to parlay your writing into earnings, keep listening.

Now, I know I said before that if you're in this to make money, then you're not in this for the right reasons. This is not a contradictory statement. I WANTED to make a living as a writer. But for years, I had to do a lot of other things, along with my writing, to make a living. But I never stopped writing in those time periods. I never stopped honing my craft, never stopped learning, never stopped researching. Making a living is not the ONLY reason I'm writing. Key difference there.

I write because, money or not, I'd STILL be a writer. I'd still be writing.

That said, I want to keep making a living as a writer. That means I had to develop gator hide early on. There are going to be a lot of arrows tossed at you. From critique groups, from editors, agents, readers, publishers, reviewers, and, yes, asshat trolls.

Get over it.

Get the fark over it right now.

You will have to learn what criticism is valid, and what criticism needs to bounce off your hide like one of those damn rubber balls you can buy out of a vending machine for your kids and then spend the next twenty minutes chasing it around a parking lot because they slammed it as hard as they could against the sidewalk and it took off like a missile into parts unknown.


Know what I'm sayin'?

You will have people in critique groups who want to be coddled, babied, told their shit don't stink. And when you try to tell them they formatted ALL their action and dialog tags wrong, they'll go nuclear on you like you threatened their puppy with a Ginsu knife.

Gator hide.

You will have relatives who say, "Oh, isn't that cute? You still have that fantasy..."

Gator hide.

You'll have Goodreads trolls who, months before your book is even released, will give it 1-star reviews. Why? I don't know, because they're fucking assnuggets who apparently have no quality of life outside of their own narcissistic schemes.

Gator hide.

Gators are fucking gators, man.

I'm finally at the point where I can honestly say 99.9% of "negative" reviews don't bother me. Mostly because they look like they were written by meth-addicted five-year-olds with English as their second language, or by their words they obviously think Fifty Shades of Grey is THE definitive statement about BDSM.

Ummm, yeah. Surrrre.

One- and two-starred reviews with no comments? I don't even bother considering those. (Here's a hint: neither do most readers, so ignore them.)

Gator hide.

The only reviews that ever get even the slightest bit under my skin anymore are the ones where I can tell the reviewer put a lot of thought, effort, and proper English grammar skills into their post. If I think they made valid points, I might take them into consideration for the next book, or I might not.

Gator hide.

You have to write for YOU first. You are your first reader. Doesn't mean you can get away with trying to invent a 66-act narrative structure just because, hey ART, biatches! But it means you have to get to a point where you stop trying to change your story for EVERY single reader, because, hey, guess what? There will ALWAYS be readers who don't like your work. Just ask any Nobel prize winner.

Gator hide.

Do you like every book? No.


Gator hide.

This means you don't get pissy with people. If you think their advice is valid, take it. If not, ignore it.

Gator hide.

HOWEVER, even gators know when to back the fuck down. (I live in Florida, believe me, I KNOW gators. My aunt's ex-husband was a gator hunter, for chrissake.)

You don't get to be Princess McBitchypants when someone points out something to you. Either take the criticism, or leave the area.

Likewise, you don't see gators losing their shit over something they don't perceive as a threat. If someone points something out to you that you don't agree with, smile, nod, and let it go. Let it wash off your back like the mucky swamp water it probably is.

It's very common for people in critique groups to get all up in arms when you dare tell them the facts of life. They have enmeshed themselves in this little fantasy world filled with cotton candy and unicorns and rainbows. Do you know why there are no unicorns left in the world???? DO YOU??


So, too, shall such "special snowflake" writers be devoured.

Alligators are an ancient species. They just WORK. (Until man nearly hunted them to the brink of extinction.) Their systems are developed for what they do, they're efficient, they're tough.

They. Are. Fucking. GATORS.

You need to be a gator. Patient, economy of motion. Studying your surroundings. Acting only when necessary. Feeding only when necessary. Smartly learning as they observe. Hibernating when the weather is cold, and bellowing like a motherfucker in breeding time.

How does this translate to being a writer?

You need to learn, grown, feed your MIND. Practice your craft. STUDY other writers, both in your chosen genre and elsewhere. And when it's time for your book baby to see the light of day? Announce it. (Not in a spammy way, though, please. Alligators aren't bellowing for horses to come breed with them, soo...)

If you are offended by this post, you're a special snowflake unicorn.

You will be eaten.

And the sad thing is, you could easily be an alligator. But you've opted to stay a unicorn and let yourself get eaten, all the while bemoaning how unfair life is, how horrible readers/reviewers/editors/agents/publishers are, all of that.

Be. A. Fucking. GATOR.


Monday, September 15, 2014

Newbie Author Tip 1: Devour information on the craft and industry.

Tip 1 for newbie authors:

See those shiny little links over there in the right-hand column? (Well, if I ever change the blog layout that might change, but they'll still be here somewhere) Go check them out. See the books I linked to? Go check those (and others) out. Go sign up for newsletters.

READ THEM. I also have a lot more linked over on the front page of my main website at TymberDalton.com.

"But, waaah, I don't have time!"

Would you trust a surgeon who wants to operate on you but claims he doesn't have time to learn as much as he can about the latest techniques? I know that's an exaggerated example, but still. Would you?

That wasn't a hypothetical question. Answer it.

No, you wouldn't. Not if you're reasonably sane. (Although if you're a writer, your sanity is in question to start with, but hopefully you've got a strong enough sense of self-preservation to counter that.)

Also, read books in your chosen genre. Forget the bullshit about accidentally plagiarizing stuff. If you're that worried about it, read stuff outside your genre after reading inside it, and then go write.

In fact, reading OUTSIDE your genre is also a good idea. Why? Because it stretches and exercises that blob of grey matter between your ears, that's why.

Also, use Google-Fu. Google search the heck out of things like, "How do I format a manuscript for submitting to publishers?" Or, "How do I submit to agents?" Or, "How do I work this damned word processing software?" Whatever it is, trust me, it's OUT there. If worse comes to worst, ASK ME. But if you learn some Google-Fu, it will greatly help you in your efforts. If you are lazy and don't do your own research, you'll soon find that other writers stop answering your questions because you're asking stuff that CAN be answered in most all basic resources on the art and craft and profession of writing. Writers in general don't mind being mentors. But we DO mind being babysitters to people who think they're entitled to having their hands held when we're already strapped for time doing our own work.

Don't think you are above learning about the craft of writing. You're not. If you think you are, throw in the towel right now, because you are in for a WORLD of disappointment.

I have nearly seventy books to my credit as of this writing. I am the FIRST person to admit I need an editor. And I'm constantly reading books on the craft.

Do I take every single piece of advice to heart? No, of course not, because some of it doesn't apply to my style of writing, or my creative process, or whatever. But I still READ it and think about it, because even if it doesn't exactly apply to me now, maybe I'll need that information at some future time, you know?

I also read books on the craft of screenwriting. Why? Because books are movies readers watch inside their head. And they're movies writers see inside their heads and then vomit onto the page. It all applies. If you think it doesn't, start stretching your brain, because you're already behind the curve.

Do you have your eye on a specific publisher or agent? Research the hell out of them FIRST. Then, look on their website. They probably have submission guidelines. (If they don't, that's a red flag.) And here's another hint, FOLLOW THOSE GUIDELINES. Yes, they DO apply to YOU. Don't think, "Well, I'll just slip this inspirational romance into their queue, just in case," when they say they're looking for erotica.

Do. Not. Do. It. You're setting yourself up for a rejection, and you're wasting other people's time. Not to mention your entitlement 'tude is showing just a smidge there, snowflake.

FOLLOW instructions. Don't try some dang gimmick and think it'll help you. (It won't.) If you look at agents' blogs, they'll usually outright tell you a gimmick is the fastest way to get shit-canned into the reject pile.

READ. LEARN. STAY OPEN. And above all, never forget this is a marathon, NOT a sprint.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Dear Newbie Writer: You suck...

...HOWEVER, don't take it personally. EVERY newbie writer sucks.

It's the nature of the beast. Do you think Mozart's first composition was one of the finest pieces of music anyone's ever heard?

No. (If you said yes, shut up and go get some meds.)

His first composition probably made Happy Birthday sound intricate by comparison.

So how did he get better?

He practiced. He WORKED at it. He became a SLAVE to his calling.

Just because you read books does NOT mean you will be a great--much less a good, or even mediocre--writer. It just doesn't.

Just because you got good grades in English and you're a fledgling grammar Nazi doesn't mean you'll be a good writer.

What's the difference between dialog and action tags? How do you properly format them? What is passive voice and why is it so detrimental to your writing? Why is it a bad idea to write from multiple characters' viewpoints in the same scene without a clear break? How do you use page breaks and paragraph formatting so you don't fark your manuscript's formatting? Huh? HUH?

If you stammered at ANY of those questions, trust me, you need to do some work.

Now, I'm NOT saying you can't and won't get better. But if you wake up one day deciding you can write a better book than you've been reading, GREAT! Go for it.

But don't expect your first attempt to not suck big, hairy donkey balls. Because it WILL.

And guess what? That's OK. I have nearly SEVENTY books under my belt, and I am the FIRST to admit I need an editor. Anyone who thinks they don't need an editor is delusional. (Go take your damn meds.)

Unfortunately, I've seen WAY too many people who let someone glance over their work and then throw it up on Kindle or elsewhere, and they're shocked that they get horrible reviews and make little to no sales.

That's because it's the equivalent of booking Carnegie hall for a concert after you've been taking piano lessons for three weeks.


EXPECT failure. Especially early on. Sign up for the Internet Writing Workshop and submit your book a chapter at a time to the Novels-L (or other) critique groups. Critique other people's works, and READ how other critiquers looked at the same piece you did. See what you missed, see what they missed, and improve your own skills.

We've got this "get rich quick" mentality settling in self-publishing that's really disheartening to see. A lot of people are in this to make money. Yes, I write to make money. BUT, and here's the thing: I WOULD STILL BE WRITING EVEN IF I DIDN'T MAKE A DIME AT IT.

Yes, I would have to be making a living doing something else. But I am a WRITER first. I'm not a disgruntled reader who decided I could do it better/faster/shinier. I write BECAUSE I'M A WRITER. I also know that since I'm lucky enough to have my dream job, I treat this like a business, because it IS.

No, those two ideas are not contradictory. If someone jumps into being an author because they want to do it for a living, and they were never a writer before, guess what? You're going to suck at it. You'll suck hard, you'll suck deeply, and you'll probably soon become disillusioned by the whole thing.

Good. You don't belong here anyway.

Those of you who always wanted to be a writer, but you never got around to doing it until later, okay, you've got a good emotional foundation under you, but you MUST PUT IN THE WORK. That's not me being all crotchety and "hey you kids, get off my lawn," either. Well, a little, but that's normally me anyway.

But do you honestly think because you can make a kick-ass grilled cheese sandwich that you could go take over one of Mario Batali's restaurants and not get yourself laughed out of the kitchen?

No. (If you think yes, shut up and, again, GO TAKE YOUR FARKING MEDS.)

Those of us who've always known we wanted to be writers, we've worked at this for YEARS. I'm NOT saying don't try, don't submit, all of that. What I'm saying is don't expect your first attempts to not suck. Especially if you don't do the groundwork because you're in some sort of shiny new author frenzy.

Do NOT get sucked in by self-publishing "services" (vanity presses) that will charge you to publish your manuscript. (This is different from you hiring editors, cover artists, etc.)

Buy books on writing and READ them. Find blogs on writing and READ THEM. (Look over in the right-hand column, I have SOME LINKED THERE!!!) Get subscriptions to Writers Digest and others and READ THEM. Get yourself a copy of CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style) and USE IT, because publisher DO use it, and if you don't apply its standards, readers WILL notice and ding you on it. LEARN and RESEARCH the business end of publishing, because writing the book, believe it or not, is the EASY part of this whole equation.

Most of all, ditch the farking diva attitude. Just because your besties at wine club LOVED your book and raved over it doesn't mean you can turn into Francie McCuntnugget when someone points out that you didn't format a SINGLE one of your dialog tags correctly. Or that you mixed up your/you're, there/their/they're, to/too/two, then/than, and other commonly blown words in your manuscript.

One of the best ways to start getting your name out there while learning your craft is to create a blog. Write about your kids. Write about your counter-surfing dog. Write about college sports. Write about cheese mold, for all I give a crap, because seriously, you NEED to practice writing. (And if you rolled your eyes at me there, that's the kind of diva bullshit I'm talking about.)

If you have a book out, quit spamming the damn Facebook groups about it and TALK TO PEOPLE. Interact with them. Like a cocktail party, don't you get aggravated when an insurance guy comes up to you and tries to hard sell area? Yeah? Well, WHY THE FARK DO YOU THINK IT'S OKAY TO DO THAT ON FACEBOOK?????



I don't know what spammer handbook some authors are reading, but it needs to get BURNED and forgotten.

Go get Kristen Lamb's "Rise of the Machines" book and READ IT COVER TO COVER. Subscribe to her blog. And quit whining that you didn't know better when people start blocking you and booting you from their groups for not paying attention to the promo rules. It's no excuse.

I don't mind helping newbie writers. I was mentored by some pretty great people, and I like mentoring others. I do. This is not a case of me saying, "Well, I had to work hard, so you should have to work hard, too." Guess what?


But what pisses me off are people who expect me to hold their farking hand for them when they could do five minutes of Google-fu on their own and get the answers they seek. Or, worse, when I GIVE them the info and they don't take the time to use it and continue to whine about whatever it is they were whining about before.

Suck it up, buttercup. This isn't a game for the lazy, the thin-skinned, or the ego-inflated. Any of those will bring you more trouble than you ever dreamed of.

Yes, there are petty, backstabbing asshats in this business. Way more than just a few years ago when I first started, I'm sad to say. But there are also a LOT of great people. If you align yourself with the POSITIVE people who are not only doing well, but who are LIKED by their readers, and who are LIKED by fellow authors, guess what? You'll learn a few things. Good behavior will rub off on you. Just like if you hang out with the people who are constantly bitching that they're getting their accounts suspended for spam, etc., the people who think blitzing social media a thousand times a day, or (REALLY skeezy) BUYING "likes" or Twitter followers or whatever, then guess what? You'll end up earning a skeezy rep, too.

Readers notice that shit. They really do. If you create sock puppet accounts and give yourself great reviews and give your "competition" one-star reviews? Guess what? Readers FIGURE THAT SHIT OUT. They'll blacklist you and you won't even notice it until you see your sales start to tank and flatline.

Yes, it's hard work to do this the right way. But guess what? If you do this the RIGHT way the FIRST time? You will be building yourself a solid career path that, IN TIME, will eventually pay off for you. It's a marathon, NOT a sprint. And anyone who tells you otherwise is probably trying to either get you to buy into some scheme, pay them for their "services," or looking for people to pimp them out by sweet-talking you into something you shouldn't be involved in to begin with.

Be honest. Be genuine. Be yourself. Don't try stupid gimmicks to fool readers. There is no secret. The path to success consists of a few very easy to remember steps:

1) Don't be a douchenozzle. Be nice, be genuine.
2) Don't spam.

That's IT. That's the secret to this. Especially the writing good books part.


Saturday, September 13, 2014

Writer Beware: Problems at Ellora's Cave

Rumors have swirled around slow, late, and non-payment at publisher Ellora's Cave for years, but lately it seems things are starting to get worse, perhaps even reaching a critical point now.

Publisher's Weekly wrote this.

Then, there was this.

And this.

(So, is it, or isn't it, a new "publishing house?")

Also, this.

And then this from Publisher's Weekly.

And here's the link to the discussion forum about it at AbsoluteWrite.com. (Newest posts on the last pages.)

But, if they're having trouble with income from Amazon, shouldn't they, I dunno, maybe address one of the biggest customer complaints about them, that their books are waaaaaay overpriced compared to comparable genres and lengths? No one's saying give them away for free, but dayamn how about taking a long, hard look at the market and figuring out that maybe he reason sales are down at the 'Zon is because YOUR BOOKS ARE OVERPRICED. Also, they're likely running afoul of the 'Zon's algorithms with their covers and blurbs, getting whacked into the adult filter. (Here's a hint: INSTRUCT your authors how to set up Amazon Author pages and refer people to THOSE so the search algorithms don't hurt you as badly while you change your covers and blurbs to escape the clutches of the adult filters.)

Now, Cat Grant and Avril Ashton have gone public with their issues getting paid by EC.

Now there's this batcrap crazy shit if you haven't seen it yet.

So, um, not sure what THAT means. I guess if you email bitching about your royalties being late/missing you might get a, what, door-knocking visit from Interpol? I mean, I don't know. Sounds like someone needs to take her meds. Or needs meds.

Then there are these nuggets:

This... (Movies???)

This... (So where's the moola?)

This... (Again, the whole is it/isn't it a publishing house question.)

...and this.

For years, I've cautioned writers about EC, mostly because of troubling contract terms that used to be standard and hard to get struck during negotiations, but then I started hearing rumors from a variety of sources, editors and writers alike, that things were going downhill.

Frankly? I wouldn't sign with them. They used to be a fairly prestigious name in the romance industry, but it would seem their problems greatly outweigh that reputation now.

I saw this same pattern of behavior before the horrific implosion of Silver Publishing.

I will be recommending authors do not submit to them until there is obvious improvement in the situation and all back royalties are paid in full and the problem is fixed. I know there have been rumors for years, but the truth is, there have been issues for years. There was a lawsuit a few years back, among other things.

Bottom line is, I feel sorry for my friends who are in the process of being shafted. I hope the authors and staff get the monies owed them, but frankly, I suspect they won't.


I also found this blog post by Trista Ann Michaels from March of 2014 where she posts she's not been paid.


Dear Author published this in-depth article about the EC troubles.


It's now being reported on the Writer Beware blog.