Dorchester is struggling to come back from the brink of dissolution, and in the process they seem to be angering a lot of authors. Brian Keene, who published several books through Dorchester’s Leisure imprint, says he agreed to relinquish any claim on funds owed to him in exchange for the full print and digital rights to his books. He also says that Dorchester isn’t honoring this agreement:
Since January of this year, unauthorized digital editions of my work have been sold via Kindle, Nook, iBooks, and Sony. These digital editions were not made available for sale until well after the rights had reverted back to me. Dorchester’s response, in each case, has been to blame someone else and assure me that “they are looking into it” and that I would be “financially compensated” and that “it wouldn’t happen again”. Except that I haven’t been financially compensated and it keeps happening again.
…If you care about horror fiction, and more importantly, if you care about the people who write horror fiction for a living, and if you disagree with this publisher’s methods, history, and “mistakes”, then please consider withholding your financial support of Dorchester Publishing and Leisure Books. Boycott them.
Keene’s list of people who have committed to the boycott includes Haikasoru editor Nick Mamatas (who commented that “the fact that they barely release anything makes [a boycott] easy!”), bestselling author F. Paul Wilson, and the World Horror Convention. The #boycottdorchester hashtag is also getting a fair amount of Twitter traffic.
Meanwhile, Dorchester sent out a message to their email promotion list, asking which of their former print books should be released as e-books. Robert Swartwood says this isn’t as innocent as it sounds:
What’s happening here is while Leisure is on the cusp of being forced to give back the rights to many of its authors because those authors’ books are about to go out of print, they’re looking for reasons to keep those books in print and hence hold onto those rights.
It seems very clear that both publishers and authors need to be really careful about digital rights, especially when digital publication can affect whether a book is in print (a contractual term with a lot of implications). It’s very easy to track whether physical books are showing up in bookstores despite the publisher not having the rights to print or sell those books. It can be trickier to prove that a digital store didn’t accidentally flip the “in print”/”out of print” bit on their source copy of a file that they got from the publisher years ago when the publisher did indeed have the rights to create and sell the e-book. And when digital publishing can be used to keep a book in print long after the author expected their rights to revert, while not contributing to the physical sales numbers in Bookscan that can significantly affect an author’s future contracts and career, the consequences to that author can be significant.
Consider this mess yet another argument for having a good agent–and a good lawyer.