Just sit right back, and you’ll hear a tale. A tale of a fateful blog post.
The online romance community is abuzz with news that Ellora’s Cave, purveyor of erotica, Romantica®, and…somehow…tawdry baubles, is suing Dear Author and Jane Litte for libel. News of the lawsuit might not have generated quite as much furor were it not for the online antics of Ellora’s Cave owner Jaid Black, and every new twist has only turned what could have been merely an alarming attempt to silence criticism into an expensive trainwreck, trolling, threats, and an amazing show of solidarity from romance lovers ’round the Web.
The conflict began when, according to some authors, Ellora’s Cave (sued in 2008 by former Ellora’s Cave COO and founder of Samhain Books Christine Brashear for non-payment on shares still owned by Brashear) suddenly began paying royalties late or not at all. Cover artists claim they had been let go and were not paid for art the publisher continued to use on new releases. Amid the crazy in September, the managing editor and the current COO both resigned from Ellora’s Cave.
Jane Litte, attorney by day and long-time romance lover and blogger by whenever she manages spare time what with her day job being lawyering, often reports on industry news at her Dear Author blog. When numerous anonymous sources alleged they had experienced late royalties, missing royalties, and breaches of contract regarding “out of print” designations and reversion of rights, she gathered the information and posted to the Dear Author blog. Several anonymous users left comments claiming similar experiences.
The allegations from authors included screencaps from Jaid’s social media accounts, where she boasted of spending sprees on Rodeo Drive…and meanwhile, say the anonymous (and some not so anonymous) authors, her company claims Amazon sales are shrinking at an alarming rate. Worse, an email sent to authors from Jaid claim EC has no idea why the sales are suffering. Also in this email, Ellora’s Cave announced they had laid-off all freelance editors, including new hires that had been brought in the week before the decision. EC’s editorial is now operating with only three content editors.
When Dear Author posted about EC authors’ claims, Jaid Black strapped on her wackypants and decided to sue, claiming defamation and demanding the names of the anonymous commenters on the post. Because she filed in the state of Ohio, which has no SLAPP statute to prevent frivolous lawsuits, Litte has no choice but to engage in the lawsuit. She set aside $20,000 of her own money to fight, but the romance community came together to ensure she wouldn’t need more. Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches Who Read Trashy Books began a GoFundMe campaign, and within four days—four days, people—the Dear Author Legal Defense Fund had over $50,000. The campaign is still open, and any money Jane doesn’t spend on the lawyering and the court costs will go to another defense fund.
A not-at-all-sockpuppet Twitter account popped up. Pub Net @pubnt claim to be “scouts” interested in publisher protection. To ensure we are all aware they are in no way a sockpuppet account, they declare they are not affiliated with Ellora’s Cave in their Twitter bio. So now we know – they’re not affiliated with EC at all and clearly not sockpuppets. Got it? Good.
Of course, @pubnt immediately went about protecting publishers everywhere by tweeting to individual New York romance publishers the names of authors who contributed to the Dear Author Legal Defense Fund.
Let that one soak in for a sec. Got it? Good.
The entire experience has prompted the creation of a new hashtag (I know, grab your smellin’ salts) — #notchilled, referring to authors and bloggers who refuse to be intimidated by an attempt to silence criticism. Even @pubnt enjoys using it. All the time. See above.
Authors are voicing support all over the webs, and some are publicly detailing their experiences with late and unexpectedly low royalties. The truth is coming though, as discovery will reveal the financial details and authors will offer testimony and emails to back their claims. In the meantime, pop some popcorn and sit back with your computer. This is bound to get crazier.
Side note: Several authors have come forward to state they have had no bad experiences and were completely unaware of issues with Ellora’s Cave. Many authors are also begging the critics to stop talking and making things worse for everyone else.