Friday, October 22, 2010

The Dorchester Disgrace...and (all of) Our Part In It

If you don't make a habit of following publishing news and scuttle, it could be that maybe you don't know that Dorchester has done some things to authors of late. I'm not going to publicize all the sites that talk about it, because there are a lot of them. But I'm also not going to talk about it so much from the "poor author" side of the desk, either...because the disgrace of what's happening with Dorchester has two sides, and one of these gets glossed over and/or dismissed all too often.

Yet it's precisely the option that gets ignored, rationalized away, or backed away from, that could deter this kind of thing from happening again--or at least happening so easily again.

What never ceases to amaze and astound me, in this case and many others, is the reluctance and/or refusals of authors to band together and initiate the class-action lawsuit that situations like this are custom-made for. Yes, going to court is a pain, but that's what you have lawyers for. Yes, it costs money, but in cases like this, your lawyer can set things up so that the defendant pays the court costs if they're found guilty--which they would be. And yes, you could end up getting nothing in a bankruptcy proceeding; but D's not in bankruptcy yet. They're trying to avoid it. So if you strike now, your chances of being heard on this issue and actually recovering some monies increases tenfold over waiting to see what happens. Nothing of any positive value is going to come from waiting to see how much further this company will screw people.

Another point that is extremely well taken is that Amazon and B&N are complicit with this fraud--so even if D has no money, these other two do. And they can be just as liable. Which means that authors stand a chance to at least be paid something for what's been done to them. And something is always better than nothing. That's certainly the case for authors who've been owed  thousands of dollars in back royalties and have been prevented from even seeing an accounting of what they're owed...for years now. 

Think about that, because that's the crux of this matter.

What were they waiting for

Are these authors truly in the business of writing, or are they just pretending to be?  

You'll forgive me if, on more than a few occasions, it appears to be the latter. 

Yes, Dorchester has no business screwing authors. But authors also have no business screwing themselves by not availing themselves of every legal avenue available to them within a reasonable time of when things start to go south. If they lose money, shrug and walk away, or sit around waiting patiently for answers and results long past when a reasonable person should have sought relief, they are as much the problem as the publisher is...because they're in effect relieving the publisher of consequences. Are they so naive as to think that the next publisher down the road who gets in trouble isn't going to do exactly the same thing Dorchester's doing? Why would they think not?  

In plain English, Why in the world are so many authors afraid of simply enforcing their own contracts?

If you buy a fridge from Sears and you don't pay the bill, they don't let you keep it. If you try to keep it, they sue you to get it back, and they collect legal fees and damages from you.

If you sell a book to a publisher and they don't pay for it, don't let them keep it. Pursue the legal avenues you have available to you. Period. End of sentence. That's how business is done in the real world...except, curiously enough, when it comes to authors and publishers.

Sheesh. Sometimes, I truly believe we as authors not only allow ourselves to fall into ditches, but we take up the shovels and dig them ourselves. So despite all the hand-wringing, mud-slinging, and shock and dismay, on the other's really, really hard to work up too much indignation for authors who allow themselves to be taken advantage of, so egregiously, for so long. Especially since, in the long run, that reluctance to act just makes it easier for publishers to do it again, to another group of us, in the future.

As long as we let them...someone will.
A business doesn't get away without paying its utility bills. Or its rent. Or its phone bill.
Neither should it get away without paying its other vendors...the authors without whom a publisher has no product to sell in the first place.
If we let them get away with it for months, or years...we shouldn't be surprised when this happens.
And happens again. 
And we'll have no one to blame but ourselves for the losses we take and the pain we suffer.


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