By now, everyone knows about the implosion of Dorchester and how they are now digital books first and POD printed book publisher. I’ve had a few friends who had vested interests with Dorchester call their offices to find out what’s going on. Of course, they’re being told all is well, and they’ve made a “few tweaks.”
If one considers canning their sales teams and completely changing the way they do business only “a few tweaks,” then I’m an Oscar Meyer Wiener.
I understand hardship. Crikey, as a wee publisher, OF COURSE I understand hardship. I also understand the need for putting on appearances – as in, “nothing is going on, it’s all biz as usual.” But for crying out loud, you only do that when you KNOW things are going to turn around. When your ship has a huge gash in it and is sinking into frigid waters, you do not tell agents and authors that you’re doing “a few tweaks.” You have the balls to come clean about whazzup. Because you know what? You’re not fooling anyone, and maintaining appearances is nothing but delusional window dressing.
A friend of mine has a book coming out next month, and she was told her book was going to be e-book only. Now this is a major WTF moment because she’s been busting her hump on promoting her book. She hired a publicist – and beagle knows those little angels aren’t free – and she’d been lining up appearances on TV, radio, and at various venues. She took out ad space in a magazine that specializes in her subject matter. She printed up thousands of bookmarks and tip sheets, along with a few posters.
Now she has nothing. She has no product to give to TV weenies, who always ask for a copy of the book before the interview so they can actually read it. Instead of holding up the book and telling the audience, “You can find this book at your favorite bookstore,” what are they left with? Does the interviewer hold up a computer and say, “I didn’t get a chance to read this book because no one sent us a copy, but hey, you can find this at your favorite online store.”
Will word spread and will all those events be canceled?
Can Dorchester actually promote e-books?
The one thing running through my wee brain is whether Dorchester is any good at marketing e-books. Their experience is with physical mass paperback, and that doesn’t necessarily translate to e-books. As my bud cried, “I don’t even know how to promote an e-book! I would have done things so differently.” Does Dorchester think they can compete with the likes of Samhain?
Only time will tell.
I also wonder whether Dorchester offered any of their authors the option of getting out of their contract. My friend wasn’t contacted, and I think it’s because it would have set off a wildfire. Had Dorchester manned up and said, “Look, we’re having some problems, and we’re changing our company platform. Your book, previously to be mass paperback, is now going to be an e-book only. You can stick it out with this format, or opt out,” then at least I’d give them kudos for putting their authors’ best interests at heart.
But they tried to pretend this was nothing more than a little hiccup and are now faced with outrage and shock as authors cry foul. So they accomplished nothing. Telling someone all is well doesn’t make it so – especially when they see that three of your four tires are flat.
It’s stuff like this that makes me angry. Anytime the Bandini hits the fan, it’s the author who suffers. It’s ALWAYS the author. They’re the last to know, and the first to get screwed. I wish honesty and integrity took precedence over smoke and mirrors. We’ve all had tough times, but if I truly believed that things were so dire that it was going to impact the way we do business, I would feel compelled to at least give my authors the choice of whether they wanted to stick it out or move on. My friend has no choice, and it has cost her some very big bucks.
In reality, the writing was on the wall a couple years ago, but no one was really making any noise. I was alarmed when two years ago, another friend of mine had serious trouble receiving her advance. Her agent kept asking where it was. Their explanation? “Uh, sorry, but we simply don’t have the money to pay it right now.” Wha’? It was only $2500.
From here to where?
I’m not sure where Dorchester is headed at this point – in spite of their ridiculous assurances that these are “minor changes.” For starters, agents and authors will abandon them like the beagle abandons sobriety. The precious reputation that they’ve worked so hard to preserve is already shot to hell because no one with a firing synapse believes these are “minor adjustments.” So what have they gained?
Secondly, do they believe they can sell enough e-books and POD books to maintain their company? I don’t believe it for a minute and feel this is a sunken ship, and all those Dorchester authors are going to be scampering about looking for ballast.
Publishing is in a state of flux because “business as usual” no longer applies. Larger publishers have been working stupid for many, many years, and spending like a drunken sailor in Singapore is going to eventually catch up to them. And who loses? The author. It’s always the author. I wish there were better answers.
So line up, Dorchester authors, the beagle has pitchers of margaritas for you.