A few weeks ago Dorchester Publishing announced that it will be going all digital with its releases. Trade issues will follow in the coming months but for all practical purposes, mass market paperback books are dead. They also have let two wonderful editors go in an attempt to cut expenses.
Pretty much everyone in the romance publishing world knows that Dorchester has had financial problems for the past couple of years. Several things have led to this. Some writers got large advances that didn't earn out, Anderson News went under, retail outlets such as Walmart cut the shelf space for books which pretty much eliminated the midlisters, and publishers have a return for life policy for the retailers. Its cheaper to throw away perfectly good books, once the cover has been removed and print new ones than to ship books back and out again.
Thus lies the problem. Mass Market as a money maker is no longer viable. All publishers are losing money on them, it just showed up in Dorchester sooner because they are a small house with private investors, not a large corporation, such as Harlequin or Putnam Penquin. With the economy the way it is, they can no longer afford to operate at a loss. These are the facts of life, we as writers have to learn to deal with them. Digital is the wave of the future. I predict that within 20 years, the majority of books put out will be digital and the basic book, whether hard copy, trade, or mass market will be collectors items. E-readers are suppposed to be down under $100 by Christmas and with the advances in technology, they will be even lighter and more portable in just a few years. (Maybe an e-reader that opens like an actual book?)
So here's my rub, or what this post is all about. Most of all the things that have happened with Dorchester lately has come to its writers via Twitter. Alicia Condon leaving, announced on Twitter. Dorchester going all digital, announced on Twitter, Leah and Don let go, announced on Twitter. We are the last ones to find out what is going on with our publisher. Especially frustrating is the part where we don't get paid. They don't inform us, the check just never shows up, month after month after month and we have to beg by ourselves, or through our agents to get money that we have earned. If you owe us money its because we made you money and we've waited long enough for our share. We have been kept in the dark about everything.
So I am issuing a challenge to Dorchester and all other publishers out there. We are partners in this business. Without the writers, you have no product. Without the publisher we have no way to get out product out. Consider us an equal partner, not a side note. Let us know up front what is going on. We are creative and intelligent people with varied backgrounds. We are attorneys and accountants and teachers and artists. We live all over the world. Our careers and our livelihoods are at stake. Give us the consideration that you would give your investors and the employees that work in your offices.
We love books. We love the smell of them and the feel of them. We love getting lost in the pages. We love telling the stories and reading the stories that other tell. We write because we can't stop writing. Some of us make a pretty good living at it and some of us don't. But all of us will never stop telling the stories we love. So please, big publisher, remember who writes the stories when you are making your decisions and let us be part of the process, instead of victims of it.