|Posted by joelasutherland on April 4, 2011 at 4:14 PM|
THE SHORT STORY (if nothing else, please read this): Effective immediately, I have terminated my two contracts for novels to be published by Dorchester Publishing (Leisure Books), and the rights for both have been returned in full to me. This includes the republication of FROZEN BLOOD, which was to be released in August 2011 (trade paperback, e-book and audio book) and THE HOUSE ON FORKS ROAD, my as-of-yet unscheduled follow-up (and original) novel. If you see FROZEN BLOOD still listed for pre-sale in any format from any seller, please do not buy it — the order will not be fulfilled.
THE LONG STORY (for those who might be interested in such things): In June 2009 I attended the Bram Stoker Awards in L.A. While there, I gave a copy of Frozen Blood, which was nominated for First Novel, to Don D'Auria, the editor in charge of Dorchester's horror line (among other lines). Leisure Books, in case you don't know, had been publishing many of my horror idols for years (Richard Laymon, Jack Ketchum, etc.), were currently publishing many of the most popular mass market horror authors (Brian Keene, Bryan Smith, etc.) and many writers who also happen to be friends and acquaintances of mine (Gord Rollo, Jeff Strand, Nate Kenyon, John Everson, etc.). When I gave Don my book I remember thinking how much of an honour it would be to be published alongside those authors, allowing myself to dream for a moment that I might actually see my name on a future Leisure cover — I then proceeded to drink and mingle the rest of the weekend away, losing the Stoker award and having a great vacation in the sun (it was actually quite gloomy for California standards, but hey, I'm from Canada — it was warm to me).
Fast forward to January 2010. I received a wonderful email out of the blue from Don, telling me he finally read my book, he thinks I'm a very talented writer and he'd like to purchase the rights to release Frozen Blood later that year as a mass market paperback. I still remember that day vividly — I could barely control the shaking in my voice as I called my wife to tell her the good news. I began almost immediately to outline and write a new novel (Don was interested in publishing a second book of mine eight months after my first release — my proposal was accepted shortly after I submitted it). Frozen Blood was slotted into the publication schedule as one of the two November 2010 horror releases. I signed the contract and awaited my advance.
Fast Forward to August 2010. Big changes were afoot at Dorchester. I won't bother going into the details here — Brian Keene has chronicled the events in far greater detail than I could hope to do, and this handy timeline is a perfect recap of the all the deets — but it basically boils down to Dorchester dropping mass market paperbacks in favour of trade paperbacks and e-books. Their entire publication schedule was bumped back (Frozen Blood eventually landed in August 2011) and many of their authors jumped ship. I stuck around for the time being (for reasons discussed below).
Fast Forward to March 2011. I was still waiting for the full advance for Frozen Blood and the first half of the advance for The House on Forks Road (these were both to be paid upon signing the respective contracts, well over a year prior). I had received repeated promises that I would be paid shortly, but the cheques had yet to arrive. Don had been let go months previous. I began to come to the conclusion that the reasons I had for wanting to stick with the company (hold tight, they're coming) no longer outweighed the possible negative impacts of publishing with them.
Then, March 24 2011, the Dorchester Boycott began. Although I was already 99.9% certain I was going to part ways with the company, this was the straw that broke the camel's back. I wrote to Dorchester asking for my contracts to be canceled and the rights to both books to be returned in full to me. As Dorchester breached the contracts long ago (by not paying me), I didn't believe this was unreasonable. After one last request to stick with them a little longer ("good news is on the way..."), which I politely denied, my contracts were canceled, the rights for the novels were returned in full and an official letter confirming this was mailed to me. I breathed a sigh of relief and looked forward to moving on.
And that’s where things currently stand.
MY REASONS FOR STICKING WITH DORCHESTER FOR AS LONG AS I DID (also for those who might be interested in such things): First and foremost, the prospect of being published alongside Laymon and Ketchum and Keene and Smith and Rollo and Strand and Kenyon and Everson and on and on and on. Of being able to go to a convention and being — well, not yet on the same level as them, but being in the same ballpark.
Second, the timeline I linked to above sums up my next reason (next nine reasons, actually) perfectly: "Dorchester Publishing: Leisure Books; Love Spell Books. They call themselves “the oldest independent mass-market publisher in America,” (founded 1971). Great editors. Great distribution. Really strong in paranormal and futuristic romances. One of the last markets for horror and westerns. Advances and royalties a bit on the low side, maybe, but they sold a lot of books. And they had some star talent: Stephen King published The Colorado Kid through their Hard Case Crime imprint. Nice people. Really professional."
WHILE I'M AT IT, ONE MORE REASON I DECIDED TO PART WAYS WITH DORCHESTER (for those who are still reading this and have nothing better to do but keep on reading): While all of this was taking place, I also sold, wrote and saw the publication of my first children's book, BE A WRITING SUPERSTAR, with Scholastic Canada. The book has sold very well in the first three months of its release and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. I'll admit that the Dorchester experience has slightly soiled my enthusiasm for writing horror novels for grown-ups and the success of Be a Writing Superstar (and the incredible experiences I've had with the entire Scholastic publishing team) has rekindled my passion for children's and YA writing. Since January I've written a little over half of a YA novel — with ghosts, so I haven't completely given up on the spooky stuff.
THE FINAL WORD: I do not harbour any ill will towards either the company or the employees I dealt with. Although it's still a little upsetting how close I came to realizing a dream I've had for a long time in being published by the Leisure imprint, I feel I'm fortunate not to be in the situation some of the other authors are in. I truly hope things improve for the company, the authors and everyone else involved.
Let's hope this story has a happy ending.