March 25th, 2011


Dorchester Boycott

It's a hard life, being an author and making money. There are a lot of people who will promise you a lot, and never deliver, and on big and small levels, once you start getting published, you are going to run into it. It's unfortunate, but you shouldn't be silent, though not being silent will, perhaps, cost you.


Brian Keene and a lot of others are spreading the word about Dorchester, who are not paying authors and using rights that they don't have, and I am passing on the link to share the information. That such practices are common in the publishing industry is, really, due to the desperate, and awful way that the industry is run in relation to authors, but that doesn't excuses it--and if you're a new author, and you have work with this publisher, and are considering it, just let it go for now. It's hard, but trust me, the alternative is a lot worse.

Starting in late 2009, Dorchester – Leisure began making late payments to some of their authors. Indeed, some authors report never having received payments at all, nor royalty statements verifying what, if any, monies were owed. This continued throughout much of 2010. In mid-2010, with these payment issues still unresolved, Dorchester announced that they were switching to an all-digital format. Then they announced that those digital books would be accompanied by trade paperbacks. Due to the ongoing payment issues, many professional writer’s organizations such as the SFWA and RWA placed Dorchester on probationary status. During a late-August conference call with their creditors (for which I was present and for which I have a transcript of, just in case Dorchester wishes to dispute what follows), they revealed that: The company saw a 60% decrease in book orders in mid-2009; payroll was down from 1 million to $600,000; the company had no cash flow, but also had no bank debt; the company owed six million dollars to various creditors, including $700,000 to active authors and $400,000 to inactive authors; ebooks accounted for 10% of their profit; their trade paperback plan was currently on hold; they didn’t think the sale of the company was possible; and that as of August 9th (2010), they considered themselves “in bankruptcy but are not actually filing for bankruptcy”. Vendors and authors who were owed money for books or services from August 8th forward took precedence in being paid. All others would have to wait.

I was one of those authors. I had not been paid since late-2009.


A few minutes ago, someone asked me why we (the authors) didn’t just seek legal means. Well, I can’t speak for any of the other authors involved, but I’ll tell you why I haven’t — because I’m broke. I’m broke because Dorchester didn’t pay me what was owed, and then I gambled to get my rights back, and then they continued to fuck me. And yes, I’ve got a nice new deal with Deadite and Ghoul starts filming next month, but I won’t see checks from either of those until a few months from now, and until then, I can barely pay the rent and eat anything more than Ramen noodles, let alone hire an attorney.

So I’m asking you to boycott Dorchester Publishing and Leisure Books. I said above that I can’t speak for my fellow authors, but I can tell you that many of them are in the same situation — or worse. If they could get their rights back, they could do as I have done and sign with a new publisher, or they could follow the trail blazed by Joe Konrath and Scott Nicholson, and self-publish their work. In either case, they could begin to make a living again.


Sprawl Review

On Strange Horizons, there is a review of Sprawl, edited by Alisa Krasnostein.

In 2009, a novel entitled The Slap occasioned considerable hand-wringing and chest-thumping within certain literary circles, a chorus which reached its crescendo when the book was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2010. The story of the unexpected and wide-ranging effects of the smacking of a child by a man who is not his father, The Slap features foul language, pornography, and an instance of almost every bigotry it might be possible to imagine. Its author, Christos Tsiolkas, defended his novel's at times blatant attention seeking in large part by claiming that he envisaged the work as a sort of "state of the nation" address for a multicultural Australia seething with unspoken—and unspeakable—tensions. Tsiolkas, himself the progeny of immigrant Greeks, depicted an Australia in a polite, middle class kind of crisis, aware of the contradictions and meaningless shibboleths on which its society was built, but unable and unwilling to be brave enough to address them.

In the wake of that novel comes a collection of further Australian fictions which in rather different ways explore somewhat similar ground. Sprawl, published by Twelfth Planet Press, is an anthology of eighteen works which refract Australian suburbia through the prism of the fantastic. Quite often, the stories walk the same in-between streets as The Slap: multiculturalism figures strongly, as do various kinds of repressed sexuality, hypocritical finger pointing, and bourgeois guilt. The varied tone inherent to a collection, however, enables Sprawl to escape The Slap's almost monotonous voice, one of the most fatal of its several weaknesses.


Tsiolkas gained notoriety for practicing a kind of writing almost indecently separated from that of the older, patrician generation of Australian novelists—Peter Carey, Thomas Keneally. In Sprawl, however, we see another, quieter and yet infinitely stranger, new Australian generation at work. It's something of a pleasure.

I don't know if I agree with what he says about Tsiolkas (the author of Loaded and Dead Europe is hardly attempting something new in confrontational content with the Slap) but you know, the review is quite positive of the book, and there's nothing wrong with that. For myself, however, what was said by my piece?

there are some duff notes: I've never rubbed along with Ben Peek's writing, and his portentous "White Crocodile Jazz" has done nothing to change my mind

But I'm named checked next to Anna Tambour as failing to deliver, and if you can't appreciate Anna, and you toss me in with her, I'm doing alright by my count. So go check out the review, go check out the book.