Some stopping by may have heard the shocking news of the closure of All Romance Ebooks, otherwise known as ARe. Others may not and that’s why I’m rehashing some of the details before moving on to explaining why situations like this and the outcome is important to all. The shock comes because of the way the owner, Lori James, chose to deal with the closure and treat the people who have supported this book distributor and publisher for so long.
Let’s be clear, this isn’t simply another case of a publisher letting down its writers — a situation that is always a blow resonating through and carrying consequences for the industry. This closure affected publishers, writers AND readers. The publishers and writers were incensed and disgusted to be ‘offered’ a fraction of all monies owed, but they were as much if not more concerned for the readers who had extensive libraries stored on ARe, libraries that short notice would never give them the chance to download.
Let’s deal with the closure first. Lawsuit documents reveal Lori James (and I quote from sources) ‘screwed’ her business partner Barbara Perfetti who sued James in early 2015, stating claims to which James never responded. In addition, there are only vague references to a decline in business and ‘poor financial forecasts’ to explain the closure, unsupported ‘mutterings’ from a company who reported sales running into the millions in recent years, worked with both publishers and writers, began to publish its own titles, and who claimed more than a million books listed.
But what raises the level of suspicion is the abruptness, the indifference and the blackmailing tactic of the company’s closing ‘offer’, and the fact that, mere days before the closure, James distributed ARe’s advertising rates for 2017. Publishers and writers took out and paid for advertising for 2017, and James ‘accepted’ those payments knowing full well the announcement to close was to follow. I know because I received the same offer and was one of the fortunate few who did not take out advertising…but my publishers did. To my knowledge, there has been no offer to repay any of those advertising spots. That screams of nothing less than fraud.
ARe wanted to pay 10 cents on the dollar to publishers, a real blow to those owed thousands (yes, thousands) of dollars. Those publishers need to pay their own salaries, pay their writers, pay their editors, pay their cover artists and more. It’s been documented and I can personally confirm, some publishers have contemplated trying to withstand the loss themselves in an effort to pay those they owe, but such decisions could put their own companies at risk. James proposed a payment in order to avoid filing for bankruptcy. Sorry to sound flippant, but boohoo. Even if the company is in as large a financial mess as it claims (though it really hasn’t stated specifics) the situation did not arise overnight. And as part of accepting the 10 cent payoff, James stipulated that those who accepted must waver their legal rights to take further action. In short, James was stating that the payment may be the only one anyone would see, take it or risk receiving nothing, and in so doing no one would be able to chase her no matter what happens to the rest of the takings.
Lori James also hurt the readers. Even after the announcement, books were still up for sale spurring publishers to remove their books from the sites as swiftly as possible. Some succeeded; some did not. James then blocked access so readers could download their libraries and finally stopped selling more books (as far as I know only after complaints). Readers lost books removed by publishers, but it mattered not as they had insufficient time to download their libraries in just ‘four days’, and may not have even received their notice to do so in time, being that this took place over the Christmas period with the site shutting down on 31st December.
Four days. Everyone got ‘four days’ to download libraries, or to make informed and difficult decisions regarding payment, and this does not even address the issue of worthless gift vouchers unlikely to ever receive a refund. Readers, you should be angry, too.
To those who have contacted some authors saying it’s not a blow to the industry (yes, unbelievably, some have written to authors directly, which is my reason for writing this post as I feel incensed on behalf of others), how many times do writers have to say that what they do is work and it comes with a cost? What part of cover artists want paying does not compute? What part of editors want paying does not sink in? Why are writers not entitled to receive payment for every word they put on the page? The writer only gets a fraction of the cover cost and a fraction of a fraction is nothing. Why is a writer’s time worth nothing to so many?
Publishing at any level is an ‘industry’. It is BUSINESS. The same way the public purchases a cinema ticket, those who wish to read a story need to lay down money at the door. And where do those blockbusters we love to sit in darkened cinemas spring from? It’s born from the imagination and talent of a writer and many people helping that spark along the way. There are many behind the scenes whose name and craft the viewer or reader will never know of. They all want, and NEED, their cut. So do not come out in defence of people like Lori James who treat those they owe with such disregard. Do not claim it doesn’t matter. It very much does. It’s why writers go it alone. It’s why the good works are entangled with the bad and why Indie publishing is a growing threat to traditional publishing. Writers often ‘go it alone’ simply because they feel safer doing so, believe they have more control. In the case of ARe even Indie writers got stung.
Lori James writes under a pen name and no doubt in future will write under more. I’ll have to be on the lookout in the hope I never put another dime into this woman’s hands. I can’t tell anyone who to read, but I hope their conscience will.