Print Story Why I Believe Ephemera Bound Publishing Sucks
By CheeseburgerBrown (Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 10:44:27 AM EST) Does Ephemera Bound Publishing suck? (all tags)
I'd like to get a few things off my chest with respect to the printing and distribution of my first novel by a small traditional publisher from the United States.

Be fairly warned: this rant contains a measure of vitriol.

One of my core beliefs as a writer is that it is impossible to effectively improve one's craft without benefit of an audience. While there is something to said for workshopping, there is an inherent upper limit to the utility of feedback from jealous peers, arrogant hacks and English majors intimidated into paralysis by the burden of their own knowledge of historic greatness.

There is no arguing the value of having a dedicated pedant point out one's overzealous use of subordinate adverb clauses, or a sharp-eyed editor calling one out for a sloppy change of tense or confusing switch in perspective. Sometimes it can also be nice to have a parent, friend or lover's heartfelt assurance that the work positively oozes with talent.

None of the things, however, are a viable substitute for an actual living, breathing, warm-blooded audience of disinterested persons whose only loyalty is (or is not) inspired by whatever quantity of entertainment one has managed to encode into the page with words, sentences and punctuation.

This is why I wrote my first novel -- my so-called "practice novel" -- directly on the Web, with the progress of each chapter informed by strangers' responses to the previous. In this way I hoped not only to supply myself with a steady supply of pressure to keep at it, but also to learn in nearly real-time which of my literary conceits were functioning as designed and which were falling flat.

No one was more surprised and delighted than me when it turned out that the audience for Simon of Space was highly enthusiastic. Even before the telling was halfway complete I was being inundated with more feedback than I knew what to do with. Not that it was all positive, naturally -- the most valuable hints came from those who were disappointed, critical and incredulous.

I opted to self-publish the resulting manuscript, mostly as a keepsake for those readers who had stuck with me and helped me out so much during the four months of its writing. I was fairly shocked when it started selling like hotcakes.

Journalists from four continents contacted me for telephone or e-mail interviews, earning me minor mention in several well-known publications from the Singapore Straits Times to G4's Attack of the Show. I scored a regular column in Footprints, a quarterly community journal, and was invited to write an article for Australia's Cosmos science magazine.

I was also contacted by a traditional publisher from the United States called Ephemera Bound -- and that's where my run of good fortune came to a screeching halt.

Ephemera Bound's principals were candid about their limited reach as a self-described "very small publisher." It was their feeling, however, that a professionally edited hardbound edition of my book distributed through major booksellers might give me sales numbers I could use to seduce a larger publisher down the road. This seemed to me to be a reasonably modest goal, and I was thankful to Ephemera Bound for having the confidence in me to risk investing in what would amount to a "reprint" since my work had already appeared online.

During a Q&A telephone conversation early in the negotiations process, Ephemera Bound put significant emphasis on grounding my expectations in reality. They assured me in no uncertain terms that I wouldn't "get rich" by publishing with them; they wanted me to understand that it was highly unlikely my book would end up on anyone's bestseller list. What I would get, however, was the prestige of being distributed in hardcover by a bricks-and-mortar publisher with solid ties in the industry -- something that might make a very favourable impression when I approached someone bigger with a new work.

Ephemera Bound's Deanna Dahlsad emphasized that, on top of this, their distribution channels could definitely get more copies into people's hands than an independent author with no marketing budget printing through Lulu. "Otherwise there would be no point!" she laughed.

Ha, ha, ha.

I was offered a very competitive royalty rate, and given the power to veto objectionable edits. I was electronically introduced to their resident editrix and felt assured that she understood the key concepts in the book. Finally, I signed a publication agreement with Ephemera Bound in September of 2005.

My first warning sign came in November 2005 when the editrix, the late Marsha Rogers, asked me to send her the manuscript in unstyled plain text broken into segments no larger than 125 kilobytes in order to best accommodate her obsolete word processing software and her extremely slow dial-up Internet connection. While this didn't exactly reek of professionalism, I was willing to be flexible and did as I was told. I uploaded the files, sent a link, and asked Marsha to let me know if the posted files were indeed readable to her.

I didn't hear back from Marsha for many months. Having no experience in the editing of books, I had no idea how long the process should take. By the summer of 2006, however, I was becoming concerned about the delay.

I attempted to contact the principals at Ephemera Bound, but received no replies to my e-mails and no response from the voice-mail messages I left at their offices. Ultimately, I wrote directly to Marsha to ask whether something untoward had happened to Deanna and her husband Derek -- had they gone out of business?

A few days later Deanna wrote from a new e-mail account, explaining that the address to which I'd been directing my correspodance was one she "never used" (despite it being the avenue of all our previous communications). She went on to explain that Marsha was, in fact, waiting on me and this was why the process had stagnated. "What is she waiting for?" I asked, perplexed.

"The manuscript."

Now, let's put aside for a moment the fact that the entire manuscript was available on the Web in copy-paste friendly electronic format. Let's even forget, for the moment, that I asked Marsha explicitly to report back to me on the feasibility of the material I made available to her. In the end, poor Marsha hadn't understood what a link was, and had simply stared in confusion at the URL I had e-mailed her and, somehow, taken it as my cryptic way of suggesting that I'd send her the manuscript some other time.

"Are you sure this woman is qualified to edit science-fiction?"

I e-mailed the full manuscript as a Microsoft Word formatted attachment. Marsha replied to say she had received it intact. Relieved, I promptly put the project out of my mind again.

I heard from Marsha next in October 2006. She had nearly completed her revisions, but she needed me to do some minor rewrites in four or five different chapters. Due to the thickness of family life and work, it was a full two months before I turned those rewrites around and sent the updated chapters in question back to Marsha. "My apologies for the delay!" I wrote.

In January 2007 I wrote to Deanna at her new e-mail address to gently ask after any kind of tentative timeline for releasing the finished book. Readers had been e-mailing me, wanting to know when they could revisit the adventure (which had since been pulled from the Web as a part of my contractual obligations to Ephemera Bound). Deanna never wrote back.

In May 2007 I was contacted by a California-based producer named Matt Chapman who was interested in negotiating a film adaptation option for the book. His first question to me was whether anyone besides myself had any stake in the film rights. I told him quite honestly that, to the best of my understanding, no one had any stake in the film rights at this time, but that Ephemera Bound had explicitly asked me to inform them of any activity with regard to the property in order to keep them "in the loop." Thus, I told Matt Chapman that we would be obliged as a courtesy to consult with Ephemera Bound before proceeding.

I wrote to Deanna. I wrote to Derek. I left numerous polite (but increasingly insistent) messages at the Ephemera Bound offices.

No reply was forthcoming.

Finally, after ten business days had elapsed, I wrote to both of them stating that all reasonable means of communication had been essayed with no result and that therefore I would be proceeding with film adaptation negotiations without their input.

Deanna called me at work right away. She implied that I was a very impatient person for not waiting longer than ten days for their response, adding, however, that at least this time I hadn't accused of them of being out of business. Ha, ha. She told me that I was free to negotiate the option deal with Matt Chapman as long as any agreement included a proviso reiterating Ephemera Bound's right as exclusive book publisher. "We have no interest in holding you back," she said. "We just want to make sure the rights we've negotiated for are protected. After all, if it does get made into a movie we'll sell a heck of lot more books!"

Who could disagree? Further, she asked that I carbon copy Derek on the negotiations in the unlikely event that something should come up that could harm Ephemera Bound's stake or conflict with our standing publication agreement. I promised that I would do so.

Matt Chapman and I began negotiating via e-mail, with every missive carbon copied to Ephemera Bound. Chapman Media's basic option agreement was quite reasonable and required very little modification, so this process went quickly. After a week or so Matt sent me a contract with instructions to print two copies, sign them, and mail one back to California. He further enthused that he had managed to score a meeting with a relatively senior person at a major studio, and was preparing to pitch the film adaptation idea in just a matter of days.

That's when Derek wrote to say that Ephemera Bound already owned any and all adaptation rights, and that from now on Chapman Media would have to negotiate with him instead of me.


There was a rapid exchange of e-mails as we, and our duly appointed legal advisors, disagreed over the implications of the language in the publication agreement between Ephemera Bound and myself. Though the facts were against him, Derek dug in his heels and threatened to break off all negotiations, not only jeopardizing the upcoming meeting at the studio but also potentially killing the film option deal altogether.

So I did the exact opposite of what any lawyer will advise you to do: I elected to dissolve the impasse by laying down my every defense. I chose to explicitly assign the adaptation rights to Ephemera Bound, so that negotiations could continue. I trusted in Ephemera Bound to appropriately safeguard our mutual interests, and told them so. I asked them, if possible, to secure a modest amount of money for me in order to cover my legal costs.

A few days later Deanna telephoned to report that negotiations had once again stalled. The sticking point was my fee. "He insists he has absolutely no money for fees," she claimed.

"Alright," I said with a sigh. "I guess I'll take yet another one for the team -- forget about my fee."

Matt Chapman telephoned me next, also to report that negotiations had stalled. It seemed that Ephemera Bound was stubbornly insisting that the option agreement could not go forward without securing a fee for themselves -- and one an order of magnitude greater than what I had been asking for, to boot.

All he wanted to know was if the fee demand was coming from me. I told him how I had retracted my demand. He thanked me and hung up.

I don't know how he did it, but he did it: the option agreement was executed by Chapman Media and Ephemera Bound the very next day, and I received one of those fruity Hollywood gift baskets by courier -- truffles, chocolate, ribbons. It was signed, You're a star! M.C.

The next phase of Matt's plan was to try to arose some interest at the gigantic and much ballyhooed Dan Diego Comic Convention. I sent him artwork so that he could have printed materials prepared, and made available to him a copy of the manuscript for use in his pitches. Also, inspired by his convention idea, I decided to lease a vendor's booth at the Toronto Science-Fiction Expo for August 2007 in order to peddle books, raise awareness, and ignite some enthusiasm for the upcoming hardcover release.

The booth was expensive, however. I put out a call to my readers to chip in any money they could, and then hit up friends and relatives. The response was very heartwarming but, when all the expenses were tallied, I still didn't have enough money to order the quantity of books I'd need for the expo.

I wrote to Ephemera Bound and asked them three questions: 1) Could they give me a release date for the book, so I could include it in my printed materials? 2) Could they send me any Ephemera Bound materials, like posters or pamphlets, for display at my booth? And, 3) Would they be willing to contribute any amount of money -- even a tiny amount of money -- toward my being able to attend?

At this point it should have been a foregone conclusion: there was no reply.

That's pretty much when I officially started to become disgruntled. Did Ephemera Bound have absolutely zero interest in promoting our mutual interests? Could they not even be bothered to provide me with the vaguest of anticipated launch dates? Considering that in the wooing phase they had promised to be a powerful partner when it came to promotions, was it too much to ask for fifty bucks for gas money so I could drive into the city?

In order to find out, I wrote to Marsha and asked her, once again, if Ephemera Bound was still in business. As before, I received a reply directly from Deanna just a few hours later. Her note was terse: there was no release date for the book as of yet, they would be sending me no Ephemera Bound promotional materials as promotions were exclusively the responsibility of the author, and my "demands" for money were considered rude in the extreme, utterly ignorant of the needs of the many other Ephemera Bound authors whose promotional needs also had to be considered.

Chapman Media stepped in and offered to cover 50% of any losses.

So I borrowed more money, attended the expo, sold some books, and chatted up lots and lots of interesting people. The event was a reasonable success (and a lot of fun), with the notable exception of the embarrassed hesitation on my part whenever someone asked when Simon of Space would finally be available in stores.

In November 2008 Derek wrote to say that the release date had been fixed as 14 February. He also told me that the royalty rate I had been contractually guaranteed was too high, and that I would either have to accept a lower rate or they would not publish the book. In return for this concession, he promised me a better royalty rate on the follow-up softcover edition.

In December 2007 he contacted me to ask if I would design the cover for the hardcover edition. I asked how much the job paid, and he told me it paid nothing. Since we had originally discussed having an outside illustrator do the cover, I asked him how much he had been planning to pay another illustrator, and suggested that I would be willing to offer a considerable discount for a chance to earn a little cash to offset my expenses on the project. Derek reiterated that he was unwilling to pay me any amount, and that his position was non-negotiable. I wished him good luck with the outside illustrator.

In January 2008 Derek forwarded to me a sample layout of the cover, complete with an original illustration from a hired designer named Ashley Bosch, as well as a galley proof of the manuscript in electronic format for my approval.

I wrote back with some recommendations for improving Bosch's design, as well a list of concerns about dropped letters, spelling inconsistencies, and other problems with the text.

The next week I received two "review copies" of the book -- a softcover edition printed for final checking before going ahead with hardcover production. I thanked Derek for sending it to me, and included in my mail my continuing concerns about typos and the composition of the front cover layout, as well as the book's dedication to my brother being missing. The product was otherwise marginally passable, but the whole process had emotionally exhausted me to the point where my ability to care was severely eroded...I just wanted to goddamn book to come out already.

Since Ephemera Bound had no connections for distribution in my home country of Canada, I decided to shop the review copies around myself. My most potentially lucrative contact was with the manager of Toronto's Bakka science-fiction bookstore. She was very encouraging, but told me she could not make a deal without a physical copy of the final product in her hands -- a review copy was not sufficient. "No problem -- the launch is on Valentine's Day!" I assured her, and we booked a meeting for the week after that.

On Valentine's Day the hardcover edition of Simon of Space became available for sale through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and direct from Ephemera Bound. I eagerly awaited the arrival of my contractually stipulated free copies, and the beginning of the marketing and promotions phase which Deanna had promised would include interviews and, if they could swing a deal in Canada, book signing events.


Within a couple of weeks I learned that several readers who had ordered their books direct from Ephemera Bound had had their credit cards charged, but had received no product. I was informed that any attempt to e-mail or telephone Ephemera Bound was met with stony silence. So, naturally, I tried to contact Ephemera Bound on their behalf in order to ask after the unfulfilled orders, as well as my own missing copies of the book.

You guessed it: no response.

Two more weeks went by. Some readers received their books, but many others did not. I hadn't received mine, either. Moreover, I was alarmed to note that no promotional efforts were coming out of Ephemera Bound -- not even the modest PR announcements released to market their other authors. In fact, the only mentions of Simon of Space in the whole wide world were those that had been put out there by me, personally.

This time I would not be able to write to Marsha in order to get her to shake Deanna awake, because Marsha had died of cancer. I was left with no other option than to post a query on Deanna's personal blog, asking her as politely as possible given the circumstances why she had time to post trivia on the Web but not to return my telephone calls.

No response.

My next note outlined my grievances formally, described what modest steps would satisfy my concerns, and advised Ephemera Bound to govern themselves accordingly lest I instigate legal proceedings against them for breach of contract.

Deanna wrote back right away.

She claimed that promoting the book -- which had previously been described as "a co-operative effort" and also as my "sole responsibility" -- was none of my business. She told me my copies of the book were already on their way to me in the mail. She concluded by refusing to discuss the issue of the unfulfilled orders, since this would violate the privacy of the buyers in question.

Of course, my meeting with Bakka came and went, cancelled because I had neither merchandise to present nor a reasonable explanation to offer on behalf of the publisher. Over time, more readers received their books until there was only one exception I was aware of: a loyal reader in Alberta, Canada who had written to me hoping to find some answers. He had repeatedly tried to contact Ephemera Bound to no avail, even going to far as to scan and transmit a copy of his credit card statement.

When Derek troubled himself to reply to my fresh round of contact attempts, he reiterated Deanna's position that he would not discuss the case of the Albertan's missing book since doing so would be a breach of buyer-seller confidentiality. He also included the news that Ephemera Bound had, to date, sold twelve copies of the book.

Twelve copies, a month after the launch. Twelve.

When I initially released the self-published edition, I sold about twelve copies every day. With the meagre promotional powers of some random idiot with an Internet connection, I managed to move a few hundred copies within a month of the initial release.

Ephemera Bound, with all its industry connections, distribution channels, and the respectability of a traditional bricks-and-mortar company, had barely managed to sell copies to my twelve biggest fans -- fans who had already bought the first edition, and also picked up a hardcover as a gesture of support. In other words, Ephemera Bound had managed to reach the same fucking people I had already reached and no one else.

The only effective difference between traditional publication and self-publishing was that the book now sported a much crappier cover, had acquired new and bewildering typos, and my share of the profits had diminished by 80%.

I told Derek that I was unhappy with how things were playing out, and offered some suggestions for combining our marketing efforts for maximum promotional synergy. His reply was to state unequivocally that any and all marketing data was confidential. He invited me to sever the publishing agreement according to the exit clause in the contract, which stipulated that I would have to reimburse Ephemera Bound out of pocket for any and all costs associated with the project to date.

That's right: I could feel free to buy my book back from them.

At this point I recalled how our publication agreement had been modified by e-mail correspondence when the royalty rate was changed on me. It occurred to me that if I could get Ephemera Bound to amend the agreement again by way of an e-mail discussion, I could possibly score the rights back. After all, if e-mail agreements counted as amendments, the modifications would be unassailable; if e-mail agreements didn't count after all, then my cut of the royalties would jump upward.

The key would be framing the e-mail in such a way that they would feel obliged to make a choice in how to proceed, and the available choices would be rigged with a series of Rube Goldberg-like if-then statements that would, one way or another, put the ball back in my court.

I structured my next missive carefully. It was written like a computer programme, with three options available at the bottom: 1) Ephemera Bound can choose to exercise the exit clause (and therefore pay me for my expenses to date); 2) Ephemera Bound can continue to try to sell the book, but they must set and meet a six month sales goal, otherwise all rights revert to me without financial penalty (I suggested a modest sales goal, and invited them to make it more realistic based on their experience and industry insight); or 3) they could propose a compromise position for moving forward which we could negotiate the finer points of.

Deanna wrote back to affirm that they did wish to continue selling the book. They did not want to exercise the exit clause and pay me out, and they had no suggestions for any another kind of arrangement. She did not wish to revise my sales goal number.

Thus, she had accepted my conditions: sell X number of copies within 6 months, or lose the property lock, stock and barrel.

So now it's six months later. Ephemera Bound has withheld all sales reports, and failed to ship me the copies of the book to which I'm entitled. The guy in Alberta finally got his book, but my cheque for first quarter sales never arrived. Thus, on the anniversary date, I re-released my own edition of the book, put the whole novel back on the Web for free reading, and sent Ephemera Bound a polite note informing them that the time had come to stop selling their hardcover edition.

Naturally, there was no response.

As of this writing Ephemera Bound continues to blithely sell their illegal version, and to keep the proceeds for themselves. If nothing changes in the next few days, I will obliged to serve their host with a DMCA copyright infringement take-down notice, forcing me into the company of intellectual property douchebags like Uri Gellar and the Church of Scientology.

You know, they seemed like nice enough folks. Literate, earnest, modest. But in the end they chose dishonesty, evasiveness and flimflammery at every turn. Heck, at one point Derek Dalhsad was even simple enough to try to convince me that the version of the manuscript edited by the late Marsha Rogers constituted a derivative work over which they would have exclusive control, regardless of the rightsholder of the original property. (Why do people even attempt such flimsy ruses? Don't they know that laws are searchable via Google?)

So, basically these two American dickweeds are banking on their bet that my threats of legal action are all fury and no fire (I suspect they might be in for an unpleasant surprise on that front). They've rendered my first novel unpublishable, and they imagine they can continue to collect the nickels and dimes it earns until the cows come home.

Really, the ultimate loser here is whoever tries to make a deal with me next. This is the second time in my life I've tried to navigate an intellectual property crisis by being candid, giving, understanding, tactful and forgiving -- and, lo and behold, it doesn't work. Ephemera Bound has taught me that being a nice guy fails, and that being a self-interested, demanding asshole from the get-go is the way to get the respect you need to operate.

Threats are far more effective than reasoned discourse; ultimatums gain more traction than considered compromise.

(And yes, Virginia, the world is full of lawyers -- who cost more than they save you.)

I didn't expect much from Ephemera Bound, but they utterly failed to keep even their most modest promises. Derek and Deanna Dahlsad have repeatedly lied to me, and are now in the process of stealing from me.

I am upset, but hardened.

I won't be played again.

UPDATE 08-13-2008: The Ephemera Bound version is no longer for sale as of this morning. Ladies and gentlemen, we have compliance. I repeat: we have compliance! Good riddance to dorks.
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Why I Believe Ephemera Bound Publishing Sucks | 53 comments (53 topical, 0 hidden)
Hmmm by Gedvondur (2.00 / 0) #1 Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 11:03:34 AM EST
Well, I'm glad I got one of your self-published copies.

Sorry for your troubles.  It's sad to hear that you got played that hard.

I certainly hope things come out better for you in the future.

"I love my brain. It's the only organ I can afford to lose." --frijolito

Well, To Be Frank... by CheeseburgerBrown (4.00 / 2) #17 Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 04:03:06 PM EST
...rendering one's first novel "unpublishable" may be redundant in most cases, including mine. It's not like I've been cheated out of a gold mine here.

It just irks me when people operate with less than Vulcan-like precision when it comes to matters of business. I can tolerate all sorts of colourful shennanigans in other zones of life, but not when it costs me money or rains on my parade.

I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da.
[ Parent ]
It occurs to me by nightflameblue (4.00 / 1) #2 Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 11:16:56 AM EST
that I've rarely heard a good experience with any sort of intellectual property move that goes from small-time self-publishing to supposed "big time" brick and mortar houses. Music, films, books, pretty much anything that can be published. Once the original creator signs a contract, they're fucked. Honestly, as much as it sucks to be you right now, you're one of the lucky ones. A lot of folks end up bankrupt after big promises and the realization that the up-front payout was actually a business loan that has to be paid back.

I'm really sorry to hear this happened to you though. Everything I've seen from you indicates you have the talent to make it, and there's no reason even someone with half a brain cell couldn't promote you into the sky.

Good luck. I hope your next business venture goes much better.

IIRC by aphrael (2.00 / 0) #14 Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 03:32:37 PM EST
Quite a few big books started out self published by lm (2.00 / 0) #15 Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 03:47:58 PM EST
The one that comes to mind is the Celestine Prophecy. It took selling a few ten thousands of copies before it was noticed by a publisher. ISTM that the odds of self publishing and getting picked up by a publishing house are probably better than trundle-tossing, but not by a whole lot.

Kindness is an act of rebellion.
[ Parent ]
This Has Been My Impression, Too by CheeseburgerBrown (2.00 / 0) #18 Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 04:06:28 PM EST
...Which is why I post stuff for free on the Web instead of sealing it secretly into self-addressed envelopes and mailing it off to phantoms.

The bottom line lesson is that I'll be exceedingly sceptical of anyone else who wants to take a financial interest in my output in the future. They'll really have to work hard to prove to me that they can offer me enough benefits to offset having to my stuff into idea-jail.

I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da.
[ Parent ]
One other thing to consider: by nightflameblue (2.00 / 0) #20 Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 04:27:01 PM EST
At least, from the people I've chatted with in the music world, something that helped the few that did pull it off in a positive way was having an agent. In one gentleman's words, "Sure, they're soul sucking zombies of business, but you pay them to give a shit. If they don't get you making money, they make no money." He hated having to do it, but the agent took care of all the back end bullshit you just listed, while he concentrated on getting things done, talking to his agent once every couple weeks to make sure the process wasn't getting derailed.

This is not first hand knowledge on my part, and should only be taken as something I pass along from old acquaintances who say the agent made a difference. That's a really small number of people though.

[ Parent ]
true for books, too by Kellnerin (2.00 / 0) #25 Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 05:08:42 PM EST
However there are scam-artist agents as well, so it helps to be wary.

"Late to the party" is the new "ahead of the curve" -- CRwM
[ Parent ]
Let me second this by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #29 Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 06:41:44 PM EST
An agent is a necessity. A agent takes a cut and takes much of the bullshit.
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
Indeed. by CheeseburgerBrown (2.00 / 0) #30 Fri Aug 15, 2008 at 04:06:25 AM EST
I do believe I will be pursuing representation when my third (and hopefully worthy) novel is complete next year.

I still have one more practice novel to get through first (though a literary agency did approach me about it, I turned them down because they wanted me to pull everything I'd written so far offline and thus cheat my loyal readers out of an ending).

I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da.
[ Parent ]
For ensuring that we get that ending... by Bridget J (4.00 / 1) #46 Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 09:02:06 AM EST
...your loyal readers adore you for that. Just in case we haven't told you lately.

But yes, while you don't require an agent to publish, their job is to deal with a lot of the crap you've dealt with from EB. Preditors & Editors seems to have a good initial reference for what to look for in an agent.

[ Parent ]
Shit by ucblockhead (4.00 / 2) #3 Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 11:21:48 AM EST
I'd wondered what happened. It seemed obvious to me that it was a perfectly publishable work when it was on lulu and I was surprised the way it just never seemed to appear anywhere else.

Sounds like you have excellent grounds for a lawsuit, though perhaps it'd be a financially bad idea.

Have you thought about contacting the folks at Making Light? They're real editors, and they seem to specialize in outing publishing scam artists. (Though these guys seem more like incompetents than scam artists.)
[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

IAWTP by ana (4.00 / 2) #4 Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 11:24:45 AM EST
Dragging incompetent and dishonest "publishers" through the mud is what they do best.

"And this ... is a piece of Synergy." --Kellnerin

[ Parent ]
Thirded. by aphrael (4.00 / 1) #9 Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 12:43:10 PM EST
the ML guys are great, and they tend to enjoy stories like this. And ... they have much higher visibility than we do, so if you want to blacken the names of the blackguards ...
If television is a babysitter, the internet is a drunk librarian who won't shut up.
[ Parent ]
Fourthed, and more resources for you... by Bridget J (4.00 / 1) #41 Fri Aug 15, 2008 at 02:12:47 PM EST
...if you don't have them already. Some other places to check out, which might be interested to hear about your experiences with EB:

Writer Beware:

Preditors & Editors: or mirrored at

These links are courtesy this old post from Neil Gaiman's blog, in particular the long and comprehensive section of that post which is an email he received from Teresa Nielsen Hayden, who is one half of the couple who run Making Light.

[ Parent ]
Thanks For The Link by CheeseburgerBrown (2.00 / 0) #19 Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 04:09:21 PM EST
As far as a lawsuit goes, from elements I didn't go into detail about in my rant here, it seems fairly likely that Ephemera Bound is having trouble keeping its lights on. I can't see it being worth the effort of an international legal effort.

Still, if I'm ever in the Dakotas I'll be sure to stop by to take a shit on their stoop.

I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da.
[ Parent ]
*COUGH* by nightflameblue (2.00 / 0) #21 Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 04:28:13 PM EST
You may have a contact in the Dakotas who would be happy to make a special delivery.

[ Parent ]
Hush! Can Web-Trawling A.I.s Infer Implications? by CheeseburgerBrown (4.00 / 1) #23 Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 04:37:11 PM EST
even so by aphrael (4.00 / 1) #26 Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 05:24:52 PM EST
you should go see a lawyer. Your position is morally right but may not be legally right.

I would go into more detail about why I think this is the case, but I can't; it would be practicing law without a license, and that's become something I'm very leery of. (Then, too, I know enough to see where the other guy could screw you legally, but not enough to be certain he can; IP law isn't my forte).

Were I licensed I'd offer to advise you for free, because you're a friend and I like your writing. But I'm not, so all I can do is reiterate what i've already said: get a lawyer's advice so you can be certain these guys can't screw you more than they already have.
If television is a babysitter, the internet is a drunk librarian who won't shut up.

[ Parent ]
Everything I have read by blixco (4.00 / 2) #5 Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 11:33:35 AM EST
about small publishers...everything...has been bad. Every single one of them sounds like they got in it because someone else does the work, and all they have to do is shuffle papers from printer to shipping, and then, oh shit, it IS hard to do and they all scam their way through it.

Big publishers or nothing.

"You bring the weasel, I'll bring the whiskey." - kellnerin

Add My Anecdote To The Pile by CheeseburgerBrown (4.00 / 2) #22 Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 04:35:01 PM EST
Not for the first time, I'm painfully reminded that the part I enjoy is actually telling the stories. Since I am doing that, I have to appreciate that I'm in a good place already.

As far as gravy goes, I'm planning on starting a new book next year that I might consider fishing around to see if I get any big bites. This experience with Ephemera Bound will definitely be informing the process, and my expectations.

It's gonna be cool. It's about a train, eh?

Trains are cool.

I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da.
[ Parent ]
O love you. I wish I could write like the above by greyrat (2.00 / 0) #6 Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 11:44:10 AM EST
and like the book and your other stories. If by some freak chance you ever get your allotment of books from Ephemera Bound, I'd very much like to buy one as a souvenir of the horror show. I re-pointed my boy to the web version, and I'll do my best to justify purchasing a hard copy for myselfhim too.

P.S. Remember the show The Starlost? by greyrat (4.00 / 1) #8 Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 11:56:50 AM EST
I had a copy of the original novel from which the TV series was derived. The most interesting part of the novel was the introduction: A very long  screed by the author (whose name I don't remember -- this was 30 years ago) describing the massive cock-up that was the publishing of the book and subsequent creation of the  incomprehensibly crappy TV show. He described in painful detail how the whole process spun slowly out of and away from his control, how he was endlessly screwed by greedy liars and incompetents, and how he finally walked away from the whole project in disgust.

I wish I could find it for you...

[ Parent ]
Amazon Has It In Stock by CheeseburgerBrown (4.00 / 1) #31 Fri Aug 15, 2008 at 04:09:01 AM EST
...For whatever it's worth (though my edition is slightly cheaper).

I mean, I won't get the money but one shouldn't quibble over $0.05 or whatever my cut theoretically amounts to.

On the other hand, I really don't recommend the second edition. Reports from people in the field are that it has not been carefully prepared.

I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da.
[ Parent ]
Speaking of Amazon, by greyrat (2.00 / 0) #39 Fri Aug 15, 2008 at 10:45:43 AM EST
The have the book I was referring to - Phoenix Without Ashes. This is the very same edition I had. At least, the cover is right.

[ Parent ]
Damn. by ObviousTroll (4.00 / 1) #7 Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 11:49:48 AM EST
It's always disgusting and disheartening when you try to do play things the right way only to discover the other guys are weasels who are so bent they don't even realize they're destroying themselves.

Has anybody seen my clue? I know I had it when I came in here.
Ouch. by aphrael (4.00 / 1) #10 Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 12:47:59 PM EST
That sucks. Ephemera Bound is treading the line between outright scam and predatory asshole. They shouldn't be, and it's awful that you've fallen victim to them.

But I feel compelled to warn you: ISTM that you are in a position where Ephemera Bound could sue you in American court and win.

I strongly recommend you consult with an IP lawyer as soon as humanly possible.

If television is a babysitter, the internet is a drunk librarian who won't shut up.

How Sucketh The Suck by CheeseburgerBrown (2.00 / 0) #32 Fri Aug 15, 2008 at 04:13:58 AM EST
I will be consulting with my law talking guy next week sometime, when he gets back from Venice. He has advised me in the past, however, that Ephemera Bound seems too poor to either recover any money from or to mount an effort against me.

I have to wonder, though, in all my blissful ignorance: what would a judgement against me in an American court matter? What are they going to do -- extradite me?

Granted, if they had a ruling on their side in their own country they could continue to sell my work without fear of legal retribution from me...but isn't that the worst case scenario (and pretty much what they're doing now, anyway?)?

At any rate, I certainly do not have the money to retain an IP lawyer. It's not even an option.

I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da.
[ Parent ]
i'm not sure by aphrael (2.00 / 0) #37 Fri Aug 15, 2008 at 05:41:43 AM EST
how a money judgment in a contract dispute in the US would be enforced in Canada.

I'm relieved to hear you are consulting your lawyer. :)
If television is a babysitter, the internet is a drunk librarian who won't shut up.

[ Parent ]
I have a high threshold for taking it in the bum by MissTrish (4.00 / 2) #11 Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 01:32:04 PM EST
and even this seems excessive. Best wishes in the coming fire-fight.

ypu're a chair
Sigged! n/t by Gedvondur (4.00 / 1) #28 Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 05:56:53 PM EST

"I love my brain. It's the only organ I can afford to lose." --frijolito
[ Parent ]
I Foresee No Firefight by CheeseburgerBrown (4.00 / 3) #33 Fri Aug 15, 2008 at 04:15:19 AM EST
I don't think they have any ammo (financially speaking, that is).

But it's always nice to have your bum in mind.

I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da.
[ Parent ]
Jesus by motty (4.00 / 1) #12 Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 01:51:32 PM EST
There may be some honest small publishers left but it looks a lot like these people are nothing but a bunch of conmen. Wishing you all the best getting yourself and your book out of that situation. Also what blixco said. And what aphrael said.

I amd itn ecaptiaghle of drinking sthis d dar - Dr T
Hanlon's razor by Herring (4.00 / 3) #13 Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 02:13:23 PM EST
To me, they sound 4 parts incompetent and 1 part evil. After all, if they were competent and evil then they'd be a large publisher.

You can't inspire people with facts
- Small Gods

[ Parent ]
Wait a second. by ambrosen (2.00 / 0) #16 Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 04:00:33 PM EST
How much work did they put in to not selling any of your books? Why didn't they just, like, do the job properly?

I do know the answers to these questions, actually, because I've worked in the niche publishing/bookselling market. Wouldn't do it again.

Beats Me. by CheeseburgerBrown (2.00 / 0) #34 Fri Aug 15, 2008 at 04:16:20 AM EST
Honestly, I don't know what these guys were thinking at any step in the process.

I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da.
[ Parent ]
Sorry to hear this by Kellnerin (4.00 / 3) #24 Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 05:02:34 PM EST
It's clear you got involved with a crummy operation, though the publishing industry in general can be a pretty depressing place.

For future reference, a standard publishing contract has some usual exit clauses. For example, the publisher can judge a manuscript not up to their standards and therefore deem it unacceptable (unlikely in your case since they'd read the finished product). More relevant to your tale is that it is usually incumbent upon the publisher to make the book available for sale within 18 months of the author's delivery of the manuscript, or the author can terminate the agreement.

Also there is traditionally a clause whereby the author can request that all rights revert back if the publisher cannot keep it in print or if sales fall below a certain level. (This used to be a no-brainer for publishers: books that are not selling and taking up room in their warehouses is a bad thing, and they are usually happy to remainder them, give the author the chance to buy copies at cost, and revert the rights. It's become more of a battleground lately with digital publishing and print-on-demand, but POD were the idea you'd stay on Lulu, wouldn't you?)

The idea of "a professionally edited hardbound edition of [your] book distributed through major booksellers" is romantic, but as you noted, it was essentially a reprint, and shelf space in "major booksellers" is tricky for even the big boys to score for new authors. Small publishers are generally only successful if they identify a niche and establish themselves in it -- which Ephemera may have done, though your book was not, as the lingo goes, "a good fit for their list" -- so they were over-promising from the start.

You no doubt already knew how to reach your audience better than they did. Again, even big publishers routinely under-promote their authors. Few writers score interviews or book signings. Basically, the only way you could do better than you were already doing with your self-published version would be to have a major publisher put some real money behind it. Which you've already learned, the hard way. I'm sorry publishing is so fucked up.

"Late to the party" is the new "ahead of the curve" -- CRwM

Lowered Ex-pec-ta-tions... by CheeseburgerBrown (4.00 / 1) #35 Fri Aug 15, 2008 at 04:18:15 AM EST
Like I said, I didn't really expect much, but since I thought the manuscript was far too amateurish and unfocused to be properly published, I figured whatever small splash they could make would be a bonus.

I just hadn't counted on how much grief it would take to get there...only to find that there was nowhere at all.

Oh well...onward and upward.

I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da.
[ Parent ]
the industry by Kellnerin (4.00 / 1) #42 Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 04:40:10 AM EST
thrives on idealistic notion that publishers, by dint of being publishers, are capable of producing polished, lasting artifacts, and opening doors to fame (or at least some sort of exposure ... right? Seriously? No, really, you're not kidding?) simply due to their position in the world of letters. The dirty secret is that the idealistic vision is almost never true, and these days, for a lot of people who have the right friends (or the right combination of skills themselves), doing it on your own is by far the better path.

I found Simon on Ephemera's site with the amazing promotion, "Buy This Book Today $0.00." I think they're a little less competent than most at this business thing. Oh well, never trust a "publisher" with a seven-digit ISBN prefix unless you know the proprietors very well. (Besides, they should totally be on the ISBN-13 program by now.)

"Late to the party" is the new "ahead of the curve" -- CRwM

[ Parent ]
That's Good News! by CheeseburgerBrown (2.00 / 0) #43 Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 05:42:33 AM EST
That means they've stopped offering their version of the book, and are complying with our modified agreement -- which saves me a lot of hassle.

Thanks for pointing this out!

I guess true professionals put these things off until Saturday morning over coffee. Um. That's standard, right?

I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da.
[ Parent ]
Totally! by Kellnerin (2.00 / 0) #47 Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 05:53:45 PM EST
The book business would fall apart completely if it weren't for the stuff that gets done over Saturday morning coffee.

"Late to the party" is the new "ahead of the curve" -- CRwM
[ Parent ]
(Comment Deleted) by jared (2.00 / 0) #27 Thu Aug 14, 2008 at 05:48:53 PM EST

This comment has been deleted by jared

Sadly... by CheeseburgerBrown (2.00 / 0) #36 Fri Aug 15, 2008 at 04:19:01 AM EST least when it comes to entertainment/media/publishing, the worse sort seems to be the more common sort.

I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da.
[ Parent ]
I hesitate to say anything by johnny (2.00 / 0) #38 Fri Aug 15, 2008 at 07:54:25 AM EST
since my performance on the book you and I are collaborating on is not especially great, but here is one observation on transitioning from self-publishing to "the big boys".

Before getting into that, I offer my real sympathies for your grief with Ephemera Bound. You  and your book deserved better.

Some years after my second self-published novel came out, I got a call pretty much out of the blue from a pretty senior editor at Random House. He had read my first book, Acts of the Apostles, checked out its positive reviews, and wanted to know if I would be interested in a two-book deal to reprint Acts & write a new book. It was very good for the ego to have them pick up the phone and call me.

Long story short, after a few flattering phone calls and meetings -- he bought me lunch in Manhattan and breakfast in Boston, I concluded that the "second book" he wanted was not one I was much interested in writing, and that I had no idea what it would take to get to the point where we actually had a signed contract. So, I told him "thanks but no thanks" and ended the conversation.
Maybe that was foolish, maybe Random House would have put their full backing behind me. But my  reading of the tea leaves was that I was looking at a small advance and a minor chance of success,writing a book I didn't really want to write, making much less per book than I can make self-publishing.

If I ever publish a book that sells 20k 30K copies, maybe then I'll have enough clout to get the kind of relationship with a "real" publisher that would make it worth my while.
Buy my books, dammit!

Don't Let The Pains Pain You by CheeseburgerBrown (4.00 / 1) #40 Fri Aug 15, 2008 at 10:53:00 AM EST
Aw, don't worry johnny, it'll come together eventually. My financial sitch isn't nearly as dire as when last we spoke telephonically, so don't stress on my account.

I remember you telling me about your experience with Random House. Just in case I forget, though, tell it to me again next year, will you? It seems important to bear in mind.

I am from a small, unknown country in the north called Ca-na-da.
[ Parent ]
Ephemera's Excessive Etherealness by zwhite (2.00 / 0) #44 Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 06:11:17 AM EST
I had to delurk to offer my words of encouragement. I've been reading you here and at k5 for years, and when you did SoS and your storytelling blog they immediately went into my RSS list.

Funny enough, last week I finally got around to ordering BONY and the anthologies (they were sent to Alameda, near the nuclear wessels.) Had I waited just a few more days I could have saved myself $8 on shipping. Ah well, now I have another CBB book to look forward to getting. :)

I wondered why it was that the hardcover edition seemed inferior. Now it makes sense. I've never seen so few pages between the copyright page and the start of the story. It was a bit... disconcerting.

If you find yourself out California way anytime please post it here. I'd love to shake your hand (and buy you a beverage or offer you a smoke, if you are a partaker at that time.)

Keep up the good fight. I enjoy your stories as much as I enjoy Philip K Dick's stories, and I hope you won't have to wait as long as he did for well-deserved literary recognition.

Alameda! by R343L (2.00 / 0) #45 Sat Aug 16, 2008 at 06:47:39 AM EST
I can practically throw something at you on the way to CCK on the ferry. ;)

Note there is a fairly large contingent of SF area hussies and you're certainly welcome to come out for drinks and dinner and stuff. There will (hopefully) be an event in a couple weeks when ni manages to bicycle down the coast (probably between the 1st and 5th).

"There will be time, there will be time / To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet." -- Eliot

[ Parent ]
that's very kind by zwhite (2.00 / 0) #50 Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 08:36:55 AM EST
And I may just take you up on that, if I can get over my natural shyness on these things.

[ Parent ]
SoS by hulver (4.00 / 1) #48 Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 12:35:53 AM EST
I bought the hardback version through Amazon, and I was unimpressed.

I didn't notice any differences between the hard copy and the self published edition. The dodgy formatting at the beginning of one of the chapters was still there. The Canaloni / Canoli confusion is still there.

Those are the big things that stick out. I've not been through the two copies side by side, but it doesn't look like much has been changed.
Cheese is not a hat. - clock

What a mess by nebbish (2.00 / 0) #49 Sun Aug 17, 2008 at 05:07:14 AM EST
I suppose this is what agents are for (I had wondered).

Hope you manage to get some form of redress.

It's political correctness gone mad!

*hug* by duxup (4.00 / 1) #51 Mon Aug 18, 2008 at 06:20:09 AM EST
You are a stronger man than I.  Just reading this is upsetting enough.  I don't think I could take it if some of my crappy works were hung up like that.
It's your fault, you jerk! by debacle (2.00 / 0) #52 Mon Aug 18, 2008 at 06:25:15 AM EST
Really, the ultimate loser here is whoever tries to make a deal with me next. This is the second time in my life I've tried to navigate an intellectual property crisis by being candid, giving, understanding, tactful and forgiving -- and, lo and behold, it doesn't work.

You idiot! You poopyhead! Even your daughter is old enough to know that you don't trust strangers!


My sympathies... by SarahDavisSings (4.00 / 1) #53 Thu Oct 02, 2008 at 10:51:17 AM EST
Yikes!  I knew things we're going badly, but not quite like that.  Hmm...sounds like I need to go back to Lulu and get my CBB fix that way.  :)

Why I Believe Ephemera Bound Publishing Sucks | 53 comments (53 topical, 0 hidden)