The romance publisher Ellora's Cave has moved on from trying to silence book bloggers with a SLAPP lawsuit; now it is reportedly making threats against the Romance Writers of America.
The RWA is the leading writers association for the romance genre. While it has no legal authority, it does have considerable industry clout. It can sanction publishers for violations of the RWA's Code of Ethics for Industry Professionals, and has done so in the past when publishers cheated authors out of royalties or otherwise tried to exploit authors (Harlequin and DellArte Press, for example).
Throughout Ellora's Cave's ongoing financial problems, the RWA has been pressuring the publisher to pay authors overdue royalties or release the authors from their contracts. The RWA has banned Ellora's Cave from conferences and forbidden the publisher from contacting RWA chapters to recruit new authors.
Ellora's Cave has been turba non grata with the RWA since September 2015, but matters took a turn for the worse this week.
Author Kellie Jamieson has revealed on Facebook that Ellora's Cave is making legal threats against the RWA. On Thursday she published part of a notice which she says the RWA sent out.
RWA has repeatedly contacted management at Ellora’s Cave to demand payment to authors. RWA has also requested that the publisher revert rights if it is unable to pay authors in full. The response we received was a letter signed by Steve Mastrantonio, attorney for Ellora’s Cave, in which he states, “any premature comment by RWA that Ellora’s Cave is in breach of their agreements is reckless, false and Defamatory.” Mr. Mastrantonio asserts that Ellora’s Cave is paying authors as it should, and “any false comments by RWA to harm his clients reputation will be dealt with in a forceful manner.
In light of Ellora's Cave's lawsuit against the Dear Author book blog, that is not a legal warning so much as it is an outright threat, an attempt to silence the RWA through legal intimidation.
Update: I have confirmation from a second source. The RWA really did inform its members that it had been threatened by Ellora's Cave.
Assuming, of course, that this statement came from the RWA. I am still seeking confirmation from the RWA. The RWA was contacted over 24 hours before this post was published, and they have not responded. If and when they do respond I will update this post, but as of right now I don't have confirmation that the initial report is accurate. If you have seen the notice from the RWA and can confirm the report, please let me know in the comments.
I can, however, add that authors are disputing the claim that Ellora's Cave is paying authors on time. They have told me that EC's standard specifies payments every three months, and numerous authors are insisting that they have not been paid in months, if not longer.
" I received a check in Jan. So now they're only holding 10 months of royalties hostage. 10. Months," one told me on Twitter. Another chimed in with "They're only 7 months late paying me...last check supposedly covered thru 9/15." A third author told me that "At the end of this month it will be 11 months owed to me."
In short Ellora's Cave is in the same poor financial state it has been in for the past several years.
As initially reported by Dear Author in 2013 and 2014, Ellora's Cave has been struggling to pay authors (and staff, for that matter) following a downturn in its sales. Rather than trying to fix the issue, reorganize the company, or shutdown, EC chose to respond to the news coverage by filing a defamation lawsuit in 2014 against Dear Author and its owner.
Given the corroborating reports from authors, this was nothing more or less than a SLAPP lawsuit intended to silence DA. It accomplished nothing other than wasting money neither party had to spare (DA had a crowd-funded defense fund, fortunately) and was settled in October 2015.
And now Ellora's Cave may be threatening the RWA.
Good luck with that. The RWA has stood up to Harlequin in the past; does Ellora Cave really think a has-been publisher can intimidate a writers association which made Harlequin blink?
image by Ezra.Wolfe