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Ellora’s Cave Now Threatening RWA With Bogus Defamation Lawsuit

3278124117_f146ea9a65_bThe 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

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Mike Hall May 21, 2016 um 1:48 pm

"turba non grata" is a new one to me. Is it real or has your auto correct been acting up?

Nate Hoffelder May 21, 2016 um 1:55 pm

According to the several sources I found online, "turba" is Latin for "company or business".

Ellora’s Cave Now Threatening RWA With Bogus Defamation Lawsuit(?) | 38 Caliber Reviews May 21, 2016 um 4:17 pm

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azteclady May 21, 2016 um 4:55 pm

I for one would like confirmation from someone at RWA to confirm that Mastrantonio threatened them on behalf of Ellora’s Cave. Not that such a stupid action on the part of EC, and its principals and lawyers, would surprise me, but there’s a lot of BS floating about #notchilled, and the ignorance displayed from both sides of this contractual dispute in the past few months,* is contributing to the confusion and misinformation of the public.

Mind you, I don’t think that 24 hours is long enough to wait for a response from RWA, particularly if the threat is real; I don’t think it would be either unusual nor uncalled for, for the RWA to consult their own lawyers before they make a public statement on legal threats made towards the organization as a whole. I would further think that, if they did sent that letter to RWA members, they probably didn’t expect the content to be public fodder, at least immediately.

*Since Courtney Milan stopped explaining the legal going-ons for the benefit of the laypeople about.

Nate Hoffelder May 21, 2016 um 9:07 pm

You can find the letter over here:

I’m going to update this post with a longer excerpt and more details.

Greg Strandberg May 21, 2016 um 9:46 pm

I hope Ellora’s Cave goes out of business.

Jean Lamb May 21, 2016 um 10:08 pm

I think this is a huge mistake on EC’s part, RWA has much deeper pockets and meaner lawyers than EC does.

Syn May 22, 2016 um 1:12 am

10,000 members strong. Almost 100 bucks per member. They have really deep pockets. EC is nuts to take on this lion.

GRIFFIN May 22, 2016 um 12:06 pm

My personal opinion is that EC would never follow through on their threat. Why? Because I and many other authors can prove that we haven’t been paid per contract. The last royalty payment that I received was in December 2015 for June 2015.

HeartHunter May 22, 2016 um 5:33 pm

EC keeps lying. I was owed money for so long I was able to point out they’d violated the clauses in my various contracts. I got back a very rude email (which I have kept, of course) from some unknown person who never signed their name. Typically unprofessional EC behavior. The person said they would not return my rights because I had no proof they weren’t making efforts to pay me my royalties.
I had plenty of proof! No income from them!
However, I sought legal opinion and it’s an option other authors should consider. Because they hadn’t paid me in over a year I was able to prove I had not earned their $25 minimum (which they say is the baseline for returning book rights. The person who wrote back to me (again, I have no idea who it was since it was not signed) said they would consider my request on those grounds (clause 1.1) and six months later, all my books reverted to me. They had already pulled them from circulation a few months earlier though without telling me so I have no idea what I earned or didn’t earn but at least I can move on.
It was a bad, bad experience dealing with them and it was disheartening considering I tried for so long to get into the Cave. It was soul-destroying. They have no integrity and no respect for their authors.

BTW your definition of turba is incorrect. It means either uproar and disturbance, or crowd.

Nate Hoffelder May 22, 2016 um 5:42 pm

Google Translate disagrees on turba, and so do a couple translation sites.

Tibicina May 23, 2016 um 1:02 am

Really? Because if I put 'business' into google translate it gives me back 'negotium' (which is more like 'we’re doing business' or 'trade'), but the second translation 'res' is probably what you’d actually want. Res means 'thing', but gets used for basically any legal entity like a business.

'Turba' means 'company' as in 'a group of people' or a crowd, not so much a business venture. (which you might have known if you tried a reverse translation of it. Also, there’s a reason it isn’t given as a translation for 'business'.)

P May 22, 2016 um 7:46 pm

RWA should have stood behind DA long before they finally jumped on the band wagon toward the end. They could have stopped EC earlier when DA needed their help (and when those unpaid authors also needed help). Now they have to fight this little nuisance. I’m sorry they have to go through that but they could have stopped it before it got this far by fighting with other people.

azteclady May 22, 2016 um 9:21 pm

I don’t think the legal system works the way you think it does.

RWA was not a party to the EC v DA lawsuit, so beyond providing the affidavit they did, when asked, there was little they could do there. I don’t think their statutes would allow them to provide money for the legal defense for a blogger who was not a member, over an issue RWA wasn’t a party to.

Beyond that, I’m wondering what supposed power RWA has to "stop" EC–or indeed, any other publisher–after said company breaches its contracts with their authors.

Suspicious May 22, 2016 um 8:16 pm

EC hasn’t sent me a dime since the June 2015 royalties. But they can keep it all if they’ll give me my rights back. I’m not holding my breath, though. As for them threatening RWA, why wouldn’t they? It’s a tactic that has worked for them in the past. And until someone finally stands up to them and says do your worst and fights back, they will keep doing it.

Redrum May 22, 2016 um 9:46 pm

Why don’t authors not being paid royalties simply self-publish?

mj May 22, 2016 um 11:21 pm

EC owns the rights to the books via their contract.

Rasputin May 23, 2016 um 7:05 am

Can or will EC enforce the contract if they are refusing to pay the authors? Is their a precedent?

Jeannie May 23, 2016 um 9:47 am

Is there a precedent? EC suing a book blogger and threatening myriad others isn’t enough precedent to show that if EC thinks there is pretense for a lawsuit, they’re going to take it?

And why should authors be scofflaws and bear the risk of legal action for violating their contract? For what benefit? Because you, as a bystander to the drama, want more fun stuff to read with your coffee?

Most kids are taught two wrongs don’t make a right at an early age.

Celestine May 23, 2016 um 4:45 pm

EC knows few, if any, of their authors can afford to take them to court over this. So… yeah. Yeah, they will enforce the contract, despite having broken it themselves.

Celestine May 23, 2016 um 4:44 pm

There’s a little thing called a contract, which EC seems determined to hold their authors to, even if EC treats it like nothing. EC knows very few, if any, of its authors can afford to take them to court.

TiredOfIt May 23, 2016 um 9:59 am

Can’t use my real name but I’m an EC author. Yes, the RWA sanctioned Ellora’s Cave. And rightfully so. Haven’t seen a check since January 2016. Have been "not added" to the new authors loop because I was a bad child and spoke out against their bs. Authors should NOT submit to them. They will be treated like dirt. Heaven forbid you speak up and or out. You will be silenced. You will be ignored. Your hard work will fund a certain convict-loving woman’s lifestyle–not yours. Oh, and they hired a Bible editor to edit erotica. How does that work? Song of Solomon maybe? Bless their hearts.

azteclady May 23, 2016 um 10:30 am

Song of Solomon!!!

You win many internets today.

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Tima Maria Lacoba May 23, 2016 um 9:26 pm

I have a few writer-friends stuck in EC and they have not been paid in a YEAR!

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azteclady May 24, 2016 um 10:35 am

Hey, Nate, apparently you are next on the list!

I positively love the EP–who apparently still thinks TE/JB cannot lie–has to chime in with "I don’t know who that is." Gee, look at my surprised face here!

Nate Hoffelder May 24, 2016 um 10:51 am


I can always use new fans!

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Vicki May 31, 2016 um 12:21 pm

It’s been a while since I was a legal assistant, but I would think that any attorney would tell EC to not participate in verbal/written banter and would have had papers served if there was something actually happening in the courts. It’s public record, so anyone can contact the state they have filed their LLC in and see whatever has been filed. I AM NOT AN ATTORNEY, but if I was in any situation with EC, that is the first thing I would do.

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Madeline Pryce October 17, 2016 um 3:18 pm

I am an Elloras Cave author and haven’t been paid in over a year yet my titles still sell on Amazon and other e retailers. Total bullshit for them to say they are paying authors as they should. When I tried to get of my contracts stating i had not sold 100 copies in a 12 month period, I was asked for proof (aka statements). Haven’t gotten a startement in over a year. Last check I got was in Jan 2016 for period ending May 2015.

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