Publisher Threatens Writers Association With Defamation Suit After Being Kicked Out For Not Paying Royalties

from the Ellora's-Cave-re-enters-the-realm-of-speculative-financing dept

Back in 2014, erotica publisher Ellora's Cave sued the person behind the influential and respected website Dear Author for defamation in response to a post questioning the imprint's financial stability and detailing multiple authors' claims that the publisher wasn't paying out royalties in a timely manner.

Dear Author based its post on statements from Ellora's Cave writers, as well as public records, which included a handful of tax liens against EC founder Tina Engler (a.k.a. Jaid Black). The post was a balanced and sobering examination of the publisher's financial problems and included plenty of citations for every assertion it made. Rather than address the issues raised by the post, EC/Jaid Black decided to sue.

Marc Randazza stepped up to defend Dear Author and roughly a year after the lawsuit was filed, a settlement was reached. The terms were confidential, so there's no telling who "won," but information uncovered during the lawsuit suggested Dear Author's claims that Ellora's Cave was underwater had plenty of factual basis.

This case may be over, but Ellora's Cave's dire financial state persists. Authors and staff say that they're still not getting paid, which means we could soon be hearing of a new lawsuit, bankruptcy, or both.

In fact, the situation is so bad that Ellora's Cave is neglecting to pay their counsel. Or so a footnote in one of the filing suggests:

Further, Ellora’s may be planning for bankruptcy even at this time–but have refrained from doing so in the hopes that this SLAPP suit will bear fruit. In fact, Ellora’s counsel has reported to the undersigned on numerous occasions that Ellora’s has failed to pay his bills.

The Digital Reader also pointed out that Dear Author wasn't the only entity to pick up on the fact that EC's payments to its authors were either greatly delayed or completely nonexistent.

Saoirse Moen also noted that Ellora's Cave is not in good standing with the RWA [Romance Writers of America] because it wasn't paying its authors, and the tweets of numerous authors who say that they are only now getting their February 2015 royalty checks confirm the financial issues.

Past performance may not be indicative of future results and all that, but who didn't see this coming?

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.

The RWA has basically cut Ellora's Cave off for violating its Code of Ethics -- which includes things like not paying royalties on time. It has banned EC from RWA conferences and forbidden it from using the group to recruit new writers.

The last lawsuit apparently didn't reverse EC's downward trend. Apparently, the publisher has enough money to fund litigation, even if it's still having trouble paying its authors. Nate Hoffelder of the Digital Reader has rounded up comments from EC authors indicating the publisher is anywhere from 8-11 months behind on royalty payments.

Hoffelder notes that the RWA has stood up to major publishers like Harlequin in the past so it's unlikely to be intimidated by EC's legal threats. And it now appears that Hoffelder's reporting has added him to EC's legal threat list. This Facebook post by EC founder Jaid Black was spotted by a reader of Hoffelder's site:

This guy is the blogger who reported Allison Kelly's email as factual and not at all misleading. Oh and he libelously referred to the lawsuit we filed and later settled as a SLAPP suit. Where's the judicial ruling backing up that sick assertion??? One should be able to prove what one writes about others.

Somehow, EC believes it can sue its way back to respectability. But that's incredibly difficult to do when you're better known for legal threats than timely royalty payments.

Filed Under: defamation, lawsuits, threats, tina engler
Companies: dear author, ellora's cave, romance writers of america

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  1. icon
    Marc John Randazza (profile), 31 May 2016 @ 7:40pm

    Re: Why Would Any Lawyers Stoop To Be Involved With A Client Like This?

    After litigating against him for more than a year, I'll say he's a class act. He may be representing a client you find objectionable, but lawyers are not their clients. He's got a job to do, and he's doing it.

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