Over at The Passive Voice, lawblogger Passive Guy has linked a series of interesting articles about the ongoing saga of e-tailer All Romance E-Books, which has announced it is shutting its doors without paying the authors and publishers who used the store more than 10 cents on the dollar for Q4 2016 sales commissions.
Court documents have turned up some oddities in the way the business was run, and it seems likely affected authors and publishers are already banding together to file suit. But such a lawsuit will be costly in time as well as money, and may not bring a return worth the time and effort authors pour into it in any event.
- Publisher All Romance Ebooks: Closing Hits New Low In Stealing From Authors
- Court Documents Regarding All Romance E-Books’ Disturbing Business Practices Surface
- All Romance Ebooks & Visions of The Future: Part One
I’d link to the original articles, but this is a case where Passive Guy’s own insightful commentary is just as worth reading—particularly in the case of the first link, in which he explains at great length how and why those authors’ and publishers’ claims are likely to end up before a bankruptcy judge.
I don’t have too much to say about the specific details of this particular case—Passive Guy has that covered pretty well. But this incident does remind me that this is hardly the first e-publishing-related business to go by the wayside. Our own archives are replete with stories of e-stores and e-publishers who have fizzled due to the fickleness of the market or lack of much customer interest in the products they’re trying to peddle. (For example, The Atavist, Wowio, Oyster, Entitle, Librify. Even Scribd, one of the more successful non-Amazon ebook subscription services, had to cut its service offerings way back multiple times.)
What moral can we draw from this? And what does it suggest independent authors should do?
First of all, it probably wouldn’t hurt to diversify, and avoid putting all your eggs in any one basket—such as the basket of All Romance E-Books. But no matter how many eggs you put into how many baskets, losing a basket is going to hurt.
It also occurs to me that, for all that Amazon is one of the publishing industry’s favorite scapegoats, Amazon shows no signs of collapsing into bankruptcy any time soon. Love it or hate it, there’s no question Amazon has been successful, and has a pretty good reputation for paying authors and publishers what it owes them.
It would be a mistake to say that all independent authors and publishers should simply get over their objections and work with Amazon. I’m sure there are plenty of legitimate reasons to avoid Bezos’s corporation. But when I see competitors go under, harming the authors and publishers who had been counting on them, I wonder whether authors who avoid Amazon run the risk of cutting off their noses to spite their faces. Might they be too willing to take a risk on a less-than-stable business simply because it’s not Amazon?
In any event, it seems more clear than ever that the ebook market suffers from a great deal of instability the farther away you get from the biggest players. Is it ever going to settle down? We can only wait and see.