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Colorado Publisher Disaster

Dr. Evil

“Publishing can be evil!”

And I was a “victim of the game,” at least until last Monday. That is when I finally got a settlement from the publisher of my book Colorado 14er Disasters: Victims of the Game, because they committed flagrant fraud (in my opinion). I won’t mention them by name in this posting but they are a Boulder publishing company and their Big, Earthy name is easy to find simply by googling my book title.

What happened? Well, by contract they were supposed to pay me royalties every 6 months, something that they never did in the 6 years they had control of my work. They did pay me once in a while, but never on schedule. That was maddening enough, but what follows is worse.

The paperback version of my book was first printed in 2009, before ebook delivery systems like Kindle became popular. But ebooks were quickly becoming very popular. My contract with the crooked publishing company anticipated ebook sales and granted me a much larger royalty for ebooks, 40% vs 12% for the paperback. This makes sense though, it costs the publisher virtually nothing to “publish” an ebook. There are no materials to manage and no distribution to worry about.

I noticed a Kindle version of my book being sold on Amazon in 2010. I visited my publisher, sat in a chair directly across the desk from her and asked about the Kindle version. She looked me in the eye and said, “I don’t know anything about it.” I thus assumed that Amazon just converted existing books to ebook form and sold them on their own initiative, and that they would pay the publisher as they sold.

This was a bad assumption on my part. Amazon told me they never do that nor have they ever automatically published books on Kindle. The publisher had to take direct action to create a Kindle book.

My few and far between royalty statements never indicated ebooks being sold at all over the next couple years. I asked the publisher how much they were making on Kindle books and she told me, “I haven’t seen any money from Amazon.

By 2012, I asked that my statement include ebook sales as they could no longer deny they were being sold. I have a statement from November, 2012 that shows two categories, paperback and ebook sales. Paperback sales were relatively good, ebook sales showed zero books sold. ZERO!

For the next two years I asked to be paid and was essentially told “the check’s in the mail,” even though it wasn’t. Finally, at the beginning of 2015 we decided we’d put the hammer down and end this nonsense.

For three months, Shelly leaned on them, even going as far as showing up at their office and demanding statements. She got a bit of money and a statement, but not the full amount.

The statement showed they had been selling ebooks for more than five years!

I then filed a lawsuit demanding my back royalties (in the thousands of dollars range), interest and fees, and demanded that our contract be nullified. In mediation they thought about this for about one minute and agreed.

This publisher is still in business but they no longer are allowed to sell my book. There are still new paperback copies out there in the pipeline, and I’m sure used copies will be sold for a while.

I did republish on Kindle under my name and so the book is available there indefinitely. It’s an improved version with color pictures rather than the black-and-white copies from the paperback format.

And because I own the title now, I’m thinking of publishing a new volume with follow-ups to the original stories and new material: Colorado 14er Disasters Redux!


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