Too Little, Too Late

6:18 AM Nina S. Gooden 38 Comments


I haven’t said anything. Like a good little drone, I’ve kept my head down out of fear and sticky-sweet desperation. I’ve swallowed my bile, lurked on forums, and watched taglines…giving my support in the most useless of ways—silently.

But I can’t stomach it anymore. I can’t hold my tongue in the face of such violent disregard for individual well-being. I can’t take the lies.

In the summer of 2013, I interviewed to work for Ellora’s Cave. I remember the initial conversation like it was yesterday. In order to find a quiet space, I sat in my sister’s van in North Carolina’s muggy 90-degree weather. That’s how badly I wanted to work for this company. I was hired for what I thought would be my forty-year plan. I left my long-term boyfriend in Las Vegas, as well as another Managing Editor position, and moved out to Akron, Ohio to be the Managing Editor for Ellora’s Cave. At the time, I made a post about my fear and excitement, even going so far as to say: “I was foaming at the mouth excited to work for them. And with a chance to work intimately with something I was already passionate about, with a company full of cool people, how could I not be? In such a short time, I had found a new lifetime goal to go with my writing and it was obtainable. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance, no matter how difficult the journey?”

Original post, found here: http://nsgooden.blogspot.com/search?updated-min=2013-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&updated-max=2014-01-01T00:00:00-08:00&max-results=10

I think it’s important to note that everything I posted in that original post was true...at the time. Everyone I met seemed so very driven and sincere in their wants to provide a publishing experience where authors AND the company were satisfied. My respect and admiration for the team—particularly Patty Marks and Susan Edwards—still exists today. It’s easy to make people out into monsters; however, in my head, Patty will always be the most passionate boss I’ve ever had. She took a chance on me. She gave me the ability to essentially grow an entire department from scratch. We’ll come back to that in a second, but despite everything else, one of the hardest disillusions for me to deal with is the fact that someone I put so much faith in has let so many people down in such a unconscionable fashion.

My elation over having been hired by Ellora’s Cave soured in my mouth like a Warheads candy. It didn’t take long for me to realize that not all was well in this “company full of cool people.” That there was a very clear line between what became known as the “professional staff” and the “family staff.” I won’t go into detail about the individuals who worked in positions that they were clearly not qualified for because they were important to the people up top. I also won’t go into the disjointed hierarchy of power that seemed to funnel all decision-making to one individual, who frequently proved she was out of her depth. This post isn’t about those other people, it’s about me and what I saw.

Even now—with several years’ worth of distance between me and the conference room that made me develop what my friends jokingly called a “mild drinking problem” for the duration of my stay in Ohio—I get chills thinking about it. The blatant disregard for authors as a whole, the almost maniacal plans to keep authors locked into contracts that were unfair, just so they couldn’t publish elsewhere…the whole situation broke my heart. In that conference room, the last of my youthful optimism turned to stone. It vanished with the weak laughter I forced out of my mouth while the owners joked about authors who had complaints about not getting paid. That youthful optimism, now a hard statue of pain and sadness, cracked and fissioned with every command to lie about editing time-frames and to cover up scheduling mishaps. It broke and shattered with every beloved author I was told to quietly diffuse with whatever blatantly untrue excuse I was fed. With every cackling incident where a new author failed to read the boiler plate contract and negotiate for changes. Because that was on them to do and it wasn’t our responsibility to make sure they knew what was fair before they signed.

My office was in the middle of the building. I heard everything that happened but it was easier, wiser to keep my head down.

I was a sheep. Part of the ever-growing problem, with no hope of escaping. Before I knew it, I was working 12-hour days—along with several of my equally unhappy “professional staff” compatriots—in a frantic effort to fix the injustices I was helping to create. In November, not even three months after I began my adventure with Ellora’s Cave, I began applying for new jobs.

This brings me to another level of my growing desperation when it comes to Ellora’s Cave. Those individuals who are familiar with me as an author—yes, I also have perspective from that side of the story, but we’ll come back to that—know that I have suffered from epilepsy for all of my adult life. Because of that fact, most of my employment history up until that point had been primarily remote positions that I could do from my home. I’d contracted heavily and—at no one’s fault but my own—I had not made enough effort to network while doing so. That meant that EC was, in large part, my most valuable previous employer. I had to put them on my resumes but I couldn’t allow anyone to contact them. Maybe that wasn’t a big deal at the time, but it made finding a position in my field a challenge and I was out on my own for the first time. I needed my job at EC, it was my only shot at living a life that didn’t require me to constantly be under someone else’s thumb.

Even so, the crumbly dust that was my youthful optimism pushed me past my breaking point. The lies and the weight of my guilt—along with several interdepartmental grievances— eventually won out and I resigned from my position as Managing Editor. But I stayed with the company under a different capacity, hoping to find something else before there was nothing left of me but the bitterness.

That led me to a different department, which was hemorrhaging money on a project everyone involved knew was going to fail. My desperation worsened but there was nothing I could do. At this point I was no longer attempting to hide my search for a different job. I applied and applied, but by then the lawsuit was in full swing. The editing jobs I applied to always ended with the same awkward point of, “Oh, you worked for Ellora’s Cave…” Marketing interviews I went on frequently fizzled after a laughing, “I Googled this Jasmine-Jade company listed on your resume…” In addition, a previous editor had been threatened with abject ruination, should she attempt to work freelance outside of the confines of EC’s non-compete, so that was out. Besides that, while I love editing—and was desperate enough to take anything at that point—my true joy was on the management side. I genuinely loved being in a position to help grow authors and establish something as complex as an editing schedule. I loved working with the various departments to ensure all needs were met. Editing had been only one aspect of my positions at Ellora’s Cave and from where I was sitting, the chance to touch the other aspects again had been forever lost.

That’s when the hammer fell. In January of 2015, I was laid off with a large chunk of what had been the “professional staff.” The move baffled and enraged me but at the time, I was met with sorrowful emails and a general consensus of, “well, at least you can collect unemployment!” The firing stunned me. I couldn’t believe that I had done everything right, had kept my head down and worked hard, and still been given the boot. It made my forced silence seem even more pathetic, even sadder, for I ended up in the same place as everyone else in the end.

I don’t know why I thought that a group of people, who had laughed at a story about an author not being able to pay her medical bills because of missing royalties, would somehow care that I needed this job to maintain any kind of reasonable living situation.

Even then, after being fired along with a group of people who I personally knew had shed blood, sweat, and tears for the company, I kept my mouth shut. I did so, because I still needed the company. I still needed reference checks to go through—though I’m told that EC never returned several calls, especially after they fired the only HR person in the building. I still needed to maintain my reputation as a professional.

And I am ashamed to say that I was still reaching for the dangling carrot left in my departure emails.

Promises of being rehired after the “messes had blown over.” Promises of repaid courtesies for my “loyalty.” Promises of being treated “different,” once my publishing contracts were in place.

That brings me back to a previous comment. I’m an author. At the time of my hiring with Ellora’s Cave, it was forcefully recommended that I pull my books from other publishers. In fact, I was warned that while it wasn’t required, I wouldn’t be able to continue publishing with anyone else while working for EC. Which meant, if I had existing series out in the ether, they would die (please note that after some haggling, I was told I could continue the existing series, but it would be frowned upon, and in a company where whether or not you were liked was everything, “frowned upon” was a terrifying concept).

Now, I’m by no means a big-time author. At the time, I had only published about five titles and they were doing meh. But I had plans to grow each series and had hopes to continue writing. Ellora’s Cave essentially made that impossible. In addition to not being able to publish additional titles outside of the company, there were editorial stipulations I would have had to follow, including being edited by people who were 1) overloaded with their own 12-hour days or 2) were part of the goon-squad of individuals who weren’t qualified for their positions.

At one point, being published by Ellora’s Cave would have been a dream come true. Now, even if those promises were kept…no. Just no.

I don’t care about that carrot anymore. I should. The weight of desperation in my gut hasn’t lessened. If anything, it’s grown.




Jaid posted that the fact that EC had to lay off “several employees” “guts” her. She goes on to say that thankfully we’ve all found employment, so that’s totes fine. But this lie…I can’t even begin to tell you how much it hurts. I poured my heart and soul into EC for my time there. I fought for the authors and lost. I even fought for the company itself–tried to make changes, tried to find positive spins—and lost. And this is a slap in the face. No, it’s more like she walked up to me, smiling, and hocked the biggest cigarette-stained loogie she could muster right into the back of my throat. Or into my burning eyes, no, wait. That’s just the tears of a year of frustration and regret. I haven’t found meaningful employment and there’s no way she gets to use my struggle and despair as an off-shot comment designed to imply that everything is okay.

I’m not just some footnote in the wake of the destruction EC has caused.

Ellora’s Cave hasn’t answered a single one of my emails in the last year—except to tell me to email other addresses. My pleas for them to respond to background checks phone calls or to provide the promised letters of recommendation have gone unanswered. When I tried to contact them, asking for the paperwork for my curiously empty IRA account (an account EC should have been contributing to), all I heard was the crushing sound of disinterest. I hate that I am now on the other side of what the frustrated, frantic authors I helped hurt must have felt. I hate that I’ve had to take temp jobs doing office work in an effort to put food on the table. I hate that I had to borrow money from my dad to keep my car from being repossessed and that my dream of owning my own home before I’m 30 is so far out of reach now.

Not all of this is EC’s fault. I made my own choices and I have to live with them. But the fact that they’ve apparently “won” this entire debacle with Jane Little is wrong. Everything about this situation has been wrong from the start. And I know, I fucking know they’re sitting around their conference table, laughing and celebrating their “victory.” Celebrating the fact that they can continue to rent expensive houses in beautiful cities while the people who had faith in them, who needed them, struggle to scrape together enough spare change to put gas in their cars.

There’s a price to being a sheep and it’s paid out when the wolves throw back their clothing.

I know this post is too little, too late. When I could have been brave, when I could have possibly made a difference, I was too scared to speak up. Too scared to be lumped into the category of the “loud minority.” I’m sorry for that. I’m sorry for the harm I’ve done and the harm that continues to be done.

It might be too late, but I needed to say something, else I be strangled by the words caught in my throat.

This is wrong. Bullies shouldn’t get to win and I am forever #notchilled.



*It goes without saying, but everything posted here is based on my own personal perceptions and what I witnessed during my time working with Jasmine-Jade and after. No one else is responsible for these words, they are mine.

38 comments:

  1. But you said something now...and that is what matters!

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  2. You were really between the devil and the deep blue sea. The fact that you, as a relatively new employee, tried to keep your head down isn't something to be ashamed about. The only people who should be ashamed are the the ones who knowingly perpetuated this scam. And scam is exactly what it was. And, apparently, is. Good luck to you.

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  3. Unfortunately, the path to compromising one's beliefs often starts very small, with a tiny little step, and often with the thought that a small injustice can be fixed later by a bigger justice. It doesn't seem to happen that way in reality, but when we're young and inexperienced we can convince ourselves pretty easily. It seems that you've been through a very unpleasant learning experience. It is praiseworthy that you are owning up to your own mistakes. About all we can do in such situations is learn and move on. Good luck to you.

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  4. Nina - I've lived through something similar but it was in health care.
    I give you a lot of credit for speaking out...even now.
    Blessings - I hope you find your perfect job.
    Mitxi

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  5. Nina - I've lived through something similar but it was in health care.
    I give you a lot of credit for speaking out...even now.
    Blessings - I hope you find your perfect job.
    Mitxi

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  6. I wonder, have you and others talked individually or collectively to a lawyer (especially concerning employer contributions to a retirement plan)?

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  7. Thank you for sharing this. I'm so sorry this happened to you, but I think you acted the way most of us would have in such a situation--wanting to say/do something, but afraid of the personal consequences. It takes courage to speak out at all, which you are doing now, and to admit our own mistakes, as painful as that is. If it's any consolation, and I don't mean to condescend, if you're not yet thirty you are young. I say this as an "old." :-) You have time on your side to regroup and rebuild. I wish you all the very best.

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  8. It's not too little, to late. I'm sure writing this has lifted a burden from your shoulders and freed your soul. Wishing you lots of good luck in the future!

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  9. Nina, your IRA account caught my eye. Here is an excerpt from a similar question asked by another with a similar situation. Hope it helps.

    "It's completely legal if it's in the contract. I audit employee benefit plans, and there are some that stipulate that the employer can take out funds that are not vested from participant accounts. They can't take any of your money that you contributed, and they can't take any money that they contributed that is vested, but they can take back out what is, essentially, their money (the non-vested portion of the employer contribution.) Most Plans also stipulate that an employer can terminate a Plan for any reason at all, which would, effectively, close your account. The only thing they have to do is give you a certain amount of time to decide what to do with your account (to open an IRA for a rollover, for example.)

    Again, this is completely dependent on whether or not it's allowed under the Plan document, which you, as a participant, have the right to see. I'd ask for a copy, and look it over. It's a daunting document, though, so be prepared.

    The best thing you can do is find out exactly what is allowed by your Plan- don't ask anyone, just read the Plan document. If you don't find anything that would allow what you've experienced, contact the Department of Labor- that's the government branch that handles employee benefit plans."

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  10. My name is Angelique Mehl, I am not going to make an anonymous comment, as I have nothing to hide. I am not sure what this is about, I worked with you directly and remember EC being very accommodating to your needs. To say that EC treated you or any other employee like sheep is insulting and false. I have worked here for almost five years now, and I have a very sick child, because of this I was unable to be in the office all the time. Ellora's Cave worked with me to allow me to work from home for many things, and had always been very understanding of my situation; I would have been fired from any other place. Patty Marks and Tina Engler have always been gracious to me and my children. Last year when I fell on hard times during the Christmas season and was unable to purchase Christmas gifts, Patty, out of the kindness of her heart gave me money to get gifts for my kids (her money...not company money, I feel I need to make that clear before it is ripped apart and scrutinized on social media) so that we could have a nice Christmas. I have honestly had enough with hearing the amazing women of this company torn to shreds on social media. I am sure you will all attack me for defending this company, and the genuine, giving nature of Patty and Tina, but I no longer care. Have at it!!! There are so many half-truths and flat out lies being spread on social media that it makes me sick. Perhaps no one will even care what I have to say, but I feel that it needed to be said anyways. I hope you all have a happy holiday, and do some soul searching. This #notchilled witch hunt needs to stop.

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    1. Good for you. Both sides of the story need to be heard. Not just one side.

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    2. Looks to me like that soul has been searched, and good conscience won out. Bravo.

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  11. Better late than never. Nice to hear from someone on the inside about everything us authors not being paid already suspected.

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  12. @Sharonj31, in response to your question about banding together to get a lawyer...understandably, I believe most of the previous staff just wants to put it all behind them. I reached out to several members when I realized my IRA was empty but they never responded.

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  13. We met at AAD in Savannah a couple of years ago and I was impressed with you then. I have even more respect for you now. It takes a strong person to admit when they've been part of something wrong and to apologize. I'm so sorry this has happened to you and to so many authors I like and respect. I stopped buying from EC when I first learned that authors weren't getting paid.

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  14. Hi, Angelique Mehl! First, off, I hope you have a brilliant holiday as well. I appreciate you leaving a comment on my post and for the record, I have no intention of letting anyone attack you, one way or the other. I'm glad that EC has treated you well. As I mentioned previously, Patty is an admirable, passionate person who has many good qualities. It is my profound wish that that version of her is all that you continue to see. I wish you and your child the best of luck. However, nothing I've said here is a lie or even a half-truth. I went to great lengths to make sure everything I said was stripped of any hearsay and based only on my own opinions. It's nice that Patty helped you out when you were in financial trouble. That probably meant the world to you at the time and I would never begrudge her the praise of a good deed. But where was that generosity during times when others were struggling? I'm not talking about myself. The company let me go and did not have any obligation to my sudden and brutal inability to pay my own bills. But there are individuals who have relied on steady payments from EC for years, who suddenly had the rug pulled out from them. That generosity seems each to come by, as long as you are someone the company needs and can see on a regular basis. But regardless of what you're willing to admit (or perhaps you've never heard it), the phrase "out of sight, out of mind," was uttered quite a bit while I was in the office.

    Again, this is based only on what I've heard and seen with my own ears and eyes. Your perception is clearly different and I welcome it. It would be nice to think that this is all just a series of misunderstandings, snowballed into a blizzard. I certainly hope so. For all of our sakes.

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  15. Nina, well done for speaking out, and congratulations on getting out. Really, there are much more professional and nicer publishers out there.
    There's something in the water, isn't there? Over the last week or so I've seen a lot of evidence of how people can put blinkers on themselves, and hold them in place.
    I left EC because I wasn't getting paid and sales were in the toilet. Simple as. EC was a company I chose to do business with and then found it hard to extricate myself, because of the horrific contract.
    How can anyone support a company whose owner calls her employees and subcontractors such insulting names? Bad apples, bitches, witches, and worse. Am I bovvered? No, why should I be for someone who has such little respect for the people who made her rich?

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  16. I cannot stand the phrase "witch hunt". Stating facts of late payments and sharing one's own opinions in no way equals a witch hunt. I'm glad you're speaking out, Nina. I'm so tired of being called "hysterical" for opposing certain individuals and being called a liar for stating facts about late payments.

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  17. Breach of contract is a serious thing, Nina. I never had occasion to interact with you when you were with EC, but I feel for your situation, especially if EC breached your contract by not making required contributions to your IRA account, just as it has materially breached some of mine by unilaterally changing royalty basis and rates without obtaining modification of those contracts. You might want to contact Jeffrey Nye, my attorney. Perhaps you might get some recompense for at least your contributions which should legally have been deposited in your IRA along with the contracted matching contribution.

    While Patty may be basically kind and generous, it's my opinion that neither she nor Tina/Jaid can be trusted, for reasons I have made clear in my motion to intervene in the DA suit. As for Angelique Mehl, I attended every Romanticon and never met or heard of her until after the implosion in Aug. 2014--possibly not until 2015, when the EC website went down and she rudely answered my complaint about my readers not being able to reclaim book purchase records that disappeared in the inexplicable "meltdown." EC had a habit, back in the day, of hiring relatives, of whom Ms. Mehl may be one. It has also had the unfortunate habit, documented by judgments in various courts, of not paying its taxes and bills, and settling lawsuits to avoid being ordered to open its books to forensic audit. Its actions, to me, do not indicate that either Patty or Tina can be considered honest, ethical businesswomen.

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    1. Yeah I've never heard of Ms Mehl either... Must be after our time.

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  18. Hi Nina! You started at EC shortly after I'd gotten my rights reverted to my EC titles. They published my very first book in 2010 and for that I'll always be grateful. I remember how excited I was when I first started with them as well! I went to Romanticon and everything was rainbows and unicorns. But ultimately this is a business and we all have to eat. Not getting paid the right amount at the right time is a legitimate problem. I can only imagine how difficult it was for you in the belly of a the beast. I'm glad you spoke out now, at least. Better late than never!

    I will add you to my prayers that you get the job of your dreams. You're so young and have your whole life ahead of you. Telling the truth is never "bullying" -- it's speaking out!

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  19. Bravo for speaking up--that takes a lot of courage!

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  20. Please let us know what you charge for edits.

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  21. @RenaMarks, thanks for asking! My rates greatly depend on the author and are negotiated after I receive the first chapter of a book—this process is only necessary for authors working with me for the first time. Ideally, we settle around $0.008/per word (which includes two rounds of thorough simultaneous copy- and content-edits), but I am flexible. If the author has a very rough draft that will require developmental edits, we might bump it up to $0.012. On the other hand, for a cleaner author who only wants one pass-through, $0.006 works just fine.

    If you're interested, just send me an email to NSGooden@gmail.com and I'd be happy to take a look!

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  22. Nina, darling! I love you! I think you are compassionate, classy and talented beyond words. (Which is awkward because words are my business) I hope you find your dream job soon--you deserve it and frankly, so does the world. I would be more than delighted to provide you a reference if it would help!

    Please stay in touch. (You know where to find me!)

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  23. Nina, I met you in passing at the 2013 Romanticon, and remember you dancing with the cavemen on the stage during the party -- i believe, too much alcohol perhaps? lol! --

    Bravo for standing up for yourself. I often wonder, now that truth is being brought to light, if you had ever overheard someone stating that themes and/or outright story ideas were ripped from submissions and given to other contracted authors?

    I, also, would like to take you up on your editing skills, my dear. Trust me, as a 30 year old, a lot can happen in a very little amount of time. Keep your head up and wade through the BS.

    Much love,
    Jordan

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  24. @Jordan Watson Thank you for your well wishes! I certainly did dance my booty off at Romanticon. Any excuse to shake my rump, alcohol or not, and I'm there. It was kind of you not to mention my traumatic brush with the karaoke machine ;)

    Unfortunately, I never heard anything about themes being ripped out of books. I'd like to think that something like that would be too much for me to take quietly. The closest to that situation I've every come across is a situation where an editor would recommend a theme (something very basic/generic) to an author who has a weak submission. Nothing done in malice, simply a "Maybe you should add something like a kidnapping to ramp up the Suspense after Chapter X." Sometimes those ideas came from other books we'd read and enjoyed.

    As for the editing, I would love to take a look at any of your projects. As I mentioned, my rates are pretty flexible and I'm always here to help, regardless.

    Here's to swimming through BS River. You guys have really made this soul purge worth it.

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  25. I've been following this tremendous mess ever since it broke and its good that you're finally getting this mess off your chest. I know plenty of authors that have been totally screwed over by their deceptions and malicious intentions. This may have been exactly what you needed to clear your concious, you can't allow the negativity to cling to you. It will just make you feel sick continually. And as for Mehl I wouldn't put it past the harpies to be posting under a fake name, i've seen that kind of posting before.

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  26. @Ben Wilson, thank you for your support. I appreciate your advocacy! Angelique is definitely a real person, however. I've worked with her and though I can't remember her title right now, she is definitely an employee of Jasmine Jade.

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  27. @Heather Angrick, I agree. There are so many different facets to this story. It's hard to get a real understanding of what's happening, but your best chance is to see it from as many different view-points as possible. Thanks for commenting!

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  28. Good for you, speaking out about injustices that you personally witnessed. It's important that the truth sees the light of day, especially now when such a devastating victory is claimed by the wolves, leaving the sheep further victimized. I only wish the authors that have been wronged would band together and continue the fight.

    Each author that didn't get paid has the power to FORCE their former publisher to fess up, pay up, and be held accountable. Now that they're no longer with that publishing company, they have the authority to approach whatever venues sold their books (Amazon, Smashwords, etc) and get a definitive tally of how many of their books got sold. If that number doesn't match up with how much they have (or haven't) been paid, they have legal options. Starting with reporting their former publisher to their local law enforcement for theft, discussing copyright infringement and piracy with the FBI and even the possibility of suing for their missing royalties and damages. There are LOTS of options.

    In the event that the authors are able to prove that they've been ripped off and/or maligned, a blogger that recently got sued for saying so will be vindicated, and can restore her good name. The fight's not over for EC just because a settlement was reached. If the authors come together, compare notes and take action, real changes can be effected.

    Chin up, all. One battle does not win the war.

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    1. You're absolutely right, @Lepplady. Perseverance and courage are everything in situations like this.

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  29. I am so sorry for what you what through and so happy you were able to free yourself! I believe everything you wrote to be true. I have my reasons. Big hugs and bravo for speaking out.

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  30. Sounds like you only take issue now that you've been laid off. Sure you say you felt guilty and had a problem with them before, but yet, you continued to lie to authors and do other things that you say go against your morals and values because you wanted to work for them so badly. You admittedly laughed at the jokes told at another author's expense too. You are no better than what you claim them to be. Had you not been laid off, you would probably continue to compromise what you say are your morals and standards in order to work there. I guess it's okay as long as you stand to benefit but once the benefits end, you take issue and need to speak publicly about all the wrong you say they've done. Well, you are a part of that wrong doing too my dear, no matter how much you say you felt guilty, were commanded to do it, or it didn't sit right with you..You are a part of that monster as well! I don't know how long you had been there but the saying goes, last one hired, first one fired or in your case laid off. Sure it's easy to speak out now that you've been laid off and most likely will not be rehired to work there. The real courage is speaking out in the midst of working there. Now, it just seems like a case of sour grapes. You've been laid off/fired...they won't give you a reference, aren't returning your calls or emails while they are continuing to "rent expensive houses in beautiful cities while the people who had faith in them, who needed them, struggle to scrape together enough spare change to put gas in their cars." if you were still working there and able to reap those same benefits..you would continue to remain silent. Yes. sour grapes Indeed.

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    1. Thank you for taking the time to post your opinion on this story. Perhaps you're right, though, as I mentioned, I had already started looking for a new job. I'd like to think that my response wouldn't have changed once I was able to support myself, but we'll never know. I freely admit that I was part of the problem and that I now hope to be a part of whatever solution is out there. If that's even possible--I have to believe it is possible.

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