Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Author Concerns and Complaints at Crimson Romance

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Recent data suggests that the astounding pace of ebook growth is starting to slow as the market begins to mature. However, that hasn't affected the pace at which trade publishers are establishing digital imprints.

Often viewed as experiments, these digital-only and digital-first imprints may offer less favorable terms than the publisher's standard contracts, in an effort to shift more of the risk to authors (one example: Random House's Hydra, Flirt, and Alibi imprints, a controversy that had a happy ending when Random House changed the imprints' deal terms to make them more author-friendly). Another potential problem: in the rush to take advantage of a burgeoning new market, plans may not be as carefully laid as they should be, and books may be acquired and pushed out too fast.

This seems to have been the case at Crimson Romance, F&W Media's digital romance imprint.

Some background: Crimson published its first book in June 2012, and has been issuing titles at a brisk pace ever since. Amazon shows nearly 300 to date, published at a rate of as many as 57 releases a month. Over half the titles are available in paperback, via POD.

I've seen several Crimson contracts. There are no advances. Books are published within six months of delivery (fast by traditional standards). Royalties are paid on the publisher's net (a.k.a. "gross amount received"), 30% for ebooks and 10% for print.The grant of rights is life-of-copyright, with a reversion clause that allows authors to request reversion if royalties fall below $250 in each of two consecutive royalty periods (royalty periods are six months). However, this is qualified somewhat by the fact that, as an alternative to simply returning rights, the publisher can choose to "[take] such steps as it is able to accelerate sales" beyond the $250 threshold; if it can manage that within six months of the author's reversion request, it doesn't have to revert. In other words, if the publisher can get sales to $251, it gets to keep authors' rights for at least two more royalty periods.*

Last month, I heard from a few Crimson authors about problems at the imprint. I put out a call for contact, and received a flood of emails.** The issues cited are very consistent, the most frequent being late or missing royalty statements and payments, paltry sales, and hasty and/or inadequate editing (some authors told me that mistakes in proof weren't corrected before publication; a number of reader reviews on Amazon cite typos and other errors, as does major romance review blog Dear Author). Many of the authors who contacted me also felt that Crimson had done little to market their books, beyond Kindle promotions on Amazon.

Authors' main beef, however, is Crimson's ebook subscription service. Launched in July 2012, the service allows readers to pay $12.99 a month and receive unlimited downloads from the entire Crimson catalog. But while the Crimson Romance contract grants the publisher the exclusive right to--
publish, reproduce, and distribute the Work in electronic book and enhanced electronic book format in the English language throughout the world
and to--
price, promote, market, and sell the Work as it deems suitable
and to--
combine [the Work] with any other material in any publication or product, [in which case] the “Gross Amount Received” shall be pro-rated according to the proportion that the Works bears to the publication or product as a whole
--the subscription service is not mentioned or described anywhere in the contract. Not surprisingly, there's also no mention of a payment plan.

Many authors felt blindsided when the service was announced, with no contract addendums and no commitments on how they would be compensated. Some also worried about piracy, since F&W has a DRM-free policy; and about reader abuse, since readers could conceivably sign up for one monthly fee, download the entire catalog, and then cancel their subscription. Others feared that Crimson's efforts to drive readers to the subscription service would discourage purchase of individual titles. Still others questioned whether Crimson had the right to implement the service at all (F&W told me that they feel the language I've quoted above covers the service, even though the service is not specifically described).

Authors' March 31, 2013 royalty statements didn't include subscription service income, and those who contacted Crimson to ask why discovered that there was still no payment plan in place. Not until April 23 was a payment plan formally announced. Using the contract royalty percentage, Crimson is allocating 30% of subscription income to authors. But instead of pro-rating authors' share based on the number of downloads, as many authors had expected, payment will be based on the amount of time each book has been available in the service. Crimson justifies this methodology thus (quoting the announcement letter):
Supporting this methodology is the nature of the service itself. It is the full portfolio of titles that drive the subscription revenue, rather than any one individual title. Readers are signing up for the service in order to browse the full selection of books; individual titles that are downloaded are not directly driving the site revenue...

[A]fter reviewing the language in the author contract, it was clear that every title in the program (whether or not it was downloaded) would need to receive compensation simply for being a part of the service.
In other words, authors whose books are not downloaded at all are compensated at the same rate as authors whose books have lots of downloads, and books that have been in the service longest get the biggest share, even if recent books are more popular. Additionally, Crimson is apparently not reporting actual download numbers; and since the subscription service earned only modest revenues in its first royalty period, royalties due were tiny, with books published in the last month of the royalty period receiving just $0.42.

Some fed-up authors lodged complaints with Romance Writers of America, which contacted F&W in early May to discuss the complaints and to argue that the third contract clause quoted above ("according to the proportion that the Works bears to the publication or product as a whole") supports a per-download pro-rata policy, rather than the methodology implemented by F&W. F&W did not agree, leading RWA to deem the interaction "not satisfactory."

Last week, I contacted F&W for comment on all of this. They acknowledged that they didn't plan carefully enough for the subscription service, and told me that they are working to answer authors' concerns in several specific ways:

- Authors who wish to opt out of the subscription service will be allowed to do so at the end of the current royalty period (June 30).

- New contracts will include a description of the subscription service and how authors are compensated for it.

- An additional round of copy editing is being implemented to address authors'--and readers'--concerns about quality.

There's also a new Executive Editor on board. However, the provisions and the payment methodology of the subscription service will not change.

I appreciate F&W's willingness to speak with me frankly, and its efforts to address the problem. Of course, time will tell.

But though it's true that it's the whole Crimson catalog that drives subscriptions, rather than any individual book, I have to agree with authors about the basic unfairness of the subscription payment plan, which rewards longevity over demand and advantages books with lower numbers over the most popular titles--and, unless the number of subscribers grows at a rapid and continuing pace, all but guarantees diminishing returns as the pool of titles expands. In the long run, this may work to Crimson's deficit, as the subscription service will surely stand or fall on the depth of its catalog, and there's currently little incentive for popular authors not to opt out.

I'd love to hear from other Crimson authors about their experiences--either here or in email. I've also invited Crimson and F&W staff to stop by and comment.

-------------------------------

* I've also seen one contract that invalidates the minimum sales threshold entirely if a book is available in print. F&W informed me that this language was part of an initial version of the contract, but was eliminated early on and is not included in current contracts.

** Along with complaints, I received several emails from authors who were happy with their Crimson experience.

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

There are errors in this post. The threshold for royalties is not $250.

Perhaps you should contact Crimson Romance for facts.

Crimson Romance Author said...

Crimson stated that they are giving authors who want it the option to opt out of the subscription service and yet they haven't notified all of their authors about the option. Only a select few were sent emails notifying them of the option. It's been up to Crimson authors to get the word out to the other Crimson authors.
It's not really an option for all authors if Crimson doesn't let ALL of their authors know about it.

Anonymous said...

The contract I saw from Crimson directly states 250.00 threshold. Perhaps yours is different. Why don't you check your facts.

Victoria Strauss said...

I've seen several Crimson contracts. The reversion royalty threshold was $250 in all of them. Not only that, this threshold was confirmed for me by F&W staff.

Anonymous said...

Unlike some of the other commenter’s (such as those who replied on Dear Authors) I will state my name.

Bobbi Romans.

I’ve had nothing but a wonderful experience thus far with Crimson.

If I ask a question, I get an answer. It’s polite and prompt. If I don’t understand, I state so...and without any attitude get a breakdown.

Was given a release date, one which they met, and an ARC and cover in plenty of time to promote. I’ve seen nothing but polite professionalism from Crimson.

While I have not been able to attend all the publishing/author conferences I wish I could,(in general, RWA, RT, etc) I have attended several. I’ve overheard...

-Most publishers want to see your visibility online these days. They want to see you are set up to help market your own book.

Has anyone else heard this before?

-Online networking will be a must in this new generation of publishing.

Am I the only one that has heard this?

Let me tell you some of the things I’ve heard. (Diva much?) I left a certain group due to the overwhelming hostilities and slanderous talk towards Crimson.

“Why did her book get mentioned instead of mine? Mine came out before hers, doesn’t seem right?”-

Note: these were not sent in a private emails. The author who was spotlighted (no it was not me) AND a member of that group, no doubt felt a little awkward, rather than enthused over her moment to shine. I’m sorry, that was plain rude. Period.

“With other publishers they promote their authors. Crimson has done nothing to promote mine.”-

Maybe, maybe not. Crimson is rather Johnny on the ball (with the exception of occasional issues at retailers) with getting our books to countless retailers.

Also, refer above. Authors in this day and age (or so I’ve run across and been told by some wonderful, popular authors) do much of their own promoting. Crimson has partnered with several companies/sites, that shift off highlighting different authors and genres. Also, today the newly formed newsletter arrived, speaking of numerous other venues Crimson will be advertising. Both for authors and for branding.

“My book isn’t selling and it’s all Crimsons fault.” *snort*

Now, I’m going to state something, that though not publishing geared, is relevant.

I ran a business, top to bottom for nearly 5 years. (worked my way up that long ladder) During that first year I took over, we had hits...we had misses. It was a precarious year, filled with learning how best things would operate.

Is publishing any different? I don’t think so. The same principals, I suspect, apply.

Crimson stepping up to address them speaks volumes. Yes, only time will tell, but admitting and expressing a desire to at least, “meet half-way” is better than most get, with many companies.

Crimsons Book Club. Well, that’s the something that can swing both ways. I’m opting in after the breakdown I saw today. But...had pretty much already decided to do so.

Why?

Advertising.

We pay for it one way or another.

Also, the more the Crimson name grows, the more my name grows.

When I started, I’d hoped to be the one big break through novel where some agent somewhere thought “Oh thankfully we signed her.” That said, I was realistic in where I thought I would be. Deep down I knew that while it would be fab to write a novel, hit it big and sit with my cappuccino at some book signing in a foreign country, that was more or less fantasy. Like a lottery ticket.

You can't say you won’t...you strive to do that, but the odds are against you.

The reality was work at it. Hard. Keep going no matter how stinging the rejections.

Do it because you love it and HOPE to make a living at it one day.
I’d researched you see. Saw how many years my favorite authors were at it before they could quit their day jobs.

So while Crimson may have a few kinks, to work out, I do too.

Just one authors thoughts on Crimson and what’s been said about them. I speak ONLY for myself in MY thoughts.

Bobbi

Anonymous said...

Ms. Romans,

The below quotes that I have copied from your post is the biggest piece of hypocrisy that I have ever seen.
Those things were not said in a private email? NOR were they said in a PUBLIC forum. If my memory serves me correctly it was in a PRIVATE authors group.
Secondly...what in the world does this Dirty laundry you just aired have to do with any of the issues at hand?

Let me tell you some of the things I’ve heard. (Diva much?) I left a certain group due to the overwhelming hostilities and slanderous talk towards Crimson.

“Why did her book get mentioned instead of mine? Mine came out before hers, doesn’t seem right?”-

Note: these were not sent in a private emails. The author who was spotlighted (no it was not me) AND a member of that group, no doubt felt a little awkward, rather than enthused over her moment to shine. I’m sorry, that was plain rude. Period.

“With other publishers they promote their authors. Crimson has done nothing to promote mine.”-

teresa said...

Any idea how Crimson will select which published books will receive an additional round of copy editing? Or are they referring to the newly contracted novels?

Crimson Romance Author said...

Crimson has not said how it will determine which books will get a second edit. Authors were just notified of this new procedure today. I imagine it was a preemptive response to this blog post.

The edits on my book which came out in 2012 went like this- I got editorial notes on the manuscript and was given a week to turn them around. The editor never read over the changes I made (I didn't find this out until AFTER the book was published) and I was given no further editorial direction until I received an email from the managing editor to fill out a form with any further mistakes/changes I wanted made (galley edits).
I was given 3 days to turn that around, which I did. When my book was published less than a month later none of the galley edits appeared in the final published copy. NONE of them.

I discovered later that the managing editor published 15 novels with Crimson Romance under 3 different names (Jessica Starre, Alicia Thorne, & Jenny Jacobs-http://jenniferlawler.com/) and one nonfiction title with F+W for a total of 16 published novels during the year or so she was the managing editor.

Will the new managing editor and pressure from Writer Beware, RWA, and Crimson authors make a difference going forward? I guess time will tell.

Ekatarina Sayanova said...

Where is the neon sign that says: NEVER, NEVER, NEVER sign a contract without having your attorney go over it and explain it to you in minute detail. The contract described in this blog post is the new "normal" in ebook publishing. I'm not at all surprised that Crimson has found a way to achieve max sales and pay out min royalties. Self-pub is the only way to go...

Victoria Strauss said...

Re: the additional round of copy editing: my impression, from the conversation I had with F&W, is that all books will receive the additional round going forward. I was told this a week before this post went up.

Of course, as I said above, time will tell. Hopefully Crimson authors will continue to contact me to let me know how F&W is doing with these new measures.

I welcome comments, both pro and con. I know emotions are running high, but I'd appreciate it if the conversation could remain civil.

Victoria Strauss said...

Ekatarina--the contract language itself is not bad, in the majority of contracts that I saw. There's the one iffy issue with the reversion clause, but otherwise it's a pretty decent contract.

The problem is that Crimson didn't include a crucial aspect of its publishing program in the contract (though it is now arguing that certain broad provisions of the contract covers them for this). This is something that couldn't possibly have been foreseen by the authors who signed the contract before the subscription service was initiated, nor by their attorneys, if they'd hired them. Nor by their agents--and several of the authors who contacted me are agented.

It's authors' obligation to be as knowledgeable and careful as possible, but it's impossible to anticipate everything. In some cases, you really can say that yes, authors should have known better. I don't think that's the case here.

Anonymous said...

When Crimson Romance first came on the scene, like many, I was curious because of the great backing. However, all of a sudden I saw tons of people on loops popping up having sold a book to Crimson that had been rejected everywhere else. Now I *know* that this is commonplace in publishing and even great books get rejected but this happened on so wide a scale that I had to question the quality bar they were setting. I'm 100% sure there are great books in the mix. But if the overall brand is low quality, then people won't buy. And their covers are not up to par with other major digital publishers and certainly not up to par with Adams Media's nonfiction imprints. I understand using stock images, but the actual Photoshopping quality on some of them wouldn't pass an introductory course in graphics design. And I'm sorry, but if they were giving one round of editing, an additional round of copyediting is not good enough. No matter how well they fix their contracts, I don't see any benefit to this publisher over other publishers or self publishing. Which means, at the very least, that they will be scraping the bottom of the barrel for books and authors. Even if your book is amazing, do you really want your name associated with that?

Loyal Reader said...

So what's a reader to do? I am a voracious reader with over 1,100 titles in my Kindle archive and at least several hundred more with other digital platforms. I respect the time and effort of each writer I purchase. I respect your intellectual property and always buy my ebooks, so I can support those writers who give me so much enjoyment. That being said, there are some authors whose work I enjoy, but whose ebooks I will never buy simply because they are too expensive. I apologize, but I really believe that 12.99 for an ebook is too much. But 12.99 for a monthly, all access subscription? Sounds great to me, but now I feel guilty for even contemplating signing up. So what to do? Should I subscribe, because it will boost overall sales and downloads, even if the individual authors are not making much on each download, and the allocation system is unfair? Or do I just say forget it, and maybe miss out on meeting some new, great authors, who could then potentially have my repeat sales in the future?

Please, authors, what is a loyal, devoted reader who wants to support all of your efforts to do?

Anonymous said...

Definitely subscribe if you want to! Authors will work out their contractual issues, and since it sounds like they'll be able to opt out, everyone will be there because they want to be.

Rachel Aukes said...

Loyal Reader - Absolutely follow your heart's desire in what you choose to read and how you buy your books. Crimson authors ARE getting paid under the subscription model. And--perhaps even more importantly--the subscription model is an author's opportunity to attract new readers who may not have otherwise discovered their work.
Enjoy reading!

Doug Brunell said...

F+W has had so many problems as of late, that this one is no surprise. It's a shame because I love the company, but the things it has been doing in the past year or so have left me questioning how long it will survive.

Anonymous said...

By the tone of some of these comments, it is obvious Crimson authors are fighting amongst themselves and it is spilling out into the public. Not a good sign. Shows instability exists with this company.
Also, this proves anything you say in a private group is not private. Repeating snippets of discussion done in a closed loop is not cool.

Sounds like F and W Media wished to cash in on $$ to be made in the romance epub biz and did not plan it out well in advance.

Also, one round of edits is an insult to all romance writers. And to publish books full of errors? Unprofessional.

Anonymous said...

Loyal Reader...Lets say the shoe was on the other foot and you wrote books for a living and someone told you that you would be getting .42 cents for 6 months of your book being available in the subscription service. How would that make you feel as a person? Disrespected? Confused as to why do people think my hard work is only worth a mere few cents? Demoralized in a sense?
Yes, I agree, wholeheartedly, 12.99 is ridiculous for an ebook. But most ebooks are not 12.99 and I don't feel giving an author (who only gets 10% after all is said and done) a share of 2.99 for a book. I don't know about you but I would rather just pay the 2.99 and call it a night. Call it a night that I can sleep better knowing I wasn't a raging jackhole gorging at the book buffet. I mean because honestly that author could make more money knitting sweaters in china for a buck twenty-five an hour.

bobbiromans said...

Dear Anonymous,

There are so very many of you it’s rather hard to respond correctly.

1) There is a difference between private and closed. While the group was closed to the public, numerous links and posts were made for the purpose of sharing. Thus closed but not private. As it was an author group and as a professional courtesy I would afford anyone, your name was not stated, nor will it be.

2) Making other authors feel uncomfortable in the spotlights because you are unhappy, is uncool. It’s called bullying.

3) Out of the hundred plus members of the ‘un-official’ group...only 3 of you went amok, with slander, bullying, and other.

4) If you believe in what you’re saying...try leaving your name.

5) Lastly, guilting, bullying etc, a reader into buying books the way YOU wish for them to buy, summarizes the mentality being cast. I don’t think I need to say anything more.
Your catty words to Loyal Reader, express in far more detail than I could ever give, what’s truly going on.

I’d already stated my thoughts above, but since several posts were directed at me, am replying.

Ms. Strauss, I hope this post stayed within the realms of polite, if not, please feel free to delete and accept my sincere apologies.

An Author who stands behind her words,
Bobbi Romans

Anonymous said...

Loyal reader, I'm yet to be paid for the subscription service. Royalties were due beginning of April...It's nearly July...just saying.

I won't even touch what you're saying, Bobbi, but I will give you some advice: perhaps people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones.

And there are A LOT of unhappy authors, more than three as you've stated.

Anonymous said...

Dear Ms. Romans,
Lets talk about real names. Because this is yours I'm assuming? Now, it isnt a very private/public anything group when EMPLOYEES of the publishing house are in said group. Talk about beating a dead horse here? Bullying? Guilting? No, it is called reality. If you chose to write for pennies that is your god given right. But I would sure hope readers would rather pay the 2.99 for quality and supporting an author. You know that small ma and pop shop in the town that needs the locals to stay in business...sort of like that. Id expect you to know that since you are an expert having run your business for five years, was it? That is a reality.
Now, as far as this group of three you have referred to as "you". I have no idea, nor do I give a flying fig what you are talking about. What I care about is the longevity of an age old thing called publishing and books and the readers. You seem to think you know who I am, I assure you, you do not. So who is on a witch hunt here?
You want to come across as this polite all god fairing love the readers and respect the people but I recall you telling another author to "Put a sock in it" I, unlike you, steer clear of any of this hoopla normally, but after your first proclamation of emancipation up there something needed to be said. You screwed over what? 30 authors by yanking some event you put together because you didn't like what someone had to say? And you call me catty? PUH-LEEZ...dictionary.com it is your friend. Maybe that will clarify what catty means. I hope you do swell with Crimson, I have read many great books from them. And silly me for purchasing each one...for supporting local business and wanting to boost that authors sales and make them feel as if someone cared enough to go that route.

CR Author said...

About the subscription service-

-Authors are not paid per download and Crimson Romance has said that they have no way of tracking downloads in the subscription service. This is not true. The company Crimson Romance uses for the subscription service CAN track downloads. So why tell authors downloads can't be tracked?

-Crimson Romance issued a letter on April 23rd, almost a full month AFTER author royalties should've been paid, that spelled out how authors would be paid for the subscription service. As Victoria said, authors would be paid for how long their book was in the subscription service NOT for how many times their book was downloaded. According to the letter the 2012 break down would be as follows, according to the month a book was published-
June-July $2.42
August $2.02
September $1.67
October $1.25
November $.83
December $.42
That's the total amount an author could receive PER book. Not per download. The book could've been downloaded 1,000 times or 0 times and the author would still receive the same amount (example- $1.25 for an October release) according to Crimson Romance's made up royalty chart.
Not only that, each royalty period the amount owed to authors will vary depending on...
1. How long a book has been in the subscription service.

2. How many books are in the subscription service.

3. How many subscriber there are in the service.

Crimson Romance does not give their authors any of those numbers so there's no way to know if the amount Crimson Romance says I'm owed is the correct amount or not. Especially since there's nothing in my contract that spells out subscription service royalties.

Crimson Romance has refused to protect the books in the subscription service, has refused to track downloads to even know HOW readers use the service let alone how popular one book is over another, and they have yet to pay one single author (and if I'm wrong please speak up) for the subscription service. This tells me, and others may see it differently, that Crimson Romance isn't interested in traditional book sales and has steered their business toward a mass consumption product that has no real monetary benefit for their authors.
Some Crimson Romance authors see the subscription service as an advertising tool to capture new readers. Maybe. But not if every book you've ever written is in the subscription service. And how long can an author go without earning any income on their subscription service loss leader? At some point it stops being a marketing tool and becomes a royalty black hole.
I believe strongly that authors should be paid for their work. I only with my publisher felt the same.

Anonymous said...

I would just like to voice my opinion on some of the above.

First off, Ms. Romans, you started off your post by basically calling anyone who posted anonymously a chicken and patting yourself on the back for putting your name out there. You have nothing to lose by putting your name out there as you are backing the establishment. Others could be blackballed and our protecting their CAREERS. Then you imply that there are THREE authors dissatisfied with Crimson? They are leaving in droves and many are sitting out, biding their time until their own dismal sales get them out of their contract or Crimson folds and they can take their books and market them correctly. You imply that these authors are just a handful of unhappy people raising a stink about nothing, when, in fact, many of these authors have watched Crimson through error after ridiculous error, trying to give the company a chance, as it is a fledgling company. But the amount of unprofessional, sometimes even unethical, practices shown by Crimson is not acceptable in any company. Being new doesn't give them an excuse for all of this. These writers have been told they are just being negative whenever they point out any real issues. I know that many of them would have liked nothing better than to see these issues resolved and gone forward with the company. It is not an easy decision to break with someone who has chosen to publish your work in an environment where receiving a publishing contract is a very difficult thing to do. If you choose to stick your head in the sand and ignore critical issues such as these: books published without a last chapter; books published with errors EDITORS added when editing; a subscription plan that none of the authors knew about until it showed up online and someone stumbled across it, a subscription plan where authors will get paid pennies for their work (which may have taken them years to develop); having the only major promotion done by the company to be to promote the work of the editor (the editor that put more than a book out a month) and the subscription plan. I could go on and on...books not categorized correctly on Amazon, copyrights not done correctly, lack of communication, or unprofessional communication when there was any...pretty much every thing that could be done wrong has been done wrong. If you want to ignore these things, fine, that's your prerogative. But don't jump on others and make them out as malcontents because they are trying to make changes. Changes that will benefit you, I might add.

Finally, to the wonderful reader who questioned what she should do about buying from the subscription plan. My personal opinion is that this isn't on you. Crimson made the mistakes. Should you choose not to purchase as a kind of personal stand against this kind of behavior from a company, more power to you. If you choose to continue downloading the books you have every right to and should not feel guilty about it, IMO. Despite all of the problems that Crimson has had there are some excellent books in that subscription program. There are some extremely talented authors. If you want to give back to them, write a short review. It doesn't need to be anything fancy, just tell us your thoughts. And thank you for being a loyal reader--that's what keeps us going more than the money! Thank you, Ms. Strauss, for your fair and accurate reporting.

Anonymous said...

^
What they said.

Victoria Strauss said...

Guys: I welcome comments of all kinds, and I appreciate the Crimson authors who've posted here about their experiences--both positive and negative--whether or not the comments are anonymous.

However, whatever conflicts are happening in the private group are NOT welcome here. Please conduct them elsewhere.

BTW, I can confirm that there are many more than three unhappy Crimson authors.

Anonymous said...

Victoria,
I apologize for my anon comments on the situation. I just couldn't sit back and watch someone behave as if it was a one sided issue. Not to mention it concerns me that someone so brazenly aired the same dirty laundry they are so against. That to me has "hidden agenda" written all over it, and I Wanted to set the record straight. Feel free to delete my comments. I can let you know which ones they were.

Victoria Strauss said...

Thank you, Anonymous. I have no problem with anonymous comments--I understand why people may not want to identify themselves--and I'm not going to delete anything. I'd just appreciate keeping it civil from her on out.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Victoria Strauss said...

I just deleted an attack comment directed at the Crimson authors who've complained about the company. I don't often delete comments on this blog, but I won't tolerate attacks.

Anonymous said...

I am a Crimson author (one of the dissatisfied). The only information I've received regarding a 'new' round of copyediting suggested that us authors of upcoming books can have another opportunity copyedit if they so choose.

I have not been offered a new edit despite reader complaints about typographical errors. (I forwarded all complaints to Managing Editor).

Frankly it's embarrassing to have readers make these complaints and have our concerns go unheard.

My experience with this publisher has been so awful, that I have zero expectations going forward. I only hope that rights reversion isn't as difficult as dealings have otherwise been.

Anonymous said...

In response to a comment above, F+W management told me there were about forty subscribers in 2012.

Further, we have just received an e-mail from the new editor trying to convince us to take the long view and stay in the subscription service.

She states: "I’d also like to talk a little about our subscription service and how it can benefit you as an author. I know there’s a lot of apprehension about it and even misconceptions, and I hope I can help clear those up. As of this week, we’ve also added some clarifying language on the subscription service royalties to our contract.

Basically, here's how it works: Readers can enroll in the subscription club for $12.99 a month or $59.99 annually, which gives them download access to our complete catalog (with the exception of those titles by authors who have opted out of the club). The royalty paid out is 30% of the total revenue for the subscription club in each royalty period, distributed amongst all the titles in the program. (It is not based on number of downloads for any particular title because people are theoretically subscribing for the entire catalog, not individual selections, which could be purchased more cheaply on a singular basis.)

Each book's individual earnings are pro-rated for the number of months the book was available for sale during that royalty period. Thus books available for the whole six months of the royalty period will make six times more than books available for just one of those months.

So, where the benefit for the author comes in is this: it's a long-tail game.

Right now, yes, the royalties are going to be on the small side, as we have a limited number of subscriptions and a large inventory. We've only really just launched this service and started publicizing it in early spring of this year. Now, though the inventory won't get smaller, the subscriptions can grow exponentially more."

If this was so great a program why was it hidden from authors who signed in early 2012? It doesn't sit right with me.

Anonymous said...

I am also a Crimson author who has watched from the sidelines. I haven't liked what I've seen. Authors have been bringing issues to Crimson's attention and asking questions for MONTHS.

Today Crimson authors received an email letting us know that they are giving us the option of opting out of the subscription service IN JULY.
'For those of you who have opted out of the subscription service, confirmation emails came your way this week. We’re also going to be doing a formal mailing to all of our authors, further detailing the subscription service royalty payments and notifying you of the option to remove your titles if you so desire. Look for that sometime in July.'-Tara Gelsomino, Executive Editor, Crimson Romance

The royalty period for the beginning of this year ends June 30th. So why wait to give all Crimson authors the chance to opt out? To keep as many in for as long as possible that's why.

An option isn't really an option if it's given in such a way and at such a time that only benefits one party. I challenge Crimson Romance to not wait. Send out that email NOW before the end of this royalty period.

Show your authors you're serious.

Anonymous said...

Victoria,
Those sort of posts are the most amusing ones IMO. Just goes to show you exactly how people who don't have the same opinions on this situation are bullied, talked down to and are called jealous, petty B*****s. It's quite sad to see someone fight so hard for something that doesn't even kiss them after they...well...I'd imagine you can all take a stab at how that ends. And in the end what it comes down to is all these changes for the better...do you know how they came about? Exactly, they came about from those jealous, petty B's who fought to make things better in the long run. For Crimson to build a reputable name so they will have better sales.

CrimsonAuthor said...

Crimson is also formulating a response to this post - to address concerns and inaccuracies, they say.

As a beleaguered author, I can not wait to see what they'll have to say because their communication with us is dismal at best, and non-existent at worst.

It is like a dysfunctional relationship where we're communicating through third parties.

Tara Gelsomino said...

I’m Tara Gelsomino, the new Executive Editor at Crimson Romance as of June 3. I appreciate Victoria inviting our staff to comment and clarify and would like to address some of the points raised:

Publication rate: While we do have nearly 300 titles published, they were released at a steady rate of 20-25 eBook releases a month.

Reversion Clause and payments: We have, as of early June, revised this reversion clause to refer to royalties falling below $100 in two consecutive royalty periods. There is no qualifier about accelerating sales to retain rights. If earnings don’t exceed $25 in a royalty period, payment is rolled over to the next period.

Editing: As noted, we’ve recently added an additional copyediting pass to our editorial process. Every Crimson title released on or after August 5, 2013 will receive this copyediting pass. Each Crimson title has no less than five editorial passes by staff. Authors will see the manuscript at least three times to make revisions and corrections. This seems in accord with, or even more rigorous than, what several digital-first romance publishers provide, according to research.

Subscription service: As noted, we originally regarded the subscription service as covered by the contractual language. However, we have heard and understood our authors concerns and have detailed the royalty payments in our contract, as of early June revisions. We have also notified some authors already that they may opt out if they choose, and will soon be sending a formal mailing to our entire author base to further inform them of these issues.

We are investigating switching to a per-download accounting for the subscription service, but currently, we are not tracking individual downloads. So there is no “advantages” given to books with lower downloads. We also have immediate plans for a direct-to-consumer campaign that will reach millions of readers and to continue to grow the program with direct marketing.

Like most digital publishers, we remain DRM-free and offer titles in multiple formats for our readers’ convenience. While we continue to monitor piracy actively, we also choose to extend the benefit of good faith to customers. Further, we have a quite high renewal rate of more than 75% for our subscription service, so cancellation is not a problem. We are also continually adding titles to the service, so it’s in a subscriber’s best interest to remain enrolled.

RWA: We have been in frequent, pleasant communication with RWA and are not aware of them deeming our terms “not-satisfactory” at all. We’ll be working with RWA as we evolve and move forward to maintain a good standing and pursue RWA eligibility in the future.

Marketing & Publicity: We send out every epub for review and promotion and enjoy frequent and regular blog coverage, including USA Today’s Happily Ever After blog, Harlequin Junkie, Romance in Color, Night Owl Reviews, Chick Lit Central, Just Romantic Suspense, Manga Maniac Café, and HeroesandHeartbreakers.com. We will be featured in an upcoming issue of Romantic Times magazine, and Dear Author has also recently requested our release lists. In February 2013, we ran an enormous promotion in conjunction with Woman’s Day magazine of a free trial download of one of our Crimson titles. In addition, we’ve been received a number of coveted Kindle Romance Daily Deals, and our titles have ranked frequently in the top 10 of the Kindle Romance Bestseller charts. We were also pleased to recently be named the top publisher of multicultural and interracial romances in the Swirl Awards, receiving a total of more than 1500 votes from readers, outranking competitors by more than 700 votes.

As a very young imprint, we are still growing and evolving, but we’ve heard our authors’ concerns, have already made many changes, and will continue to do so. I welcome any of our authors to contact me directly at any time. As you can see above, I do correspond weekly with our entire author base, and try to always respond quickly to all emails and calls.

Anonymous said...

Anon said this: "I am also a Crimson author who has watched from the sidelines. I haven't liked what I've seen. Authors have been bringing issues to Crimson's attention and asking questions for MONTHS."

This has been my experience, too. from the slip-shod editing to releases being put in the wrong categories, or at some third party sites, listed twice at different prices, none of this has been addressed properly over a number of months.

Though a second round of edits is fine and welcome, I believe a book should be given as many rounds as it needs to make it as close to perfect as it can, or why go with a publisher at all if you are not going to get a proper edit?

Also glad they finally have an opt-out on the subscription plan. This should have been an option right out of the gate and a lot of this uproar could have been avoided.
Still more to be done.

Yet Another Crimson Author said...

'We were also pleased to recently be named the top publisher of multicultural and interracial romances in the Swirl Awards, receiving a total of more than 1500 votes from readers, outranking competitors by more than 700 votes.'

I would disagree with Ms. Gelsomino on this point. It was Crimson authors NOT readers who voted for Crimson in this poll and I have the screen shots to prove it. I would argue that Ms. Gelsomino knows this and has falsely attributed this 'win' to make the company look better. It was Crimson authors who brought the 'win' to Crimson's attention as they lobbied hard for it to help grow Crimson's floundering brand and boost sales.

As for the bloggers Ms. Gelsomino mentions, half of them are the result of relationships that Crimson authors have cultivated on our own going back to late summer/early fall in an effort to promote our books and Crimson's brand because Crimson was doing nothing in the way of promotion.
And as for Dear Author requesting Crimson send them a list of new releases... well, Crimson authors, again, have been doing this for MONTHS, going back to last summer when a Crimson author discovered that we could add our own books to a page on Dear Author called new releases. Here's the link to prove this- http://releases.dearauthor.com/pubmonth/12-jul/

Crimson told Victoria that they've given all of their authors the option to opt out of the subscription service. From the WB blog post- 'Authors who wish to opt out of the subscription service will be allowed to do so at the end of the current royalty period (June 30).'
And yet Ms. Gelsomino's post on this blog disputes this. From her comment on this post- 'We have also notified some authors already that they may opt out if they choose, and will soon be sending a formal mailing to our entire author base to further inform them of these issues.'
Her email to all Crimson authors dated June 26th further disputes Crimson's claim that they're allowing ALL of their authors to opt out of the subscription service. From the email-' We’re also going to be doing a formal mailing to all of our authors, further detailing the subscription service royalty payments and notifying you of the option to remove your titles if you so desire. Look for that sometime in July.'

How can authors exercise their option to opt out by June 30th if not all of them are given the option until July?

Ms. Gelsomino had this to say about editing-'As noted, we’ve recently added an additional copyediting pass to our editorial process. Every Crimson title released on or after August 5, 2013 will receive this copyediting pass. Each Crimson title has no less than five editorial passes by staff. Authors will see the manuscript at least three times to make revisions and corrections. This seems in accord with, or even more rigorous than, what several digital-first romance publishers provide, according to research.'

What about the 300+ books that received ONE round of edits? What happens to those books? Those 300+ books make up the entire Crimson Romance catalog. Knowing those books have problems and leaving them out there as a representation of the quality of ALL Crimson books does nothing to change public perception of Crimson Romance's books. It does nothing to further brand respect. It diminishes the perception readers have of Crimson authors. Reader reviews have cited poor editing on buy sites and on Goodreads.
Fixing the problem for August 5th books forward is great, but those new books will suffer because of the poorly edited 300+ books behind them. I don't see this as a plus for a new author looking to sign with Crimson Romance.

If asked, I would not recommend Crimson Romance.

Anonymous said...

Tara Gelsomino said...

Editing: As noted, we’ve recently added an additional copyediting pass to our editorial process. Every Crimson title released on or after August 5, 2013 will receive this copyediting pass. Each Crimson title has no less than five editorial passes by staff. Authors will see the manuscript at least three times to make revisions and corrections. This seems in accord with, or even more rigorous than, what several digital-first romance publishers provide, according to research.

Crimson should have done their homework BEFORE asking for submissions. Had I known I was only going to receive one round of edits before publication, I would NEVER have signed.

This new round of edits for authors 'GOING FORWARD' is wonderful, but too bad for the authors who came before. As far as Crimson are concerned, stiff s**t!

My advice: self publish or submit elsewhere, do your homework and listen to what's being said online. Don't be fooled authors, this imprint was not established to make money for its authors but only its own pockets.

Killarney said...

I am a new author with Crimson Romance. I’ve been happy with the promotional efforts by Crimson for my book that released in April Through Gypsy Eyes. They have done more by far on my behalf than my first publisher including get my book featured in USA Today. My editor has been very supportive. I do agree another round of edits is needed and they have implemented that, HOWEVER, take a close look at Avon, Zebra, Harlequin etc, they only do 1 round to my knowledge and I am told that is standard among the big 6. As far as their catalogue sales… the amount sold via publisher subscription I have found with my last publisher is not even worth worrying about. With my last publisher MuseItUp we have access to a database of sales detailed down to each vender and the amount sold via their own bookstore was miniscule compared to Amazon and Omnilit. The way I look at it if a reader downloads my book there and likes it they will search out my other books from other publishers on another site to purchase so I gained another reader. As far as royalties, I am set to receive my first from Crimson and I am pretty darn sure it will be better than the $140 I made from 7 novels and 2 shorts in 3 yrs at MuseItUp, so I don’t think I’ll be complaining. Just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

I think the problems with Crimson stem from the editors running it like a personal fiefdom.

Today's author's discussion centers on who can and can't get on the 'official' author's page at Facebook.

As it stands now, it's less than half the authors. I'm not on the loop because Julie Sturgeon refused to admit me. She has excluded authors she doesn't like and banned others. And this is the second FB group. Jennifer Lawler disbanded the first because she didn't like how the authors interacted.

Speaking of Julie, she complains that us authors make her 'real' day job difficult. Jennifer published novels in the double digits with Crimson while our books and concerns were sloughed aside in favor of her personal aspirations.

Check out Crimson's Goodreads page, another personal page of the former editor. Tara is the first editor to have an email that wasn't a personal one.

If this were run like a business, perhaps it would be more successful.

And the last author who's happy. Please search on the private loops to see what authors are really earning. It's possible that you won't receive a royalty statement, or it will not have your true sales. The detail you received from your last publisher, Crimson/F+W says it's impossible.

We have yet to know if Crimson has 'fixed' the problem with missing statements, statements not generated, or finding all those sales they 'missed' by mistake.

Anonymous said...

Killarney, I'm glad you've had such a good experience with Crimson so far. As a Crimson author, I agree things seem to be improving. For authors who have been with them longer, the past year has been bumpy to say the least.

You may need to manage your expectations in terms of royalties - or even reach out to authors who have had multiple royalty periods and find out how many of them have made $140.


You should also know your statement might never come, it will not be detailed, and in fact may not account for all of your sales. If your statement is missing sales, you may have to contact Crimson over and over for weeks until you are finally paid. None of these things are hypothetical, they have happened in the past, but hopefully won't happen to you.

This is not to discourage you. As we all know, writing is a long-tail game that is about more than one or two royalty periods. Still, it is about being compensated fairly and in a timely manner, which has not always happened at Crimson.

Stay positive -- whether you are with Crimson or considering signing -- but keep your eyes open and stay vigilant about your business interests.

Anonymous said...

I was pretty sure I'd make over $100 in my first royalty period, too, Killarney. I was on a month long blog tour when my book released of 2-3 blogs a month, blog hops, guest blog posts, social media, and more.
The check I got at the end of March was a little over $60 bucks and was missing royalties from the subscription service and print copies. I STILL haven't been paid those missing royalties after asking for them multiple times. I keep being told that they'll roll over into my next royalty check.
That's great and all for Crimson and their effort to keep me from asking for my rights back if they keep rolling over royalties from one period into the next. Robbing from Peter to pay Paul is not an honest way to do business.
It's almost as though they're making it all up as they go along. I'm still hearing from other Crimson authors with books coming out soon that the editing process hasn't improved. When I ask questions of Julie Sturgeon and Tara Gelsomino I get impatient sometimes rude responses. What's the point?
And now I see that they want to lower the threshold for authors to get their rights back from $250 to $100. Instead of concentrating on rebuilding the brand, editing, and sales, they're focused on locking in authors. How does this inspire confidence?
It's been embarrassing having friends ask me about the problems at Crimson Romance. When I signed my contract a year ago none of this was happening. And now my name is associated with a publisher that cheats their authors and puts out poor quality books.
I stopped promoting my book completely. It's so sad to say. I just can't put money into Crimson's pockets, knowing they are just going to cheat me on my next royalty check. What's the point?
Thanks for crushing dreams Crimson. Thanks for cheating authors who work hard sometimes at 2 or 3 jobs on top of their writing. Thanks for taking our books, our babies and ruining them. Thanks for embarrassing us to be associated with you.

Anonymous said...

A lot of hurt feelings at Crimson. I think a lot of first-time published authors went into this with expectations set way too high. When the first royalty check arrived, a lot of people were shocked they made so little.

There are legitimate concerns here. I did not like my edit.
Communication is spotty and not very gratifying as a lot of issues are still not resolved.

I am waiting for my first royalty period before I completely slam the door on this publisher.

All authors really want is to be paid what we are owed, given a detailed statement on what we sold and where, and be shown a little respect. Not much to ask for. Mess around with a author's royalties and they will speak up.

At Crimson, there seems to be a small percentage who think this publisher can do no wrong. Another small percentage thinks they can do nothing right. The rest? I think the majority are waiting it out, watching, and making plans to get back their rights as soon as they can.









Anonymous said...

An author asked what's to happen to the older less well edited, not promoted Crimson Titles. Our esteemed Imprint Manager had the following response:

"Here's how I look at it: Publishing is always about moving forward. You don't forget the past, but as the volume grows it becomes impossible to treat everything exactly the same. Let me use an example: I'm a scrapbooker. In the first year of my hobby, if you asked to see my work chances are good you'd see some pages twice during that span. I was working on the same, single album. Today, if you ask that question, I have 37 thick albums I could pull off the shelf (or out of the closet or the cedar chest) to show you. Earlier work doesn't cease to exist, of course, and I'm not ashamed of it or hiding it in any way. If you (aka the reader) ask to see something specific, like "any pages you'd done about the beach," then what I show you will certainly include my original pages. But if you simply say, "I'd like to see some of your work," you (aka the reader) don't want to flip through everything I ever glued down. Chances are good what I show you is within the last year, maybe two, because that's what's readily available.

Quality isn't the issue as much as quantity. We will continue to do promotions like our current Amazon sale, and advertisements for the entire line in general. But I can't think of a publisher on the planet that has its best sellers from even two years still front center on bookstore end caps and featured in ads. The volume prevents that kind of focus.

I would also like to address this idea that books prior to our upcoming August releases are somehow "not good" and I want to apologize profusely if I've personally given this opinion. The stories are strong. The writing is solid. The characters are memorable. The consistency in presentation from book to book is where we saw a chance to improve as an imprint, which is different from saying the individual books are weak. So to address [the author's] specific question, no, future books won't be "better." They will be ... well, new."

The new editor agreed. I guess we are officially 'on the shelf.' What alternative is there other than getting your rights back?

Anonymous said...

I am a Crimson author and I have long believed I was swindled. To be fair, the red flags were there. I just ignored them because I was desperate. I was part of their June 2012 launch. This is how it went.

1) My query letter was answered within an hour, and my entire manuscript was requested. Within a day, I was offered a contract. Again, I was desperate, but I read about them in a Writers Digest newsletter and figured they were ok.

2) The editorial process was a joke. My book was completely butchered, and most of the proofs and corrections didn't even make it to the final edit. I felt so friggin embarrassed and unprofessional. Not to mention completely unsatisfied by the unrecognizable final product.

3) All marketing was left up to me, with ABSOLUTELY NO GUIDANCE, other than to go make a bunch of social media accounts, oh and a Facebook Page. I'm all for promoting my work, but I have no background in PR or how to sell anything. Shouldering me with all that marketing responsibility just seemed like they were giving a blind toddler keys to a car.

4) I waited for over a year before I got paid. When I finally did, it was a pitiful $170. I contacted The editor to ask how many books I sold so I could do the math myself. I was told outright that there was NO WAY to know exactly how many books had been sold, but that I was averaging about 10/week. Wtf?

I am so disgusted and disappointed with mu experience at Crimson, I don't even care if get another royalty check at this point. I was desperate and got swindled. Lesson learned. I just hope I get to read about Crimson's downfall one day. That will be royalty enough for me.