There was a time when the name Leisure Books was synonymous with horror novels. When it came to mass market paperbacks, Leisure ruled the horror world. Authors like Ed Lee, Craig Spector, Brian Keene, Richard Laymon, Graham Masterton, Jack Ketchum, and even Stephen King have published with Leisure, which was owned by Dorchester Publishing.
Under other lines Dorchester publishes romance, thrillers, westerns – you name it. However, in 2009 things began to go sideways at Dorchester. Within months the company as it was known was gone: sales and editorial staff fired, reports of shipments to stores and authors delayed, creditors piling up along with unpaid royalties to authors.
In mid-2010 Brian Keene (pictured right; Ghoul, The Rising, Urban Gothic) forged a deal with the company for the return of all publishing rights to his work in return for the forgiveness of all money owed to him by Dorchester. This was the first truly serious sign of trouble heard in public.
Skip ahead to early 2011. Dorchester Publishing has reinvented itself as a strictly-digital publisher of e-books. The plan is to dive into the new era of publishing and drag itself out of financial trouble. 2011 saw many of its titles released in e-book format for many different devices.
Problem is, Dorchester doesn’t own all of the titles it continues to sell, including several of Keene’s titles. Keene, a very open voice on the Internet, raised a ruckus. Many other authors spoke up, relating similar circumstances of stolen work, unauthorized e-books, unpaid royalties, and rights held hostage.
This month Keene organized a movement to boycott Dorchester. A hashtag on Twitter and a Facebook group later, over 200 professional authors and over 10,000 consumers have joined the boycott.
Dread Central is now announcing that we are joining this boycott.
We cannot sit by and allow a company to directly harm the industry and genre that we love and support. As one of the few large horror sites to cover horror novels, we’d be ethically repugnant if we supported Dorchester’s efforts to profit off the work of Keene and others illegally and immorally.
We will no longer cover Dorchester’s releases. We will not review them or post news about them. Until and unless Dorchester comes out of this dark time and makes things right with its authors, we’re done with them and strongly encourage the horror community to join us. Don’t buy Dorchester/Leisure books, not even discount books in a clearance bin at Wal-Mart. Definitely do not buy any Dorchester e-books or download any ‘free’ e-books. (Yes, Dorchester has been releasing free e-books from some authors without authority.)
Some names in the horror genre that are already supporting the boycott are Craig Spector, J.F. Gonzalez, F. Paul Wilson, and Christopher Golden. A full list (as of 3/25) can be found here.
Dorchester has responded through Publishers Weekly as follows:
Dorchester CEO Bob Anthony and senior editor Chris Keeslar said they understood Keene’s frustration but said they are also frustrated by the situation. Anthony said the call for a boycott is “truly regrettable and not necessary to get our attention, since he has our attention.” According to Anthony, after being notified by Keene that some sites had been selling e-books for which Dorchester had reverted the rights back to Keene, Dorchester sent suppression notices to the vendors. After Keene reported that some sites were still selling the e-books, Anthony said they sent another suppression letter telling the vendors they expected the e-books to be removed from sale. “We expected the vendors to act accordingly,” Anthony said, adding that “we respect the right of reversion.”
Anthony acknowledged that in rebuilding Dorchester the company has had to “prioritize its cash flow.” This has resulted in not all authors being paid the money they are owed and that Dorchester had committed to pay when Anthony took over from John Prebich last November. “All authors will be paid in full,” Anthony vowed. The Keene controversy has been a setback to Dorchester’s turnaround efforts, but Keeslar said Dorchester is committed to rebuilding.
Keene, on his official website, fired back:
Here’s the thing, Bob. This keeps happening repeatedly, despite your assurances of sending “suppression notices” and despite your expectations that your “vendors act accordingly.” For three months, I’ve been asking for an explanation of why it keeps happening. I’ve yet to receive one. So despite your claim, I don’t think I’ve had your attention. I don’t think any of your authors have. But we do now.
A great breakdown of everything that’s happened so far with this drama can be found on Making Light.
We’ll continue to follow the Dorchester story and report any important changes as they happen. Hopefully, the continued public pressure on the company will force them to repent and make things right with the authors that built their company. At that time you’ll see Dorchester/Leisure news and reviews here again. Until then, stay tuned to Dread Central for news and reviews of horror books from all other publishers!
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