Wednesday, March 19, 2008

An Open Letter to FictionWise and ARe

Dear Sir or Madam,

In the last couple of years, the e-book industry has seen several e-publishers cease operations, taking all trace of profit with them, and stranding their unpaid authors (and in some cases, editors and graphic artists). Because they have no idea as to how much in royalties they’ve lost, these authors are unable to file a lawsuit against those e-pubs to recoup their losses.

Now, with the recent developments regarding more scrupulous dealings from e-pub owners, there is more reason to believe that the number of sales given to an author are being deliberately manipulated.

Therefore it is my sincere wish that your company enable a Log-In/Password system where an author, whose books are for sale in your system, can periodically check on the actual number of books sold. Or, if that option is not a possibility, that a report be generated that can be automatically emailed to the author, reporting sales over a specific period of time (e.g. quarterly or annually.)

Please seriously consider this suggestion so that authors can be paid what they are truly owed, and help keep e-publishers honest.

Thank you.


Diana Castilleja said...

Have you gotten any kind of answer or reaction to this yet?

Linda Mooney said...

No. I sent them this letter last week. Their website says all comments, queries, and questions will be answered within 24 hours, longer if it's a weekend.

Miss Mae said...

A very good letter. I hope it generates the kind of response we need!

Miss Mae

Tambra said...


Wonderful idea! Thank you for doing this.


Ciara Gold said...

Wow, what an absolutely brilliant solution. I seriously hope they take your idea to heart.

Unknown said...


I'm Steve Pendergrast of Fictionwise.

We cannot open up our reporting system to the thousands of individual authors whose books we sell through other publishers. There are too many issues that would cause. For example, how do we validate that a person who claims to be an author of a book really is? We don't know who people really are on the web. Many books are published under pseudonyms, making such a task much more difficult. The staff time required just to process all this would be enormous. There are also legal issues: we don't have a contractual relationship to the authors in these cases, only the publisher.

In addition, online reports are not audited, they are provided only for purposes of information so publishers can track the probable results of promotions etc. Only the official quarterly report is audited. There have been times due to software or other errors that the online reports have been temporarily incorrect. Therefore, they would not serve the purpose you intend, they are not official records.

At Fictionwise we do take issues like this very seriously, but we do it on a case by case basis. If an author contacts us with an issue like this, and they can furnish proof of who they are (by producing a copy of a signed contract for our review) then we will take disputed ebooks offsale and will furnish information as appropriate to the case at hand. We have done this on several occasions.

Take care,
Steve Pendergrast
Fictionwise, Inc.

Linda Mooney said...

Dear Mr. Pendergrast,

Thank you for clarifying this for us! And thank you and your company for your willingness to help authors who are involved in litgation. I'm sure there are many of us who are grateful for information.


Anonymous said...

Hm. That's my first reaction to Fictionwise's letter. Thanks beforehand, Linda, for allowing me to wear a cynic's hat for this comment - but having read the Fictionwise response, I thought:
Hm. So, Fictionwise, one of the largest if not THE largest seller of e-books on the Net, can't afford a tally of sales per each author/name/title they carry...?

But all sales are electronic. All payments 'harvested' electronically. All such data then is going into a...cough, cough, electronic database which should behave as any electronic database and can be easily and electronically persuaded to produce lists - at the touch of a key or in Fictionwise case, through software-program that's (I'm sure of this) built into their system. If it wasn't they'd not know HOW MUCH MONEY they're MAKING.

So, Fictionwise has no contract with authors - only publishers. Which means it charges publishers to post their titles on Fictionwise. (another source of revenue in addition to taking percentage from booksales) But Fictionwise WILL contract for 10 works or more with authors directly which make them also a publisher. So this behemoth in e-publish and distribution land can't afford...even a nominal service such as listing sales-per-title on a quarterly basis...?

Whew. They must be losing money. I'm sure they're in this business for charitable reasons.

What I 'read' from the letter was this: Fictionwise doesn't give a hoot what publishers do to their authors. We're removed from the owners whose product we sell. We take our cut from the publisher and we take ours immediately when the book sells electronically...BUT we can't give the author sales-numbers because "...staff required to process this would be enormous..." - but, but, but....they HAVE to give sales-numbers for each author to each Which means they already HAVE sales-numbers per title per each author with each publisher. Surely they're not saying that they don't and they simply have ALL authors from one publisher lumped into a "sales group" and the proceeds from this "sales group" is forwarded to publisher as a lump sum...?

What exactly is Mr. SP of Fictionwise saying? I thought I heard violins somewhere as I read his reply...and smelled something other than the aroma of freshly baked bread. Gimme a break, Fictionwise - you're full of it.

Linda Mooney said...

From one of my publishers I learned that, at any time, they can log on to FW and retrieve their numbers. However, FW does let them know that the numbers are fluid. At the end of each quarter, however, the titles are posted with their sales. FW gets a % cut off the top, meaning that percentage is taken before the checks are sent. FW then sends a copy of the quarterly statement to the publisher Along With Their Check.

My husband works for a company that makes computer software. He said that for an author to be able to log in under a name and password would not be too difficult to have, and security would not be a problem, since it would be along the same lines as any other place where you have to register and later log-on with your SN and PW. In fact, he pointed out that since FW already allows you to search by author name, half the battle - per se - is already accomplished.

BUT, the biggest issue here is numbers on the servers. Having so many people logging on at the same time would most likely shut the whole system down.

On the other hand (playing the devil's advocate), if Amazon can send me a quarterly statement via email...

My biggest concern is with e-pubs who are running two sets of books, and under-paying their authors. And don't tell me it's not happening. :(

Anonymous said...

It's obvious that what would take Fictionwise a lot of time and effort would be validating that the authors are who they say they are, not the generation of the report itself. The validation would need actual people to be involved, not just website code.