Tuesday, May 17, 2016

I Was Wrong About Ellora's Cave

Warning: When I’m pissed off, I cuss like a drunk sailor on a weekend pass so this post will be riddled with profanity.

My penchant for wanting to believe the best in people has bitten me in the ass one too many times. So, I’m breaking my silence on the Ellora’s Cave debacle. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to contract my first book with EC. At the time, they had a great reputation for not only paying royalties on time but paying early. Fuck yeah! I thought I finally got my foot in the door with a legitimately successful publishing company. My unabashed glee was short-lived when that first book was published. I started hearing grumblings about late royalties. I didn’t want to believe that voice whispering in my ear that I was probably about to get fucked three ways from Sunday. In the interim, I’d sold them more books.

When my first round of royalties came in, I did a little fist pump. Maybe the rumors were unfounded. Maybe these other authors were just unhappy that they weren’t getting paid every month anymore when the contracts provided for *quarterly payments. Maybe Ellora’s Cave wasn’t really abdicating the provisions of the contracts. See the opening line of this post. I wanted to believe things weren’t as they were. But wait, why is this check dated November 3, 2014, while the postmark on the envelope is dated December 26, 2014? What the hell?

After the myriad excuses sent by email blaming the late royalties on faulty software and sick relatives, I finally came to terms with the fact that I was being bent over the barrel along with many others. When I reconciled that in my mind, I sent an email demanding my rights be reverted on all titles because EC had breached all my contracts by not paying royalties on time. The canned reply I got was this:

I'm sorry, you have misinterpreted the contract you signed. Breach of clause 16 regarding royalties payments (or any other contract clause) does not void the contract nor revert book rights to you. When a contract is breached, the party claiming breach has the option of waiting for the other party to correct the situation or may pursue legal action to gain correction of the situation. In such case, the court would typically set a deadline by which time the situation must be corrected ("cured"), and if not corrected the court would decide on further action.

So, basically, to paraphrase, I was told that it didn’t really matter that they weren’t paying me. If I didn’t want to wait for them to remedy the situation, I could sue them to enforce the contracts. Motherfuckers. Not only were they not paying me, but now my books were being held hostage by contracts they clearly breached and they were telling me to go fuck myself in a very polite way. By the way, my EC books have never been big sellers and hiring an intellectual property attorney to sue on my behalf would have cost a shit ton more than they owed me. I simply wasn’t, and still am not, in the position to spend thousands of dollars to sue them. And I shouldn’t have to.

My last check was in December 2015 for **March-June 2105 royalties. I’ve put in requests for reversion of rights based on low sales for a couple of my titles. However, without any royalty statements beyond June 2015, it’s a little hard to figure that shit out. With a heavy heart, I removed all my EC titles from my website and don’t promote them anymore. That’s what hurts even more than the money…the fact that I have to tell my readers not to buy some of the books I poured my god damned heart and soul into. That’s just seriously fucked up. I still have a contract for one more book in my series but when all this started rolling downhill, I couldn’t write it. It was just too painful. For a while, I couldn’t write anything. You have to be a creative to really grasp how much shit like this will fuck with your head and shut you down. So, that next book in my series…I’ll tell Ellora’s Cave what they told me. If you want it, sue me.

There’s no damned witch hunt aimed at EC despite the claims being made on a certain nonsensical and insane website. We’re just pissed off and tired of being jerked around. I stand with all the other authors who are in the same boat that I am. I was wrong to give EC the benefit of the doubt. I’m sorry it took me so long to speak out. I hope you all will forgive my initial optimism. My hope now is that we’ll all get our rights back and we can close this chapter of our writing careers and move on to bigger, better things.

Blessings to all.

Alyssa #NotChilled

* I'm including this note for clarity. I paraphrased what the contract says for brevity purposes. It does not say "quarterly." What it does say is this: "Publisher shall pay Author royalties in accordance with a schedule to be determined at Publisher's discretion but in no event shall payment be me made less frequently than every three (3) calendar months,..."

** Corrected to include royalties from March-June 2015 for the December 2015 check I received. I erroneously wrote just March 2015 initially.


67 comments:

  1. Alyssa, I got out of EC last year but I'm furious for the rest of us who haven't been able to get out yet. Like you, my glee at being accepted by EC was loud and long. Didn't last long. Good luck to you!

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    1. Thank you, Jane. I'm so glad you got out.

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  2. Wishing you the best, Alyssa.
    For more than a year I've been very happy that EC rejected my manuscript.

    Mitzi

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    1. Thanks! Hearing about a rejection usually makes me sad, but not in this instance!

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  3. Alyssa, it's taken me almost two years to get back in the mindset to write. That's probably the greatest, unspoken symptom of this entire debacle with EC, that it makes your muse go into hiding, makes you unable to sit down and write about love and happily ever afters because you're miserable about the whole situation.

    I'm in the same boat with EC's nonpayments. Emails go unanswered and I even attempted to get rights reverted due to lack of payment only to get the same answer you did.

    I can only extend my heartfelt sympathies and say, "It will get better." Eventually. At least that's my hope. We just have to wait them out. And hope they don't continue slashing the prices of our books, tempting readers to buy them regardless of our requests not to.

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    1. I'm so sorry to hear you've faced and are still facing the same struggles. Finding my muse again was difficult but I'm doing better now, too. We're in this together.

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    1. It's ridiculous. Thanks so much for your continued support. It means a lot to me. <3

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  5. Yes, I was told the final book I have with them (which was on the best-seller lists for 8 weeks) sold 101 copies. Just enough where they didn't have to revert my rights OR pay me. This sucks for all of us.

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    1. Ugh. I just don't understand the lack of integrity. If they're circling the drain like it seems, own it and be honest and make it right as soon as possible.

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  6. You wrote: " I still have a contract for one more book in my series but when all this started rolling downhill, I couldn’t write it. It was just too painful. For a while, I couldn’t write anything. You have to be a creative to really grasp how much shit like this will fuck with your head and shut you down." I am in the same boat. Every author refers to their books as their babies. I, too, have been so disgusted with EC, I can no longer write. They are keeping money our books have earned for them. It's unethical. It's stealing. And they know it.

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    1. Oh, Debra. This breaks my heart to hear but I completely understand the feeling. I hope you can find your muse again. <3

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  7. Many small presses do this...it's so wrong.

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    1. But not all small presses. I'm with a reputable small press and I get paid on-time, every time. Please don't assume all houses are like this sleazoid excuse for a publisher EC.

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  8. same boat here, too. I also gave them the benefit of the doubt over and over. Because people are nice and don't lie and screw other people over. RIGHT. My last royalties came in Jan--for last Mar-June.

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    1. It's so ridiculous that post had to happen and that so many of us are in this same fucking boat. I'm so sorry you're in it, too.

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  9. Perhaps authors could get together, share costs and do a class action. That way it would cost less and carry more clout.

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    1. I'm not sure this situation would qualify as a class action but any legal recourse is worth considering.

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  10. I'm not published with EC but I was in a similar situation with my small press publisher. The contract stated after signing the book needed to be released within 12 months. They took over 14 months without even assigning me an editor to work on my book. When I said they were in breach of contract they kindly told me to fuck off.

    I ended up paying $200 (peanuts compared to hiring a lawyer) for their kill fee to get out of my contracts. I have all my rights back but while this whole fiasco was going on, I didn't have any creative energy for writing the sequel I was also under contract for (the one they breached).

    So I feel you! I'm sorry you're in this horrible situation!

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    1. Thank you. I'm sorry to hear what happened to you as well. Unfortunately, small presses like these ruin it for the honest ones. I don't see myself contracting with another SP ever again.

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  11. Alyssa, I feel the same way you do.. I was overjoyed when EC picked me up, and even more happy when I eventually ended up with a fabulous editor who "got" me--the wonderful Rebecca Hill. So I sold EC a bunch of stories and was shocked when my royalties tanked, and even more distressed when I ceased getting regular checks. It's very saddening.

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    1. It's frustrating and sad. I'm sorry they did his to you, too. I'll say I was lucky enough to get to work with Kelli Collins. She's the only part of this experience I don't regret.

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  12. Alyssa, I'm right with you, but I only had one book with them. They rejected the series and the second book, which is good now. But I to have asked for rights back and nothing. I haven't gotten anything since early December as far as payments for up to June. So they owe me for 10 months so I know how you feel.
    Trinity

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    1. I'm so sorry to hear this. I'm supremely disappointed in them. They owe me back to April of 2015. I'm not counting on them making it right any time soon. Their rejection of your other stories was a blessing. I never thought I'd say that to anyone but in this case it's true. *hugs*

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    2. I'm glad EC rejected my story, but still waiting to have it published by another small press. At least that press paid me a small advance!

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  13. I recall being over the moon when I finally sold them a title. I just got it back this month (after 3 years of little or no sales--or I should say, few checks. Who the hell knows how many books actually sold, right?) And honestly, any publisher who thinks this is a witch hunt is just as bat shit crazy as...oh, right. Yeah. That is the problem, in'it? Great fucking post.
    Liz

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    1. Thank you. I'm sorry you're caught up in this, too, but glad you have your rights back. And seriously, bat shit doesn't even begin to cover that level of crazy...

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  14. Alyssa, my friend. I adore you. I'm so sorry you're also going through this. What I want to know, along with everyone else, is HOW IS EC GETTING AWAY WITH THIS? Seriously. How is anyone not taking this woman down?

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    1. Thank you, Julie. The feeling is mutual. <3 I wish I knew how EC has pulled off this charade for so long. Their time will come though. Shady and dishonest business practices will catch up with them.

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  15. I'm so sorry!! This happened to me with another publisher, which, thankfully, folded. Another huge positive was I only had one book with them. But it was so disheartening. There was another publisher that I'm fairly certain didn't pay me the royalties owed me, but like you I had no recourse. There was no way to prove they weren't paying me the entire amount owed. Now I am so so careful about who I contract with. In fact, my last book I released independently and I'm so glad I did. Good luck and keep your chin up!!

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    1. Thanks, Gwendolyn. I'm sorry that happened to you, too. It's very discouraging but I'm working on other projects that keep me busy until I can find some resolution to this train wreck.

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  16. Alyssa, I'm so sorry. This happened to me too. Ultimately, I bought my books back. All of them. It burned to do so but got me out of business with them. Peace of mind check.

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    1. Thanks, Rebecca. I asked for a quote to buy mine back but they never came back with a quote. I'm glad you have your peace of mind and I hope we can all say that sometime soon.

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  17. It took almost a year to get my muse back on track after all the ugliness went down at EC. I didn't realize that I wasn't the only one who experienced that problem though.
    Like you, I kept holding out hoping for the best.
    It's really sad how much of a turn around they made - went from being an innovative front runner in publishing to basically a hot mess.
    *hugz*
    Hopefully you'll get your books back before long!

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    1. It really broke my heart and now we're tied to the rope of a sinking ship and they won't let us go. My creativity just died when I realized what was happening. I'm glad you got your muse back. *big hugs to my favorite signing table partner*

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  18. As the publisher and author at a small press, EC gives us all a black eye. We work hard to do the right thing, but this type of punisher needs to go out with dignity. Honor the contracts and close.

    JMO!

    sorry you had to experience this.

    Chris

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    1. I know not all small presses are void of integrity. I've been burned by two of them and right now I'd rather try things on my own. Who knows? Maybe I'll try again.

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  19. Alyssa,

    I'm in the same boat with that same publisher. I was overjoyed at first too. They still have some of my books, too. I haven't received a payment from them since January for Mar-Jun royalties.

    My creativity fell into a pit and I had to find a way to dig out. I was just lucky that a had one book already finished and another that was close enough that I managed to plow through the final words even though it felt like walking through deep mud. Eventually, I found the joy in writing again.

    I hope you find your muse again.

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    1. Thanks! I did find my muse again but I hate that one of my favorite characters is tied up in this mess. I've tried to write him and it's just radio silence. Maybe once I'm free of this crap, he'll start speaking to me again.

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  20. This was hurtful on so many levels for so many. Ironically, for some reason after selling my first book to this publisher I found myself unable to write another for them even though they encouraged me to and I really wanted to... but I was inexplicably creatively dry at the time (mad about it then, grateful for it now for it meant I only had one little book to get back from them, which I did).

    Then as soon as this all went south in fall of 2014, suddenly I was bursting with ideas to write (my muse has a HILarious sense of ill-timing, eh?) - but contractually the publisher would have had first crack at them so I held back on all the great ideas popping into my head. Grrrrr.

    Luckily, in the contract they weren't interested in anything I wrote under 10k. So that was what I wrote until I got them to revert my one title and release me from the first look clause. They didn’t have to let me out of that clause, but probably because I had been such a non-producer for them and they had bigger fish to fry, they let me off the hook. Whew.

    So in a weird and totally unexpected way, the #notchilled mess got me writing and publishing again. But since this was the 2nd publisher where I had to struggle to re-gain my IP rights, this time around I decided to team up with other authors in the same boat indie-publish boxed sets with them as a group, The Naughty Literati. More creative control and more fiscal transparency.

    A year and change later I'm still bursting with stories and also voicing my work as Audible books in my new home studio. I've never felt freer creatively. I would never have thought to produce my work (and as it turned out, also for other authors) in audiobook format before all this happened. I don't think any of the good stuff would have happened if the sad confusion of 2014 hadn't given birth to them.

    Long story short, as Sir Paul said to Jude, it is possible to take a sad song and make it better. I’m rooting for all effected to find their HEA silver lining in this mushroom cloud, as well.

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    1. I'm so happy to hear that you've recovered from this mess and gone on to better things. :)

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  21. I remember when I found out I was contracted by EC, I ran down the hall of my day job yelling. I was so incredibly excited and honored. And for several years, I thoroughly enjoyed writing for them. I worked with the best editors, was paid on time, and the staff seemed transparent and always helpful. Then, in 2014, the checks started coming later and later. More excuses about why I wasn't receiving them on time--the payroll system that somehow never seemed to be corrected/ditched/replaced, Amazon, etc. Then decisions that made absolutely no sense to me, like publishing books by a porn-star Teen Mom that harmed more than helped the validity and integrity of the EC brand. Less and less, and more abrupt and nasty communications. Then, instead of weeks, months between checks. Then the DA lawsuit. And finally the "witch-hunting, McCarthyism" sites and rants from the publisher against authors, RWA and any other person who the publisher sees as "out to get" her or EC as if this isn't about one very simple thing: Contracts. It's not personal, it's business. At least it is for me. I submit the work, EC edits and publishes the work. Royalties received are distributed according to the contracts, which includes the author, me, being paid for the units sold. That is not happening. And the only solution or cure we have in response to not being paid is either being hindered (not receiving statements so we can verify if we've sold under 100 copies), stone-walled (get an attorney or wait on us or I'll quote you such an outrageous, unsupportable buy-out price, you have no hope of purchasing your rights back) or denial (you're not getting your rights back, period, even though I haven't given you the information to back up this decision).

    Here's the truth, black and white, no agenda, no plans of sabotage or evil intent: I. Have. Not. Been. Paid. The last check I received was in December 2015 for March, April and May royalties. The last check I received before that was in August for February royalties. The last check before that was in May for January royalties. So as of May 1st, I haven't been paid for 10 months of royalties. I don't care how loud someone shouts, how long their FB rants are or how many statements their attorney issues to the contrary, those are the facts. At this point, I don't care if I'm called a liar, bad apple, or the other names we've been labeled. The way EC has chosen to handle this whole affair--not behaving in a professional manner, attacking authors, creating intimidation lists of authors who have chosen to speak out, creating "Witch hunting" websites instead of getting about the business of paying authors what is owed them--is disappointing, disheartening and plain sad.

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    1. All of our stories are so similar and it's heartbreaking. We deserved better from the publisher we trusted with our work.

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  22. Damn. I didn't mean for that to turn into a novel. :-)

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    1. It's all good. :) I'm all for anyone and everyone sharing their experience here.

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  23. This is wrenching. I, too, am a ripped-off EC author who managed to get my rights back, but I'm sick at heart. Today, after reading the latest update from RWA, I'm very, very concerned that the people at EC are going to get away with what they're doing.

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    1. I'm glad you got your rights back. I hope that we all do at some point before it's too late.

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  24. Wow am so so sorry to see this heard about it when authors I know who have books with them asked us to not get them and now I get my books from Amazon or other places please don't give up your writing then they win ... I know I don't write but I sew and stopped for like a year now am back to it but very slowly..... good luck and keep writing even if its only a short story at first..... do one wher you sue a book place and take out your anger on it lol even if you just do this one for yourself ... a fan <3 sending a big HUG

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    1. Thanks for the encouraging words.Keep up the sewing. :)

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  25. I was in a similar situation with my ex-publisher. In fact, other authors that were with the same publisher are STILL in that boat. I got lucky. I googled 'lawyers for the arts' for the state I live in the US. It's an organization that pars you up with a pro-bono attorney who will help you with whatever situation you have (contract lawyer, copyright lawyer, etc). They charged me $40 to use their service. So, it took me 4 months to break the contract and get the rights back to the 3 books they had published and a book they were supposed to publish but never did. This 'publisher' is still holding other authors' books hostage and none of us have been paid since last August.

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    1. That's terrible but I'm glad you were able to get yours back.

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  26. At one point EC had 800 authors. That number is now dwindling, but that means hundreds of authors have been affected by this. Including me.

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    1. It's sad that EC has let this happen. I'm sorry you're caught up in it too. I really believed I would spend a good chunk of my career writing for them. Alas, I won't write for free so they can live the good life.

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  27. Have you tried contacting all the other authors in the same boat, banding together to get a single lawyer together and know that yes you might not get all the money owed and what you do get back will all go to lawyers fees BUT you can get your rights back as a group?

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  28. I hope you finish your series and will be able to find a trust worthy publisher to re-publish all your books. Best of luck that your nightmare along with the others ends soon and you receive enough to make up for the torment.

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    1. Thanks, Candy! After this disaster, I'll likely self publish.

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  29. I'm another author in the same boat with EC. I last received a check in January for royalties dating back to Mar-June of 2015. I have contacted them by letter, requesting payment, and got the form email with regard to why they were not reverting my rights--which I had not requested. All I want is to be paid for the hours upon hours of work involved in writing and revising. I find the quote from attorney Steve Mastrantonio to be either woefully ignorant or a deliberate falsehood. As the replies to this blog clearly indicate, there are many, many EC authors who have not been paid either in a timely manner, or at all. Shame on the the company and shame on Mr. Mastrantonio.

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    1. The statement issued by Mastrantonio is offensive and completely false as applicable to a big chunk of authors. They might be paying some on time, that I don't know. Regardless, the statement was issued in bad faith. They've already admitted, via Patty Marks, to RWA that are behind in payments to authors. We all just want to be compensated for our work. We want our share of the sales. How they can just pocket that money and not pay us is mind boggling.

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  30. SUUUCKS! I only had one book with EC and they reverted rights (without me even asking) on May 15th. Without. Me. Asking. Let that sink in. LOL.

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    1. Motherfuckers. Lol. Is that how they play their psychological warfare game? If we act like we don't give a shit, they'll give it back?

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  31. I'm in the same boat with royalties. Two more months and I can finally request rights for my last book that they're holding. Maybe then I will be able to coax new characters out of hiding to share their stories with me.

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  32. Dear Alyssa, I'm getting ready to publish my first book, the first of my trilogy. I also have a Blogger website, but yours is far better. I would appreciate guidance on how to get help to make mine professional. Also, thanks for sharing EC horrors, you and all who commented have done an immense favor to authors looking to publish. I would sincerely appreciate all publishing advice. martacweeks.com

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