boycott Dorchester Publishing (publishers of LoveSpell and Leisure Books) is in the news again months after it announced it was no longer publishing mass market paperbacks. The news has gotten even worse for authors and readers. When we last talked about this, former author Brian Keene blogged about getting his rights back from Dorchester.

Now, Keene is calling for a boycott of Dorchester. (Not only did this make Galleycat and Publishers Weekly, but it even made Huffpost Books.) Not only is Dorchester not paying authors, which is bad enough, but they are also selling books to which they no longer have the rights. Say what?! In Keene’s case, even after the rights were returned to him, Dorchester continued to sell editions of his books for the Kindle, Nook, iPad, and other devices. Dorchester kept making excuses, none of which he believed. However, most authors, like Keene, don’t have the means, let alone the time and patience, to sue Dorchester. Besides, they might have better luck getting blood out of a turnip.

Boycotts are not new to publishing. In the 1980s, some readers boycotted Rebecca Brandewyne because she took a stance against used books in Romantic Times magazine. In 1999, an AAR poster called for a boycott of the expanded edition of Judith McNaught’s Whitney, My Love. When Kensington signed Janet Dailey on, just a few years after the plagiarism scandal, some readers decided to boycott the publisher, although that meant giving up on some of their favorite authors.

This is the first time I’ve heard of an author calling for a boycott of his former publisher. When I last checked, 119 authors had joined the boycott, as well as dozens of industry professionals and reviewers. The list keeps growing. On the other hand, as author Alethea Kontis points out, some authors fear a boycott will hurt those who are still being published with Dorchester, so she cannot support this boycott, even though she understands how badly Keene has been hurt.

Keene is not the only author who is having problems with Dorchester. Former law enforcement officer Stacy Dittrich published crime novels with Dorchester and is now livid. The title of her blog post says it all. Guess What Dorchester? “It’s On.” She self-published one of her newer books on the Kindle and Nook… “And, guess what? I had more downloads in less than 1 day than Dorchester ‘claimed’ I had in 2 years.” Former fighter/MMA trainer Wrath James White is also angry at what Dorchester did to him.

That’s right, besides upsetting Keene and his many fans, Dorchester angered both a former police detective and a former professional fighter. Pretty much on the same week. Talk about stepping in it.

So what can fans do? Keene asks that readers stop buying books from Dorchester. Yes, this includes the $1.99 bin at Wal-Mart. This also includes eBooks published through Dorchester. (Some former Dorchester authors are now self-publishing their work through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and other sites, so if you can. buy the books directly from the authors instead.)

I’m with him there. But Keene calls for a boycott beyond that. He suggests that if you follow Dorchester on Twitter, stop following them. If you follow them on Facebook, you should “unlike” them. Also, he suggests unsubscribing from their e-mail newsletter and leaving their book clubs.

This is where I have to part ways. How else am I going to know what they’re up to unless I keep following them and getting their e-mail newsletters? How am I going to see the comments and questions posted by angry fans post unless I follow them on Facebook? (Especially as Dorchester keeps deleting those comments.) It was a newsletter that first clued me in that something was up.

On March 23 (the day before Keene called for his boycott), Dorchester sent out an e-mail newsletter. I was stunned because it had been months since I heard from them. In this newsletter, Dorchester announced they were getting back they were building their “upcoming pub list” and that they would be releasing the best of their backlist as eBooks. Oh, and there was a contest. Oh cool, I thought. At first. Then they said they needed my help. Uhm, OK? What’s the catch? Here it is in Dorchester’s own words:

Be part of the process and help us select which backlist titles will be released! Send us between 10 and 20 titles that you want to see in E-book and be entered to win $25 worth of e-books from the Dorchester Web site!

Perhaps your favorite series is missing a few titles. Or your favorite author’s early works were published before e-books were even a possibility. No matter the reason, if you’re looking for a Dorchester title in e-book format and it’s not yet available, let us know. We want to hear from you, the reader, and make our upcoming list of releases the best it can be!

Sure, there are lots of Dorchester books I’d like to see in eBook format — such as titles by Lisa Cach and Susan Squires. Still, sending 10 and 20 titles sounded like a lot of trouble for $25 worth of eBooks. Doesn’t Dorchester know which books are popular? Isn’t that their job? (And what’s up with such a cheap prize? Cash-strapped authors and websites can give away Kindles and Nooks, but this is the best Dorchester can do?) Besides, what if the authors in question didn’t want their titles reissued by Dorchester? What if they were trying to get their rights back from the company?

That might be the catch. Horror author Robert Swartwood blogged about receiving this same newsletter. He points that out while some authors got their rights back, not all authors were able to do so, leaving their rights in limbo. Leisure has their rights but isn’t paying them. What are they trying to do with this e-mail? Smartwood thinks they are trying to screw the authors over again. “What’s happening here is while Leisure is on the cusp of being forced to give back the rights to many of its authors because those authors’ books are about to go out of print, they’re looking for reasons to keep those books in print and hence hold onto those rights.”

That’s right. If enough fans e-mail them back and ask them to reprint an author’s backlist, then she might not be able to get her rights back. That stinks, both for the author and for the readers. I’d rather give the author control of her book. That way, she can find a new publisher for her backlist or even sell them herself, through Amazon, B&N’s PubIt, and other services.

Many current and former Dorchester authors are doing this. Dorchester author Emily Bryan also publishes as Mia Marlowe with Brava, with Touch of a Thief coming out in early April. Jennifer Ashley is now with Berkley, with Primal Bonds out early March of this year and The Many Sins of Lord Cameron coming out in August. Eve Silver published as Eve Kenin under Dorchester’s short-lived Shomi line but can now we found with HQN, with Sins of the Heart starting off a paranormal trilogy last fall.

Some former Dorchester authors are also reprinting older books or publishing new ones directly to the Kindle, Nook, and other devices. For example, under the Ashley Gardner name, Jennifer Ashley has reissued The Hanover Square Affair, first in the Captain Lacey Regency Mysteries, in Kindle and Nook editions, at the enticing price of 99 cents. Because Dorchester didn’t acquire the rights to it, Stacy Dittrich has made Murder Mountain (A CeeCee Gallagher Thriller) available for the Kindle and Nook. A number of Leisure Horror writers are doing this as well, and I have been buying their books since I became aware of that.

Ever since learning Dorchester had stopped paying authors, I tried to “quit” them. I fell off the wagon now and then, but now I am going cold turkey. Tonight, I removed all Dorchester books remaining on my NOOKbooks wishlist. It saddened me because I really wanted to read those books. On the other hand, I also wanted the authors to get paid. So I hope those authors get their rights back and self-publish. I’d rather pay 99 cents to a few dollars for a self-published book than buy a Dorchester eBook — at least I know the self-published author will get the money.
– Anne Marble