I’ve spent a long time thinking about whether to write this post or not. I’ve consulted trusted friends and family, paid attention to the conversations on social media, mulled it over some more. I can be emotional when something strikes a chord in me, so I take a step back and allow myself time to think rationally about my response, assessing whether I need to respond at all, and what purpose will it serve if I do.
I’m a very private person, and life has taught me to be cautious. I also try to remain cheerful and optimistic, my mantra always being to never bring harm to others. As authors, we’re all different in how we present ourselves on social media and how we conduct our business. I was raised to be polite, treat others with respect, and not speak up in case it caused problems for others, or out of fear that I would disappoint someone. The great thing about turning forty was the realization that I am not the same person I was years ago. I’m still polite and treat people with respect. I’m careful in choosing my words, never wanting to hurt someone by mistake, but I’ve gotten a lot better at not remaining silent and speaking my mind. I’ve reached that point in my life where I’m done with people who try to take advantage, people who are cruel, mean, and spiteful. I have no room or tolerance for toxicity in my life, because life is too damn short.
Writing is my passion, but it’s also my business, my career, and I take it very seriously. I have family who depend on me, responsibilities, bills, a student loan like any other person. This year I reached a point in my career where I have a corporation to run on top of handling business expenses, conferences, foreign contracts, contractors, corporate taxes, and everything else that comes with this ever-changing business.
As authors, we put our faith in the people we work with. Most often than not, we don’t have a huge corporation or a business to back us up. We put our faith, or money, our careers, and livelihoods in the hands of those promising to support us. In 2010 I was a fledgling author hoping to make a career out of my passion. I spent every waking moment writing, had folders of unfinished manuscripts as I tried to find my way. In 2012 my dream came true and I was published. In 2014 the first THIRDS book released, and my life was changed forever.
Few people know where I come from. I don’t really talk about myself on social media. My parents fled Cuba when I was just a baby. They came with nothing but the clothes on their backs, to a country they’d never been to with a language they didn’t speak or understand, leaving their families and everything they knew behind. I learned my work ethics from them. Learned that dreaming was great, but if I wanted those dreams to become real, I would have to work for it. I learned that every time someone knocked you down, you dusted yourself off and got back up. Stubbornness runs in the family.
I went through a lot in my life, like so many I know. Growing up, my family could never afford the kinds of things the families of my friends could, but we managed. In my thirties, I worked as a freelance artist and had a retail management job that was killing me. I lived in London at the time and all my money went to pay bills. There were weeks where I didn’t have the money to buy groceries, but I was determined to follow my dreams and make them a reality. I was 36 when that happened.
When I received my first royalty check for Hell & High Water, I cried. I showed it to my mom, and she cried. For two years my royalties ran between twenty-something dollars and $500 a year, but I was determined to grow as a writer. My entire life, my parents had supported me. They remortgaged their house so I could go to college. They sacrificed their own wants and needs so their children could succeed. I wasn’t about to let them down. I worked damn hard at my craft, at marketing, at running a business I knew nothing about, always trying to learn, to get better.
Now I take care of my parents. If my dad’s car breaks down, I get it fixed. If my mom needs a medical bill paid, I pay it. When I have conferences and swag to make up, they always jump in to help. They love helping me with work stuff. They recently helped me wrap, box, and ship hundreds of hardback books. My mom cut bubble wrap and my dad taped boxes. Those THIRDS character cards inside the little leopard print bags with stickers on the back? My mom packs those. She gives me opinions on my book covers. My dad who’d worked in factories all his life as a stainless-steel polisher, packs organza bags for me with swag. He goes to the post office for me to drop off giveaways for readers.
What’s the point of all this? The point is, I’m an author, but I’m also a person like everyone else. I’ve worked hard to get where I am, and this year, my life was turned upside down because I’d put my faith in Dreamspinner Press. Everything that I’d worked so hard for was suddenly in jeopardy. For two years there had been issues with my royalties not being paid on time. In 2017, something happened with my royalties and I had to wait almost a month to get paid in full. As this was the only source of income for me at the time, it terrified me. What if something happened and I couldn’t get paid? I’d been toying with self-publishing for some time at that point, but that moved up my timeline. I couldn’t depend on Dreamspinner.
One thing I always loved about DSP was that I could count on getting paid. Authors had been assured time and time again that the one thing we didn’t have to worry about was getting paid. Our money was safe. In 2016 I was working so hard that I almost burned out. Part of me wonders if I didn’t get burned out and just didn’t know it. I had to pull back on production for my own health. In 2018 I self-published my first book. I left everything with DSP because why wouldn’t I? They’d been good to me, published me, introduced me to a community of amazing people. It took almost two years for me to make the decision to walk away from DSP, and yet I didn’t walk away completely. I still had faith things would get better, that the company was only having growing pains. And then I didn’t get paid. The weeks went by and I started to get really scared. I had 35 titles with Dreamspinner. Years of work, my life, my livelihood. I had to do what was right for my business.
At the end of July, I made the decision to request my rights back for all my English language eBooks. They were very good about it, kept in communication with me, and were very helpful. I left my translations, foreign rights, audiobooks, and manga with them, again on the assurance everything would be fine. I also didn’t want to leave readers stuck with incomplete series. Those contracts were a whole other mess that I didn’t have the mental capacity to deal with. I was exhausted. By September 1st, my books came down. The stress of this, of not being paid, of having to take my books back knowing I was facing the expense of getting them back out, of seeing it all start to unravel affected me mentally, physically, and financially. The self-pub schedule I had for this year was wiped out. All my energy went into getting my books back and re-releasing them. The contractors I’ve worked with have been amazing.
Things slowly got worse and worse. More authors pulled their rights. Our community was divided. I didn’t begrudge any fellow author their choice of staying or leaving. We must all do what’s right for us, our families, and our business. Everyone has a right to feel what they feel. There’s a lot of anger, and understandably so. It’s been hard to move forward, to focus on writing new books when the amount of money you’re owed continues to climb and there’s no end in sight. When you start to question everything. Trust means everything to me. If I put my trust in you and you deliberately betray that trust, there’s no going back, no second chances. I don’t know where my royalties went, and quite frankly, I don’t care. What it boils down to is that the money wasn’t there when it should have been. It breaks my heart that a company I had been so proud to be a part of, that was doing such incredible things for our community, that had helped pave the way for our genre could allow this to happen. I’ve mourned the loss, grieved, and yet here we are.
As of today, I’m owed $34,527.59. That’s for what remained of 2nd Quarter and all of 3rd quarter. This is after two partial payments, one in September and one in October. In November I was told a payment was being made, but I never received one. December 31st marks the end of yet another quarter, so that number is going to once again go up by the end of January’s royalty statement. My emails have gone unanswered. Do I hate them? No. I don’t have room in my life for that kind of hatred. I do however hate the situation they’ve placed us in, placed readers in. I hate that my fellow authors are struggling to put food on the table or can’t buy Christmas presents for their children. I hate the nastiness that has spawned, the attacks, and threats. I hate the hurt this situation has caused.
As authors we’re vulnerable. We’re in the business of reaching deep down inside us ourselves, taking our hurts, fears, joys, and intimate experiences and putting them into stories for others to read. Every book you read has a piece of that author in it in some form. We suffer for our work, put in long hours, forget to take time off, forego spending time with those we love so that we can provide for those we love. We struggle with anxieties, mental health issues, financial issues, but we continue to write because we need to. Because we love to. Because what we do matters. Love matters. Every day we lose more and more of our support systems. And that’s terrifying when you work in an industry that changes by the day, when so much of your business replies on trust in others.
I didn’t write this post to stir up trouble or incite anger, and I ask that we all respect each other. I wrote this because what’s happening is wrong, and it’s tragic that it’s not the first time it’s happened to so many authors. I wrote this post because I thought about it for months, because I did everything in my power to give DSP the benefit of the doubt, to communicate with me, to do something. I’m tired. Tired of seeing authors, readers, bloggers, cover artists, narrators, and other industry professionals hurting when none of this was their fault.
I have readers asking me whether they should buy my audiobooks or eBooks from DSP. I can’t make that choice for anyone, and it’s absolutely a difficult choice. I wrote this post because this can’t continue. All I want is for authors to be paid the royalties they earned, whether it’s $20 or $20k. I want to be able to move on with my life and get back to creating worlds and sharing stories. I love what I do, love the community I found a home in, where I’ve found friends who’ve become family. Where I found my tribe. I want Dreamspinner to remember who they were in the beginning when they had our backs. When their goal was to show the world how important LGBTQ romance was. I want DSP to do right by us.
Thank you to all the amazing people who’ve supported authors in any way, shape, or form. Thank you for reading our stories and reminding us every day why we do what we do.