Back in March, when the problems at New Concepts Publishing (NCP) became public, I did several posts on the subject. Read the last one here.
In the months since, the noise about NCP has mostly died down.
Then on Wednesday, erotic romance author Sydney Somers posted the following message on her website here:
First I want to apologize for having to take a publisher grievance public. Unfortunately New Concepts Publishing has recently released a book I did not write, or I should say that I did not complete. I only wrote three chapters of a proposed full length novel entitled HOWL FOR ME a year and a half ago and was contracted by NCP last summer. Today NCP has released a novella of my full length story as an anthology of somekind with two authors I don't know and never worked with. I have no idea what these authors did with my story and characters and implore my readers not to buy this release assuming it to be a finished project of mine. I encourage anyone who may have already purchased the book because they enjoy my stories to complain to NCP for intentionally misleading their customers. I will have more information on this very frustrating situation in my next newsletter.
I applaud Ms. Somers' action. I also think she did the right thing in going public with this information.
A writer's good name is an important part of her brand.
When a reader discovers a new writer, if the book is a good one, the reader begins to form a positive opinion of that writer. With each subsequent book, the reader's trust in that writer grows.
Stephen King introduced me to the concept of the implicit "contract" between the writer and the reader, and he emphasized the writer's obligation to honor the promise to fulfill the reader's expectations.
I have had a long career as a reader. I can think of only two times when I felt a writer breached my contract with him/her. It's indicative of how seriously I took the violations that I still remember them.
The first was James Patterson in 1998. He came out with a new book titled When the Wind Blows. I plunked down my $25 for the hardcover, expecting to curl up with a solid mystery. Instead I found myself reading a sci-fi/paranormal about children with wings. Despite the fact that I LOVE paranormals, I was seriously torqued. I felt I'd been a victim of bait and switch. The flap of the book was misleading, talking about the mystery confronting a widowed Colorado veterinarian. I returned that book to the bookstore for credit and, in the ten years since, have never purchased another Patterson novel.
The second breach of contract between an author and me occurred in the summer of 2004with the release of a paranormal anthology called Cravings. The four authors participating in the book were Laurell K. Hamilton, MaryJanice Davidson, Rebecca York and Eileen Wilks. I had a flight to take and wanted a book that would engross me. Because of my familiarity with the authors of Cravings, I was confident the anthology would provide the diversion I was looking for during the two-hour trip.
Starting with the tenth Anita Blake novel (Narcissus in Chains) in 2001, I had been increasingly disappointed with Hamilton's books. When I purchased Cravings, I was still holding out hope for a good read from LKH. But the "novella" included in that anthology enraged me. "Blood Upon My Lips" was not a novella; it was actually the opening chapters of the twelfth Anita Blake novel Incubus Dreams.
The arrogance of foisting a marketing device on unsuspecting readers had the opposite effect of the one intended. I have not purchased another Anita Blake hardcover novel since. I still read the Merry Gentry series (I have a serious crush on Doyle, Merry's bodyguard).
I've offered all this background to explain why I'm responding so strongly to Sydney Somers' post to her readers. It's my opinion that Madris DePasture, the NCP publisher, has violated Somers' informal contract with her readers by publishing the three chapters of the novelist's unfinished work.
I hope Ms. Somers' will avail herself of any legal options open to her.
More on this story later.