Dorchester Publishing has been around for nearly forty years. It is a well-respected independent publisher best known for its romance lines although it also publishes Westerns, horror, mysteries, and thrillers.
Its sister company Dorchester Media publishes the romance magazines (True Love, True Confessions, True Romance, etc.) that gave me my first writing paychecks many years ago.
According to Dorchester's website here:
Founded in 1971, Dorchester prides itself on being the oldest independent mass-market publisher in the U.S. Its efficient size affords the company the freedom and flexibility to adjust quickly to market changes, as well as take a chance on projects that don’t necessarily fit into neat categories within the various genres. For more than thirty-five years, its dedicated staff has worked tirelessly to discover and promote new talent.For the last year, there have been rumors that Dorchester was having financial difficulties. Back in January, DearAuthor reported here that Dorchester had sold both the frontlist and backlist titles of some of their top authors to Avon, a division of HarperCollins. That author list included titles by Christine Feehan, Marjorie Liu, Nina Bangs and Lynsay Sands.
According to Marjorie Liu's blog here, she hadn't known anything about the sale until after it was completed.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I worked for the investment firm Smith Barney. Back then, the prime directive was "never touch the principal." That precept's meaning is simple: Clients were encouraged to spend the interest on their investments, but warned never to whittle away on the main investment itself--the principal. When a client requested that we sell an investment to free up cash, it usually meant one of two things: either their income had suffered, or they were living beyond their means.
Dorchester's sale of its most valuable assets suggested two things: (1) They needed cash fast and (2) They were unable to produce that cash any other way (like through a bank loan).
Last month, right before their 2010 convention was scheduled to begin, RWA announced that, because Dorchester was unable to pay author royalties in a timely manner, the publishing house would not be permitted to participate in any editor appointments, workshops or spotlights (meetings in which the publisher describes its services and the type of manuscripts they are interested in acquiring) at the Convention.
Last Friday, Dorchester dropped the other shoe. They announced that effective today they are moving away from a mass market paperback format to a totally digital format with selective print-on-demand.
Publishers Weekly reported here:
Dorchester will continue to do print copies for its book club business and has signed a deal with Ingram Publisher Service for IPS to do print-on-demand copies for selected titles. According to [Dorchester president John] Prebich, some e-books that are doing well in the digital marketplace will be released as trade paperbacks with IPS fulfilling orders; the company, however, will not do any more mass market paperbacks for retail distribution.The Wall Street Journal reported here:
Teleread reported here:
Dorchester Publishing Inc., a closely held book and magazine house, said it is making the switch after its book unit sales fell 25% last year, in part because of declining orders from some of its key retail accounts, including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. A spokeswoman for Wal-Mart declined comment.
Prebich conceded that Dorchester will have lower revenues, but he expects margins to improve. He said the company is working out a new royalty rate with authors that he expects to announce next week. Editors are talking to authors now about the changes. “We hope they’ll stay,” Prebich said.This sounds like a wise and timely move for Dorchester. The decision will dramatically cut both their exposure to loss and their expenses during a very uncertain time in the industry.
As an privately held company, Dorchester has more freedom to make needed changes rapidly.
Dorchester also has a lot of years of publishing experience and some of the best-respected editorial staff in the industry. Just think of all the authors who got their starts at Dorchester. I once submitted a partial to Chris Keeslar (which he savaged) and would be happy to do so again. I've also talked to a number of authors who have raved about Leah Hultenschmidt as an editor.
During the years I was in graduate school, I worked on Dallas County's Mobile Crisis team. A friend gave me a sign for my desk. It consisted of the Chinese word wēijī, which he told me stood for both "crisis" and "opportunity."
A Chinese visitor to my office later told me that the jī characters have multiple other meanings besides "opportunity."
Nothing in life is simple. That sign still hangs over my desk today. I find it helpful to remember that every crisis in life holds some danger as well as great potential for positive outcomes.
Best wishes, Dorchester.