If you read a lot of LGBTQ+ fiction, you probably have heard of Dreamspinner Press. They’re one of the bigger LGBTQ+ independent publishers around, founded in 2007 by Elizabeth North, who remains Executive Director today.
Recently, they’ve become embroiled in a controversy. I don’t really cover this type of tea on my blog often, I much prefer a good Oolong. But with such a major LGBTQ+ publisher involved and as a customer of theirs for years, I had to find out what was going on and present my research.
What is the timeline?
The issues with Dreamspinner aren’t new. March 2019 saw one of their flagship authors, T.J Klune (author of the Lightning Struck Heart) announce they were leaving and wouldn’t be publishing future books with Dreamspinner. T.J Klune laid out in a blog post that this was due to on going issues, most recently his readers not receiving books pre-ordered (source: http://www.tjklunebooks.com/new-blog/2019/3/23/announcement-on-leaving-dreamspinner-press).
Back in May, they had to reassure authors that they weren’t closing, after royalties were delayed, assuring people it was a “crunch in month-to-month cash flow”. (source: https://dreamfoundry.org/2019/05/16/industry-news-may-2019/)
Issues continued to arise, and in June R.J Scott, the US Today bestselling author of The Heart of Texas, wrote a blog post saying authors had come to her in tears about not receiving royalties – for amounts up to $6,000. (source: http://rjscott.co.uk/dreamspinner-press-communication)
August heated up the controversies
August came around, and there were allegations that Dreamspinner Press had published a book by Garret Leigh illegally, after Leigh had terminated the contract. Leigh has since removed her Facebook post on this issue and I couldn’t find sources on whether it was resolved. (source: https://twitter.com/angela_s2526/status/1159516509305212928)
Roan Parrish announced on the 14th August that they had withdrawn the rights from their Middle of Somewhere series last month due to non-payment of royalties.
Mary Winters, author of Wild Horse Rescue, published a blog post August 2 stating that she had concerns after receiving sales reports showing sales for books that were – as far as she was aware – over a year out of contract with Dreamspinner and which she had requested not be sold any longer (source; https://marywinter.com/dreamspinner-press-something-isnt-right-here-followup-dsp-authorbeware/)
Author D.W Marchwell released a Facebook post on August 30th, revealing they were forced to quit writing after Dreamspinner Press outed them as a gay romance author to their employers, where they worked as a teacher. They were then forced by the school district to stop writing to keep their job. According to friend of D.W Marchwell , Cardeno C (themselves a published author), Dreamspinner did not make any recompense for this action. https://twitter.com/CardenoC/status/1167114148846505984)
What happened this month for Dreamspinner Press?
Sean Kennedy, author of Tigers and Devils, announced on September 1st that they were requesting rights back to all their Dreamspinner Press books.
September 9th, they stated they had yet to be paid for royalties for this quarter (source: https://twitter.com/sean__kennedy/status/1171218246642438144)
A flow of authors began to withdraw their books from Dreamspinner Press in the following days September 1st saw a flood of authors announce via Twitter they were withdrawing from Dreamspinner press.
- L.J LaBarthe requested rights back for their books, such as the Archangel Chronicles (https://twitter.com/brbsiberia/status/1168008750902333441)
- Piper Vaughn, author of One Small Thing, stated they were requesting back their rights and that they are waiting on co-authors to decide on what to do with rights for 3 books they had collaborated on. (source: https://twitter.com/pipervaughn/status/1167877150038323204)
- Will Knauss, of the BigGayFiction podcast, announced via Twitter they were ending their relationship with Dreamspinner Press.
- Jeff Adams, also of the BigGayFiction podcast, stated they were ending work with Dreamspinner Press (source: https://twitter.com/WriterJeffAdams/status/1167905321198571521)
Meredith Shayne (author of Metal Heart) revealed she had requested her rights back (source: https://twitter.com/meredithshayne/status/1169357061647257600) She was joined by CJane Elliot, author of the Serpentine Series (source: https://twitter.com/CJaneElliott/status/1169443410333196288)
The fifth also saw Anna Zabo, a non-Dreamspinner Press author, share an email they had been forwarded that had been sent to Dreamspinner’s authors.
In it, Dreamspinner Press lay out that they will be merging the Harmony Ink Press (their YA subsidiary) website into Dreamspinner’s own. They also state they “made mistakes” but cannot offer a “firm payment date”, and stated they can’t post proof that they still have the money, as it is “confidential”.
T.J Klune announced via Twitter that he had not received Quarter 2 royalties from Dreamspinner – an amount of $27,443. His agent, Deidre Knight of the Knight Agency, had insisted he take on a lawyer. He however decided to first issue a final request for the royalties from Dreamspinner via email.
The same day Indra Vaughn announced via her co-author Leta Blake’s twitter that she was withdrawing rights from Dreamspinner Press (source: https://twitter.com/LetaBlake/status/1170301113142300672)
B.A Tortuga, author of a number of redneck romance series, stated September 9th they had not been paid royalties, and pointed out that the owners of Dreamspinner were probably “too busy” with the writing retreat they were hosting.
T.J Klune shared on the 10th how they had to made difficult financial decisions due to the non-payment of royalties, and had to help a friend with mental health treatment payments, making them unable to afford a laywer to sue Dreamspinner. (source: https://twitter.com/tjklune/status/1171212900662484992)
Avon Gale continued to question where the money was on September 11th via Twitter and that the latest Dreamspinner Press update had finally made her cry. (sources: https://twitter.com/avongalewrites/status/1171642657992511489)
Julia Talbot shared on Twitter on the 11th that Dreamspinner Press was still selling her books, despite the reversion period passing, and asked her readers not to buy them.
12th September (added 10am PST)
Anna Zabo shared the latest update from Dreamspinner Press on Twitter. They stated they are waiting on a loan, and that closing would make many authors “lose a home”.
KJ Charles, the author of the Society of Gentleman, condemned Dreamspinner’s behaviour on Twitter. KJ Charles is not a Dreamspinner published author.
13th September (added 1pm PST)
L.A Witt has announced via Twitter they will be withdrawing their books from publication with Dreamspinner Press.
Lisa Henry has also announced that they have requested the rights back for their novel Anhaga. (source: https://twitter.com/LisaHenryOnline/status/1172078036021207047)
Elizabeth North posted a new FAQ for “readers” on the dreamspinner.press website on the 13th, in which she outlines with the same information previously sent to authors the Harmony Ink Changes. She then goes on to address the withdrawal of rights, and blames the fact that “opinion becomes reality” for not being able to pay royalties. She further suggested financial troubles may be related to the closure of Baker & Taylor, book distributors, in May.
T.J Klune also announced via Twitter that he had received his rights back for his series. (source: https://twitter.com/tjklune/status/1172266976074506241)
Rebecca Cohen joined the authors requesting their rights back from Dreamspinner Press.
R.J Scott then published a blog post summarizing her history with Dreamspinner and how she had been approached by many authors who were not being paid:
Are you a Dreamspinner author?
Tia Fielding has reached out to me to ask to share the Former DSP Authors Support Group. If you are a Dreamspinner author who is in the process of withdrawing your rights, or already has, you’re welcome to join. You’ll need to prove that you were once a Dreamspinner author to join. You can check it out here. Tia has also withdrawn her rights from Dreamspinner.
What is next for Dreamspinner Press?
Romance Writers of America have released a press stating they are investigating concerns about the issue. They asked members of RWA who have concerns to contact them at email@example.com. You read their (admittedly very short) press release here
Writer’s Beware has now posted a blog post on this issue
If you’re an author who has been affected by this, feel free to send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with information!
NOTE: I have tried to get all personal pronouns correct! If I made a mistake, please DM me on Twitter or let me know via email and I’ll fix it immediately.
Updated 10:42am PST on the 12th to indicate Anna Zabo and Piper Vaughn use they/them pronouns. Updated 10:54 PST with the latest Dreamspinner email. Updated 12th 11am PST with two new authors announcing their withdrawal from Dreamspinner. Updated 13th 1pm PST