This post has been updated.
Troubled publisher Torquere Press is closing. Owners Kristi Boulware and Joanna Talbot announced their decision yesterday in an email that will doubtless infuriate many authors, but probably won’t surprise them:
We have thought long and hard about where things are with Torquere and made the very hard decision that we need to begin the process of closing this chapter of our lives….We have done everything we could to turn things around but with the saturation in the industry, the financial hardships we are in, my health in constant decline along with the negativity we have had hurdled our way. We feel like we are currently fighting an uphill battle.
Trouble at Torquere (which had been in business since 2003 with no problems) surfaced in early 2016, a little more than a year after Boulware and Talbot took it over. Reports of royalty payment problems began to proliferate, even as Torquere participated in Twitter pitch contests to find new manuscripts. During the summer, Boulware was arrested on a hot check charge, allegedly after payment to one author bounced. (UPDATE: the charge was dismissed on December 13 after Boulware posted a cash bond of $10,150.50.) In November, communication stopped completely, with neither Boulware nor Talbot answering authors’ emails or responding to Facebook messages. Ominously, both co-owners removed “Torquere” from their Twitter handles and bios.
Now the other shoe has dropped. According to the email, which was sent to all Torquere authors, writers will receive rights reversions, a process Boulware anticipates will take at least 90 days. As for when (or whether) they’ll get the royalties they’re owed…well, on that issue Boulware is vague. “We are still looking at options on how to get everyone paid,” she says. Hmmm.
The rights reversions will revert rights only to authors’ originally-submitted text. “You will not be allowed to keep your cover art, ISBNs, or final edited versions of the books.” Obviously ISBNs can’t be re-used, and most publishers keep copyright to cover art (which they furnish at their cost)–but claiming copyright on edits is not the norm. Unfortunately, it’s something I’m seeing more and more of in small press contracts–even though it’s a pointless (how does the publisher benefit by keeping a death-grip on editorial revisions?), burdensome (since the author must re-edit an already-edited work), predatory (since revisions are typically done by authors themselves at editors’ suggestion), and likely not even legally defensible practice. I consider it a contract red flag.
Is the copyright claim on editing even in the Torquere contract? I’ve heard of publishers that have made this claim on reversion, despite no contract clause allowing them to do so. Looking back through my files, I see that I’ve never actually seen a Torquere contract. Anyone want to share? I’d be interested to know if that language is in there.
Torquere authors, please let me know if you are receiving reversions–and if you are getting paid. All information shared with Writer Beware is held in confidence.
I’ll update this post with any new information.
UPDATE 12/15/16: I’ve now seen several Torquere contracts, which do not include any copyright claim on edits.
I’ve also been informed by several authors that Kristi Boulware has offered some clarification on what’s meant by “final edited versions of the books.” Responding to questions in Torquere’s Yahoo group, she confirmed that this doesn’t mean the text, but rather the formatting–in other words, Torquere is not claiming copyright on edits, just the final formatting of the book. I don’t know why this wasn’t made clearer in the “we’re closing” email, but there you go.
UPDATE 12/18/16: Per documentation that I’ve seen, Boulware is not claiming copyright on the final edited text of published books whose rights she is reverting. She is, however, forbidding writers to use edited text if their reverted books haven’t yet been published.
If your book is NOT released and you have received edits from your editor. [sic] Then you are expected to not use those edits. We are being billed for edits on manuscripts under contract and those edits should not be taken elsewhere when that contract was voided since it was never finalized with Torquere.
UPDATE 2/18/17: I’m hearing from authors who are still waiting to receive their rights reversions.
What ever happened to the women who started Torquere Press? I remember a number of friends had their work published with them, and they seemed happy about it. I wonder what lead the original owners to sell the company.
They never paid the artist for my cover so I was able to keep it
I was a Torquere author, and they published my book for approximately one year. I did not receive any royalties. However, possibly the most frustrating thing for me is that I basically designed the cover. I picked the photos and suggested the layout. When the rights to the book were returned to me, Torquere retained the rights to the cover. I felt the concept was mine, and I should have been allowed to use it.
Yours is the first mention of this that I've seen. Would you please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell me more? All information shared with Writer Beware is held in confidence. Also, if you would please pass my contact info on to other authors you may be in contact with, I'd appreciate it–if I get enough responses, I may be able to write about this publisher. Thanks!
I am not with this publisher but PDMI publishing has also closed their doors and asking for authors to pay for editing. Not to them but to the editors in which we have no contract with. So we are going through pretty much the same thing. Best of luck to everyone.
It's August of 2017, and I've never received a rights reversion from Torquere on my book. Never heard a thing from them. In addition, they still have my book up for sale and are presumably collecting royalties they don't ever intend on paying me. At this point I've given up on ever receiving any communication from them.
As for not being able to have the rights to edits… it's a blackmail the author for more money tactic. I was also with a publisher called Wilde City Press which closed this year due to the owners having a lack of interest in running the business. They never did any marketing for my book so it badly underperformed and before they sent my rights reversion they said I could "buy" the edits and cover from them for several hundred dollars. The cover was average and didn't fit the tone of my book, and I wasn't buying the edits. So now I have a work that's essentially in limbo, as it will never earn enough money on a second release to justify paying someone to edit it again.
I have another contract with a fairly large publisher in the LGBT niche which stated clearly that I'd be charged for edits if I wanted them at the termination of the contract… it's a short work so in that case I'll just reedit it from the original, but it certainly put me off ever working with them again.
My take on this is that small publishers aren't making money and hope to recoup costs by squeezing authors at the end of the contract. It's horrible behavior, especially when it comes as a surprise. I've been burned so hard that at this point there is precisely one small press I will work with, and if they're not interested in the work I will self-publish.
I can't speak for the rest of publishing, but I think the LGBT niche of publishing has pretty much collapsed financially. There used to be authors who could make a living from their books alone back in 2011. When Silver went under many authors claimed to have been owed thousands. I'm having a great quarter if I take home $100. Thank goodness I have a full-time job.
Emailing Smashwords was easy. They took my work down within a day. With Amazon, I had to contact their copyright infringement department, and days later my books were taken off.
Further to what M.S said, three of my books with Torquere had the rights reverted in 2014 and yet they're still on sale at Amazon. Emails asking for the titles to be removed have gone unanswered…
For clarification – both books are on Amazon and only one remains on Smashwords. This is one and a half weeks overdue based on the rights reversion letter. My books should not be available anywhere.
I received my rights reversion letter in early January, which gives a month for my books to be taken off distribution channels, yet my books are still up on several sites. Every email address I have for Torquere bounces back.
One may encounter hurdles, and people may have something hurtled their way, but no one can have negativity hurdled their way. I claim copyright on that edit.
Thanks for the link, Anonymous–I've added it to my post.
Maybe if other authors are stiffed, they can take a page from the author who had Boulware arrested on the hot check charge. The docket for that case now says that the State dropped it after Boulware paid up in full…
Thanks for your comment, Allison. I've now seen several Torquere contracts, and I too can confirm that none of them include a copyright claim on edits. I've updated my post to reflect this.
By the way, I've shared that article quite a lot–it's been great in helping me to explain to authors why it's not a good thing for a publisher to claim ownership of edits. Thank you!
Thanks for posting the article discussing the legal opinion commissioned by RWA. The only other information I have to offer is that on December 14, 2016, RWA staff reviewed a contract submitted to us by Torquere Press. We did not find a clause allowing the publisher to retain ownership of the edits, and in examining books available online, we found books published by Torquere Press are copyrighted in the name of the author only.
Hi Victoria…I have been screwed yet again. I went through this with Silver Publishing and went to great lengths to help and protect my fellow authors. I wrote two thorough blogs on the topic. I have a lot to say about TP but cannot be bothered. Now I just feel exhausted. I am self publishing more. Trusting yahoos with my work less and less. As for the edits…I got the same stupid email when Breathless Press went under…
Here is a link to their sample contract. http://www.torquerepress.com/samplecontract.pdf
Disclaimer: I am not a Torquere author, though I had been looking into submitting to them and your posts along with Julia Talbot's saved me from doing so.
So that said, I do not know if this is actually the contracts the authors receive. I have this pdf saved for if the link stops working.