Riverdale Avenue Books was founded in 2012 by literary agent Lori Perkins of the L. Perkins Agency. Riverdale, which describes itself as a “hybrid” publisher even though, as far as I know, it does not charge fees, boasts a whopping 13 imprints, covering everything from erotica to mystery to sports and lifestyle titles.
It also, apparently, has trouble providing royalty statements and author copies.
Writer Beware has received a number of complaints from Riverdale anthology and book authors who cite publication delays, poor copy editing, late or missing royalty statements, non-provision of contractually-promised print author copies, and poor communication (for instance, authors finding out about to-be-published stories only when other authors spotted the stories in proof copies).
I’ve also seen royalty statements for several RAB anthologies, which appear to sell in miniscule numbers (for example, several years into its five-year contract term, one anthology had sold just 35 copies in total, according to correspondence from RAB). RAB has a policy of not paying out anthology royalties at all until at least $50 is due; this benchmark is stipulated in most of the RAB anthology contracts I’ve seen–but not in all, and even where it’s not, the $50 benchmark has been cited as a reason for not providing royalty checks.
Lori Perkins’ previous publishing venture, Ravenous Romance, was the focus of similar complaints before it shut down in 2016 (some examples can be seen in the comments thread on this post from the Dear Author blog). In particular, it stirred conflict of interest concerns, in part because of Perkins’ dual position as owner of an agency and part-owner/editorial director of Ravenous, but also because Perkins Agency agents and Perkins herself were placing clients’ manuscripts with Ravenous. Similar concerns exist for RAB–something that is explicitly acknowledged in at least some RAB book contracts:
Breaking Rules Publishing (BRP) bills itself as “an open and inclusive publishing house” that was founded “to help writers break down the system.”
Indications at its website, however, are not auspicious. Founder Christopher Clawson-Rule had no professional publishing or writing experience before starting BRP in 2018. BRP covers leave a lot to be desired (to put it mildly). It runs a large roster of high-entry-fee (read: profit-generating) awards (such awards, with no name recognition, are a complete waste of writers’ money, especially where, as in BRP’s case, the primary prize is “exposure”), along with no fewer than 15 different writing contests that, while not as expensive to enter, are clearly also designed to generate a profit. To complete the picture, BRP sells a range of paid services, including editing and cover design (always a signal for caution, as this poses a potential conflict of interest; Duotrope declines to list BRP for this reason), and hawks ads to writers:
All of the above would be sufficient reason to be wary of BRP. But there’s more.
Writer Beware has received multiple complaints about BRP, from both authors and staff. These include: late payment of royalties; non-payment of royalties, staff salaries, anthology flat fees, and story fees for publication in BRP’s magazines; failure to provide author copies; failure to provide books ordered and paid for by authors; problems with online orders; confusing or inadequate contract language (for instance, anthology contracts that are really only lightly-adapted book contracts, and magazine contracts that don’t include rights language or grant terms); and rude and aggressive responses to questions and complaints.
These financial problems and logistical snafus will probably sound very familiar if you’re a regular reader of this blog, as they often precede a publisher’s abrupt demise. Even if BRP isn’t on the brink of going bust, the complaints suggest that there’s considerable disarray behind the scenes…possibly because BRP–which offers not just book and anthology publishing, but magazines, awards, contests, workshops and classes, and a recently-established European branch–may have expanded its offerings considerably beyond the capacity of what (I’m guessing) is a tiny and not-necessarily-very-experienced staff.
(If Breaking Rules rings a bell, that may be because of its encounter with supertroll Gary Kadet, about whom I wrote last year. Briefly, BRP agreed to publish Gary’s novel, Ogre Life (giving it a cover of typical BRP caliber), but Gary’s reputation caught up with him when, apparently, he was mean to people in one of BRP’s author groups. In response, BRP “downgraded” and then booted him. Drama ensued: Twitter insults, angry Yelp reviews.)
UPDATE: I’ve received an email from Christopher Marry Hultman of Breaking Rules Europe, who says this:
In January of this year, I and two other authors took over the European and Australian wing of Breaking Rules Publishing, calling it Breaking Rules Europe. This does not mean that we are a part of Breaking Rules or are governed by Christopher Clawson, we are an independent entity and do not engage in or offer the services that BRP provides.
However, things are not quite as arm’s length as this statement would make it appear, as Christopher Clawson Rule has published posts in the BRP Europe Facebook group seeking contributors for BRP USA’s “Write to the Point” blog.
UPDATE 1/25/22: Breaking Rules seems to be also doing business as–or maybe just promoting as, it isn’t really clear–“Someday–A Creative Collective“.
UPDATE 2/22/22: Breaking Rules has closed down, and has completed its morph into “Someday”.
All of the cautions above continue to apply.
UPDATE 2/28/22: Christopher Clawson-Rule is being sued by a photographer for using images without permission.
Shifting fees to purchases, rather than book production, is a tactic some fee-charging publishers use to try to make their fees more palatable. You’re not paying the company to publish your book–just buying books once the process is complete! But whether you pay upfront or on the back end, the bottom line is that you are giving your publisher money in order to be published. That’s vanity publishing.
Adelaide does not mention the purchase requirement on its website, nor is it included in the sample contract. Writers’ first indication that they will have to pay comes with the offer email:
Naturally some writers, having assumed they were submitting to a non-fee-charging publisher, aren’t too pleased to discover they are in fact expected to “support” the publisher by handing over a large amount of money. Here’s Adelaide’s rather snippy response to the concerns expressed by one of them:
The 45-book fee may not be all authors wind up spending, either. At the 2019 Book Expo, authors were given the “opportunity” to buy 100 ARCs for $1,100, to be exhibited for sale at Adelaide’s booth. I’ve also heard from writers who paid even larger sums in “partnership” arrangements, and were not satisfied with the results.
Additional concerns: royalties paid on net profit (net income less printing and shipping costs–not quite as “generous” as claimed), very high cover prices (at least for print, likely an indication that Adelaide uses KDP and/or IngramSpark for production), an eyepoppingly huge publishing schedule (Adelaide published more than 120 books in 2020, with a similar number planned for 2021–an enormous list for a small press even with a large staff, which I could find no indication Adelaide has); and a range of author complaints, including inadequate (or no) editing, poor proofreading (books published with errors), little in the way of marketing, and, recently, difficulty getting the publisher to respond to emails.
If you’re an Adelaide author, there’s an Adelaide authors’ forum on Facebook where you can share questions, concerns, and anything else. The volume of complaints there is steadily increasing.
UPDATE 9/22/21: The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) has issued a Watchdog Advisory for Adelaide Books.
Writer Beware too continues to get complaints. The volume of complaints, as well as what appears to be chronic non-performance, are very much not a good sign, and suggest that Adelaide Books is a publisher in trouble.
UPDATE 5/30/22: The problems reported in the Adelaide authors’ forum on Facebook seem to be getting even worse: no communication, missed deadlines for things like cover design, missed publication dates, failure to release ebook editions, no royalty payments or statements, “pre-purchase” books never received, and more. Multiple authors are demanding contract termination and rights reversion.
The publication faucet also appears to have been turned off. As mentioned above, Adelaide’s huge publishing output has always been a warning sign; but none of the books on Adelaide’s publishing calendar for April and May appear to have been released. According to Amazon, Adelaide has published nothing since March.
Such a large number of missed publication dates is an extremely ominous indicator. It often surprises me how long troubled publishers manage to limp along, even in the face of towering problems and masses of complaints; no bets on a closure timeline, but IMO the writing is on the wall.
UPDATE 12/12/22: Complaints continue to accumulate in the Adelaide Books authors’ forum. Writers are also banding together to take action: recently, a group of authors met with the Authors Guild’s CEO, Mary Rasenberger, to share their stories and urge the AG to take action. Adelaide writers are encouraged to contact the AG with their stories:
UPDATE 1/27/23: The Authors Guild has been in contact with Stevan Nikolic about paying royalties and returning rights. See my update.