Poison Pen Names

There has been a great deal of discussion concerning New Concepts Publishing and the antics of one Madris DePasture. So much so that even though I thoroughly enjoyed Dani Harper’s Heart Of The Winter Wolf I will not be republishing my review of that eBook or any links to NCP on this blog.

When people ask me what ePubs to consider as a writer I generally shrug and tell them to just go buy a ton of eBooks and see. My rule of thumb is to separate the authors you love and read out of the mix and look at the condition and appeal of the editing and covers. In my opinion several ePubs seem to consistently rise to the top based on appealing editing and covers. Samhain, Liquid Silver, Loose Id, Cobblestone Press, Amber Quill and most of the Ellora’s Cave back catalog. Then go talk to the authors that work there or maybe more importantly “have” worked there and look for  the following…

  • Owners with multiple Pen Name/identities which are not transparent to the fellow authors.

Now you may ask where I got this hodgepodge of bullet points from but just check out any author discussions about New Concepts Publishing or Triskellion or any other shaky ePublisher.

So what about the title of this missive Pig?

A long time ago I started to notice eBooks I bought from Torquere Press had not only the same bad editing, horrid proofreading (I myself have found the editors comments left in a few eBooks.), awful covers, but besides all that I found similar styles in the writing from different authors.

So being blunt and asking questions several people started giving pieces of a picture and names names names all attributed to the owners. Now mind you, at that point they were rumors and not something I would publicly talk about but then I read here and here. Just look up the names Shawn Clements and Lorna Hinson and that is when I started to get the idea that the list I had put together was not all about hurt feelings and misunderstandings.

So taking the list of names I had collected and looking up the entire books in print from Torquere Press on Amazon.com it looks something like this…

129 Torquere Press books in print.

S.A. Clements = 4
B.A. Tortuga = 19
Mike Shade = 2
Julia Talbot = 11
Sean Michael = 37

That my friends is 73 total books in print from Torquere Press where one of the questioned pen names is involved. If all my information is correct then that shows most of the books in print are the owners. What was really amazing is finding out that people who have worked there for years did not even know about the pen names that are self admittedly attributed to the owners (Not just rumored.) which leads me to the whole inner circle issues. I also found out that other authors there have been using several different pen names writing for the same genre and the same ePublisher.

See that is the issue in my mind. Using Pen Names to switch ePublishers or write in a different genre is all well and good and most writers do it when say writing m/m under one pen name and then m/f under another or if they switch publishers. That is all understandable, but are the way things are going down at Torquere Press understandable to other authors, their peers?

Just look at some of the anthologies at Torquere Press. You have S.A Clements editing the anthology and B.A. Tortuga writing in the anthology. So basically it is self owner edited. What is the deal with that? Is it really necessary to imply that all these people are involved when it is only a few? Did I mention the editing sucks?

I am not saying there is not other poor examples on other ePublishers either. I know all about Tina Engler writing as Jade Black and Tia Isabella etc etc etc but honestly that was mostly done from what I can see when Ellora’s Cave was first starting out and I think Torquere Press is not just starting out. All in all, I much more prefer the example Treva Harte sets with her own ePublisher Loose Id where she writes and runs the company under one name and is damn transparent and upfront about it all.

All the top ePublishers I buy from all have great m/m romance titles that I love and they seem to do a great job in supporting and promoting and editing their m/m authors and are in no way owner focused. I can list them so easily… Samhain, Liquid Silver, Loose Id, Cobblestone Press, Amber Quill, and even Ellora’s Cave.

So… That is why no Torquere Press links or reviews on my blog.
In the end, I have nothing against the authors there I just expect more from an ePublisher not only in their products but in their actions.

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"Torquere Press: The Case Of The Poison Pen Names" by TeddyPig was published on October 17th, 2008 and is listed in eBook Commentary, Reader Beware, Torquere Press.

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Comments on "Torquere Press: The Case Of The Poison Pen Names": 8 Comments

  1. Angelia Sparrow wrote,

    So, if i send you one of Naomi’s and my EC pieces, you’d consider reviewing it? (as opposed to the TQ pirate novel)
    How do you feel about dark future truckers?

  2. Ann Somerville wrote,

    You know I have no love for TP at all. However….

    On one hand, their editing still sucks,their website is a pain in the arse and so is the search engine, their response to criticism (as was expressed recently at DA over one of their books) is still to circle the wagons and bitch about the mean girls, and the lack of transparency and response from the head honchos is embarrassingly conspicuous. I’m totally down with not buying or reviewing any of the principals or their pen names, and some of the crazier authors over there.

    But they do have some extremely good authors, like Lee Benoit, Nica Berry, and a new discovery, James Allen, who are just superior writers no matter who publishes them. They are also, I hear, spending more time on editing (though not enough) – James Allen’s ‘Downtime’ was really much better edited than other things I’ve read from there, though it might come down to how careful the author is. And I hear rumblings of discontent at Loose ID which are very similar to some of the complaints I’ve heard about TP in the past – certain authors throwing their weight around, getting preferential treatment and release schedules, and I’ve personally experienced their unwillingness to allow honest reviews on their works.

    So I think it might be a bit unfair to punish all TP authors for the fact their press is not professional, and at times downright creepy. I’ll happily review any TP author not on my personal blacklist, but I’ll also happily point out where the product has been let down by the publisher. That puts much more pressure on them than ignoring them. TP are in a crowded market place now, and they’ll have to adapt or die. Much as I loathe some of the individuals involved, I really don’t want to have their authors hurt or lose some excellent writing. Really, I’d just like TP to lift its damn game, stop denying the truth of criticism, and operate like a fair dinkum business instead of a vanity press. If it did that, I’d still never sub to them, but I could stop cringing when friends of mine sign with them.

  3. TeddyPig wrote,

    Angelia, sure fire away I will try anything.

    Ann,

    First thing, I wish I knew all the pen names and could associate them to all the players going on there but I don’t have the time and when I found out authors who have worked there almost exclusively for four years or even more did not know. Well, forget that idea.

    You could give this same exact argument for those still plugging away at New Concepts Publishing while being abused by Madris DePasture and her reign of terror. My point is that maybe it is time the reader and the reviewer says enough.

    Even if the owners at Torquere changed their tune tomorrow, which we both know is not likely to happen, and opened up and had real transparency they still skimp on the covers and the editing and the proofreading and the website and basically put out an all around inferior eBook that in no way competes with even the current state of affairs at Ellora’s Cave. Which is sad. Especially when there are new m/m presses coming on line I did not mention in this article but they are out there.

    I can only hope those honest hard working writers who got involved and in my opinion who are the only real talent at Torquere Press will follow the good sane prudent professional advice of Emily Veinglory who has also written for Torquere Press and try some different ePublishers. This is not a stagnant one size fits all industry and Torquere Press is not going the places I see these other ePublishers going.

    The intention is not to “hurt” or “punish” the authors. Maybe it is to suggest they need to value their writing and their time and their effort and find a venue that will return that investment properly.

    At no time did I say here that Loose Id or Ellora’s Cave was the only solution. I said they put out better editing, better covers, and from what I see have better sales which should be priorities to any writer after negotiating a clean author friendly contract of course.

    A gifted talented fantastic writer can write a great story but if it is then treated callously by the ePublisher and packaged like generic garbage and then sold as an after thought after they get through making sure “your favorite writers” B.A Tortuga and S.A. Clements are placed prominently ahead of you… Well you get the idea, it is still lost in the shuffle.

    As Madonna says, Change the channel! and that is what I am doing here by not supporting Torquere in their treatment of their authors and their eBooks. More importantly I am also telling the readers out there about the sad condition of their product.

  4. Ann Somerville wrote,

    I think it’s inevitable that most of the better authors will move on, because the returns on their work at TP are pitiful. I just feel sorry for the new, highly talented writers who might lack the confidence to branch out and stick with TP out of loyalty.

    NCP are crooks, IMO – they’re stealing people’s copyrighted material and riding roughshod over author rights. TP isn’t that bad, though it’s hardly a model of good practice, and unless it was sold and the owners stopped being the main authors, I can’t see it changing much. Like I said, I can see both sides of this, and personally I think they are responsible for the very low quality bar in m/m writing, which is only slowly being changed by publishers like Samhain.

    It’s so frustrating that they have talent on their books, and a decent slice of the market, and yet they just muddle along as they did when it wasn’t much more than an amateur operation. Makes me itch to boot someone’s arse.

  5. TeddyPig wrote,

    Ann,

    I think it is called re-investing and making your quality a priority. I don’t think they started the business with any type of plan or priorities with the authors or customers in mind. The decisions made by the owners seem to be only of short term benefit and not stable or adaptable to the changing market. I notice any changes seems to be always a “me too” approach and of greater benefit to the owners.

    I think as time goes on it is setting a poor example.

  6. A.D. Christopher wrote,

    Thanks for the kind remarks regarding Ellora’s Cave and m/m, Teddy. My experience with them has been wonderful! (Sadly, personal issues have kept me from writing for several months, but I’m hoping to get back into it soon!)

  7. Mara wrote,

    Thanks, Ann, for the nice comment about Downtime. I did almost all the editing, myself (and it could have used much more, but it was my first book and I didn’t know). TP caught some typos and a few words that I tend to spell incorrectly that don’t get caught by spellcheck. They didn’t edit, other than that. Compared to my current editor, it is like night and day, and now I fully appreciate what a good editor can do.

    Teddy, you are doing a service, because if I had seen these messages about TP four years ago, I would have submitted somewhere else. My first novel would have done just as well or better if I had self-published it. I learned a lesson and did not submit my second novel there.
    I think other writers are sure to benefit from your posts, if they will check out epubs before they submit.
    Thank you.

  8. WTF? Review The Writing Not The Writer | The Naughty Bits wrote,

    [...] you all who actually read this stupid blog know I talked about Pen Names and their use recently to report goings on over at Torquere Press. If I had just wanted to be a bitter asshole and take a cheap shot I am sure I could have addressed [...]

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