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  1. #1


    Open Letter About Damnation Books

    Friends: Below find a copy of the letter I have been sending around about Damnation Books. I can’t post the contracts in WordPress as they’re pdfs, so email me and I’ll send them to you if you’re interested.

    To Whom It May Concern:

    I see you maintain a site that sometimes talks about publishers who are somehow unfair, illegitimate, or use suspect methods of business. I have such an experience. I want to apologize for the impersonal nature of this email, but I am trying to reach as many as I can who may be willing to share this account with their readership. This email is not about getting money or promotion. It is about protecting writers, so I thought you’d be interested.

    My name’s Alex Smith. I’m a writer and have run lit mags and independent presses since graduating from college. After about two years of submitting a novel around, Damnation Books accepted the work to be published this March.

    Damnation Books is an independent horror publisher who recently merged with Eternal Books, another independent publisher that puts an emphasis on digital distribution and uses on-demand printers to handle print copies (http://www.damnationbooks.com/). It is run by Kim Gilchrist.

    Overall my experience with Damnation was quite pleasant, until we disagreed on the design of the cover. They were unwilling to negotiate, so I asked to be released from my contract. At this time, they sent me a letter charging me a $800+ “termination agreement.” This letter included an itemized list of expenses—and as a publisher myself I know how exorbitant and ridiculous these charges are.

    Further, there was no mention of a termination fee in the contract I originally signed. I spoke to a woman name Victoria Strauss, who wrote a fascinating blog post on the subject of kill fees (http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2009/0...s-and-why.html). She explained that a kill fee is used to blackmail an unhappy author into getting back in line. She said this example of a kill fee was especially “sleazy” because there was no mention of it in the original contract. When I refused to pay the fee, Kim Gilchrist told me that unless I paid it they would go on and publish the book without my support.

    Believe me—I tried everything to negotiate—I even offered to PAY some of the legitimate fees in order to see a new cover designed for the book—but they refused. It was either, “Pay us 800 or shut up and sit down.” I also spoke to a lawyer—he agreed with Ms. Strauss in myself: Damnation Books would never get away with a kill fee in court, but they did have the rights to publish the work. So as of now, despite my pleas, Damnation will be publishing “The Berserk” in March (you can find it on damnation’s website).

    I am writing this in hopes that you will alert your readership of Damnation’s hidden fees. They are unlawful, unethical and, for a small independent publisher who should be out there championing small artists—this kind of cutthroat publishing behavior is unconscionable. There are other publishers who do this. According to Ms. Strauss’ blog, writers should beware of this type of bullying, and keep an eye out for it in their contracts (and NEVER sign a contract that includes a kill fee) but Damnation does not state it in their contract.

    Feel free to publicize this email and the contracts I’ve included as you wish.

    I believe I’ve said enough—I am more than willing to answer any other questions regarding this incident, or fill in any details you may need.

    Thank you in advance for any consciousness-raising you do on the issue.


    Alex Smith

    UPDATE March 10th, 2010

    Damnation Books officially violated their own contract when they made substantial changes to my text without my approval, including the re-naming of chapters and inappropriate additions to the copyright page. Further, Damnation published the book on Amazon as The Berserk by Alex Smith, April Duncan, and Matt Truiano. The latter two are editor and cover designer, respectively. It is outrageous that they would attribute the creation and writing of the novel to two people who, however talented and deserving of praise in their own right, had worked on the book for a month, where I had worked on it for two years. As such, I have decided to publish a “perfect version” entitled Berserk on Amazon. Damnation are welcome to try to sue me if they so chose.


  2. #2
    Trina Allen


    I may be misinformed, but I thought it was pretty standard for publishers to choose the cover for books. I don't think many authors have much say in this.


  3. #3
    D K


    I'm wondering if our friend Brendan realized once it was too late that Eternal seems to have a poor reputation and he tried to use the cover as an excuse to break his ocntract.

    I personally don't see a problem with a publisher charging a fee if you're pulling your book at such a late stage. I have no idea what an appropriate fee would be but in any contract professional environment $100/hr isn't unreasonable. This would equate to 8hrs work in your situation. They've propbably spent more of their time than that. The time spent editing and producing a cover isn't free and is typically recouped as part of their commission. Since you're pulling the book they have no chance to recover those costs so it's up to you.

    Maybe it's a lesson to you, do your homework before signing up for anything.


  4. #4
    Pat Rogers


    "I personally don't see a problem with a publisher charging a fee if you're pulling your book at such a late stage. I have no idea what an appropriate fee would be but in any contract professional environment $100/hr isn't unreasonable."

    Providing it's clearly stated in the contract, neither have I. The problem is, there is no termination fee clause in Alex's contract. A copy of it is posted on this thread:


  5. #5
    D K


    Agreed. It should be stated in the contract.

  6. #6


    I know there's been problems getting honest accounting at Eternal Press. Author, A.C. Katt, bought 45 of her books from Amazon, yet they never showed up on her royalty statements. She sought legal advice about this last year. Here are the details.

    “290 days and 1 hours ago.
    She is the publisher, Eternal Press out of Vancouver, Canada. I am the writer to whom she owes royalties, AC Katt. She claims there is a problem with the Amazon accounting and she is waiting until it straightens out.

    I had at least 45 sales at Amazon.com because my husband purchased the books to give away and purchased direct to avoid the publishers prohibitive shipping costs. We are Premium Members and get our shipping free. She lists no consumer sales at Amazon.
    What can I do short of taking her to court. The contract demands that I pay all costs for an audit. If she is found to be a cheat, do I still have to pay all costs?

    As far as Fictionwise, Ally told me in early may that I had sold 1050 copies (downloads) of my book, The Sarran Plague. They approximately three weeks later she said it was a "mistake" and I only sold 600 copies. It smelled funny because the ratio was wrong. Also the only people who had this problem with Fictionwise were Eternal Press's best XXXXXXX XXXXXXX. This kind of computer problem should have affected the whole system or at least everyone at EP, but it seemed to affect only those who had unexpectedly large volume of sales.”



  7. #7
    D K



    Your decision to go ahead and publish on your own when you have a contract with a publisher is an extremely poor one. If you can't afford to pay the $800 to release your book from the publisher, how can you possibly afford the legal fees to defend yourself in court for breaking your contract. You have put yourself in a very bad position. Furthermore, if a future publisher/agent for your next book were to catch wind of your behaviour in this instance do you think they'll want to sign you? You may very well have burnt the bridges of future opportunity too!

    It doesn't matter if Damnation is write or wrong on the kill fee, you have a binding contract and they own the rights to your book, you don't.

    Let the book go and start over. Do your homework on publishers next time. You have nobody to blame here but yourself. Either you didn't do your homework and signed with a less than reputable publisher or you did do your homework and decided to take the risk. Either way you made the decision and are responsable for your current situation.

    You have done your part by informing others on how things didn't work out well for you now forget the book and move on.


  8. #8
    L C


    Meh, anyone who goes with these stupid little presses deserves what they get. "Emphasis on digital printing"? "Uses on-demand printers?" If you can't do better than this, don't even bother. Sorry.

  9. #9


    Ally Robertson ran Eternal Press for a couple of years. She never had a business license. By her own admission she has mental problems. Her behaviour towards authors was erratic at times and bizarre. She appears to have been scraping by on a small disability pension. It's easy to see how things got too much for her.

    Kim Richards, who worked with Ally, and who started Damnation Books in September 2009, bought the contracts when Ally went totally bankrupt earlier this year. Kim then tried to sell the contracts back to authors vis a vis kill fees. With over 200 contracts, that's quite a tidy sum for little or no effort.

    Take a look at the Damnation website. It doesn't exactly inspire confidence. I can't imagine that they're selling many books. So they're depending on authors to purchase their own titles, and on kill fees to get by. They look as if they're scrounging around for cash.

    Authors who feel they've been ripped off on royalties need to speak up. There's probably not too much can be done at this late date, but it could prevent other authors from falling into the same trap. Please don't allow yourselves to be intimidated by Kim. Despite her threats there is no "black list" and her smear campaigns against those who speak out are boomeranging back on herself.




  10. #10


    "Meh, anyone who goes with these stupid little presses deserves what they get. "Emphasis on digital printing"? "Uses on-demand printers?" If you can't do better than this, don't even bother. Sorry"

    Agreed. Not only are they a waste of time, but tie up your rights, and have the potential to cost you a fortune in legal fees. They're often started by wannabe authors -- like Ally and Kim -- who see it as a way to publish their own dreck, and screw other authors at the same time.

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