Despite complaints from former MacAdam Cage authors that they have not received e-book royalties or regular statements for years, Mark Pearce, publisher of MP Publishing, the publisher and e-book distributor that controls their e-book rights, claims all royalties have been paid and all statements are up to date. Pearce blames the legacy of problems at MacAdam Cage on its late publisher, David Poindexter, although he is urging former MacAdam Cage authors to contact him to resolve disputes over post-bankrutpcy e-book rights to their titles.
At the same time, Jan Constantine, general counsel at the Authors Guild, who has examined the e-book agreement, told PW that the e-book rights agreement negotiated between Poindexter and Pearce in 2009—Pearce purchased the e-book rights to the bulk of the MC list for the life of copyright—is legitimate and survives the MacAdam Cage bankruptcy. All print rights reverted to former MC authors in March of this year, 60 days after MC filed for bankruptcy.
However, she also emphasized that Pearce must “comply with the agreements in the contract. If he doesn’t then he’s in breach and the authors can reclaim the rights to their books.” Constantine urged former MacAdam Cage authors to immediately demand “back dated and current royalty statements” from Pearce and to “make sure he is in compliance.” The Authors Guild is also circulating copies of the original MC/MP Publishing e-book agreement and amendment to authors and urging them to examine the licensing agreements. The Authors Guild will monitor the situation.
Once again, Constantine questioned whether the e-book licensing agreement would survive a court challenge. She pointed to the nature of the licensing agreement—the bulk sale of rights, the length of the agreement (life of copyright), the apparent lack of notification or provisions for authors to reclaim rights and the ongoing complaints of nonpayment—and said “if authors banded together for a legal challenge to this agreement, I think a good legal expert could figure out a way to attack it.”
Pearce is the publisher and founder of MP Publishing, an e-book distributor based on the Isle of Man and in the U.K. He told PW he is an architect and real estate developer with an interest and love of book publishing and has been involved in a variety of publishing investment deals before getting involved in both digital publishing in the early days of the Kindle and Sony E-book readers and later print publishing. He first met Poindexter, he told PW, during an extended phone interview from the MP Publishing offices in the Isle of Man, in the early 2000s, looking for help in publishing a nonfiction book. Subsequently he launched MP Publishing, as an e-book converter and distributor, at time when “e-books were nonexistent. We were among the first to get involved and we built a big distribution network.”
MP Publishing, he said, distributes about 600 e-books (including the MC list) as well as publishing about 120 print titles. Pearce said that while the agreement with MacAdam is said to include about 275 titles, he actually only controls about 200 MC titles.
Pearce essentially blamed Poindexter for all subsequent problems with authors, claiming “all royalties have been paid,” and that “he has never missed a statement.” Pearce said he purchased e-book rights “in perpetuity” to the bulk of the MacAdam Cage list for a significant advance and said that it was MC’s job to distribute both the statements and the royalties, indeed a normal and conventional practice in book publishing sub-rights. Pearce said he paid Poindexter $388,000 (our initial story said $300,000), an advance against royalties, in several payments--“just like they sold foreign rights they also sold their e-book rights.” Pearce said he “paid way over the odds for the e-books because I knew where the e-book market was going.” Pearce said publishing is a labor of love for him and that “I look for payment over the long term, so the rights I bought were for the length of copyright.”
Pearce said he is "surprised" at author complaints and charges of nonpayment: “our contracts are with the publisher and not the writers. We paid our advance to MacAdam Cage so you deal with the publisher. The money goes to the publisher to distribute to their authors. I now know that MacAdam Cage [wasn't] doing that. It's unfair to say we haven’t sent out statements and or paid royalties. We contact writers regularly.”
Surprisingly, Pearce also said he didn’t know that MacAdam Cage had filed for bankruptcy, even though he knew the company was in financial trouble and he said that he was attempting to “save” the publisher, making an offer to buy its assets. “I learned about the bankruptcy in the press,” he said, adding that that he was never notified despite being a major creditor, owed about $109,000. Pearce said he paid that amount (part of the $388,000) for “future” e-book rights to MacAdam Cage, an unusual deal he described as the purchase of e-book rights to MC books not yet acquired or published. He blamed other creditors for “destroying our deal,” complaining that creditors were contacting authors individually and “making it difficult. We could have saved MacAdam Cage.”
In the wake of the bankruptcy and the reversion of print rights, Pearce acknowledged that MP Publishing must now take on the role of primary distributor of royalties and statements. He is urging all former MacAdam Cage authors to contact him (firstname.lastname@example.org) “with the details [of their contracts] and we’ll happily talk with anyone.” Authors should also examine their original MacAdam Cage contracts because, according to former MC editor-in-chief Pat Walsh, despite the e-book splits listed in the e-book agreement, author percentages for e-book royalties are likely to vary widely from author to author.
Pearce told PW that about a “dozen” MacAdam Cage authors are working with him to release their books in print and digital, pointing to Mark Dunn, author of the novels American Decameron, Ellen Minnow Pea and others, a former MC author now published by MP Publishing. He also mentioned authors Sonny Brewer and Peter Temple. Pearce also said he has purchased 42,000 copies of MacAdam Cage titles from its former warehouse, including copies of Between Here and the Yellow Sea, a short story collection written by True Detective creator Nic Pizzolatto and published by MacAdam Cage in 2006. Out of print, the title is selling for $800 a copy on eBay and Pearce plans to ship the remaindered copies of Pizzolatto and other former MC author into the states for sale
MacAdam Cage authors in contact with PW remain angry and baffled about why they never received royalty statements and payment. Novelist Dayne Sherman has contacted Pearce looking to reclaim all his rights. He said Pearce has offered to pay royalties direct to him dating from the bankruptcy reversion of print rights. Other MC authors, such as Edward Cline, author of the Sparrow Hawk series, were able to get his titles reverted before the 2009 e-book agreement. In some cases reverted titles have been included in the disputed e-book agreement anyway. Cline has since retrieved his titles and has since had MP Publishing e-books removed from most retailers and replaced by his own KDP e-book editions. He said he received “intermittent” statements and royalties over many years. Other MC authors and several agents contacted by PW say they have never received a statement or royalties of any kind, indeed many authors say they were never notified that their e-books rights were sold.
“I’d like to sort this out for the benefit of the authors,” Pearce said. [MacAdam Cage] handled this terribly. If I had know that Poindexter and [Pat] Walsh were not being honest with the authors I would have worked directly with the authors earlier.”