Stevan Nikolic founded Adelaide Books in 2017 as an imprint of Adelaide Literary Magazine with the motto, “we don’t publish classics, we make them.” But for dozens of authors, Adelaide didn’t only not make classics—it failed to deliver on a range of services promised in the publisher’s contract.

Complaints range from lack of royalty statements, delayed publication dates, little to no editing of books, failure to follow through on various marketing promises, requiring authors to order 45 books up front for $653, and lack of communication. A number of authors have filed complaints with the New York State Attorney General accusing Adelaide with breach of contract.

To help Adelaide authors compare notes, Richard Wise created the facebook group “Adelaide Books, Author’s Forum” in March 2020. Wise had signed a contract with Adelaide in 2019 but, unhappy with Adelaide’s service and believing Adelaide had failed to live up to the terms of its contract, successfully fought to get his publishing rights back. The Facebook forum, limited only to Adelaide authors, currently has about 105 members.

Adelaide’s behavior also prompted Writer Beware, a Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Association blog, to post a warning about the company, and the Alliance of Independent Authors to issue a Watchdog Advisory. In addition, a number of Authors Guild members who are also part of Wise’s Facebook group told the Guild about their problems with Adelaide. The Guild reached out to Nikolic last spring on behalf of its members, but had not received a response until shortly after Nikolic received questions from PW about an upcoming story about his company.

In his initial response to PW, Nikolic said that, because of losses Adelaide suffered during the pandemic, he stopped accepting new contracts in October 2021 and laid off his small staff. Since that time, Nikolic said, he has worked to fulfill the agreements he had with about the 60 remaining contracts. As of early 2023, he said, he had fulfilled 45.

Similar to many hybrid publishers, Adelaide pays no advances, but offers a 20% royalty rate on revenue. Authors can also pay for additional marketing services. Adelaide promises to publish an author’s book in paperback and as an e-book, and to offer the book for sale on Amazon and other online platforms, as well as provide distribution to bookstores. The company also has an operation in Lisbon, Adelaide Books Portugal, and offers to do Portuguese and Spanish translations. Complaints from authors charged that Adelaide failed to act on many of the services promised in the contracts they had signed with the publisher.

Authors Guild CEO Mary Rasenberger told PW in her recent meeting with Nikolic that he promised to begin paying outstanding royalties in February, give rights back to all authors who request them, refund money for books bought by authors who never received the copies, and give authors their digital files. According to Rasenberger, Adelaide has contracts with about 450 authors. She also noted that while the Guild could negotiate with Nikolic on behalf of Guild members, she hoped he would also provide the same remedies to all authors.

“Nikolic got in over his head. He took on way too many authors for a tiny staff—now reduced to him alone,” Rasenberger said, noting that with the size of the staff Nikolic had, he only had the ability to publish a handful of books at most. “Nikolic’s behavior in making so many false promises to so many authors is truly egregious. These writers put a lot of time and money into these books, and have had their expectations dashed. Publishers like Adelaide that prey on writers trying to get published are a growing threat, and at the AG we are determined to hold them accountable.” (Earlier this month, the Guild coordinated a lawsuit brought against Authors’ Place Press, which charged the publisher with failing to fulfill its contractual obligations by refusing to pay or properly account for royalties.)

One of Nikolic’s authors, while appreciative of the Guild’s efforts, believes that Nikolic owes his authors more. "His agreeing to pay royalties, return files, et cetera won't cure the other issues we authors have concerning loss of time, delays, non-communication, and no e-books for some authors for over a year or not at all,” said author Libby Belle.

Adelaide’s business address remains in New York City, though Nikolic is currently living in Lisbon, where his wife, Adelaide, owns a bookstore; an article in a Portuguese magazine says the store features titles published by Adelaide Books. Nikolic told PW he moved to Lisbon because the financial losses from his book business made it unaffordable for him to live in the U.S.

Nikolic said he intends to honor his commitments to the Guild, and said he plans to accept new manuscripts once he resolves all outstanding issues with his current contracts.