Update on remaining pledge gifts including Special Edition Boxed Sets.
Because of what I have always believed (and still believe) to be an unjustified legal action brought against my company by one of the contract holders for Elite: Dangerous fiction, a number of pledges including the majority of the special edition boxed sets (the most expensive of the pledge gifts) have been delayed an unreasonable length of time.
This is unfair to all of you who have supported this project and so I thought the least I could do at this stage was to explain the situation and make clear what I have put in place to resolve the issue.
The situation regarding the special edition boxed sets has not been helped by the following;
1) I hugely underestimated the cost of shipping the boxed sets when calculating the original Kickstarter. They are big, bulky and although robust, will need to be treated carefully in transit. The cheapest option won’t do. And even if it would, I did not anticipate the levels of interest from overseas. Some of the international boxed sets are going to cost me more to get safely to their owners than was originally pledged for them. This is my mistake, I own it completely and I will get the promised boxed sets to you. I remain very grateful for your support.
2) The company whose quotation I had accepted to create the boxes pulled out at the 11th hour. The only alternative has resulted in boxed sets that are far better quality but that have taken far longer to produce and are more expensive.Since the start of this very disruptive legal action almost 18 months ago, I have been concentrating on my core business (that of selling books) while diverting as much resource as possible into getting individual boxed sets to their owners. This will continue as funds come in.
At the court hearing, the judge (who had no knowledge of Kickstarter) decided that I must pay “royalties” on books given away as pledge gifts. My own stance was that I had a clear agreement with all the authors about pledge gifts but there was nothing in writing.
The court decision sets a precedent and allows the other Elite: Dangerous authors to demand “royalties” on books given as pledge gifts.
Nothing will persuade me to act without integrity, even if I have to lose my company. I cannot therefore ignore the precedent that this judge’s decision has set. One of the reasons I work to the original profit sharing model of publishing is to be fair to my authors. Those of them with knowledge of the publishing industry appreciate this partnership working.
Following the judge’s decision, I contacted the four other Elite: Dangerous contract holders who were involved in the Kickstarter and explained the position. Here's the first response I had; and I should note that it had me worried until I spotted the application of 'sarcasm-mode'.
'I do have urgings to sue. I can't explain my reasoning, but it has something to do with going against all my principles.'
I smiled, thanked the author and waited for the next response to come in. This is what it said;
'I was just happy to create something that people would enjoy whilst waiting to finally be able to play a new version of Elite - I was even happier that someone wanted to publish it, so no, I won't be taking any legal action.'
Another smile and the warm feeling that you get from working with good people – so much more productive than scouring the ground for grudges to pick up and carry about. Again I thanked the author and the next response came in;
'So you’re offering me the opportunity to paint myself as a sanctimonious arse, ruin a lot of hard work, sow discord, trash friendships and break my word as a gentleman… and all for the sake of a month’s salary? I’ll pass thanks.'
That one made me laugh. It really is great to work with good supportive people. Teams like these can move mountains. Only one more author to hear from and this was what came back;
‘"If the law supposes that," said Mr. Bumble, squeezing his hat emphatically in both hands, "the law is a ass—a idiot." (Charles Dickens 1838).
I, however, am not an ass - and I respect the amazing community who funded this project on Kickstarter far too much to treat them like idiots by putting fulfilment at risk with litigious claims I know full well I am not due.'
That completely clarified things for me, and reinforced a realisation I had come to some time ago;
With only the tiniest insignificant specks of exception, the Elite community is the most supportive, forgiving and, frankly, awesome community out there and it is a genuine privilege to consider myself part of it.
I WILL get these boxed sets out to you all.
Gabi and I will be driving the majority of the UK boxes to their respective owners personally (fuel being cheaper than shipping in most cases). Where possible this will allow me to deliver a face to face apology for the delay.
Please consider this update the same heartfelt apology for the huge delays to those of you who live outside the UK or are simply too far away in the UK to come to you personally.
This whole experience has been very damaging to my small publishing house but we are still here, still releasing Fantastic books and the future looks good.
We have lost the use of the sound studio that was built and equipped with the Kickstarter funds.
The sound engineer is a long time friend of the claimant and is currently involved in helping them create their own version of their audio book. I bear no grudge against the sound engineer or his family. When the litigation began and he confided in me how anxious the situation was making him, I promised to keep him insulated from it and I hope he would agree that I have done that to the best of my ability.
During the court hearing, the suggestion was made that I should start my own legal action against the sound studio to recover the recording fee and other expenses of the fifth book, plus a percentage of the cost of building and equipping that studio.
Not knowing what version of events will filter back, I should like publicly to make my position on this clear.
As a man of integrity I will not put a couple with a young family through the stress of litigation on these grounds. Should the sound engineer wish to donate funds to me to cover my losses in this regard, I will accept them gratefully and use them to speed up the shipping of the boxed sets, but I will not chase him for compensation and I stress that I bear him no ill will, this was not a mess of his making.
We have now built our own sound studio, in house here at Lilac Tree Farm, called 'the Re(a)D Room' and will shortly be releasing our first Re(a)d Room audio book, read by Penelope McDonald.
Thanking you for your patience in this matter is a moot point and I completely understand the frustration and anger some of you have shown at the delays. I hope this update goes some way to explain the reasons.
Finally, although the original Kickstarter was for four titles, the boxed sets contained 5 titles. The legal judgement means that the claimant will be paid royalties on the books set aside to go in the boxed sets. However, I have always been concerned that sending the boxed sets would trigger another threat of legal action. This being the case, I made sure that the specific question was asked at the hearing. ‘When we send out the remaining boxed sets, if they contain your book, will you expect further payment?’
The claimant’s immediate reaction was to say yes. The judge’s immediate reaction was to say yes, royalties would be due.
It was then pointed out that the money that would be paid to the claimant for “royalties” for Kickstarter pledge gifts, already included the books that had been set aside for the boxed sets.
After some confused discussion both the judge and the claimant seemed to agree that no further payment could be demanded.
However, the confusion and the difficulties of explaining the workings of Kickstarter to someone who has no knowledge of it mean that I cannot take the risk of sending out the 5th book. Even if any further legal action would almost certainly be struck out, the law is a lottery and even having a claim struck out requires a disproportionate amount of time and effort. I simply can’t take the risk. They’re called Law Courts not Justice Courts for a reason.
The boxed sets will contain 4 official Elite: Dangerous titles (Elite: Mostly Harmless, Elite: Reclamation, Elite: And Here The Wheel and Elite: Tales From The Frontier) and will also be joined by two other recent Fantastic books by way of replacement for the missing 5th.
I also intend to give MP3 download copies of the first Re(a)d Room audio book to pledgers who were due a 5th audio release.
So all that remains is to apologise again for the hassle, delay and frustration that this has caused and to assure you all that I am doing everything in my power to remedy the situation as quickly as possible.