Thursday, October 11, 2012

AVOID: Mark Williams International (MWiDP)

The eagle-eyed might've noticed that I've taken down all links to the two Saffina Desforges Presents… anthologies I've been in. After giving the publisher due warning that I would go public about my issues with Mark Williams International (MWiDP), after I've spent more than 4 months trying to get answers to a few simple questions.

Something I should mention: Due to the nature of such anthologies, I never expected to make a lot of money off the anthology. The story was sitting on my hard drive, and I was (and am) busy with my Aleyi and Darkworld series.

I was honestly happy I'd found someone who liked "PRIMpriety" enough to want that story and more. I've gotten so many personalized rejection letters for that one and its related second-person story—which was rejected for the vampire or the framed narrative as often as it was for the POV—that I'd been wondering where to send her next.

But with Ann Crispin's recent issues with Ridan, I was reminded that while this situation is mainly a nuisance to me, MWiDP has a good reputation, like Ridan did. Keeping mum about my issues could end up putting someone else in Ann's shoes of needing money that the publisher doesn't send.

I haven't even been asking to be paid. On that front, I've just been asking for the royalty statements that I haven't been getting, though I told MWiDP at the beginning of this year of a way they could set things up to keep anyone from falling through the cracks.

But have I gotten the royalty statements monthly, as stipulated in my contract? Never.

For the second anthology, I haven't even gotten statements when I've asked for them.

Let's go back to the beginning…

October 14, 2011

I signed my first contract with MWiDP, for my novelette "PRIMpriety".

November 26, 2011

Anthology came out…Kindle-only. I had no Kindle-capable device at the time, so Amazon wouldn't let me buy a copy to check it out. (And yes, I am tech-savvy enough to know what I'm talking about there.) Stormy (whose stories are for mature audiences only) kindly bought a copy for me to check it out…and there wasn't a table of contents (ToC).


Figuring that accidents happen—and I'd helped Mark with some tech details before—I brought the issue to his attention and suggested that I might be able to make the ToC for him, depending on how he'd created the file.

He apologized, stating that it was an oversight, and said "IT is a nightmare for me". He sent me all versions of the file that he had.

Note that this all happened on the selfsame day.

I made the ToC and had it back to him within a few days.

December 28, 2011

I signed a contract with MWiDP for the short story "For Want of Cruelty", which I was told would appear in the 3rd anthology. (Which has never been released, so rights have reverted to me. However: I had to ask to get a specific clause that reverted rights if unexploited for X duration, so I doubt it's in their standard contract.)

January 21, 2012

Nearly 2 months after the release of the first anthology, and I hadn't gotten any e-mail with sales numbers, which I was contractually supposed to receive "per calendar month".

I wasn't too worried about it. Mark had been sick—snake bite, if I recall correctly—and I knew from the blog that he and Saffina had been busy. Not that busyness was reason to breach a contract, but accidents and oversights happen.

Are you feeling better? I've seen that you and Saffina have been busy. :)

Any idea when we contributors to volume one will be getting the "full sales data per calendar month"? (Wondering when to expect it, so I know when to follow up. If you have no clue when to expect it, look up the "Contract for Primpriety", point 10.)

…And, after including that little side note to remind them about their contract terms, I added another story that I'd written, same world and character.

Confession: I'd written "Hello, Kitty" in the few days before I sent it, so I was also curious about if that speed would affect the quality, to someone who already liked the narrator. From my experience ghostwriting web content, I doubted it would, but I wanted to try.

January 23, 2012

(Letters in square brackets are numbers, removed by me.)

Hi Misti,

This email just appeared, though appears it was sent two days ago.

Yes, fully recovered, thanks, and busy indeed, as you noticed! :-)

We're trying to get an automated system up for the sales reports. Doing them manually at the moment, and inevitably missing a few people. Sorry!

Stats for the partial month of November were [X] sales on and [Y] on, so a respectable start. We were not expecting as much take up in the US as is the brand is not as well known there.

December stats: We put the title into KDP Select to take advantage of the five three days, to maximise exposure.

Before it went free the title had [Z] sales an and [A] on am,co,uk. During the free period it had a respectable (bearing in mind the huge number of free titles suddenly available through Select) [ZZ] free downloads on and [AA] on

As you saw from our updates we have plans afoot to get our titles and others to a far wider audience (the Select option is only for ninety days to benefit from the free exposure), and the sales continue to build.

Once the new site is fully up and running we;ll be able to push these anthologies more, and of course each new release will add to the overall impact.

Love the Hi Kitty story, We are literally just preparing to launch volume 2 and just had to pull one title after some copyright issues (it had been published in a magazine and the author belatedly decided they had rights, not him). We could well slip Hi Kitty in if you can get the contract back asap. If not, then in Volume 3. Your last story with its mixture of vampires and such had some great private feedback btw.

I've had some e-mail flukes, myself, so I appreciated the prompt response once he'd received my e-mail. And as a self-publisher, myself, I knew how annoying it could be to get those sales numbers figured out, so I figured it would be a lot worse for someone who wasn't very tech-savvy.

I let them know about e-mail groups as a way they could send sales numbers to everyone in a specific anthology and not miss anyone.

Mark's response (still January 23rd):

Great idea. Shall look into that.

Note: When I got the contract for "Hello, Kitty", a certain clause had been removed from the previous one, a clause that had explicitly limited the exclusivity period to a certain time frame. Now, I'm no lawyer, so this isn't legal advice, but I read contracts with an eye towards "worst possible interpretation". In that case, "worst possible interpretation" was giving MWiDP full 2 years' exclusivity—and, from what I was told, other authors had insisted on that clause's removal, so my (non-professional, non–legal advice) understanding is that the contract clause therefore would be read in the publisher's favor, not in the favor of the party that insisted on the clause change.

In any event, I'd rather have an explicit timeline for exclusivity rather than a vague one that could be read in my favor or against it. Mark readily changed my contract back, and he even offered to go back and amend the second one—but that one didn't have the clause removed, so that wasn't necessary.

But I found that difference because I read my contracts—and when I have more than one from the same publisher, I compare them.

Again, I'm not a lawyer, this is not legal advice, and I have the added confusion here of MWiDP technically being a foreign publisher, since I'm USian and they are not. I'm just pointing out that, in my little non-lawyer opinion, contract negotiators need to be careful—and I include myself in that warning.

March 31, 2012

My e-mail to Mark:

Hey Mark,

I've not heard any update on sales figures since the January 23rd e-mail from you, so I know nothing since December's numbers. When can I expect updates?

Everything going well? Do you have any themed anthologies coming up where you need a story? I could see if I have or can come up with something, if you like. :-)

For those of you thinking, what was she thinking, offering to write another story?

I had several reasons for saying that, among them giving Mark an opening to say "Thanks, but no thanks; we've shelved that idea for now." (I do know how to use NovelRank.)

When I'm stupid, I try to be intentional about it.

April 2, 2012

Mark's response:


Juggling too many balls at once this past month, on top of catching up with everything I'd fallen behind with.

Finally got everything ordered now and should have everything out on time and up to date hereon (for Amazon)..

See attached the latest stats, up to end February.

Vol 1 is now live on B&N and will shortly be appearing on Kobo and other platforms in the UK and internationally, but these only report quarterly figures.

Best wishes,


Aw, I thought. Poor guy. I, myself, had fallen sick for pretty much the latter two full weeks of February, so I could relate.

He planned to be on time henceforth. Sounded good to me—even if he did seem to think that "full sales data per calendar month" on the contract could be read as "full sales per calendar quarter". I could live with that.

I would have accepted that.


June 28, 2012

I e-mailed Mark again.

Hi Mark,

Me, again. A few questions:

1. Sales figures update? I've received nada since the below April e-mail. (I'm in Volume 2, as well.)

2. Any ETA for when payments will go out? I've double-checked PayPal, but per my records, I've never received a payment for my contributions.

3. What's the ETA for the release of Volume 3? (Which I'm also in.)


Note again that my contract stipulated that I was to be getting sales figures monthly.

Rights also reverted to me after X days without being used, so technically, they had no right to include my story in volume 3, but I figured I could at least find out if they were even planning to release volume 3 before I pointed that out.

July 6, 2012

No response came. So this time, I e-mailed Saffina and CC'd Mark:

Hi, Sorry to trouble you, but I sent this to Mark a week ago and haven't heard back. In case it's gotten eaten by the ether, I'm passing it on to you.

1. Sales figures update? I've received nada since the below April e-mail. (I'm in Volume 2, as well.)

2. Any ETA for when payments will go out? I've double-checked PayPal, but per my records, I've never received a payment for my contributions.

Note that those two items do put MWiDP in breach of contract. Not trying to be difficult—I've been patient—but…months? And then to not get an answer after a week of bringing it up? This is getting annoying.

Also, I was looking at the contract and noticed that my contract has expired for volume 3. (Point 12 on the contract for either "For Want of Cruelty" or "Hello, Kitty"; I was told "Hello, Kitty" would be in volume 2, but I haven't been able to confirm that.)

So, in addition to the two above questions, I also have two questions regarding those stories:

1. Can you confirm which story of mine appeared in volume 2? (I've checked the online pages about the volume—even checked reviews—and can't find anything.)

2. Can you give your intentions for the other story, considering the contract has fallen void?

Thank you.

Same day, I got the below response (in response to my June 28th e-mail, not the most current one—and the time stamp did show June 29th on his version):

HI Misti!

Quick acknowledgement, In transit at moment (rainy season, so very slow). Will follow up over weekend.


…Well, I thought. At least he gave me a heads-up. With the time differential, I should have an e-mail in my inbox on Monday morning.

July 9, 2012

Monday morning, and nothing's in my inbox. Not promising.

I'd noticed that one lady in the first anthology with me also had another book recently released by MWiDP. If she's having problems, then the company's probably in trouble.

I don't have that author's permission to name her, but her response was essentially that I was a fluke, per her experiences with MWiDP.

Granted, that particular author had several books with MWiDP, not just entries in the anthology, so they had further reason to keep her happy. But maybe all the problems I was having was a fluke. Improbable, but possible.

If things had gotten resolved that week, I would've been willing to believe that. I doubt I would've ever signed with them for a book, but I would've given them the benefit of the doubt.

July 10, 2012

Tuesday—coming up on Wednesday, for him, if my math was right—and the promised follow-up hadn't arrived.

I sent the following e-mail, forwarding the promise of follow-up below it:

Hi Mark,

I haven't gotten any e-mail from you since this one, which said you were going to follow up over the weekend. If you followed up, the ether ate it.

Also, I sent another e-mail after I noticed that the contract for #3 has fallen out of date. Also, which story of mine appeared in #2, anyway? That was never confirmed.

I was…irritated.

July 11, 2012

Mark responded:

Just back at my "office". Rainy season barely started here, but inland travel suffering.

Following up as soon as I get settled in.

At this point, I was hoping so, Mark. I was very much hoping so.

Because I prefer not being a grouch, even when I have a right to be.

July 17, 2012

No response had come, so I forwarded the July 11th e-mail on to Mark, saying:

Hi Mark,

Again, it's been nearly a week, and the below is the last I've received from you. If you sent something else, the ether ate it.

July 19, 2012

Wouldn't be at all surprised! But equally morel likely fault on my part. Having one of those days when nothing goes right, and that lasts for several weeks.

Attached are the sales reports for the SDP series. Never expected miracles from them, but the results are disappointing, though perhaps not surprising given amount of free books since Select,

We plan to move beyond Amazon and get these on Kobo, B&N, etc, and just maybe tap into an area where the competition is less and have some better traction.

Pretty sure you raised some other points in your "first" email. I'll get to that very shortly and explain things in more detail. We've just had all our power and net upgraded here and in theory working better, but inevitable teething problems.

Will follow up further asap, Misti.

Best wishes,


Attached was a spreadsheet that only went through June, only included the first anthology's numbers (except for an error in one month that evidently has the second anthology's instead of the first), and even had math errors in it that would've been resolved if they'd used the spreadsheet ability to calculate for them.

Despite the promise to "follow up further asap", I have not received another e-mail from MWiDP to date.

August 13, 2012

Hi Mark,

If you've sent me another e-mail since the one below, I haven't gotten it.

Also, I found errors in that spreadsheet you sent me. It says it's for volume 1, but on one month it mentions volume 2, so I don't know if that's a typo or if volume 2's sale accidentally got in instead. Also, the "running total" amounts are wrong.

I just spent an hour adding another sheet to the spreadsheet that takes the data you handed me, highlights the problems in red (and highlights the data that's missing in yellow). The sheet I made is easier to read and update than that mess you handed me, so you might want to use that layout.

I still haven't gotten any comments on 1. what's going on on the payment end; 2. confirmation that "Hello, Kitty" was, in fact, the story that ended up in volume two; 3. sales numbers for volume two.

At this point, July's sales numbers would also be nice to have, too.

Not trying to be difficult, but please notice that it has been 2 months since I first contacted you, pointing out that I'd fallen through the cracks on getting sales reports and payment. More than once, you said you'd get back with me, and now it's nearing a month since the most recent promise to get in touch with me "ASAP".

What do I have to do for you to keep your attention long enough to have my questions answered, Mark?

I did, in fact, attach that repaired spreadsheet.

I received no response.

August 17, 2012

Okay, Mark wasn't answering. I tried e-mailing Saffina directly:

Hi Saffi,

As you can see from the e-mails below, my questions I first raised TWO MONTHS AGO have not been answered. I've gotten a few "I'll get back to you ASAP" responses, but the response doesn't happen.

The one answer I did get was incomplete (and actually flawed, but you can see the below e-mail I sent Mark 4 days ago for the details on that).

What do I have to do to get my questions answered, Saffi? I've been polite; I've been patient. But this was ridiculous a month ago—which is when I was last told I'd get answers "ASAP". Nearly a month later, and I've still gotten no update.

I didn't get a response to that e-mail, either, though I waited.

And waited.

And put off starting the next step, because I didn't want to go here.

October 8, 2012

I finally bit the bullet and gave due warning, sent to Saffina and Mark both, and BCC'd to my friend who's my emergency contact on my contracts for MWiDP.

See the below forwarded e-mail for my questions and issues that have been ignored for 4 months now.

I have been patient. I have been polite. That hasn't worked.

Therefore, if I do not get answers (not another "I'll get back to you" that then doesn't happen) in the next 48 hours, I will go public on Thursday about the breach of contract.

[Question e-mail was forwarded here]

October 11, 2012

And here we are.

I haven't even been asking for them to abide by their contract terms. I've just been asking for information that I am required to get due to my contract.

And even when I ask for it, I can't get it.

So, to sum up my review of my experiences with Mark Williams International Digital Publishing (MWiDP): Ditch and avoid.

Fortunately, due to my contract, I have non-exclusive rights back to my stories at this point, regardless of which one was actually in the second anthology. I've therefore taken all three contracted stories, had them copyedited, created my own cover, and bundled them for sale*. If you're interested in another urban fantasy world that's a bit salty and gory, closer to "The Corpse Cat" than the other Darkworld stories, feel free to check it out. Be warned, though: These are salty and gory and well-dosed with black humor.

However, if you've bought one or both anthologies, please don't feel as though you need to again. E-mail me, and I'll send you a Smashwords coupon code for the stories.

Will you please help spread the word about MWiDP? Thank you.

*If you want to show solidarity and have money go to the author, please be aware that other authors have far more need of "mercy buys" than I do. For example, I understand that Ann Crispin is battling cancer. (If you like sci-fi, you might check out her Starbridge series: Amazon US | Nook | Kobo).


I am not asking for you to go up in arms and attack MWiDP. That does little good for someone ignoring e-mails, and I don't like the idea of using the public mediums of Twitter and Facebook to debate a private dispute.

I am asking for you to help me spread the word about MWiDP. I'll be alerting who I can about this post, but you surely know folks I don't.

These are my experiences. I make no claims as to how well (or poorly) this publisher is treating other authors. I've heard a third-hand rumor that I'm not the only one, but that was anonymous, so I can't verify it.

But from how MWiDP has responded to me, I can only recommend that they be avoided.

Update (10/13/12):

The best update I can give is to link to the thread on KindleBoards.

Short version: Saffina Desforges had to change her e-mail address. Evidently posted on her FB about it, which I found out about because Elizabeth Ann West kindly reposted it in the thread. I e-mailed Saffina; she e-mailed me back with some of my questions answered (and I've been paid, now). She also posted in the KB thread, posting the e-mail (which included monies owed) in the thread.

She also included a gem of an insult that I just have to laugh over, because it's that or get ticked to the point of joining her level: "Maybe if the authors *hooks fingers around the words in the air* on here spent more time writing books instead of shite on here, they wouldn't be moaning about £15 quids' worth of royalties! ;-)"

I really have to take my hat off to the folks on KB on this one—they're covering all the reasons why the behavior there's appalling, so I can focus on the ludiocrity here. Because really, things have gotten ridiculous.

Update (10/15/12):

KB thread's been locked, due to some amusing but unnecessary joking that started, but I want to thank everyone who's contacting me in support—publicly and privately.

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