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UPNE author awaits payment from Dartmouth

  • Author Yvonne Daley in a July 2018 photograph. (Courtesy photograph)



Valley News Staff Writer
Thursday, April 04, 2019

Yvonne Daley never expected to make a lot of money from her latest book, Going Up the Country: When the Hippies, Dreamers, Freaks, and Radicals Moved to Vermont.

The former journalist and author of five previous books spent two years driving around Vermont to interview the people who changed the face of the state in the ’60s and ’70s and researching the broader counterculture movement.

“There was no way I was going to make back what I invested in time, but that wasn’t the issue for me,” said Daley, 73, who lives in Rutland. “I thought this was an important and interesting story to tell.”

Daley did, however, expect to make some money for her efforts. So far, beyond her author advance, she hasn’t.

Daley’s publisher, University Press of New England, disbanded in December, and despite assurances that the post-publication process would continue to run smoothly, Daley said she’s still awaiting her royalty payments and tax documents, while trying to handle some of the duties a publisher would normally take care of.

“This is an Ivy League college with plenty of money and a long history of supporting the arts and literature and authors,” Daley said. “I feel abandoned by them, and treated shabbily, with no regard.”

Founded in 1970, University Press of New England was a consortium of small university presses and partner organizations that varied in composition over the years. It published mostly scholarly writing and books of regional interest. After dwindling to just two member presses, Dartmouth College Press and Brandeis University Press, and faced with mounting financial woes, the Lebanon-based publisher abruptly announced last April that it would close for good. Over the ensuing months, the small staff scrambled to re-assign tasks including editing, production, sales, marketing, distribution and bookkeeping, a Byzantine project that required multiple deals with multiple organizations, before the company closed in December.

Daley, whose book came out last June and quickly became a bestseller at some Vermont bookstores, doesn’t know exactly how much money she should have received by now because she’s also received no official sales data. According to numbers supplied by former UPNE staff member Doug Tifft, who now runs his own publishing services business from his home in Fairlee, Daley’s book had an original print run of 1,500 followed by three reprints totaling another 1,500. Daley believes an additional 1,500 were printed just before UPNE closed. She has received no information on ebook sales.

In her past experiences with publishers, including UPNE, Daley said she’s been paid royalties promptly at the beginning of the year for the previous year’s sales. She expected the same timeline with Going Up the Country. At first, she was told, unofficially, that she’d be paid in January. Then that changed to February, then “sometime in the spring.”

In addition to receiving no royalties, tax documents or sales data, Daley said she’s been left to market the book herself during its infancy. That’s especially frustrating because she said she chose UPNE for its expertise in promoting books of regional interest.

“I’d have readings and we’d run out of books,” said Daley, who appeared at more than 50 events last summer and has a full schedule of events planned for this spring. She’s resorted to finding and purchasing her own books in anticipation of events, sometimes sending her husband to a Burlington bookstore to pick them up. A couple of times, she’s been unable to find enough books.

In November, UPNE reached a deal with University Press of Chicago to take over marketing, sales and distribution of its roughly 400 titles, while Dartmouth College retained administrative tasks, including royalty payments.

Christianne Hardy, special assistant to the president at Dartmouth College, said that the delay in payments is “just a transition issue,” while the college itself takes over responsibilities previously handled by Dartmouth College Press, whose future is still uncertain. An advisory committee submitted recommendations on the press to administrators late last year, and the provost is currently in discussions with deans about the recommendations.

“The future of Dartmouth College Press is still open,” Hardy said. “We’re processing as best as we’re able the royalties from last year.”

Daniel Chamberlain, an associate librarian at Dartmouth, said that the college, which has retained a small staff of former UPNE employees to handle a variety of publishing tasks, intends to complete all accounting and payments by July, when all sales and returns have been accounted for.

Authors should have received 1099 income statements for any income paid in 2018, Chamberlain said. He is currently looking into Daley’s tax statements but does not have answers yet as to why she hadn’t received them, he said.

The uncertain future of the press may be at the root of Daley’s problems, said Tifft, who launched Redwing Book Services with former colleague Ann Brash last year, after 34 years at UPNE. The college may be exercising caution in paying out royalties until the six-month period during which buyers can return books expires, he said. Additionally, they appear to be ordering reprints in small numbers.

If a publisher goes out of business it has to return book rights to their respective authors, Tifft said. It’s not in the company’s best interest to go out of business until it’s sold through its stock of books.

Daley is not alone in her frustrations. Tifft, who is no longer associated with Dartmouth College Press but has taken over some of the publishing services for Brandeis University and UPNE partner Wesleyan University Press, said several authors who were in various stages of the publishing process when UPNE closed have contacted him for guidance in recent months.

The publisher-author relationship is a complex one, cemented both with legal contracts and more general expectations that are not necessarily committed to paper, he said.

“It really comes down to, what’s the obligation of a publisher?” Tifft said.

The college perhaps should have done a better job of supporting authors during UPNE’s unwinding, Tifft said. For example, college officials could have connected authors with agents who could help pick up the pieces — whether that meant finding them new publishers, helping them get back some or all of their publishing rights or assisting in marketing and distribution.

“If you don’t want the books, wouldn’t it be the right thing to do to find someone to act as a matchmaker?” Tifft said.

Phil Pochoda, a literary agent and publishing executive who served as editor-in-chief of UPNE in the ’90s and now lives in Lyme, said the delay in payments is certainly outside the norm for publishing companies. Royalties, which are paid quarterly, semi-annually or annually, depending on the press, are generally sent out promptly at the end of the period, he said. Sometimes a small percentage is withheld in anticipation of returned books, but not the whole sum.

Like Tifft, Pochoda thinks the college could have done more to prevent circumstances such as Daley is experiencing. “I don’t think anyone really considered the publishing consequences and the orphaned authors,” he said.

Daley, whose 2005 book, Vermont Writers: A State of Mind, was also published by UPNE, said she’s fairly confident she’ll eventually get paid. Nor does she have any complaints against UPNE staff, who she said did their best to fulfill their commitments in the few months they had before the press closed.

Her gripe, she said, is with Dartmouth College, a thriving institution with an endowment of $5.5 billion, for not stepping up to the plate to support authors.

“Why wouldn’t an Ivy League college that is so well endowed and respected support the University Press of New England?” said Daley, who is currently working on her seventh book, My First Murder, about her life as a journalist.

“I’m definitely going to have an agent for this one,” she said.

Sarah Earle can be reached at searle@vnews.com and 603-727-3268.