Dorchester Publishing has switched to subsistence mode, though they have tried to sprinkle some digital fairy dust over the move. The mass market publisher has struggled for some time, now. At the beginning of the year they sold both frontlist and backlist titles from many of their top authors to Avon–an imprint of their distributor, HarperCollins. Earlier this summer, the Romance Writers of America reportedly cancelled Dorchester’s participation in their annual conference because the company was “past due in fulfilling contractual obligations to some of their authors.” And company president John Prebich confirmed to the media last Friday that their retail sales fell 25 percent in 2009 (before they sold off top properties.)
So the company is giving up on functioning as a traditional print publisher. In a last-ditch effort to subsist, they will now issue all titles to the trade as ebooks only. Dorchester has laid off their sales force of seven people, and will work with Ingram Publisher Services to distribute POD versions of some titles. Romance titles have been successful for years in ebook form, so the company may find some strength there. But for now this a story about a genre mass-market publisher retreating rather than a bold digital initiative.
Hard Case Crime owner Charles Ardai tells the WSJ he may move his imprint’s distribution as a result, which makes sense. “It’s been a good run, but if they aren’t publishing mass market paperbacks, we’ll have to decide what to do.”