BDSM Publisher gets caught in its own binds

The Blushing Woodshed, an indie press on top of its genre, publishes 70 titles a month. Specialising in spanking and BDSM, it was one of the first to see the potential of ebooks in 2001, before even Amazon. It was a screaming success, building a hard-core group of subscribers.

The Saturday New York Times (October 2, 2021) exposed its controversial practices, which made for an almost painful read. Somehow a line got crossed and now the tension between the publisher and its stable of authors has come to a head in lawsuits, investigations, industry oversight and charges of corruption. It seems the publisher, Anne Willis, made erratic payments to her authors; repackaged books with different titles, covers and slight changes to the text; had fake accounts with Amazon to game the system; added clauses to the authors’ contracts without informing the authors; republished books copyrighted to other publishers; didn’t copyright its own books; trademarked series’ names without informing or referencing the author; and had the production manager arrested after she quit. To put a finger on it, Anne Willis is a crook.


Anne Willis, who lives in Farmville, VA and volunteers on the local swim team, claims the financial mismanagement is due to her scatty and maternal way of operating. While indie publishing is rife with financial mismanagement, no one is swallowing this one.


An onerous contract that operates outside the industry mainstream is also a bone of contention. Barbara Casey LaPointe, a retired social worker, who wrote Submitting to the Sergeant and Sugar Babies, Inc, wants the rights back to her books explaining, “These are the only things I’ll be able to leave to my grandchildren.” LaPointe feels that the contract is so unfair that “she owns you.”

So many authors have gotten their panties in a twist that the Romance Writers of America has engaged in disciplinary proceedings and barred Anne Willis and her publishing house for three years. Anne Willis however is not taking this lying down and has responded through her lawyers that “she has fulfilled her contractual duties to her authors... and wishes to move on.”


And therein lies the rub. As the number of lawsuits is rising, its clear that Willis will be all tied up for some time to come.



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