Dorchester Publishing, a prominent romance publisher, had a long history that began in 1971. Over the years, it acquired Leisure Books and created the Love Spell line, focusing on paranormal romances.
The Romance History of Dorchester
The history of Dorchester Publishing began before the company got started.
Leisure and Dorchester, Separate Companies
Leisure Books commenced operations in 1957. It specialized in printing horror and thrillers. Leisure also published fantasy, science fiction, and Western books. In the company’s early years, it produced the Wildlife Treasury card series.
Later, when the historical body-ripper revolution of the 1970s hit, Leisure entered the field as a notable publisher of romance novels.
Dorchester Publishing started in 1971 as an independent, mass-market publisher. For a long time, they were the oldest of their kind in the United States.
Originally, Dorchester was the home of the Hard Case Crime line of pulp mysteries in its early days. For many years, Dorchester was a thriving publisher of the mystery and horror genres.
A Merger Creates a Romance Powerhouse
In 1982, Dorchester purchased Leisure Books as an imprint. They shifted Leisure’s focus away from fantasy and science fiction towards more horror and romance.
Like Kensington’s Zebra romances, Playboy Press, and Pinnacle books, Leisure would eschew tight editing and quality control for salacious covers and plots. Authors like Karen Robards, Robin Lee Hatcher, and Connie Mason would find their starts with Leisure.
Line and Imprints: Leisure, Love Spell, and BMI
Dorchester created the LoveSpell line in 1993. The line would focus on the hot new trend of paranormal romances. LoveSpells would incorporate tropes such as time travel, shape-shifters, fantasy elements, aliens, and vampires.
In the mid-1990s, Dorchester added Book Margins, Inc. (BMI) as a book discounter to its stable. BMI would repackage and sell Dorchester romances at a discount, lowering authors’ royalties.
Dorchester branded some of their romances as “Gloria Diehl Selections.” According to the company, a special panel of editors looked over these novels to ensure they contained “originality, reading interest, plot, and character development.”
One would have hoped that was the standard for all Dorchester’s books, but apparently not.
Dorchester Picks Up Zebra’s Authors
Other big-name authors like Rebecca Bandewyne and later Jennifer Ashley would also publish romances through Dorchester.
Dorchester’s Dark Decline
Unfortunately, the changes in publishing in the new millennium were too much for Dorchester to handle. In August 2010, after two years of significant drops in sales, they made a radical change. Initially, they planned a temporary shift away from printing books on paper. Instead, they wanted to focus on e-books and “print-on-demand” services.
Dorchester also announced they would be setting new royalty rates for their authors.
By September 2010, Leisure Books and the remainder of Dorchester’s mass-market paperback lines were canceled as print publications. Future titles were slated to be available only as e-books.
In October 2010, the Mystery Writers of America removed Dorchester from their list of “approved publishers.” The reason cited was a failure to pay authors their advances and royalties.
Dorchester scrambled to find funds. Soon after, Dorchester announced that the publication of the Hard Case Crime imprint would be transferred to Titan Books. In early 2011, Dorchester also sold the names of several of its discontinued magazines.
In March of that year, horror author Brian Keene announced a boycott of Dorchester. He claimed the company was still not paying authors. He also asserted that Dorchester sold books to which it did not own the legal rights. Dozens of other authors, editors, artists, and organizations joined Keene.
No More Dorchester
The publishers pledged to suppress sales of reverted books. In addition, Dorchester promised to pay its authors what they were owed.
However, the pushback was too tremendous for them to overcome. Leisure suspended operations entirely.
Quickly after that, Dorchester went out of business.
At the end of 2011, BroadLit purchased the subscriber databases and content of True Romance and True Love magazines. This included more than 12,000 stories, photos, and illustrations from the 1920s to 2011.
In August 2012, Amazon Publishing announced that it had acquired the publishing contacts of over 1000 books from Dorchester Publishing at auction.
- Dorchester Publishing Wikipedia
- Leisure Books Wikipedia
- Publisher’s Weekly: Dorchester Drops Mass Market Publishing for E-Book/POD Model
- Dear Author Spotlight on Dorchester
- Amazon Buys 1000 Titles from Dorchester
- Authors Speak on Dorchester Shakeup