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Thursday, January 12, 2017

Small Press: How Solvent?

After an agent accepts our manuscript, euphoria erupts. We turn virtual handsprings and tell everyone the good news.

Your words. Your manuscript. You dream of the New York Times Bestseller list, fame, money, news conferences. But, not so fast.

The agent who you worshipped, the one who offered you a contract, just quit her job at the literary agency. And the agency isn’t interested in your baby. So, you begin again to find representation.

Or let’s say you submitted to a small press. They accept and seem to adore your writing. You sign a contract and you are back in business.

Then, the unthinkable happens and the publisher declares bankruptcy and all your efforts are for naught.

So, what are some of the reasons?

My publisher, Musa, was amazing. To all their authors and
employees, Musa seemed solvent. I received my checks on time and they answered emails promptly. Sadly, I didn’t appreciate how fantastic they were until after they shut their doors two years ago.

The publisher seemed to be going strong. They’d hired more staff, publicists, editors, and creative talent. E-books were offered rather than print. An E-zine was popular. And yet, they couldn’t do it. Maybe they tried to expand too much, an overload of authors. Don’t know. Bottom line, it didn’t work out.

But they did right by us. They promptly return our rights and we received our last checks, every penny.

Example of another, less scrupulous publisher is All Romance e-Books, ARe. They gave their authors three days notice and generously offered ten cents on the dollar for the last quarter.

They came to the decision to keep ninety percent for themselves, you see, so they can avoid bankruptcy. Not that they weren’t raking in the cash. They just decided to keep it.

All the time, they were offering gift cards before Christmas and asking authors if they wanted to advertise on their site. I received a request about the middle of December for an advert spot. Imagine my displeasure if I’d taken them up on it.

They knew they were having trouble but chose to slither along. 

Romance Writers of America, RWA, released a statement that read in part:
RWA finds it unconscionable for the owner of ARe to withhold information so long and to continue selling books through the end of the month when the company cannot pay commissions. RWA contacted ARe but has not yet received a response.
As a last kick in the pants, ARe email to authors stated:
“...published authors are offered rights reversion on condition that they consider this "a negotiated settlement of your account to be 'paid in full'...”
Ain’t that special? Holding the authors' rights hostage?

How do you know if your publisher is running out on you? Given the above examples, the good and the horrible, I'm not sure an author can. Some good links I have posted below might help but in the end, I think we take our chances. 

I'm sticking with self-publishing. Maybe I'm not making a ton of money but it's enough to pay the groceries. I'll be the first to know if my publisher—ME—decides to go out of business. 


Brett Minor said...

This is something I have struggled with. Do I self-publish or languish under the thumb of someone else with no idea what will happen?

Toni said...

I wrote a book on a metaphysical subject. The manuscript was accepted by Atrium Publishing and held for 8 months.

After almost a year, they mailed it back to me saying the publishing company had been sold and the new owners were going different genres. Metaphysics was not one of them.

Hostage negotiations weren't necessary but it would have been nice in any of my phone calls or written inquiries that I could have been told of the pending sale.


Huntress said...

@ Brett - No secret here that I like self-pub. Amazon makes it incredibly easy. Sure, there's the cost of an editor and cover, formatting. But you keep more of the $$. And no surprises.
I was so lucky with Musa. *no Words to Describe*

@Toni - Holy Cats. Did they do a cover or editor before crushing your heart? Just wondering.

mshatch said...

This is one of my concerns with small publishers, although there are some out there that are still small and viable.

Liz A. said...

Very chilling. There are always the unscrupulous. Too bad they don't have that stamped on their foreheads.

Darla M Sands said...

I'm so glad self publishing is working out for you! Best wishes.

sage said...

Interesting. I had a magazine article accepted and then the mag folded back in the 90s, but I didn't worry to much about it. I would be upset if it was a book.... You should remove the previous post--that troll has posted on my blog and I have deleted them.

Huntress said...

Thank you for the heads up. :0
I don't know how I missed it.