Hello, darlings! I’ve finally come up for air after finishing quite a number of projects (You’ll see the first one swing through in a couple weeks.), and the world seems to have exploded around me as I was working. Or at least the local publishing world. I’m seeing publishing houses die around me. Again.
I though, both as something of potential interest to readers and potential help for authors, I would talk about my experiences. I won’t be naming any names for a lot of reasons, but we’ll just call the two houses in this article Publisher A and Publisher B, in order of when they sort of collapsed. This is a look at the similarities and differences, the warning signs, and what this could mean for you as a reader waiting for Author X’s books (Hopefully I’m Author X, but I don’t want to be presumptuous.).
So, Publisher A: I worked with them several times before submitting a book. And as luck would have it, the problems started in the middle of production on that book. We got told that they were closing down to outside submissions, which I’ll tell you right now is a pretty nasty warning sign. No outside subs means no new money coming in, so if they’ve made that decision… yikes. It went downhill from there. When I subbed, they were a good house doing god things for their authors. After the book came out? Well, they weren’t so lovely anymore. I’ve been paid once, and it wasn’t nearly what I was expecting. Publisher A just didn’t bring much to the table, all said and done, and I really don’t think they’ll last much longer, which is unfortunate.
Now let’s get to Publisher B. This is a lot messier. I also had written for them for quite a while. They were a well-regarded house and I was very excited to publish with them. But eventually, we started to hear some rumblings. Just some rumors that got passed around with different authors. Payments not on time, some people not getting in touch with the editors anymore. But it didn’t seem widespread. Could just be a fluke.
It wasn’t a fluke. More and more people weren’t getting paid, more emails were going unanswered. Payments and statements were getting later and later if they came at all. Finally, we got word that someone in the company was brought in on legal charges for a bounced check and things really started after that. We were told that money was really tight. Which is code for you’re not getting paid, if you’re an author and hear that. They started handing rights back left and right… until they didn’t. The excuses started pretty soon after things started going downhill, and that’s something I heard at both Publisher A and Publisher B. Every email was accompanied by at least six excuses, it seemed. Migraines, surgery, heart attack, dead pet, family troubles, moving. But this is our top priority.
Of course it wasn’t. Now, Publisher A I’m still on good terms with. I like the people who run it. Heck, if they can get back on their feet then I might even consider writing for them again.
Publisher B lost me on them. They did such awful things, and not just to the authors. Editors were going unpaid, cover artists were going unpaid, and they started taking the royalty money from authors and using it to pay their freelance workers. Not pay them enough, but pay them something to keep them from cutting and running. Which really didn’t work. The editors and such, bless them, left when they found out it was author money going to pay them. That wasn’t okay with them at all.
Mix all that in with threats of libel and a complete cut off of communication (People are having to send certified, insure letters, and even those don’t seem to be getting to them.), and Publisher A is basically not keeping anyone. Period. Those who stay… well, I guess I admire their loyalty? I cut and run as soon as they offered me the chance. I tried to help them, sure. Give them advice on what to do. None of which was followed, but I tried.
It’s unfortunate for authors, but it also sucks for readers. Readers aren’t able to support their authors, because the money from these books isn’t going to them. And if they get taken down, readers can’t read them at all until the authors republish them.
I just wanted to touch on what happens when publishers die. There are things you’ll see in almost every case, and you can just hope they go down with grace and the band still playing. Unlike Publisher B seems to be doing.