I am sure many of you have already read about Night Shade Books whose assets are being sold to Skyhorse Publishing and Start Publishing. You can read a detailed account of the transaction and why it is happening here and here. And here is an interesting article from a writer’s perspective.
That last link is very interesting. I suggest you go and read it, but if you don’t want to leave the comforts of this blog, here’s an excerpt I’d like to highlight:
And amid all the chatter, what gets me is how everybody goes on and on about how stupid writers must be to sign these things. And without weighing their options and personal situations and having all that information, I’d agree. The deal is seedy. It’s made to fuck writers in all sorts of interesting new ways. But guess what? So are a lot of boilerplate contracts sent to unagented authors from major and minor publishers all over the world. In fact, the SFWA just got a few fixed recently that have been in play for a bit now. That Hydra bullshit? That was from a major house, guys. One without a Writer Beware rep.
Fucking authors is not a new thing. Our job is to try and get fucked less (Or fucked better. Glass half full/half empty thing).
Night Shade fucked the shit out of a lot of people, and they did it with a smile and a wink and asked us to consider just how hard this was all for them, when they fucked us. They owe thousands and tens of thousands of dollars to our friends and colleagues, to writers and artists and editors and freelancers we hang with every year at cons and harass on Twitter and buy drinks at the bar.
As an unknown and unpublished writer, I find this all very odd and disconcerting.
Here’s why: If one feels the environment in the traditional route of publishing is so toxic to authors that one compares the experience to something akin to “fucking authors”, then why sign a contract with any publisher?
Part of being a writer is running your own business. You are responsible for producing and managing content, then selling and promoting it – regardless of how you publish. If you thought writing was hard, try running a successful business. As a writer, you have to both master the craft of writing, and have enough business acumen to not get trapped in bad contracts. No easy feat to accomplish both. My heart goes out to those writers that are in financial strain because of the demise of Night Shade Books.
For my part, I have a consultant business I’ve managed for over ten years, and up until the beginning of this year, I was also co-owner of another business with five partners. And I can say this much, in those ten+ years of doing business, I have never signed a contract that wasn’t to my benefit. It just wouldn’t make sense to run my business into the ground for the opportunity to work.
To be fair, yes, it is true that waiting for that fat paycheck to come once every few months is painful. But I had prepared for that scenario. I knew payments would be far and few in between. It is the very nature of consulting and, apparently, it is a similar case with traditional publishing. Everyone knows this. It is not some secret.
So, dear writers, why not, like, be ready? Let’s not extend beyond a very modest budget, and, yes, have another means of income to pay for the necessities so you don’t end up being hostage to a publisher that doesn’t pay on time (and then, figuratively, screws you over).
This whole, unfortunate series of events has also gotten me thinking of something else: If I can’t get a mutually-beneficial contract with a publisher (big or small), why publish? Or, rather, why not self-publish?
Yeah, here I go again, extolling the virtues of self-publishing.
Well, let’s think about this. If you are offered a contract from a publisher for your novel, it means two things:
- They think they can make money from selling your work, and
- They think they can make money from selling your work.
Yup, folks, that’s what it means. I am sure all editors love the written word and adore the stories their authors produce. But as far as publishers go, the ones concerned with the business side of the industry, it is all about making money. If they weren’t, they’d end up like Night Shade Books. It is as simple as that.
So again, dear writers, if a publisher thinks they can make money from your work…that means you can, too. Why not self-publish and keep all the profits rather than sharing a vast chunk of it with the publisher?
I know there are lots of reasons to go with a publisher: editing, great cover art, some marketing, and most importantly, distribution. Big or small, a publisher can open a lot more doors than self-publishing.
But at what price? How much are you willing to sell to get through those doors?
- When Publishers Collapse, Authors Pay the Price (slog.thestranger.com)
- Publishing Insider (kristinkingauthor.wordpress.com)
- Nightshade sale super-summary roundup post (tobiasbuckell.com)
- Another indie publisher on the ropes: Night Shade Books plans an asset sale (io9.com)