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Friday, April 5, 2013

When Publishers Collapse, Authors Pay the Price

Posted by on Fri, Apr 5, 2013 at 3:31 PM

Phil Foglio, half of the local team that makes the webcomic and prose novel series Girl Genius, has posted on Facebook about all the troubles his books are in, now that his publisher Night Shade Books is in the process of going under:

So– Got a call from our agent, telling me that Night Shade Books, the American publisher of the Girl Genius novels, is folding. This made me sad. I became markedly less sad when my agent assured me that our sales were sufficiently good that any number of other publishers should be interested in picking us up, so– Hurrah! Well…maybe hurrah.

You see, there's the whole tedious business of disengaging ourselves from Night Shade, which has decided to sell our contract to another publisher in order to cover their debts. This other publisher, Skyhorse, is perfectly willing to buy Night Shade's assets (our contracts). However, they will rewrite them and everybody now gets paid a flat 10% of net sales. Let me put this another way; If I was a monkey, I'd be throwing this.

Foglio goes on to explain the different scenarios, including one in which the prose books published by Night Shade might remain in a publishing limbo, out of his control forever. Let's be clear about the fact that the Girl Genius comic isn't published by Night Shade, and the property still belongs to the Foglios, so it's not like this is the end of Girl Genius; it just means that readers might not get access to the books that have been published by Night Shade for a long, long time. This is a shame.

Phil and Kaja Foglio are the kinds of working artists who have done everything right in their careers—they're great to their fans, they've contributed to Stranger charity auctions, they're out cheerfully representing their work at every local convention I've ever attended—and because they decided to be published by a smaller, quality independent press, their work (or, in the best-case scenario, their wallets) might suffer for it. This isn't how the publishing industry should work.

(Via Bleeding Cool.)


Comments (4) RSS

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This is why the rise of self-publishing is so good for authors. Yes, I understand (and share) your antipathy toward insufficiently-edited books, but writers can and should contract with editors directly. What they DON'T have to do is sign over the rights to, and the lion's share of the profit from, their work in order to reach an audience.
Posted by siduri on April 5, 2013 at 5:20 PM · Report this
See, books should be free, and authors should make their money off reading tours and t-shirt sales.
Posted by tiktok on April 5, 2013 at 9:08 PM · Report this
I don't understand how Skyhorse can unilaterally re-write the contract. If they bought the contract from Night Shade, then didn't they buy it with all of the terms intact?

Perhaps what they bought was not the contract but the copyright. In that case, the innovation required is for authors to retain the copyright to their work and just sell a license to their publishers.
Posted by Charlie Mas on April 6, 2013 at 7:18 AM · Report this
@3 Skyhorse is asking the authors to agree to a modified contract. If enough authors agree to the new terms, Skyhorse will complete the sale and promises to pay out the money that Nightshade already owed the authors.

I don't know what happens to authors who decline the new contract, nor am I sure what happens if the sale falls through and Nightshade files for bankruptcy.
Posted by Asbel on April 8, 2013 at 8:20 AM · Report this

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