Category Archives: publishing

Night Shade Books is Being Bought

Editor Jeremy Lassen is reporting via Twitter that Night Shade Books is being bought by a larger publisher.  Authors with Night Shade are being contacted.  Lassen’s words were “being bought” not “being sold”, which I think is an interesting distinction.  No word of the sale is one the Night Shade homepage as yet.

I’m sure more details will emerge over the next few days/weeks/months.  I only hope the authors currently with Night Shade come through the process relatively unscathed.  I say “relatively” because this has got to be a nerve wracking experience.  Hopefully no one’s books will be orphaned by the new owners.  Somehow I’m not gonna hold my breath.  Regardless, Adventures Fantastic wishes all the Night Shade authors the best when the dust settles.

I’ll update as more details become available.

UPDATE:   Jeff VanderMeer has posted on his Facebook page a partial copy of a letter he has received about the sale.  It doesn’t look particularly promising.  A transcript of what he posted is below; errors are on the part of author of the letter.  VanderMeer says in the comments that he’s been advised not to sign, as have several other authors he doesn’t name.

NIGHT SHADE BOOKS
1661 TENNESSEE STREET #3H
SAN FRANSICO, CA 94107

April 1, 2013

Howard Morhain Litery Agency, Inc.

Dear Jeff & Ann Vandermeer,
Provided that a sufficient number of Night Shade authors agree to certain changes to their contracts with Night Shade, Skyhorse Publishing, Inc. and Start Publishing, LLC have agreed to acquire all Night Shade Books assets. To be clear, this is an acquisition of assets, not a purchase of the company as a whole. The revenue received from the sale would go towards paying off the debts of the company. If you sign below, and a sufficient number of other Night Shade authors and other creditors also agree to these terms, you will receive full payment to bring all royalties and overdue advances current.

Your payment would be in the amount of $0.00.

By signing this letter, you agree that:

END  OF TRANSCRIPT

I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not entirely sure about this, but it sounds like the publisher is sacrificing the authors and their works on the altar of the publisher’s debts.   I really hope I’m wrong.  If there’s a Night Shade title you’ve been wanting, you might go ahead a get it now.  No telling how much longer they’re going to be in print.  I should probably get caught on reading Eclipse Online this weekend.

Overcoming Literary Snobbery

When I was a lad, just discovering how vast the field of science fiction and fantasy was, I was firmly in what David Hartwell has referred to as the omnivore stage.  To put that in plain English, I read everything I could get my hands on with no regard to author, publisher, or to a limited extent, quality.  If it had anything to do with spaceships, other planets, or aliens, then I was interested in it.  (This was shortly after a certain fantasy movie in science fiction drag hit it big.)  I soon branched out to other subgenres.

As I grew older and more discerning, I also grew more discriminating.  As in discriminate against.  I became interested in only reading works of originality.  My definition of originality was pretty rigid.  The work had to be something created by an author on spec that had been published by an established publishing house or the continuation of such a work.  Franchise work, by its very nature, had to be substandard.

At least that was my thinking at the time.  This years before electronic publishing leveled the playing field.

Fortunately, my thinking has changed and changed for the better. I came to realize that franchise, or work for hire, had value.

At first it was just the acknowledgement writing a novel, say, in a franchise owned by a major studio could teach authors the skills necessary to succeed on their own when they wrote “good” books.  There is some truth in that, but it’s still a pretty snobby and condescending attitude.  It didn’t occur to me then, when I was younger and had all the answers, that there were other reasons authors wrote in a franchise.

For one thing, it was (and is) a way of keeping a career alive.  I didn’t understand about the returns system and Bookscan numbers.  It also never occurred to me that authors might write in franchises simply because they loved the characters or world.

Things have changed in my world.  I hope I’ve become wiser, humbler (relatively speaking), and more open minded in my reading tastes.  As well as more discriminating in a positive way.  I’ve become educated in the way publishing works.  I’ve gotten over the “if it’s not from a major publisher, it probably isn’t any good” syndrome.  In fact, if anything, I’ve swung more to the other extreme.  I’m finding the works from the big houses tend to be the more bland, safe, paint-by-numbers type of book.  Yes, I realize there are exceptions to this, and that there are a number of fine and innovative authors doing groundbreaking work.  But what I’m discovering is that if I want to read something that breaks the mold, a work in which the author is taking chances, or a story without an Important Message, then the indies and small presses are the way to go.

There are a number of authors I’ve discovered through their work for other publishers who started out in franchise work.  Franchise work that I’ve started to seek out.  Warhammer is at the top of the list, but there are others.

There are still some work for hire type books I’ll tend to give a wide berth.  There are still media tie-ins written by someone with no love of the genre or the property they’re writing, works designed to fatten the corporate bottom line. To the extent I can distinguish them, I’ll give them a pass.  I’m looking for good story-telling, vivid description, in-depth characterization, fast-paced action, and crackling dialogue. 

Those are the things I’m looking for.  And I don’t care if it’s a franchise or a stand-alone novel, from a major publisher or an indie author.  As long as the tale is well-told, the source doesn’t matter.

I’ll explain in my next post how I think I’ve become more discriminating in a positive way.

2012 in Retrospect: Publishing

Rather than doing a single post about what I thought of the past year, I’m going to break things up into some smaller posts.  There will be on short fiction and one on titles I especially enjoyed.  But I thought I would start with publishers.

Last year, I wrote about the publishers I thought you should be reading this year.  That list hasn’t changed much.  The day before I posted that list, I gave reasons why I wasn’t going to be reading much from the main imprints.  Those reasons haven’t changed much, either.  If anything, they’re more valid than ever.

What I’m going to attempt to do here, in this present post, is to assess some of the things I said in those two posts.

First, I said I wouldn’t be buying many titles from the major publishers.  What constitutes a major publisher is probably going to vary among individuals.  That’s fine; it will give us something to talk about.  So many publishers are trying to grab as many rights as they can from authors and paying them so little once you take a close look at the numbers, that I have trouble with supporting such a system, just as a matter of conscience.  Add to that the fact that most of the major publishers are pricing their ebooks way too high, and in some cases as much or more than the paper editions, and I really don’t see the point.

Second, I said I would be reading more indie published authors.  I have.  The mistake I made was listing the authors whose work I intended to read.  The reason that was a mistake is that I haven’t gotten to everyone on the list yet.  Since I’m going to be focusing on small and indie presses in my column over at Amazing Stories (TM), those authors will be moving to near the top of the list.

Here’s the thing that might suprise some people.  I haven’t really missed reading books published by the majors.  I’ve still read a few here and there, and have a couple in my TBR stack.  But for the most part, I’ve enjoyed the small press and indie published works I’ve read.  I’m very selective about what I pick up these days simply due to time considerations.  Most of these works have been as good as what the Big 6 5 However-many-are-left-after-the-mergers are publishing.

So I think my decision to read indie published works has been a good one, and I’ll keep doing it.

Now, as for publishers.  I’m not going to numerically rank them.  I’m going to stick to the same list, but I’ll add a couple of publishers to it.  These are what I would call midsized publishers, in that they get national or international distribution and have major authors in their stables, but they haven’t been around for decades like some publishers have.

First, I included Prime Books as a runner-up because at the time I hadn’t finished any of their titles.  While I still dip into their anthologies without reading them all the way through, I maintain that Prime is one of the best publishers around.  I’ve got collections by Elizabeth Bear and Richard Parks to read, as well as many anthologies.

Orbit Books didn’t make the list last year because I hadn’t read any of their titles.  That hasn’t changed much, but there are some titles I very much want to read, starting with the latest Joe Abercrombie.  That alone puts Orbit on the list.  The fact that they also publish John R. Fultz and Michael J. Sullivan, two other writers I’m looking forward to reading doesn’t hurt, either.

Next is Solaris and its companion imprint, Abaddon.  This is Eric Brown’s publisher, and Brown is one of the best science fiction authors working today.  He writes good space opera, and I love space opera.

Nightshade published some interesting books this year, most of which I still haven’t gotten around to reading yet, including titles Misere, Southern Gods, The Scourge of the Betrayer, and The Pillars of Hercules, plust the more recent Siren Depths and The Tainted City.  Part of the reason I haven’t read these yet is time, but also because Nightshade no longer seems to be responding to requests for review copies.  I try (and occasionally succeed) to post a review around the time the book comes out, and since I ended up buying these titles, the books had in some cases been out a while.  The most significant thing Nightshade did this year, though, was to start the online publication, Eclipse Online, a continuation of their successful anthology series.  I’ll talk about that more in the forthcoming short fiction post. 

I probably read more books by Angry Robot this year than any other publisher, in part because of how their Robot Army program worked and in part because I really like their line.  This is one publisher I’ll keep reading and reviewing, although I probably won’t read quite as many title from them this year simply due to time considerations.  I had three titles I was planning to review when we ended up moving.  In all the commotion, I never read them.  I’m going to try to work them into the queue soon.

Pyr was top of my list last year, and this was another good year for them.  Pyr seems to be shifting its focus a bit, publishing more science fiction and YA titles than fantasy in recent months, but that’s not a bad thing necessarily.  I certainly don’t hold it against them.  They are in business to make money, after all, and markets do change.  I’ve got more titles from Pyr than any other publisher in the queue at the moment, mostly science fiction from Brenda J. Cooper, Mike Resnick, Allen Steele, and Mark Hodder.

These are all publishers who publish mass market and trade, and thus within the budgets of most readers.  Among the more expensive collectible and limited edition publishers, Haffner Press stands out as my favorite, primarily because Haffner publishes some of my favorite authors.  Cemetery Dance and Subterranean are the other two publishers I’ve bought a lot from this year.

These are the publishers I’ve read this year because these guys, from what I can tell, are not only publishing some of the best fantasy, science fiction, and horror, but they also have some of the best business practices around.  With limited time and monetary resources, I want to get the best value I can and support the players (publishers and authors) I respect.  These publishers and many of the indie authors I’ve read have more than provided that. 

So as far as publishers go, these are the one I will stick with in 2013.

First Professional Payment

After years of sporadically collecting rejections, I received my first payment for something I’d written.  Well, for fiction at least.  Review copies of books don’t count in this context.  And while it’s not professional rates by SFWA standards, I got paid for it, so by that loose definition it’s professional.  I just transferred the money from my Paypal account to my bank account.  What a rush.  I can definitely get used to that.  Anyway, the story is supposed to be available in a few weeks, so I’ll post a notice when that happens.

The Changing World of Publishing

Kris Rusch has been doing a series over at The Business Rusch about how publishing is changing.  Over the last few weeks, she’s written about agents.  Here’s the latest that just went up.  There are links in it to the earlier installments.

Why am I writing about this here?  Two reasons. 

First, I know some of the people who read this blog are aspiring writers.  The best thing you can be is informed.  The publishing world is changing rapidly right now, and old business models are no longer viable.  Some business people (agents, publishers, and some writers, in this case) aren’t dealing well with the change.  Whether you agree with everything Kris says or not, she’s got a lot of thought provoking things to say.  If you want to be published, and I hope you become published because we need more of the type of fiction Adventures Fantastic deals with, then you owe it yourself to know your business inside and out.

Second, the way we read  and buy books is going to change as publishing changes.  Knowing what’s happening in the industry, at least to a general extent, is probably a good thing for the general reader because he/she will understand why certain desired titles aren’t available, why some ebooks have inflated prices, and why some authors’ backlists are available and others’ aren’t.

So check out what Rusch has to say.  She’s a long time pro who has been author, editor, and publisher in this field.  She’s got the credentials and she knows what she’s talking about.

End of sermon.