Recently I’ve been disgusted with the small/indie press scene. It’s clouded with people who are running businesses that know nothing about running a business. For me, it’s painful to watch and experience.
I’ve pretty much stayed out of the Permuted Press “scandal” except to share information so authors who were thinking of submitting to them in the future could make an informed decision. I haven’t stated what I actually thought… So, here goes.
Note: I’m using PP as an example because it’s current and relevant. The way they handled things leaves a lot to be desired and could have been easily avoided. Plus, they were supposed to be one of the “better” medium to large indie presses for the apoc/horror genre.
They handled everything badly and in the wrong way. Firstly, as a “professional business” with their reputation, they should have been wiser about their acquiring and release scale/schedule. Supposedly the people that work there are familiar with the publishing world and how it works – they sure as hell didn’t show that in any way. If they wanted to grow, they should have started acquiring at a smaller scale and slowly (over maybe 3-5 years) increased their releases by a few books each year. This would have given them time to release each book properly for quality and marketing, and for them to start making their money back on the books they’d invested in. What they did, throwing books out right and left without even notifying some of their authors of release was just downright stupid sloppiness.
And, as far as the “option” for ebooks only they exercised in their contracts…they could have handled that entire situation better. It’s all in the wording and how you present things to authors that matter. Say something the wrong way and you’ll be hated forever. Be strategic and calm, in a way that makes sense and they’ll continue to follow even if they don’t entirely agree. Authors are passionate about their work; it’s part of them, in a way. It’s easy to get them upset if they feel like you’re treating them unfairly. And keep in mind, most authors don’t understand contracts completely and get overly excited and agree to things they shouldn’t, which is also prominent in the PP scandal. Authors were promised things, but those things weren’t delivered because the contracts said differently. Emotions played too much into the signing of many contracts (I believe), and is why so many authors got so upset.
Instead of springing the information on the authors a couple months in advance that after a certain date all titles will be released as an ebook until a certain amount of time (like 6-12 months) has passed, or a certain number of sales, and then the paperback will be released, PP just up and announced all of a sudden that they would only be doing ebooks unless the title was a bestseller. They basically sprung it on their authors from nowhere. Some didn’t receive an email at all and found out about what was going on via social media (epic business fail there, PP). They also said they would retain all the print rights whether they decided to use them or not, which, according to the contract the authors signed, they have the right to do, since PP took all rights.
The entire “ebook only” decision was based on the excuse that POD books cost the company too much. Just an FYI, paperbacks were to be print-on-demand, so it’s not that much of an investment from the publishing company. It’s not like they were printing 10,000 copies that were sitting around somewhere. The most cost you have on POD as a publisher is time in re-formatting the cover and inside of the book, plus the ISBN cost. That’s pretty much it. While it’s not a big deal, it would cost a lot to do all this for around 100 books versus the around 20 they’d been used to. Their eyes were bigger than their stomachs, and the business’ management is a joke.
I had a multi-book offer from PP at the end of last year, beginning of this year. I walked away from it because they wouldn’t negotiate with me for what I wanted. I never even made it to the contract phase, and I know I wouldn’t have agree to their terms, so I’m glad I didn’t waste my time or theirs. Now, I’m glad I was smart about things. I had talked to four literary agents about the deal I’d been offered (via email and on the phone). They all told me what I should have been getting, that I wasn’t being offered money wise. All of them told me to walk away unless the deal improved. I’m aware that most authors don’t have the opportunity to have the guidance I had when considering a contract/book deal. I wish they did.
I’ve had another issue with an indie press recently that really has my faith in indie presses shaken. I had signed on with a small press that offered pretty good royalty rates and was excited to have my books with them. However, the owner recently had a public emotional outburst (complete with significant other chiming in), lashing out at the press’ authors because of financial problems. They wanted their authors to re-negotiate their contracts so that the authors would pay part of the cost for the publication of their books. Most of us said we wouldn’t and then were insulted. The press had a contract with the authors already. The authors didn’t need to re-negotiate. The press wanted them to for their own comfort because they couldn’t manage their finances. Not the authors’ fault, even though they were getting blamed in a “bitch-fit” display by the business owner.
Needless to say, I pulled my contracts and decided to go the self-publishing route. I wanted far away from the toxic emotional public outbursts that have no place in any business. I have no desire to be involved with anyone’s drama. Besides, why would I want to have my books with a publisher that might not even be around anymore when the books are supposed to be released? Why would I jump on a boat that’s already sinking? And, if the press is going to restructure to the point of the author paying part of their own cost, why shouldn’t I just self-publish and keep all the income for myself? I would rather stand on my own instead of be part of a vanity press that charges authors to be with them.
Unlike most authors, I know how to format print and ebook titles. I know how to format book covers. I know how to edit. I’ve done all these things before for myself and other small presses I’ve worked with. I’m not stuck anywhere because I can’t put a quality title out on my own.
Watching these train wrecks in action has made me want to self-publish, when that was never my first route before. But, since I have the skills to do it, I might as well. I don’t feel I can rely on any small/indie presses right now. Hopefully someday something will improve.
(Note: The information in this post about Permuted Press has come from the various posts of author who have come forward about what happened, including personal friends I know who are published with them. And, from personal experience, as far as my offer from them.)
@Rebecca Besser, 2014. All rights reserved.