And another one bites the dust… again…

Recently another small publisher announced they’d be closing – Breathless Press. The news came to me via two routes – the first being via a fellow author on Facebook who discovered that instead of spending today preparing for the new release of her latest book she’ll be worrying about getting her titles back from BP and what to do with them. The second came via a thread in the Bewares forum at the Absolute Write website where the various problems of this particular publisher had been discussed for months.

It’s a strange time to be an author. While there’s more ways to be published than ever before thanks to the rise of small publishers and the ability to self-publish there’s also many, many more ways to have your heart broken when the celestial wheel spins over and crushes you at the bottom.

Not all small presses are bad. Not all big publishers are bad. Not all self-publishers are bad. But there’s enough of a flux in the industry right now that I don’t think there’s any absolutes anyone can lean on. That small press you’re looking at might fold in a year – your large publisher might be bought out by a competitor in a few months and your literary line discontinued; your self-publishing debut could be lost in the flood of new releases coming out from good and not-so-good authors as we all rush to the public screaming for readers.

As an author it’s hard to know what to do. But the best we can do for ourselves and for our friends and family who have to deal with us when we’re running around the house screaming and ranting is to do our research. Be diligent no matter what path you take; research who’s offering that helping hand and don’t be afraid to back off if your inner gut is telling you to beware.

Check out that small press looking for submissions. That agent who approached you on Twitter thanks to a pitch you made one day. That big publisher offering you a contract because you got yanked out of the slush pile. That editing service looking to help you get that new novel out via self-publishing.

Sure – research can be messy and take time. A good place to start is the Absolute Write forum and Writer Beware – don’t be afraid to ask around and see what experiences others have had with your possible partners. Do the Google, do the asking. Yes it’s still possible that you’ll end up running into the field to scream at the stars but if you’ve done your research at least you’ll have the consolation of knowing you did the best you could with the information you had.

And in the end that’s maybe the best we can all do for ourselves and others as authors – speak up if you see small publishers doing wrong, sing out if you see author services abusing those who they claim to want to help. Send your thoughts to Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware if you don’t want to speak up publically.

But let’s be careful out there. Right now I sense the whole publishing world is in a wee bit of a flux and no one really has all the answers. And anyone who tells you otherwise is probably looking to dip into your pockets somehow…

Yet another bad publisher going down…

… and unfortunately taking a lot of good writers with it.

Light Sword Publishing is the subject of the latest Writer Beware blog here – they’ve been busy in court trying to both declare bankruptcy and keep their assets, which is a heck of a feat. Hopefully they won’t be able to pull it off, but the interesting paragraph in Victoria Strauss’s post is here:

"Although bankruptcy clauses in publishing contracts guarantee the return of authors’ rights in the event of the publisher’s bankruptcy or liquidation, such clauses are rarely heeded by the courts, which tend to view publishing contracts as assets that can generate income to help pay off creditors. Contracts are generally held by the trustee until a decision is made to sell or abandon them. (See this post from the Dear Author blog, which provides a good summary of what happens when a publisher files for bankruptcy). "

What that means from this little old Canuck’s understanding is that even if your publishing contract includes a funky clause that states that if they go bankrupt all rights revert to you… it may not be so.

It’s already happened with other micropresses going under; the contracts being tied up in the courts as they are seen as assets – and I can’t disagree with the interpretation.

So what does this mean?

Well, aside from obviously NOT doing business with Light Sword Publishing, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your publisher or potential publisher and see exactly what their financial status is. If they start mumbling about going bankrupt don’t count on your contract to deliver your rights back to you – in the case above along with the DA posting there were a LOT of authors who got caught in the legal web and had their stories tied up for months.

Check, check, CHECK OUT your potential publishers before you submit to them. Get thee hence to Writer Beware or Absolute Write and ask about them. Don’t accept their glowing recommendations without doing the footwork.

Twice bitten, extremely shy. As Uncle Jim says – better to not be published at all than be published badly. And at this point, I can’t say that I disagree with him.

’nuff said.