Saturday, September 17, 2016

Don't Look Back in Anger...

I told myself I wasn't going to post about this. I told myself I could take the high road. I never was a very good liar, but I can still speak my mind with some measure of decorum.

Picture if you will... a naive, young and as-yet-unpublished author, signing a contract to contribute her very first short story to the anthology of a brand spanking new boutique publishing company. This author made sure there were no moneys exchanged, no exclusive rights to be reverted if things went south. And under the same conditions, she signed a contract with the same company for her first novel as well.
This is where our story turns dark.
After having made commitments to release ARCs to some 60 blogs, this starry-eyed little author realized that her publisher had dropped off the face of the earth. After multiple attempts to reach the publisher for guidance and the date to release the ARCs looming, the author made the choice to cancel the contract with the publisher. Some days later, the publisher resurfaced, apologetically stating personal reasons for her absence and assuring the author that her book would be published as promised. The publisher, it seemed, had not yet been aware of the contract cancellation that had been submitted. Once made aware of the cancellation, the publisher ceased all communication with the author.
However, the short story remained in the publisher's hands and the author saw no harm in waiting to let the anthology publish, despite having taken the initiative to publish the story herself as a standalone. More visibility could never hurt, right?
Fast forward 4 (yes.. 4) months.
After multiple delays, the anthology was still un-published, despite promises from the publisher. Promises that always followed another lengthy and unexplained disappearance. The author stayed quiet. Until the more than 30 other authors began to voice their concern.
Finally, the starry-eyed author had enough and cancelled her contract for the short story, giving 30 days notice as per the contract terms. That 30 days will be met on 9/22. Still, there has been no response or acknowledgment from the publisher.
In the days and weeks that followed, other authors followed suit, their attempts to contact the publisher met with silence. Emails, phone calls, registered mail.. even posts to her personal FB wall which the publisher was still active on garnered them no more insight as to the demise of the project. Until the project's group author page was abruptly deleted.
Now, the starry-eyed author and the 30-some others who had contributed are left in confused anger at the time and energy spent needlessly on a project that would never see fruition. The less-than-happy contributors are scrambling to push contract cancellations through and have their names and any trace of the project removed from the few places it was actually posted. 
Hours have now been spent trying to retrieve copyrights, delete teasers and promo posts, removing entries from various databases..as well as contacting reviewers to let them know the book is actually not coming. All with no contact from the publisher. The authors are now banded in solidarity, pulling together in the hopes of moving on with their work and their careers despite the disappointing experience - a first time experience for many of them- and one that has left them wary of small publishing houses and the market in general.

 tl:dr
If it seems too good to be true, it is. If you bite off more than you can chew, say so. And when the horse is dead, stop beating it. I am no longer associated in any way with Stay Classy Publications, its owner, or its now defunct project "The Thing That Turned Me: An Anthology".

There are many publishers out there like this and I'm only grateful that the cost to the authors was only in talent and effort - though the price of those alone is immeasurable. To those who have yet to run into this all-too-common issue in the writing world, I can only say: Do your research. Know who your dealing with. And always trust your gut.


Cavendum est scriptor.

Writer beware.