The following has been taken from the Facebook page of Phil Foglio, one of the two mad minds behind the hit series Girl Genius. I will let Phil tell the story in his own words, but I STRONGLY suggest that anybody who is a freelance creator read it and take it to heart. This scenario can happen to anybody. And if you are in the business long enough, it most likely will.
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.
However it gets even better. A certain percentage of Night Shade authors have to agree to this hose job before the deal goes through. Yay! We’re safe! You’d have to be an idiot to sign onto this! True– So let’s bring out a stick and threaten you! If they don’t get enough authors willing to eat this crap, then Night Shade has no choice but to declare Chapter 7 bankruptcy.
Then all the books in question go into a legal limbo. No one has the rights until the bankruptcy is resolved, which might take years- or possibly, NEVER! This has happened before to way better authors than us. This means that once said books go out of print, the authors can’t resell them. Can’t reprint them. Can’t sell any adaptation rights. Can’t write any sequels. And so, because a couple of wankers took two semesters of ‘Creative Writing’ instead one or two in ‘Business Administration’ before they started their little publishing house, a whole bunch of authors have the choice of deciding if they want to give their work away for free (scum who actually took Business Administration classes collapse in orgasmic joy when some fool agrees to get paid a percentage of ‘net’. Seriously, that’s insulting ‘amateur night in Dixie’ stuff) (Yes, I’ve been a freelancer for 30+ years, thanks for asking), or losing control of it, possibly for years, maybe forever.
So what’s going to happen? Don’t know. unlike many authors, I actually have an entertainment lawyer look over our contracts before we sign them, so I’m hoping we’re covered, but this is by no means a given. Even if we are, it still leaves a lot of other authors in a bad spot.
Does this seem like a Bad Situation to you? Then you should say something. Mr. Jeremy Lassen, Night Shade Books, and even Skyhorse Publishing are on Facebook. I’m sure they’d love to hear your opinions.
Three hours before posting this article, Skyhorse Publishing announced on their Facebook page:
We thank everyone for their input about the fact of Nightshade’s potential bankruptcy and the now public news of our offer to bring Nightshade’s authors to Skyhorse. It is now up to the authors as to whether the deal moves forward. Our suggested terms allow for every author to be paid the money owing to them by Nightshade and for their books to stay in print, as they deserve to be. We understand it’s a difficult decision for all involved but are encouraged by the positive notes we’ve received from the many authors who are eager to avoid having their “assets” tied up in bankruptcy court. We are pleased that SFWA has endorsed the potential deal as in the best interest of the authors. We have no further news at this time.
Fans, do not seem to be responsive to Skyhorse’s post, accusing them of ignoring the fact that this issue is more than just “keeping the books in print” and offering an “exploitative contract” to those writers involved.
As an independent creator I personally can’t understand why some companies feel the need to exploit the talent that gives their company purpose. When Josh and I founded 01 Publishing, it was with the idea that the creators we worked with came first, we would never ask for more rights than necessary, and we would always pay. I think if more companies adopted this stance, there would be a lot more creators out there who could make a living off of their work, and publishing companies would find it easier to find and work with new talent.
I really think that since publishing is an “entertainment business” many publishers have this strange idea that they are Hollywood, and have the right to use and discard anybody they choose. But what creators need to keep in mind is that publishers can only do that IF THEY ARE ALLOWED TO.
Always remember: PEOPLE TALK. If you are a crappy company it will eventually come out. And thanks to people like Phil Foglio, the current situation with Skyhorse and Night Shade Books is out in the open. Exposure is the best way of keeping shady people honest, because the last thing they want is for their cover to be blown.
If you are a creator. Don’t let shady business deals go unnoticed. The fear that nobody will work with you again is meaningless in an age of digital publishing and print on demand. EVERY creator has a chance to get their work out there and nobody has the right to exploit you unless you allow it.
Know your rights. Take at least one business course (or at least a course on contract law), and find yourself a good attorney as soon as you are able. Your rights are your life. Protect them.
Thanks to Bleeding Cool for being the first place that I found reporting this.