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Thursday, July 8, 2010

Quick Update on the Night Shade Situation (by Mihir Wanchoo)

As the Liz William-Night Shade publishing debacle went online on 07/06/10, there were a couple of other blogs who had also run similar stories on that day namely John Ottinger's Grasping for the Wind and Rose Fox over at Publisher's Weekly blog. It turns out that not only was Liz Williams involved but also another author named Brendan Halpin who had published a book called "Mall of Cthulu" under the name of Seamus Cooper & his tale was a bit more horrific to read, for more details head over to his blog post over here

This situation was a bit freakier with terms to his book being sold by Night Shade, without having the actual book rights & with no royalties being sent to Brendan. Graeme at Graeme's Fantasy Book Review & Niall at The Speculative Scotsman have elucidated more about Brendan's situation over at their blogs. Elizabeth Moon was also another author who was having problems from her association with Night Shade and she spoke about it on Liz's Blog. Now with so many authors piling up their list of issues, Night Shade was truly in a spot of bother & they have issued a Press release regarding their glitches & basically they are accepting full responsibility for it & here's are a few crucial excerpts from their release:

"First and foremost, we at Night Shade Books would like to apologize for any problems we've caused any of our authors. The last three years have been brutal on us, although not in any way we could have expected. While we've faced the same difficulties every small and independent press has suffered in this age of sales downturns, higher-than-expected returns, and other challenges, what has caused us the most trouble have been our successes."

"This has led to some major miscommunication, and sometimes flat-out lack of communication, with our authors, sometimes, even amongst ourselves. We screwed up: Details were missed, one of us assumed another was handling a situation, or a reluctance to deliver bad news turned into an unprofessional excuse to procrastinate. The issues that have come up today, at their core, are really ones of communication. All this could have been avoided through simple phone calls and emails, through us letting people know what was happening. That said, this has been a wake-up call for us. We have been working hard to improve all areas of Night Shade Books."

"We have already addressed the issues currently at hand involving Elizabeth Moon, Brendan Halpin, and Liz Williams. We have also contacted SFWA, and will be working hand-in-hand with them to find out if any other authors have issues with us, but haven't come forward yet, and get those problems resolved. At this time, we would very much like any of our authors, past or present, who have or have had issues with our conduct or business practices, to step forward either to us or to SFWA, so that we can attempt to resolve any hardships we have may have caused."

You can read the entire release over here at Publishers Weekly blog and from the looks of it, it seems that they have accepted their mistakes and are looking to amend them & move on. Is this just a conciliatory gesture or genuine regret, we cannot say however we'll have to view their future actions and find out whether this wake-up call was heralded or not. For Night Shade's sake I sincerely hope that they get their bearings together and avoid such erroneous endeavors completely in the future as the authors [Williams, Halpin & Moon] hopefully will verify if these corrective actions in the press release have been initiated or not.

Update: Brendan Halpin chimes in with his thoughts about Night Shade’s formal apology over at his blog


Marty Halpern said...

Please correct the author's name:

should be "Brendan Halpin" not "Halpern" --

alas, we are not related.

Marty Halpern

Liviu said...

Done; thank you for spotting the mistake

The Reader said...

@ Marty H.

Thanks for spotting that :)


Cindy said...

Running a business isn't easy. There's whole college courses dedicated to business communications both internal communications and external communications.

It goes hand in hand, as a successful business can't run without good communications. This is just an example of that case.

Anonymous said...

cindy: amen to that.

now guys, i guess it isnt too late to bet on two things: tor and night shade. who's worse than the other. and how long would it be before night shade really hits the ground face first. I can understand their apology, but what happened with those authors certainly dosent bode well for their image.

Liviu said...

Whatever their failings, Tor has never been accused of shortchanging their authors as royalties and rights go, so I guess the comparison does not apply that well

Dropping series/not publishing mmpb's and so on is annoying for us as readers and of course very unpleasant for the authors and even editors involved but that's a business decision and within the rights of a publisher to do

Also let us remember that many times it's a matter of expectations more than of pure numbers - so for example if you are dropped by Tor you have a good chance of going other places since what Tor wants in sales from someone may be much more than a smaller press wants...

Some authors commented a while ago on this, how in the UK they can be published by Gollancz but in the US only by a smaller press, so it's useful to keep this in mind, that expectations differ quite a lot and what is considered successful varies

Anonymous said...

Lovely how some wish any excuse to take a publisher's side. I suppose all of the emails and phone calls privately weren't enough to make them concerned, only negative publicity. They knew full well who they owed and when.

Cindy said...

I'm in no way taking anyone's side nor do I think anyone else is. I just think sometimes people and businesses don't realize what a major part communications plays in a business. Of course it's easy to think "oh I can answer emails and such" but in reality a business has 1000 things going on at a time. And emails get pushed to the side. This is in no way an excuse but it's poor business planning.

I went to college and majored in Communications in the Business and Health sector.

Anonymous said...

liviu: oh, okay. it could be just the financial situation. so i guess the comparison is unfair since night shade is after all, a smaller company than tor (still well known but not as big).

its a hard buisness these days, but you know, what else is new?

Liviu said...

Dropping series and authors is something that occurs all the time and is not a new phenomenon - one of the series that I really loved was the Wheel of Existence by DK Moran and I've been waiting for book 4 The AI War (written, delivered) since 1998 when it was announced and then dropped - another series I mentioned in the other post comments is Sea Beggars by P. Kearney which i have some hopes it will be continued at some point

For that matter financial shenanigans from smaller presses are not new either and some examples can be found by Googling - I remember an 1970's one talked on the Baen bar when the career of the late founder of Baen was discussed and people recounted how he came to found Baen books after getting upset by such practices when working for a publisher with issues...

The good thing today is that things tend to be found out sooner and as long as we maintain accuracy and balance - which considering various internet campaigns I saw is not easy - things have a chance of improving quicker

Unknown said...

Did anyone else see the comment from Matthew Hughes on the publisher's weekly blog post? Looks like you can add him to the list of authors with Nightshade issues.

He does not sound encouraged by the press release.


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