Last week PW covered the news that Night Shade Books contracts with authors were up for sale. Skyhorse and Start Publishing offered to take over print and digital contracts, respectively. Many people were skeptical of the deal as originally offered (see Tobias Buckell’s excellent and thorough roundup of links). Skyhorse and Start revised it, and response to the revision has generally been positive, including from SFWA (which has been criticized heavily for its secrecy around Night Shade–related matters) and critics of the original deal, such as agent Joshua Bilmes. So it looks much more likely that the sale will go through, which at least broadly takes care of Night Shade’s back payments to authors.
However, authors aren’t the only people who would really like to see some of the money that Night Shade owes. In a blog post comment, artist Todd Lockwood wrote:
Not only authors were harmed by their business practices.
I love Jeremy Lassen and really wanted Nightshade to succeed. I have a soft place in my head for underdogs. I cut my rates in order to paint covers for them. It took over a year and a half to be paid for one. Another dribbled in in bits, the last check bounced, and I have never received full payment. I understand that other cover artists were never paid at all. I would be surprised if Skyhorse & al felt any need to make those repairs, but I’d love to know what, if any, plans were made in that regard…?
And editor Marty Halpern emailed me to add:
There has been absolutely no mention, nor commitment made, to all the artists, designers, editors (including myself), and others who are owed tens of thousands of dollars — and seem to have been forgotten in all this “discussion” over the authors’ deal.
…now that NS is essentially closed and in “escrow” for this potential sale, the money that is owed to me (for invoices dating back to October of last year) — and all the other production people — may never get paid.
There would be no books to speak of if there weren’t editors, artists, and designers willing to work continuously for Night Shade for just the promise of pay. We are a dedicated lot and deserve to have our story told — and responded to — as well.
I’ve reached out to Night Shade to ask whether the revised Skyhorse/Start deal going through would make it possible for Night Shade to make payment to freelancers. If they reply, I’ll revise this post to include their comment. EDIT: NSB co-owner Jeremy Lassen wrote back declining to comment on this matter.
I also called up Jarred Weisfeld at Start Publishing to ask whether Start and Skyhorse would be taking on the responsibility of paying Night Shade’s non-author creditors. He told me, “Night Shade is responsible for paying those debts, but all creditors of Night Shade will be taken care of if the sale goes through, and freelancers who are owed money would be considered creditors. Nobody’s going to be left high and dry. The deal is contingent on those individuals getting paid.” So that’s a sign of some hope for Lockwood, Halpern, and everyone else in their shoes. EDIT: Weisfeld called me back to clarify that if the deal goes through, settlements for creditors will likely be in the 30%–50% range. Not ideal, obviously, but better than zero.
Weisfeld sounded like he’s been talking for a week straight, which is probably not far from the truth. Before we got off the phone, I offered him a sincere welcome to the genre publishing community; for better or worse, he’s going to be one of us now, especially if Start and Skyhorse do end up not only taking over Night Shade’s contracts but publishing 90 new titles under the Night Shade name over the next few years. It will be very interesting to see how that changes the local landscape. In the meantime, as a frequent freelancer myself, I really hope that all of Night Shade’s creditors do get paid one way or another.