An Official Statement from Night Shade

Just got this press release in email, as I imagine others have:

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. Night Shade has grown faster and more uncontrollably than we had any idea how to handle. What started as two guys shipping books out of a garage now consists of a full staff working out of an office in San Francisco. We’ve shuffled around a lot of our responsibilities, but in many ways, we’re still figuring this out as we go.

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 wakeup call for us. We have been working hard to improve all areas of Night Shade Books. Perhaps not fast enough, nor in the places that needed the most work. Doing royalty statements by hand was fine when we were doing five books a year, but now, with over 150 books in print, it has become a cumbersome, time-consuming, painful process that too often has been put off until later. And, as evidenced by the two books we sold as ebooks without the proper permissions, clearly we need a better contract/rights management system.  We are already working on this: Last month we hired a new employee, whose primary responsibility will be managing our contracts and subrights, as well as developing and implementing a royalty system that won’t take two people a month to run royalties. 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.

I admire their willingness to say “We screwed up” (and to acknowledge contract breaches in public, which could be interesting if any of this ever leads to legal action). I hope they make good on their promises of improvement; only time will tell on that front. And I especially hope to see happy relieved “everything’s settled” posts from Williams, Halpin, and Moon in short order.

21 thoughts on “An Official Statement from Night Shade

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  3. Celine

    Very encouraging post. Admirable in many ways. Here’s hoping they cn pull the act together enough to keep producing books of the quality they have been.

    I think thanks are due to those of the book-blogging community who helped spread this news and bring an issue to light which affected more folks than were probably willing to articulate it. (including Nightshade, who seemed to have needed the wake-up call)

  4. Andrew Liptak

    It takes quite a lot to admit that there are mistakes, especially at an organizational level. As businesses grow, it’s easy to make mistakes, and it seems that they are working on correcting that within their company. I certainly hope so – I think the Press is one of the better ones out there when it comes to their products!

  5. anon

    So…was the wake-up call the sudden negative publicity or all of the writers emailing and calling them privately to try to resolve things before it got to this point. I’m very confused, because it seems like NS got plenty of prior wake-up calls.

  6. Matthew Hughes

    [I admire their willingness to say “We screwed up”]

    I’ve been told the same thing over several years, along with promises that new people have been hired and all will henceforth be well in the garden. But I’ still had to threaten to involve SFWA to shake loose a royalty statement/payout. My last NS book was sixteen months late. Jeremy Lassen gave me five different dates for when it would appear, which I dutifully passed on to my readers via my webpage.

    My emails have been ignored, and I’ve also had the experience of only being able to get through on the phone when I called from a different number.

    1. Gwen

      Matthew, thanks for sharing your experiences. My immediate reaction to “We screwed up” was generally positive, but not knowing any details, I thought it was an error with two ebooks that they were ‘fessing up to. Your comment puts it in a new not-so-admirable light for me.

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  10. Marion Gropen

    I don’t know NightShade or its management. I can’t comment on them directly, but in the last few years, I’ve had a lot of clients come to me in situations that are not very different from the one described above.

    Why? because a lot of editors or marketing execs have launched their own small presses lately. They know just enough about the business of publishing to be successful at bringing out and selling books, but are utterly clueless about the infrastructure and back office operations.

    If they’re lucky, they realize the problem in time, and we can fix it. Unfortunately, for a few of them, I’ve had to help them liquidate instead.

    There are more companies with the same problems out there. And there are some relatively easy fixes, but you have to know where to look and how to start. For that matter, you have to acknowledge that you have a problem.

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  14. william benton

    Night Shade Books have, over the years, treated many of their customers with utter contempt. Perdito Street Station was cancelled after NSB strung subscribers along for five years: William Hope Hodgson took five years to complete: and Clark Ashton Smith isn’t finished yet after another five years, although there are rumours that some people have actually received Volume 5. The tpb, Tales of India & Irony, which should have also been distributed to subscribers, seems to have gone back into the melting pot.

    [Editor's note: Off-topic comments deleted.]

  15. william benton

    Sorry, me again. There IS more I need to say about NSB and the treatment they hand out to their authors and customers. [Editor's note: Off-topic comments deleted.]
    Let me also observe that, with regards to the day-to-day running of the company, NSB said (Genreville, July 8 2010), “We’re still figuring this out as we go.” Speaking of problems caused to their authors, NSB said (same post), “We screwed up,” and then, speaking of generalities, “We have been working hard to improve all areas of NSB.” Not hard enough, though, to stop them insulting customers on the Internet, or to issue up-to-date and accurate information regarding their publishing schedule. The company motto still seems to be, “You’ll get it when we’re good and ready, and, if you don’t like it, screw you.”
    Financial irregularities with regard to royalties and selling books to which they have no rights have been successfully addressed, or so NSB claim, but Brendan Halpin (writing as Seamus Cooper) said (July 8 2010), “Night Shade has stolen the ebook rights to The Mall of Cthulhu … They’ve never paid me … It’s a theft of my intellectual property.” And Douglas A. Anderson wrote (October 30 2010), “NSB … have repeatedly screwed their editors and authors out of money owed to them (I write from personal experience) … They still haven’t paid me what I was promised to supply several rare texts and edit the long-overdue fifth volume of their William Hope Hodgson series. All my queries have been completely ignored.”
    I applaud John Scalzi’s comments (July 9 2010) with regard to SFWA’s suspension of NSB and putting them on a year’s probation to persuade them to honour their contractual obligations to their authors, but the customers need some protection too.

    1. Rose Fox Post author

      Hi William,

      I’ve excised some material from your comments as it seems to pertain to a personal argument between you and another individual. Genreville is not the place to air your grievances in that respect. WordPress blogs, LiveJournal accounts, Blogger blogs, etc. are all free and easily available. I suggest you set up your own blog where you may discuss these personal matters as extensively as you like.

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