Liz Williams has made her complaints about Night Shade Books very public: “I’ve been told by Night Shade that they are unlikely to be publishing any more of my novels. I don’t know whether this includes Iron Khan, or whether they’ll be pulling it from publication. The reason why I do not know is that my publishers have not communicated with me directly for some considerable time, despite repeated phone calls from both my agent and myself, and numerous emails asking for clarification on current and future books, and royalty statements. My agent eventually got a response by calling from an unlisted number and has confirmed that this silence appears to have been a tactic of deliberate avoidance. I have had emails from readers, and a couple of meetings with fans at E’con, who say they have tried to buy my books directly from my publishers – one guy paid about a year ago for a pre-order – and have had no reply.”
Now Brendan Halpin, a.k.a. Seamus Cooper, is doing the same: “Night Shade has stolen the eBook rights to The Mall of Cthulhu. They do not own them and are offering an electronic edition for sale through webscription.net, which is affiliated with Baen Books, a real publisher who should know better. Nine months ago, Night Shade made a verbal offer to pay me a small sum for the rights. I agreed. They’ve never paid me. …I was due a royalty statement from Night Shade Books on March 1. Some time in April, they sent an inaccurate royalty statement. It listed a smaller advance and a higher cover price than was accurate. My agent told them they had made errors in my favor, and they agreed to send a corrected statement. We’re now staring down June, and I have no idea how many copies The Mall of Cthulhu has sold or if I’m owed any money.”
(Many thanks to J. at Me and My Red Stapler for bringing Halpin’s post to my attention.)
Both say they know other authors who feel similarly about how they’ve been treated by Night Shade but aren’t willing to speak up for fear of damaging their careers. This is causing a lot of shock among people who have long seen Night Shade as an exemplary small genre press.
I am of course reminded of Michael Cisco‘s complaints about Prime Books, echoed by Ben Peek and others commenting on his blog. When that blew up, I heard a lot about authors who had similar concerns about Prime but didn’t feel safe airing them in public. On the other hand, Prime was below the radar for a lot of people. Night Shade gets more attention and has (or had) a better rep.
So–assuming the complaints are legitimate, which I think is likely given their similarity, and Williams and Halpin aren’t the only ones affected, which is possible but currently unknown–will more people speak up this time, or fewer? And will there be as many authors declaring that they have never sold books to Night Shade and now have no interest in doing so? I’ll be keeping my ears open for follow-ups; if you see any, send them my way.
EDIT: Elizabeth Moon chimes in on Liz Williams’s blog: “We’ve had trouble with [Night Shade] not responding to my agent, not paying royalties, and they did the same thing with e-books to me, when they didn’t have e-rights. My agent suggested dealing with Baen as I have other books in Webscription, and when they realized that NightShade hadn’t had the e-rights, they started sending the royalties my way. But they’re way overdue on royalties again, and my agent has BookScan evidence that the book is selling (not wildly, but enough that there should be royalties again this year.) …It’s really sad, as they were a good small press and I was so happy to have that collection coming out from them.”
Really sad, indeed.