Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock, you’ve no doubt heard the news that my main publisher, Leisure Books (a division of Dorchester Publishing) is immediately switching to e-book format only, with select titles to be published down the road as trade paperbacks. Or maybe not. Or… maybe so? In truth, it’s hard to follow the story because the story changes or contradicts itself by the day, if not the hour. The bottom line, from the perspective of some of the authors, agents and even a few of Dorchester’s former employees, is that the company’s solvency is in question, and this might be a last-ditch Hail Mary pass. If true, then it’s sad.
There’s been a persistent belief among some, over the years, that an author couldn’t make money writing for Leisure. I’m living proof that this isn’t true. During my decade writing for them, I managed to get a significantly higher advance with each book, and racked up a back-list of eleven titles, all of which remain in print and continue to sell well and thus, make me money. Indeed, as a mid-lister, those regular royalty and advance checks from Leisure accounted for roughly 45% of my annual income. Although many of my peers have indeed gotten raw deals in the past, I was always treated fairly well by Leisure. My checks arrived in a timely fashion. The sales staff did a remarkable job of pushing my books. I was content. I’ve made a decent, blue-collar income level living as a mid-list writer for the last decade. It wasn’t always easy, but neither was working in a foundry or on the loading docks or any of the other decent-paying blue-collar jobs I held before I became a writer. Writing is hard fucking work, but it’s also rewarding work, and I’ve done pretty well for myself. I never wanted to be Tom Clancy or Dan Brown or James Patterson. My heroes were always the guys like Ed Gorman and Richard Laymon and Robert Randisi, mid-listers all, and the heart and soul of the paperback trade. No, I’ve never been wealthy, but I’ve done alright every year, and Leisure accounted for almost half of that sum.
Which is why it was hard yesterday, after several days of back and forth negotiations, to choose not to continue publishing with them. I mentioned above that my checks always arrived on time and I was always treated fairly. That’s true, but not so much for the last year. I don’t think I’m talking out of school here, because I’ve seen dozens of other Leisure authors saying the same thing in public, including an official reprimand from the RWA. Fact is, over the last year, my checks haven’t been showing up on time. I’m owed a significant amount of money — money that pays for the next six months of bills. That is why, when those checks stopped arriving, you saw me start doing things like offering the Lifetime Subscriptions and writing more comic books. It was a way to keep the lights on while I waited for things to fix themselves. Understand, Leisure wasn’t the only publisher to pay me late. Many others did, as well, on account of the economy. But the late payments from Leisure were significant because they were substantial. I wish I had confidence and faith that I will eventually see that money, but right now, I don’t.
Sadly, given the payment issue, the confusion both in public and in private as to what the company’s new business model actually entails, and the overall instability of the marketplace and industry in general, I’ve elected not to continue with Leisure for the foreseeable future. If they are able to turn things around and demonstrate that they can start paying authors in a timely fashion again, I’d certainly reconsider. I’ve enjoyed working with my editor, Don D’Auria, and I’d write for him no matter which company he’s working for. But I also need to do things like eat and pay child support to two ex-wives and have an apartment to store my books in, and therefore, I’ve decided to take my brand elsewhere for the time being.
What this means for you, the reader, is that Entombed (the follow-up to Dead Sea), With Teeth (my vampire novel), Bad Ground (the next Levi Stoltzfus novel), and Suburban Gothic (the sequel to Urban Gothic) will not come out from Leisure as expected. All rights have reverted back to me. You’ll see them, eventually. I’ve had a number of offers from other mass-market publishers, as well as a number of small presses. I’m currently mulling those offers over. I’m in no rush to decide, because in truth, I’m considering another possibility.
Earlier this year, we talked about self-publishing, and whether or not it’s acceptable for a professional, brand-name author with a dedicated fan base to self publish. Also earlier this year, I announced that Fear of Gravity, Unhappy Endings, The Rising: Selected Scenes From the End of the World, and Earthworm Gods: Selected Scenes From the End of the World would all be reprinted in 2011. What I didn’t announce then, but am announcing now, is that I intend to experiment by self-publishing all four of those titles, making them available in both digital and trade paperback formats. I’m convinced that, given the size of my fan base and the demand for the books, this will be a successful venture for me. At the very least, I can pay myself on time. (Note: This has nothing to do with the Maelstrom teasers you’ve been seeing. Maelstrom is something different, that will have more of an impact on the collectible, limited edition market than it will on the mainstream. But more on that next month…)
Anyway, the point of this rather long-winded ramble (which it wasn’t supposed to be when I started typing it) is that for the first time in over a decade, I’ve got a bunch of different options to choose from, and the luxury of taking my time with whatever decision I make.
And I like that.
I’ve just got to figure out how to get some more money in the meantime…
Writing Updates: (keep in mind that everything is behind deadline, due to this year’s near-apocalyptic stress, both personal and professional)
Novels in Progress (already sold to various publishers): Vanishing Point, Hole In The World and Deluge.
Novellas in Progress (already sold to various publishers): The Witching Tree, The Rising: Deliverance, and two untitled works
Once those are finished, I plan on taking a deep breath and then sitting back and pondering things a bit more.