More Bad News From Leisure

Last week, we examined in detail the mounting troubles at Leisure Books (Dorchester) and why I’d ceased writing for them.

Now, my sources tell me that Don D’Auria, the editor who created Leisure’s venerable horror line and oversaw the Western and Thriller lines, and editorial director Leah Hultenschmidt have both been let go as part of a staff reduction. Apparently, the entire editorial department is now one person: Chris Keeslar. No word on what this means for the horror line… or indeed, the company itself. But I have some speculations.

However, before we get into that, I want to comment on how much I’ve enjoyed working with Don these past ten years. Other authors have often asked me why I stayed with Leisure as long as I did. The answer is Don. We had a great working relationship, and I’d write for him again, no matter where he lands or what he’s editing. If Don D’Auria called me and said, “Hey, I just got on at St. Martin’s and I’m editing a line of NASCAR romance novels” you’d see me write a NASCAR romance novel so fast it would make your head spin.  And a note to potential publishers — you hire Don, and I guarantee you that you’ve also acquired the Brian Keene brand. Mull that over and then give him a call. Seriously, I wish both Don and Leah the best, and I have no doubt they’ll land safely.

Sadly, the same thing can’t be said for Leisure – Dorchester. Now keep in mind, this is my opinion only, and should not be taken as fact, but based on what we learned last week and what we’re all hearing off-the-record, I give the company six months. Maybe a year, but I think six months is more likely. I expect CEO John Prebich will either sell it off, piece by piece if necessary, or have the company file bankruptcy. One thing that is abundantly clear is that the company is gathering and holding on to assets like a squirrel preparing for winter. Just days before the announcement that they were switching to digital format, the publisher was still signing authors to  contracts for multiple books without telling the authors of the digital plans.

Worse, from what I’ve been told, the company is apparently not filling orders to vendors, bookstores or authors. I’ve seen this personally over the last week. In the past, authors could call the warehouse and order a box of their books to take along to conventions, etc. Last week, the warehouse staff was informed that no orders were to be shipped — not to bookstores. Not to distributors. And not to authors or other vendors. Insiders tell me three different reasons were given for this, including that the company “was switching warehouses” and “was taking inventory.” In my opinion, they’re holding onto their assets so that they can either liquidate those paperbacks to a discount outlet or use them in bankruptcy proceedings. At last weekend’s signings in York and Lebanon, PA, the store managers reported to me that they had trouble getting books in, and indeed, ended up with only about half of what they ordered. I’m told those shipments were fulfilled from their own warehouses, rather than via Leisure’s distributor.

Most disturbing (in my opinion) is that there has still been no clear answer from the publisher as to how the recent changes will impact the book clubs, including the popular Leisure Horror Book Club, which new subscriptions were still being processed for as of last week.

It is my opinion that neither myself or my fellow authors will see any more royalty checks (checks which, as I mentioned last week, are already woefully late). Therefore, I can’t see the point of doing any more signings this year. Why should I spend my own money and travel across the country to promote a book that I’m most likely never going to get paid for? I’ll do the signings in LaVale, MD and Williamsburg, VA next weekend, because it’s too late to cancel and I don’t want to bone the bookstore managers, and I’ll sign at Horrorfind, but that’s it for the rest of the year. Consider Horrorfind Weekend the last signing for the foreseeable future.

What’s my advice to my fellow Leisure authors? Run. Get the fuck out and don’t look back. It is my opinion that we are screwed. At this point, you’re an absolute fool if you sign with them for anything else. Remember Zebra and Dell Abyss in the Nineties? Yeah?

This has all happened before…

65 thoughts on “More Bad News From Leisure

  1. Geoff J

    scary thou, that the leading horror fiction brand can’t make it work in 2010.

    having said that, I hope Brian you get all the royalties you are due, even if you have to lawyer up.

  2. drewwwy

    It frightens me that I actually once had a book in consideration by them at one point. It probably would have never came out given it takes a year for it to be released and whatnot. This is beyond such a sad thing to see have happened. I don’t know how you can sit still Brian, I’d be completely a wreck!

  3. Keith Rawson

    I’m still in a little shock about the move to the e-publishing only model and for some reason I don’t Dorchester has much life left in it. I hope you land at a great house and land an even better contract

  4. Ed Gorman

    That’s really bad news about Don and Leah. They were the mainstays there. There was an article I linked to on my blog from The Wall Street Journal that basically predicted that B&N is also headed for the last roundup. I have no idea if that’s the case but for it to even be spoken aloud is pretty chilling.

  5. Brian Bowyer

    Sad. All of it. Just sad. You were always kind to me, and I wish you the best. Thanks for all of those stories. Here’s to many more.

  6. Jennifer Cooksey

    It sounds like they are going out of business. They also sound really sleazy.

    Reminds me of a local gym in Albuquerque that I visited and really wanted to join after all it was only $100 for a year membership no strings attached.

    Well it turns out there was strings after all. One day while watching the local news, they had a story on a gym that had ripped off several people, for bogus gym memberships. They were taking new memberships when they knew they were going out of business. Luckily, I did not join, mainly because of my husband who thought something fishy was going on.

    I feel sorry for the authors who did sign new contracts.

    Maybe you guys should start your own publishing company?

    Anyhow, best of luck, and I will read the leisure horror authors no matter where they publish :D

  7. The Doctor

    Holy shit. Don, gone?
    Sad news and, yeah, I can’t see them surviving for much longer at all.

    There’s only so much surgery you can do and still have a healthy life expectancy.

  8. Erik Williams

    Tried to buy a bunch of Leisure titles this week from Amazon and got an e-mail letting me know only about half could be filled. The publisher/warehouse excuse was given. Best of luck to Don and Leah and all the authors affected by this. I hope the advance for Gathering of Crows was nice, Brian, because I think you’re dead on. The royalties will not be paid.

  9. Yoyogod

    Somehow, I won’t be at all surprised if they end up going out of business before the trade paperbacks are supposed to start up.

    This really sucks for you writers, since you’ll probably never get all of the money you’re owed. You’ll probably be lucky to get any of the money you’re owed. Plus I assume that means that all of your stuff that’s already been published by Leisure or is on contract for Leisure will be in Limbo for the foreseeable future.

  10. Tony Howard

    I’m not a new writer of horror but am unsigned and unpublished. My problem is a little disease called De-Assimilationism. I’m not playing the game with agents and publishers, I don;t have the patience for sweating blood for nothing, so I may catch y’all over on Kindle.

  11. robert

    Looks like everyone should go out and horde up as many Leisure titles as they can get their hands on — they’ll be collector items in a few years.

  12. Saranna DeWylde

    Wow. That’s horrible. Why is it that we authors are always the last to find out? That sucks. Leah was a doll.

    I’m further convinced I made the right decision in getting my rights back.

    Good luck!

  13. Terence

    “It is my opinion that neither myself or my fellow authors”

    “Myself” should be “I.”

    Sorry, couldn’t resist ;)

  14. Brian Knight


    So many things I want to say, but I’ll contain myself to just wishing the best for all affected authors, and wishing Don and Leah the best. I hope they both land on their feet, ideally with a healthier publishing house.

  15. David Riley

    I’m really sorry to hear this. Though I have never been involved with them as a writer I have enjoyed buying and reading their books, including your own. I’ve even managed to buy some in places like Manchester here in the UK.

  16. noigeloverlord

    I called them yesterday ask what they were doing and why hadn’t club members still been notified. They played stupid said we were still getting books this month. So I said how come the writers have no clue what’s going on. Then they changed story to they are buying books from someone else. Total Fucking Idiots are what they are!

  17. wolfnoma

    You know I ordered “A Gathering of Crows” from my local independent bookstore and they have not received it yet. Now, I don’t know if this is a coincidence with Leisure/Dorchester tightening their belts and covering their posteriors with a proverbial safety blanket but letting go of one of the hardest working editors in the publishing business is not good for a successful business model.

    I believe though that like in nature the publishing industry abhors a vacuum and another company, whether a new start up publisher or a trusted name with decades of experience, would count themselves victorious if/when they sign Don to a contract.

    Good luck to Don, Leah and you, B.

  18. michael laimo

    It’d be nice, now that Don is out, if he’d come out and tell us all the details. I wish Don the best–he’s the reason I wanted to continue writing all these years. What’s worse is that suddenly his household is out of two paychecks. I lost my job last year and it was a bit of a concern having to support the household with just one paycheck. I hope he keeps in touch.

  19. Dark Intruder

    Seems like Dorchester’s true colors are shining through. I really hate it for the writers; they’re getting the shaft in this deal. Dorchester should demonstrate that they have a little honor and at least be honest with the authors. But I know they won’t.

  20. Ronald Malfi

    I feel horrible for Don and Leah, but I guess this was inevitable. Knowing Don, he wouldn’t be happy pumping out ebooks.

  21. swands

    How can readers support their favorite leisure authors without giving money to the label? I know there are a few leisure books I planned to pick up, and this very much so sours the idea. I want the books, and I want to support the authors…so, where’s plan B?

  22. Caridad Pineiro

    Sad news. Dorchester was one of those publishers where newbies could get their foot in the door. They helped build the careers of many. I’ve known Leah for some time, since she copyedited one of my novels for the now defunct Encanto line. She’s always been delightful. Good luck with your situation.

  23. W.D. Gagliani


    I feel terrible for Don and Leah. I can’t think of two better people.

    Like you, I would write for Don absolutely ANYWHERE he might go. I hope I get the chance.

    Thanks for posting. Looks like a long day of calls to the agent is in order.


  24. Scott Nicholson

    I was lucky to get out of midlist publishing while I still had some books left. Expect the creep up the ladder, which is why publishers are so eager to nail down e-rights or claim them from back when digital books didn’t even exist. Writers signing “book” deals today will be in the worst shape in five years.

    Brian, I have been doing it myself, and I am not at your level, but Kevin J. Anderson is doing it, and Joe Konrath and…well, a lot of people who no longer trust a third party to be a good partner, or simply are good at straight math.

    When Leisure writers tell me the deals they signed, or what their ebook royalties are, I can only shake my head sadly. In some ways, getting published almost ruined my writing career. I don’t give a shit if it’s “vanity” or not, I will make more money this year than I ever have, and I can do whatever I want. And I am just beginning. This is Act II.

    Expect your income to at least triple–so be careful of those new mass market offers, especially the “out” clauses on the ebooks. If you never get the rights back, you are getting set up to be exploited royally. And I wouldn’t be so quick to think Leisure is folding–they may be crazy like foxes. Go digital, cut out ALL overhead, and sack away 90 percent of the income with NO additional work–forever. Hell, no wonder they are still signing suckers–er, I mean, hard-working writers who have faith in a publisher’s intent.

    Then again, I expect bookstores to start folding as fast as video stores have over the last five years.

    Scott Nicholson

  25. Devon Ellington

    I’m so sorry. I hope you and your favorite editor pair up again soon at another house. I’ve stayed in a couple of situations just because I loved working with a particular editor.

    I agree with your advice — the authors should run like hell, since they’re not getting straight answers. I stayed with a floundering press that flat out lied, not to mention broke contract and stopped paying royalties because I was still at the point of wanting to be a “team player”. It’s taken nearly two years to sort out the rights mess for my series so I can figure out where I can move it.

    Best wishes to all of you.

  26. ducky_love

    I’m so stupid.. I was running around buying up books thinking I was HELPING my favorite authors. I’m just feeding the monster. :(

    This is so sad. I wish there was something we could do.

  27. James A. Moore

    You know the fact of the matter is, I’d gleefully write Nascar romances for Don, too. He’s one of the best. It was always a pleasure to work with him.

  28. Gord Rollo

    Wow! I can’t believe they let Don go. I seriously hope he signs on with another publisher soon. For sure, I’d sign on with him again too. He’s been great to work with, but more importantly he’s almost single handely kept horror alive in New York for a LONG time.

    This is just getting crazy. I can’t get any books either, and now I’m screwed for signings that I ha booke right through the Halloween season. In fact, I’d been counting on some sales at Killercon an Horrorfind just to help me finance those two trips. At this point I’m not sure I can make it to either one now. I wish Dorchester would just go bankrupt now and give us all our rights back.

    Frustrated as hell,


  29. LaurieS

    This whole thing really sucks and as much as I love to hold a book, I have purchased an e-reader and am going the ebook route.

    One option, if author’s are interested in epublishing, is I noticed quite a few authors and small presses (such as Necro) are listing their books on the site. I would think well known author’s could do pretty well self-promoting on the web. I’ve bought quite a few from Smashwords and will continue to do so.

    From their website:

    Smashwords for Authors

    Smashwords is a free service that helps you publish, promote, distribute and sell your masterpiece as a multi-format ebook, ready for immediate sale online at a price you determine. Because we publish your book in multiple ebook formats, your book is readable on any e-reading device, including the Amazon Kindle, the Apple iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad, the Sony Reader, the Barnes & Noble nook, your personal computer, Android devices, and others. As a Smashwords author, you gain access to free, do-it-yourself sales and marketing tools to help you promote your book. You receive 85 percent of the net sales proceeds from your titles (70.5% for affiliate sales).

  30. Sephera Giron

    I absolutely loved working with Don. He’s an amazing human being, a gracious editor, and we all know he has great talent for picking quality horror to publish.

    I hope he and Leah land on their feet. They are both wonderful people and deserve the best.

  31. William Malmborg

    This is terrible. I was in the middle of rewrites with Don on what I had hoped to be my first published novel, one which he had really enjoyed. I had sent him the latest rewrites a little over a month ago and then was surprised I hadn’t heard anything. Now I know why. I just tried emailing him and it got sent back saying he no longer works for the publishing house. I was so excited about finally being so close to having my first novel published.

  32. Linda Thomas-Sundstrom

    I too am mourning this news. With a Dorchester book under my belt also, and my editor the only one remaining…. this news has me in tears for a company long known to be innovative and special in many genres.


  33. Chris Brodman

    I posted on last weeks anouncement about Leiusre “Is this why I’m not seeing any of your books at my local bookstores” I guess the answer is yes. I dont know much about the legalities of issues like this but like some others have said – SUE! You kept up your end of the contract but obviously they didnt keep up theirs if you still havent gotten your checks. In addition over the last year it’s been so hard to find your books at places like Borders and Barnes and Noble. If Leisure hasnt been shipping your books to the vendors like (I assume) they are suppossed to then that makes it harder to get your books and thus affects the number of copies that are being sold. I would sue on that alone since they are cutting into your profit by not selling your books.

    I dont know where you will end up going after this whole mess but like I said before – you do what you have to and we’ll do what we have to, to get copies of your work.

    Best Regards,


  34. Tim Waggoner

    I echo what so many others have said about Don. He’s a wonderful person, I loved working with him, and I’d write for him any time, anywhere. I wish all the best for him and Leah.

  35. Txjack

    When I read the first post about Leisure, I was frustrated, thinking of the new author’s that may not be discovered, but now I’m reading comments about some of my favorite (established) authors being hit so hard aside from just Brian. I know we all love Brian, and it’s painful to watch him come out of a tough year, only to be smacked again. But it’s others, too, like Gord Rollo, one of my favorites. It is honestly painful to read these comments. I’m thankful I got my copy of A Gathering of Crows. I couldn’t find a copy ANYWHERE when it came out. Even my local Walmart didn’t have it (and still doesn’t) and they ALWAYS have the newest Leisure books, horror, western, whatever — and on the release date, too. I suppose this explains that shortage. I guess this fiasco will play havoc with A Gathering of Crows on the secondary market soon.

    To repeat everyone else, we’re behind you, Brian.

  36. Collette Thomas

    For me this is just a large dose of deja vu…been there, have had it done to me more often than not and why I’m basically now writing my stories, hopefully creating a “brand” for my work, and uploading them directly to Amazon and Smashwords. I’m getting older, at retirement, and frankly don’t have the time to waste at this age (younger I would be more patient.) At this stage in life I want to write my stories, develop my mini series and continue to receive royalty checks. Name recognition is important, marketing is important, promoting oneself is important. When a pub closes its doors to writers, that all stops. I will continue to submit to epublishers of course, but also feel by staying in the process of creating a publication for readers, I won’t have time to digress, or have cob webs grow all over me. We are certainly entering an age where things are a changing. Over the years I think I’ve pretty much positioned myself so that whatever changes occur, like the brick house that couldn’t be blown down by any wolf, I’m going to keep write on doing what I’ve been doing, which is to write my stories for readers’ enjoyment.
    Collette Thomas

  37. Jennifer Ashley

    I worked with Leah at Dorchester for ten books before I moved to Berkley Pub, and she was a wonderful, supportive, amazing editor. Another publisher would be smart to snap her up. I wish her the very best, and Don too.

  38. Marsha Canham

    Great blog on Liesure/Dorchester. I was at Dell during the bloodbath you referred to and a lot of good authors and editors got screwed. I’ve always maintained that as long as publishers held to the archaic system of allowing stores to rip off covers and return them for credit, they would eventually be doomed. That and ridiculously huge advances in the millions that never get earned out.

    I’ve also been on the receiving line of a publisher who went bankrupt and I was never paid for one of my books. There wasn’t anything I could do about it then and I doubt there is anything that can be done now for the Liesure authors. Just get the rights back in writing and move on.


  39. Greg Fisher

    When I first heard about this — from Brian’s website no less — I thought, ‘okay, I’ll stick with Leisure into ebooks because I don’t care about the format, I just want the stories and if I stay maybe I can do my part to help turn them around and get the authors their due . . . but now Don is gone and the scope of the non-payment is a lot worse than I imagined. I realize now, they don’t have my loyalty anymore.

    I remember when I discovered fantastic horror stories that were published either before I really got into horror or were simply too expensive for me to purchase, were showing up available from Leisure!

    Man that was huge!

    I have books like Darkness on the Edge of Town by Brian Keene, In Silent Graves (orig. The Indifference of Heaven) by Gary A. Braunbeck, Sparrow Rock by Nate Kenyon, The Attraction by Douglas Clegg, The Bridge by Skipp and Spector — all books that were before my time or priced beyond my means — but I got them from Leisure.

    We were scheduled to get The Woman by Ketchum and McKee and Valley of the Scarecrow by Gord Rollo in cheaper paperback if memory serves me right — it has to be memory because the Leisure preview page is now empty.

    Now? who knows? I think this hurts everybody who loves horror fiction.

  40. Monica

    I recently had called Leisure about the book club. I had recently signed up again before I heard of the change. When I talked to someone, they said that the book club would still go on but you won’t get any books under the leisure/dorchester name. All books will be from a different publisher. There will be more of a variety and that they will be big names. She couldn’t give me a list of the titles but to expect those books at the end of august beginning of September. She said they would be releasing the list of books coming soon. Who knows what will really happen.

  41. PS Gifford

    Don is one of the (fe w)good guys in the business and I have every confidence he will land a top notch job. He was genuines and truly loves the genre. It is time to adapt if we are going to survive and I echo Scott’s words.


  42. tom thornton

    I let the folks at Leisure know how I felt about their ploy to publish their horror line in the digital format. I’ve been a book club member since 2004 and horror fan forever. I won’t be buying their product in the future, digital or otherwise thats for sure. Imagine my dismay when I also heard they were messing with my favorite author’s paychecks. I suspect this is the reason why some of Leisure’s best authors stopped writing for them over the last few years. There is definitely a niche in the horror market now that Leisure is out that I am sure will soon be filled. Lets hope that new publisher will learn from Leisure’s mistakes.

  43. Rocha

    Should we still buy your books from leisure? Will you receive anything or should i just buy used books untill you get your books a new publisher?

  44. Lou

    I guess it’s time to by a kindle!!! At least I’ll be able to find a wider selection of horror novels not like the dwindling selection at most book stores. My biggest concern is for back catalogs of great authors such as Richard Laymon which i was counting on from Leisure. Hopefully all the great Leisure authors self publish on amazon.

  45. paul bagdon

    I was dumb enough to complete a western for Dorchester without the countersigned contract nor the first half of the advance. The book is in-house and I haven’t seen a damned dime. Don published several of my novels and I respect and like him–but he doesn’t control the checkbook. I haven’t seen royalties in many months.

  46. Brian

    Paul: If you don’t have the countersigned contract, and the first half of the advance is beyond the due date, then legally, you can request a rights reversion, which will nullify the contract.

  47. Dave

    @ Lou, forget the kindle, get a nook from Barnes&Noble. It’s much better and they have 4 times as many books available plus stores you can go to if you have any problems!!!

  48. APhew

    I wrote to Dorchester yesterday and asked that they cancel my Horror Book Club subscription and send me a check for the balance of my account (I always pre-pay for each year in January). Today I received a reply back that said September titles are shipping soon and that the Horror Book Club would continue sending out Mass Market paperbacks to its members for the foreseeable future. Now I’m wondering if they are just blowing so much smoke, or if the foreseeable future is in fact October…

  49. The Cola

    I currently work at a bookstore (I’m not gonna say which one, but its name is synonymous with boundaries) and recently brought the demise of the Leisure line to the attention of my general manager. He in turn told our district manager, who knew nothing about it. It was then mentioned on a weekly conference call. Again, nobody knew about this.

    I’ve worked for this bookstore almost ten years now and nothing, I mean nothing, has scared me about the future of printed books like this recent push to ebooks (and especially Dorchester’s sneak attack on its authors and customers).

    It’s very frustrating to be constantly told to push a product that essentially will make my job obsolete.

    The only good thing I can see about this is that there is some serious potential for a Horror novel in this, hell it could be called The Paperback Demise.

    Best of luck for all the Leisure Horror authors I’ve read (or would have read), may you land gracefully on your bloody stumps, since you’ve been cut off at the knees!

  50. static caravan for sale

    Don’t published several of my novels and I respect and like him–but he doesn’t control the checkbook. I haven’t seen royalties in many months.

  51. Stephen James Price

    Ghostwriter Publications will publish all titles released from Leisure as an eBook in all the poplular formats and as a hardcopy POD paperback. We’ll get them out quickly and we pay royalties monthly. Email me if you are interested.

  52. Brian

    Ghostwriter Publications has an absolutely horrendous record of prompt payment or timely communication. There is no way on Earth I’d sign with them, nor would I recommend any other author sign with them either. And before you bristle for me saying that publicly, consider that I am responding to YOUR public comment.

  53. Josh

    Mr. Keene. I’m sorry if you got buttfucked, by a publisher. But I am a fan of your writing. I paid alot for a partbook, signed by are fucking gifted. You share a creativeness that is half George Romero, half peter benchley. You have a great gift of creating reality, and my nightmares all at once. Don’t stop. I will work shit jobs daily. If I have to, to publish your books.

  54. Shannon Murphy

    I’ve been a member of Leisure Horror BC since its inception, and I’ve loved
    everything they’ve sent me, so believe me, when they started changing their
    format, I was alarmed. When I heard they were going all digital, I was
    afraid. I still am afraid for the future of the written word. The death of the
    paperback novel is something I never thought I would live to see, and it’s
    heartbreaking! Both for the authors who get screwed, and for the readers
    like me.
    By the way, I’ve already cancelled my membership to the HBC. And everyone
    else in it should, too.

  55. Todd Wittenmyer

    Ah, well, I can tell you this from personal experience, Leisure has blown off 3 of my novels, so naturally I questioned them from day 1. Yes, so have other publishers as well, but uh, well I would put any of my novels up against any of the crap they have published. And yes, that is a challenge. Yes, I’m a fan of Brian Keene’s and of Gord Rollo’s, but my challenge still stand’s. Any takers? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Chickenshits!


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