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…