The Samhain Blackout: What Was Said and Why It’s Important

(Apologies in advance for any typos. I started writing this at 3:30am. It is now 6am. This is the first thing I’ve written in a week, other than a few Tweets and FB posts from my phone, and I’m doing so surrounded by unpacked boxes, and using a shipping crate as a desk for my laptop).

Don D’Auria is probably the top editor in the horror genre. In his 30+ year career, he was responsible for resuscitating mass-market horror from its mid-Nineties grave; getting Richard Laymon back into print in the United States; helping start the careers of then young authors such as myself, J.F. Gonzalez, Mary Sangiovanni, and Sephera Giron; and making sure the work of such veterans as Ed Gorman, Ramsey Campbell, and Hugh Cave saw new audiences. He’s worked with everyone from Bentley Little and Jack Ketchum to new authors like Jonathan Janz and Adam Cesare. When Dorchester imploded, Don found work at Samhain Publishing.

On Monday, Samhain’s PR department requested their authors write testimonials about Don and post them to social media via the hashtag ‪#‎Samhain10‬.

On Tuesday morning — not even twenty-four hours later — they unceremoniously fired Don. To say this came as a shock to him is an understatement. To say that the authors who were asked to write testimonials felt blindsided and used is an even bigger understatement.

On Tuesday afternoon, my phone began dinging incessantly as people began to text me. There were roughly two dozen such texts, all a variation of the same theme — “Did you hear about Don? What the hell is going on?” As stated previously, I am in the midst of moving. When these texts started, I was on the back of a U-haul, struggling to lift a bookshelf by myself, and had no access to the internet other than my phone.

I called one of the authors back — Jonathan Janz (who has since stated in public that he contacted me, so I’m not “outing” him here). I asked him if Don was okay, and I asked him if the authors were okay, and what we could do for both.

Since I’m transitioning between homes, I went to my ex-wife’s house, where I have a spare computer and internet access, and I spent some time talking to other Samhain authors, all of whom were absolutely furious. Some stated they were done with the company, that they would not work with them again.

Later Tuesday afternoon, Samhain’s owner, Christina Brashear, perhaps seeing the uproar from her authors, released the following public statement, reprinted here in its entirety:

Samhain Horror Changes

As many of you know, Don D’Auria has departed Samhain Publishing, and we wish him great success in his career. His departure was one of several difficult choices we’ve made recently regarding overhead and editorial support, as we adjust to the evolving marketplace.

While we remain dedicated to making a success of our Horror line and to supporting our Horror authors, due to the slow build of a paying audience we must work more diligently to engage readers. A social media presence is an absolute must because marketing has become about a conversation, and not just about blasting people with ads. Throughout our other lines, Samhain’s editorial staff is not only well-versed in curating content and helping it shine through their polishing efforts, but they are social-media savvy and understand how to promote their authors’ works. We look forward to bringing this kind of support to our Horror line as well.

In addition to preparing existing contracted books for publication and reviewing submissions, we have the following efforts underway:

Samhain will once again be sponsoring the HWA / Stoker Awards as we have for these past four years.

We have begun planning for the perennially successful HorrorHound Cincy.

We have submitted numerous works for the annual Bram Stoker awards, and look forward with great excitement to those results.

We will be submitting works for the Shirley Jackson awards within the next two weeks.
Our promotional efforts are changing as well. You spoke, we listened and then confirmed your suggestions and ideas through our own testing. Over the past six to twelve months we’ve been monitoring the advertisements we’ve bought and have come to the conclusion that banner ads simply aren’t selling books. As we pull back from traditional advertising, however, we’ve begun focusing our marketing dollars on the channels that have proven to work. We’ve already seen improvement.

In addition, we’ve begun developing a second Horror newsletter where the authors can contribute and engage, more so than the standard new releases e-blast which is announcement only. Content equates to discoverability. Discovery leads to engagement. Engagement brings about conversions—which for authors, means book sales.

We’re proud of our many horror authors and look forward to continuing to bring great stories to readers, as we’ve done for the past 6 years since launching the line. All authors with existing contracted books will be reassigned to new editors, based on where you are in the publishing process. Look to receive an email on this subject later this week.

In closing, we’re very sad to have to see Don move on, but we’re dedicated to Samhain Horror and to making it a success. As always, we welcome your feedback, suggestions, ideas and comments, and we sincerely appreciate your work and the stories that you have to share.

Christina Brashear | Samhain Publishing

If Brashear’s intent was to calm authors, her announcement had quite the opposite effect. The TL;DR version — Don was fired because he’s not on Twitter or Facebook. This is an absolute insult not only to writers and editors, but to horror fans, as well. To imply that the job of an editor is nothing more than a social media marketer is not simply tone deaf — it displays the staggering incompetence of a publisher who knows nothing about how the products it sells to consumers are actually made. An editor’s job is to read manuscripts, acquire them for publication, help smooth and polish the finished novel, and work with their stable of authors on follow-up books. Their job does not involve Tweeting or Facebooking. That’s the job of marketing departments, sales departments, PR departments (which Samhain has), and the authors themselves. Don’s firing sets a dangerous precedent for our industry — at a time when editors are already stretched thin and overworked, do they now have to fear losing their jobs if they are unable to wear yet another hat; a hat that is ill-fitting at best? You don’t ask a telemarketer to do a soldier’s job. You don’t ask a fireman to do a schoolteacher’s job. And you don’t ask an editor to do a marketer’s job. It’s as simple as that.

I’ve known or worked with many remarkable editors in my 20-years in this business. Let me name four of them to illustrate a point — Ellen Datlow, Melissa Ann Singer, Paul Goblirsch, Larry Roberts. Ellen and Melissa are active on social media. Paul and Larry are not. All four of them are capable, professional editors that any author would be lucky to work with. But take a look at Ellen and Melissa’s social media accounts. They’re not spending all day selling and marketing books. You know why? BECAUSE THAT’S NOT THEIR JOB.

On Tuesday evening, after talking with Samhain authors who wanted to support Don and make their anger with the publisher known, but without costing themselves or their stablemates sales, I suggested online that instead of #Samhain10, a #SamhainBlackout take place. I suggested that since Samhain considered social media branding more important than competent editors, I would unFollow them on Twitter, unLike them on Facebook, and unsubscribe to their email newsletters. That’s all I suggested. At no point did I suggest boycotting them financially or boycotting their authors. Indeed, I stated I was against such action.

It was my hope, and the hope of some other Samhain authors who will remain nameless, that the social media blackout would attract attention, and start a conversation about the publisher’s treatment of Don, and their stated methods of marketing books (which I’ll get to later in this Blog entry, and which many of their authors find just as infuriating as their treatment of Don).

Later Tuesday evening, we recorded a new episode of The Horror Show with Brian Keene, in which we covered all of the events up to that point. We also got an exclusive, direct quote from Don himself. That episode will air tonight at 7pm and also features a remembrance of TM Wright, reviews of Crimson Peak and Ash vs. Evil Dead, and a fascinating interview with author Robert Ford, who comes from a 25 year marketing and PR background, and shares his thoughts on Samhain, as well.

Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, a small group of trolls with an agenda that basically amounts to “Brian Keene is an asshole because he was mean to us one time when we were being idiots on a message board” hijacked the conversation, implying that I had “called for a boycott”, and that “dozens of my fanboys were already boycotting” and that “I was doing this for attention”. After reading through Tweets, Facebook posts, and comments on message boards, it became apparent that it was these individuals who implied a boycott was taking place. And as for the “dozens of fanboys”? It was one — Kyle Lybeck, who, as an editor for Thunderstorm Books and a promising young writer, hardly qualifies as a fanboy. Further, Kyle specifically stated that his decision to not purchase books from Samhain had NOTHING to do with me or the suggested social media blackout.

Unfortunately, in hijacking the conversation, these individuals, in my opinion and the opinion of several other Samhain authors I’ve spoken with, showed a disgusting amount of disrespect to Don, and to the authors they supposedly profess to care about. But by yesterday evening, when it became clear to most people with more than two brain cells that nobody was calling for a boycott, and the only people running around shouting it were a small group of pinheads, the conversation got back on track.

So let’s focus on that. I’ve already discussed above how Samhain’s firing of Don because of his perceived lack of “social media savvy” sets a dangerous precedent. But what of their other statement — that Don is somehow responsible for weak sales of their horror line?

It could be argued that, as editor, Don is responsible for acquiring books that will sell. But here’s the thing — he was doing exactly that. The lackluster sales had nothing to do with the quality of Samhain’s authors or Don’s selections. They had everything to do with how Samhain markets and sells books. Here are some free suggestions to anyone at Samhain who might be reading this:

1. Tweets and Facebook posts announcing new books are nice, but your authors should already be doing that (at least the ones who understand how this business works in 2015). You should also consider that constant-reader Fred Fiddlestick might not see your Tweet or Facebook post. In fact, if you have 500 followers, only about 50-100 of them are going to see your social media posting. But you know what they will see? Advertisements.

2. I must assume your company has a media buyer, or contracts out to a freelance media buyer. Run print ads in Rue Morgue, Fangoria, Entertainment Weekly, Bleeding Cool, The Fortean Times, Cemetery Dance. Buy banner ads on high-traffic websites like Dread Central, The Outhousers, IGN, The Mary Sue, and The Gingernuts of Horror. Buy radio advertising on Coast to Coast, Ground Zero, or Project iRadio (disclaimer: The Horror Show with Brian Keene is part of the Project iRadio network). You spent money to advertise your romance novels on an electronic billboard in Times Square. Spend the same amount and do the same for your horror line.

3. A presence at Horrorhound Cincinnati is a great idea. But why stay confined to that one regional convention? I understand you’re based in Cincinnati, but your readers — and more importantly your POTENTIAL readers — are spread out across the country. They’re not going to come find you. You have to go to them. That means attending SDCC, NYCC, WHC, Scares That Care, Walker Stalker, and all the other big cons (second disclaimer: I am affiliated with the Scares That Care charity). If it’s not cost effective for the company to have a presence there, then at the very least send your authors.

4. You state that in an effort to reach more readers, you’re going to sponsor the Bram Stoker Awards and submit works for the Shirley Jackson Awards. This is silly. I’m not bashing on either award. Both serve their place. I have two Stoker Awards myself, and some of my oldest friends oversee the Shirley Jackson Awards. Both are fine institutions. But the vast majority of readers DO NOT GIVE A SHIT about these awards. These are primarily industry awards, primarily paid attention to by those of us in the industry. If you want to reach other writers, this is a great way to do that. If you want to reach readers — they’re not at these awards ceremonies. Fred Fiddlestick works 5 days a week at the foundry. On weekends, he likes to read a horror novel. He’s not taking vacation to go attend the Bram Stoker Awards banquet. He’s taking it at the beach with his family, where he’ll read yet another horror novel.

5. Bookstore presence. Don D’Auria cultivated a line of books and a stable of authors for you that rivaled what he built for Dorchester. Dorchester’s sales were solid. Yours are not. Dorchester’s books had a presence in bookstores. Yours do not. Yes, this is the digital age, and people can download books to their Kindle and Nook, but there are also a vast number of readers who prefer to shop at physical bookstores. I know. I talk to them every single day. You want sales? Work out a deal with the chain buyers and get your books on the shelves.

Those are five free ones. Any more, and I have to charge you a consulting fee.

There’s one more thing I’d like to address. Stop and consider the authors impacted by this decision for a moment. J.G. Faherty, for example. I’ve been at this for twenty years. I think J.G. has been at it for almost as long. Landing at Samhain was a BIG deal for him, and (in my opinion) a long overdue profile boost. As he said yesterday, “I’d like to do a blackout, but as one of their authors I feel it necessary to stay connected in order to get all possible info as this mess unfolds. I am 100% behind Don – he’s the only reason I worked with them in the first place – but I don’t want to miss anything important.”

Or consider another writer, Glenn Rolfe, also with Samhain. Glenn shared his concerns about a social media blackout with me yesterday. In regards to unfollowing Samhain on social media, he wrote, “If that’s where they plan on focusing selling our titles, then that’s notifications that our followers will no longer receive. I get the hard push back against the company. They are way out of line with this decision, but it is a business decision for better or worse. My fear with this #SHBlackout stuff is that it is going to be misunderstood by people and become a complete boycott. I know that’s not your intention, but people perceive things differently. And then perception becomes reality. That’s my concern. I have already seen people put up the “I’m no longer purchasing from Samhain” posts. You have one of the biggest voices in our world. It’s easy for people to read it the wrong way and go off the deep end.”

Now, as stated above, the vast majority of the boycott talk was started by a tiny group of individuals with their own personal agenda. But putting that aside, Glenn brings up a great point and a valid concern. Yes, ignoring Samhain on social media does potentially mean that readers won’t be aware of an author’s books — but I would put it to Glenn that an author shouldn’t be relying on their publisher to sell books anyway. Yes, ideally, that’s how it works, but publishers produce multiple books each month, and especially at the bigger mass-market houses, only a few select titles get any sort of promotion at all. The rest are dumped on consumers and bookstores and have to sink or swim on their own. It’s always been that way and — just like the equally antiquated returns system of distribution — I don’t see it changing. That’s why it is so vitally important that you do two things with your career (and this is the same advice I gave Jonathan Janz last summer):

1. You have to be your own promoter. There’s just no way around it these days. And that doesn’t mean spamming people and social media and message boards with ads for your latest book or Blog entry. Yes, when you have something new, of course you should announce it. But more importantly, you just need to stay engaged with your readers — be they five or five hundred or five thousand or fifty thousand. Say thank you when they say something nice about your book. Say thank you and I hope you enjoy the next one more when they tell you they didn’t like your book. (Block them if they’re an abusive idiot, of course). Maybe share a bit about your creative process. Tell them your Top Ten favorite horror movies. Stay engaged. Let them know you’re a real person, and not a house name like William W. Johnstone or VC Andrews. Don’t rely on your publisher to do it for you, because you will always, always, always end up disappointed. As one young lady said on Twitter yesterday, she buys a lot of books from Baen and Tor, but she doesn’t follow them on social media. She follows the authors. I’m betting she does that because the authors are real people, rather than corporations.

2. Diversify. Never put all your eggs in one basket. Never sell all your books to just one publisher. Never sign an exclusivity contract (unless you’re working in comics, in which case, sign the hell out of that exclusivity contract because you’ll get things like health care and retirement with it). If you have a novel coming out from Samhain, great. Sell another novel to another publisher. Approach a small press about doing limited editions of your backlist. Diversify your publishers and you’ll diversify your income. But more importantly, you’ll have a safety net for when bad things happen. One of the biggest mistakes I ever made in my career was staying with only two publishers (one mass market and one small press) for a period of years early in my career — because when the financial crisis hit, and both those publishers went down, I was suddenly broke. Bad things happen. I absolutely love working with Deadite Press, and yes, I do a LOT of books with them. But I also do a lot of books with Thunderstorm, and Apex, and Cemetery Dance (and next year Macmillan). Why? Because as awesome as Deadite are, they could go down tomorrow. So could Thunderstorm or Apex or Cemetery Dance. Macmillan could get bought out tomorrow and decide they aren’t going to publish my horror-industrial espionage-monster-thriller novel. The only constant in publishing is change, Glenn. You have to be ready for it to happen at a moment’s notice, and have your safety net in place.

But yes, Glenn, your concerns are valid, and I’m sorry for responding here rather than on FB, but this is the first thing I’ve written in a week, and I’ve still got a lot of unpacking to do, and I’d like to sleep at some point, and I’m betting your concerns are shared by others, so I thought this was the best way to address it. In short, I hear you, and I feel you, so let me say it one more time for anyone who may have misunderstood:

In response to Samhain’s firing of Don D’Auria and their stated intent to focus instead on building their social media brand, I have unfollowed them on Twitter, un-Liked them on Facebook, and unsubscribed to their email newsletters. Let there be no doubt, I stand with Don D’Auria, and I stand with the concept that publishing houses need editors — not ad reps acting as editors.

This is NOT a call to boycott their authors or stop buying their books. I am merely saying that since social media is apparently more important to them than competent editors, I will not engage with them on social media. I don’t follow the publisher. I do follow their authors (and I buy those author’s books, of course).

You’re all adults. You can decide what you want to do. And it’s all good, whatever you decide. We can still be friends.

But yeah, if somebody tells you I’m instilling a boycott or inciting my fanboys (which is an offensive term by the way) to boycott, send them the link to this Blog and invite them to kiss my ass. Because for twenty years, that ass has busted itself for the betterment of authors and this genre. And I’ll continue to do so because that’s what the writers who came before us did for us. And one day soon, when it’s your turn, I hope y’all will do the same.

We’re all in this together — except for the nitwits.

34 thoughts on “The Samhain Blackout: What Was Said and Why It’s Important

  1. “On Monday, Samhain’s PR department requested their authors write testimonials about Don and post them to social media via the hashtag ‪#‎Samhain10‬.

    On Tuesday morning…”

    … that is some stone-cold bullshit right there. Dirty play. Don deserves better.

  2. Amen and pass the gravy, I (a fan of written word, covering a hugh number of genras) follow my favorite authors. I could care less who the publishing company is, as long as the book is where I can find it readily enough.

    Personally I’ve been forced to the digital age when Borders, (the last of the big book sellers in my area) closed leaving a vacume and the sound of fading footsteps into the dark. My only real problem with digital is finding new releases. But I’ve gotten by, I’ve even began rebuilding my entire collection in digital format. That is if some (ahem) authors would go to their backlist and consider a digital release of older works.

    In utter support of fine editing and authors everywhere. Keep up the fine work

  3. Brian (or whomever), one thing I’m unclear about is this — what was the point behind having authors such as yourself sing Don’s praises one day, then fire him the next? What am I missing?

    I feel horrible for Don and hope he comes through yet another firestorm and lands on his feet. If it weren’t for his work and efforts, I’d like have not discovered Laymon and others. While I’ve never worked with him, the interactions I’ve had with him have always been pleasant. He’s good people, it is that simple.

      1. That was my first thought as well but I wasn’t sure if I was missing something else. From the outside looking in, it almost seems as though it was a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing. But, in reality, it seems both hands were engaged in the same task — dropping trou.

  4. Well said. Your advice for authors to diversify should be the biggest takeaway here. I’ll add this – not only should you publish with as many houses as possible, but also look to write outside one genre. If you have to create a pen name or two, it’s worth it.

    Working with Don was my goal way back in the 90s, and the past 5 years have been a dream come true. Samhain’s decision boggles my mind, but I’m old enough not to be surprised by anything. Their move just may kill the ambitions and career of some of their authors. I truly hope not. Shit like this happens in any industry. The key is to pick our asses up and move upward.

  5. Well put. The only reason I know Samhain exists is because you mention them in your blogs and podcasts, which is to say I know of them because of what an author posts and not from what the publisher posts. I didn’t even go to samhain’s website until now and all I saw were romance books. I buy books based on recommendations from friends and other authors I’ve read. My tbr pile is tall so no Samhain books yet but I’m sure some will make it there at some point.

  6. Wow. Thanks for all of that info. I had seen the posts and wondered what had happened. It is because of things such as this, that I continue to support your show on Project iRadio. Some voices just need to be heard, outside of their imaginary worlds.

  7. Thank you for this. I know at least one horror author who made a comment about Samhain, but did not honestly know what it was about. As a reader I follow the authors I read and as a small on-line bookstore I follow those publishers I am currently connected to. It is an editor’s job to make sure that the readers are getting quality books. The marketing dept and the authors themselves should be the ones responsible for keeping the fans informed on social media. Best Wishes for Don and I hope some smart publisher picks him up soon and realizes what his true assets are.

  8. Thanks for this Brian.

    In support of the authors and Don I have just purchased hard copy books by Jonathan Janz, Glen Rolfe and Hunter Shea, all three writers who I’ve been wanting to check out for some time now.

    I have also stopped following Samhaim across social media. I will instead be following their stable of writers. Best wishes to Don. I really hope someone picks him up.

    Keep up the great work on the Horror Show as well.

  9. Great post Brian! Everything you said is absolutely spot on and thank you for taking the time to write this post. I’m a fairly new author at Samhain. You need one more item for your list – a #6 if you will. I have requested Samhain expand their distribution for months now. They sign Canadian Authors, but do not ship to Canada. Have book clubs that provide discounts, but other countries are excluded because of no shipping arrangements – so they have to pay full price at Amazon – if its even available. They do nothing to facilitate international sales when all it takes is a reputable distributor (I even suggested 2 in Canada that do worldwide distribution). I’ve lost sales because of this and I’m sure all the titles would sell much better if given inyernational exposure.

    I have fans and followers all over the world and they are fascinated by Samhaim’s amateur approach to the world-wide market. Social media doesn’t sell books and branding the publisher is ridiculous.

    1. You’re the second Canadian author to say this. I wonder how it is for the UK and other international authors. It was very difficult for Dark Delicacies in Burbank to get author copies. It took him several peristant calls, bless him. When I did another signing I bought books myself. After shipping charges, and the venue’s cut, it ended up costing me $1.15 for each book I sold. Yes. Cost me to sell a book.

      1. Samhain only ships to USA. Customers from other countries cannot get the discounts by ordering directly because Samhain will not ship print books. I’ve been totally embarassed by this and have given away books to irate fans and followers to keep them happy. My concerns (and possible solutions) have been ignored by Samhain.

        1. It can cost over $90 to ship a book to the UK if you order from Samhain’s website, which blows! But if readers order them from Amazon, they are printed & shipped in the UK via Lightning Source (print on demand). I’ve been liaising with Samhain staff to have them set up a distro agreement to get our books into Waterstones bookstores (which British horror/SF/Fantasy fans still use as a storefront window to discover new books). They have to do a deal with Gardners, who are the exclusive suppliers for Waterstones, and from what i can see it requires a helluva lot of form filling. I spoke about the snobbery the chains have toward POD titles with Don D’Auria when i met him at World Horror Con Atlanta. He agreed we need to get the books in stores. I’m really hoping the deal happens because it will definitely help the line in the UK. I can see Tor books on shelves in England, and some titles from the smaller indie presses, so why not Samhain?

          1. I found the very reputable Canadian companies that distribute worldwide and sent them the info – the cost to Samhain is minimal and based on book sales. I don’t think they get it at all. They’ve decided it’s too much cost and dismissed the idea without even checking into the possibilites.

            Restricting your market is the worst possible business decision when there are very workable alternatives. This refusal on their part to do anything – costs them and every one of their authors.

  10. I agree that Don D’Auria shouldn’t have to deal with publicity of the books published by Samhain. I have been a book collector for 50 years. I started with DAW paperbacks which I bought to read on the long commute to college. I then bought Gnome Press, Fantasy Press and the occasional Phantasia Press when I found them at bookstores. I regret not getting as many Arkham House books. At that time there was no internet. I started reading Repairman Jack and bought them and Matheson books from Gauntlet whenever I would get their newsletter in the mail. I have a complete run of the Repairman series. Then they went to the internet for their newsletter, which I still get. I bought several of your books from Delirium Press. I happen to read a copy of theirs from the library. I was blown away when I received CASTAWAYS, by the cover, book itself and of course the story. I am a long time customer of Subterranean Press and Cemetery Dance, long before social media. Not only do I appreciate the quality of the books put out by Cemetery Dance and the authors and stories, but also how they treat their customers. I have been a member of their collector’s club for years. Not only do I get their books, but I get some free books. t-shirts, posters and chapbooks. Also, they give limited discounts on their books. Lately, because of your podcast, I have started looking into Tunderstorm Books and will get the first Jonathan Jans when it comes out. From my experience with the above mentioned publishers, the promotion of their books is and should be left to the publisher himself/herself and not to the editor. Until you mentioned Samhain, I had never heard of them nor seen their books anywhere.

  11. Coming from a schlub that’d just gotten his first book out from Samhain in June, after many years of struggling, this came as a huge blow for many reasons. I’ve pitched to Don several times over the years. Previously I’d gotten so far as sending him manuscripts at both Leisure and Samhain. Finally something clicked. There was trouble, though. After selling out all my copies at the Stoker Awards in Atlanta, then selling out all the physical copies at the book signing at Dark Delicacies, I was floored when my first royalty statement came in for just under twenty-five bucks. Yup. Twenty-five bucks. This didn’t add up. I was assured by fellow Samhain stable mates, and by Don, that it would get better when the Amazon sales came in, a few months later. They did improve. Slightly. Closer to forty bucks. We’ll see what this month brings, but it is very disturbing. My first novel came out five years back from a smaller specialty press and that barely earned me a hundred bucks over its lifetime. I had hopes I’d do better with Samhain. Well, so far, it’s just been barely better from a financial standpoint. Not that I had any illusions of limos and huge bags of money, but I was shocked at just how low they were. Sales means people are actively buying and reading your stuff, after all. The situation pretty much stopped my creative workflow in its tracks for a few months, and that’s not something that’s happened to me since I was a teenager.

    But like someone wrote the other day (forgive me for forgetting who, and if you’re reading this, please say so!) but it wasn’t just about being published, it was about Don feeling your work stood up enough to be published. As we know, most of the luster of being published these days has been lost. When grandma Jones can type out her memoirs and print copies of it through Createspace and sell fifty copies to her bridge club, being a ‘published author’ feels a lot like anyone can do it to a lot of folks. The big part was being vetted by someone like Don. SO without that, it feels very empty at this point.

    My second book is slated for release in February. I’m sure hoping it’s not lost in all of this. That work was one of the most challenging books on so many levels, and if it’s lost, that’ll be a damn shame. I sure hope not. It’s really hard to make any concrete decisions about the future. I do know that even as this was going on, diversifying was part of the equation, as Brian, you’ve said many times to us newbies. The writing was on the wall with those tiny royalties…of which I could have equaled or bested self-pubbing.

    Editing. A lot has been said about Don not being a big line editor. Well, I believe he was an acquisitions editor vs a line editor. With my first few submissions to him…the ones that didn’t pan out….he had a lot more to say about what wasn’t working. When they are/were working, he said less, but had great praise. That told me I’d done it right. It’s also true the line edits were pretty soft, and with most of them being continuity issues that were caught. In this day and age, every author needs to know that the age of an editor going through your stuff line by line are long gone, for the most part. It has to be as clean as possible before submission. That’s not just Samhain. Folks I know at big houses have had similar tales where the edits were extremely light. It is what it is. But when you hit the target, Don let you know. And that was one of the best feelings I’ve had as a writer thus far.

    So we shall see what happens. I’m glad you clarified what the blackout was/is. I was one of those confused by what was happening yesterday. I, too, have had one bear of a week in the midst of all this, and had very little time to read up until this morning. Looking forward to the show tonight. Thank you.

  12. I think the ‘tweet your thoughts on Don Samhain10’ thing was the left hand not knowing what right hand was doing as searching that hashtag, it appears that authors across their various lines had been asked to tweet about their editors that day.. I guess they could hardly do it as a company wide marketing thing for but tell the horror line authors not to bother cos their editor was about to get fired…They could have perhaps waited a couple of weeks until that had calmed down before letting him go though!

  13. Honestly, it sounds like a case of age discrimination. If someone doesn’t like using social media it doesn’t make them incompetent–it means they understand what’s really important.

  14. Right on, Brian. Thanks for looking out for us all. (btw, up to now I’m self-published, but hoping soon to submit manuscripts to reputable publishers. Playwright of Horror) Christopher Cook

  15. Wow. Well written. It’s WAY early for me, and I’m not awake yet, and I was riveted. You make some great points. Thanks!

  16. I don’t really have a dog in this race. I’ve never been published by Leisure or Samhain – but I have sat and chatted with Don and he is a solid dude. I also have worked and have known Brian Keene for a heck of a long time and I admire and respect him as well.

    There is ageism involved here. Don always struck me as somebody a little set in his ways and this new marketplace demands constant evolution. Maybe he was a little behind the times – but hell, that’s what the marketing department is for, isn’t it?

    What Don brought to the table was umpteen years worth of experience as a down-and-dirty nuts-and-bolts honest-to-god editor. That kind of experience is AWFULLY hard to find.

    I am what some folks call a hybrid author these days. Means that I publish through a traditional press as well as independently. I can tell you without a word of a lie that the very best I ever wrote was written under the guidance of a traditional down-and-dirty nuts-and-bolts honest-to-god editor. Somebody who kicked my butt and held my feet to the fire whenever I began to slack off creatively.

    So THAT is what Samhain is throwing out the door.

    Not a good move, in my book.

    I think what this really boils down to is that Samhain is getting to set to spin their horror line more into the realm of paranormal romance. I think that somebody has crunched themselves some numbers and has decided that they make more money from romance and romantic erotica than from horror. I predict that we are going to see a bit of a downsizing in the horror end of Samhain.

    That is a healthy business practice – IN THEORY – however, when I see a company throwing out an editor like Don – well, all I can think of is that dude in the old movies wandering through the desert throwing away his gun belt, his backpack, his Edgar Rice Burroughs collection of Frazetta-covered Pellucidar novels – and his canteen.

    Bones in the dust, baby. Bones in the dust.

    (And what is it with not shipping in Canada? Sweet dying Baltimore – have you ever SEEN a Canadian winter. We’ve got nothing but time on our hands up here. We can’t get ourselves a decent version Netflix. Any book publisher that DOESN’T ship to Canada really ought to get their head examined…)

  17. Great points in the post. Even when I was running a small press, I knew the importance of reaching readers in as many places as possible. We hit as many cons as we could, and we had people at cons both here in the US and in England. It can be done, with the world reach everyone has these days. And it makes it easier to reach new readers and build and audience. You also hit it on the head when you say editors have one job, and shouldn’t expect to be marketers. Vastly different talents and job skills for those two. And being on bookstore shelves is a must for any publishing house. People may download, but that’s not as big a market as we like to think. Bookstores are destinations. A lot of readers want that hard copy. And yes, awards are nice, but the average person could care less. They want a good read. It’s like the academy awards. Ok, cool, but is the average person laying out the coin the worked for all week going to like it. And if they don’t, hey, there’s a lot of social media out there they can say they didn’t like it on.

  18. Hi Brian,
    Thanks for the post.
    I’m coming to this quite late. I only discovered Samhain recently, when Brian Kirk was nominated for the Brahm Stoker Award. I read his book, then another, NIGHTWHERE by John Everson. I was looking forward to discovering a lot of new writers through Samhain, and was even considering sending them a manuscript. But I hear they are closing down shop. Perhaps Don D’Auria was fortunate to get out when he did, though I’m thousands of miles away in Portugal. I only know that I feel for the authors that have contracts with Samhain. And having grown up in Cincinnati, I was sad to learn this Cincinnati-based horror press wasn’t generating the sales they needed to, and now have to close down. I’d only just discovered them.

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