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Casey's Pen
November 29th, 2005, 12:42 PM
Has anyone else experienced small publisher woes? Over the past three years, I have had three publishers sign contracts on my work only to have the work never published.

One project was a custom job that went all the way through the galley process, then disappeared into the blackhole. I had over 200 hours devoted in the project, based specifically on their requirements.

The latest, the publisher said she had run out of time to edit the story for an anthology, which my story had been contracted for inclusion several months prior.

Had anyone complained that my work was of inferior quality, I could understand, but it seems like if a contract is signed, the publisher should be obligated to hold up their end of the bargain.

Am I alone in this or are other writers getting screwed over? :(

KatG
November 29th, 2005, 08:03 PM
Has anyone else experienced small publisher woes? Over the past three years, I have had three publishers sign contracts on my work only to have the work never published.

One project was a custom job that went all the way through the galley process, then disappeared into the blackhole. I had over 200 hours devoted in the project, based specifically on their requirements.

The latest, the publisher said she had run out of time to edit the story for an anthology, which my story had been contracted for inclusion several months prior.

Had anyone complained that my work was of inferior quality, I could understand, but it seems like if a contract is signed, the publisher should be obligated to hold up their end of the bargain.

Am I alone in this or are other writers getting screwed over? :(

It depends on what you mean by the term "small publisher." A small publisher is usually a small press that produces books. In one of your instances, you weren't working with a publisher, but an editor of an anthology who cancelled the project. Now, this editor may have been the editor of a small press that was putting out the anthology, but it isn't clear. You also say that the first was a project custom-designed for the publisher, so it doesn't sound like your standard novel, so there may be specific circumstances involved, depending on the type of product and whether you were a writer for hire or working in some other capacity.

But basically, it comes down to the terms of the contract you sign with the publisher involved. In such a contract, there should be terms concerning whether the publisher accepts the material but then fails to publish, and terms concerning your ability to obtain back the contracted rights in the work in a timely manner should the publisher fail to produce it. If you don't have any language in the contract concerning these issues, then you can have a very sticky situation. Which is one reason that agents can be handy, though they don't usually handle short fiction.

Small presses are frequently in difficult financial situations and are often labors of love running at a deficit. They quite often fail and even when they publish, they may not have the resources, knowledge, or personnel to function effectively. You will find quite a few authors with stories about small press problems. But they also often put out good product and will fight for a work much more than larger presses. With a good small house, there can be benefits. But having a decent contract is always important.

Liam Sharp
November 30th, 2005, 05:14 AM
Has anyone else experienced small publisher woes? Over the past three years, I have had three publishers sign contracts on my work only to have the work never published.

One project was a custom job that went all the way through the galley process, then disappeared into the blackhole. I had over 200 hours devoted in the project, based specifically on their requirements.

The latest, the publisher said she had run out of time to edit the story for an anthology, which my story had been contracted for inclusion several months prior.

Had anyone complained that my work was of inferior quality, I could understand, but it seems like if a contract is signed, the publisher should be obligated to hold up their end of the bargain.

Am I alone in this or are other writers getting screwed over? :(

Hello there.

I'm fortunate (if that's the word) in being on both sides of this discussion. I'm both a freelance creator and a small publisher, so I've had experience at both ends of the spectrum.
As regards being let down by publishers - and not just small ones, though in my case I'm talking about comics publishers - this happens all the time. I've spent months on pitches and projects that languished sometimes for years before being spat out the other end. Both as an artist and a writer I've lost literally years putting ideas together, writing up series after series, or pitch after pitch, only to be disappointed. Indeed for a while I thought I must be useless, or that somebody was out to get me! Silly paranoia retrospectively, but it can seem like that!
The truth is, and I'm finding this out as a publisher, there's a lot of hungry people out there. Being a publisher and an editor is completely thankless and has to be vocational, for the love of it, as everybody wants in. You get swamped with paperwork, and you have to sometimes make snap decisions that, sadly, may leave some creator or other wondering just what the hell happened. You get good stuff submitted that you might make the mistake of promising will be printed, then GREAT stuff comes in, and you have to go with it. Sometimes great work gets buried under a pile of submissions, and - being under-staffed and fundless - you might lose it. Or you might decide it will go in a later issue only to find there's no room.
What KatG said is absolutely right. I completely sympathise with you, I've been there, but until you've sat the other side of the desk it's hard to picture what goes on. I now have an entirely different view of editors and publishers to the one I formulated over almost 20 years as a freelancer. It doesn't take away the rough times I had, but I certainly have learned not to take things so personally. It can literally be a lottery at times, as with everything, and ultimately all you can really do is keep plugging away, working hard, trying to get better and better, and finally you just have to hope...

Very best,

Liam.

Tyler Hawke
November 30th, 2005, 05:59 AM
Good info and insight - thanks

Casey's Pen
November 30th, 2005, 08:12 AM
Thank you, Liam and Kat. At least knowing I'm not alone takes away the paranoid feelings. :)