Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Rape of The Genre (And What You Can Do To Stop It!)

We are in a time of great transition in our industry. The old publishing models are no longer working, largely because they were idiotic to begin with, but also because of the rise of the e-book and the decline in readers overall.

The old model of publishing a ton of books by old and new writers, promoting only the biggest names while leaving all the new authors to fend for themselves, warehousing all of these books until they are distributed, and then allowing bookstores to destroy and then return what they can't sell, has failed.

Really? That sounded like such a good plan? How did it ever fail?

Let's look at it one issue at a time. First, can you name another industry that spends the most advertising dollars on its most well-known products while spending hundreds of thousands of dollars creating new products that they don't market or promote? It is absurd. Why bring on any new authors if you don't intend to promote them? As a result, hundreds of authors a year publish their first novels with print runs of 5,000 to 10,000 that no one ever hears about and no one ever buys and the publishers scratch their heads, wondering what happened. It was always stupid and always doomed to fail.

The second idiotic practice was that of allowing bookstores to return books after ripping off the book covers. Name one other industry that allows retailers to return unsold product after destroying it so it can never be resold? Pure stupidity. This is even dumber in light of the fact that there is now such a technology as Print-On-Demand. Heard of it? POD publishing allows publishers to only print what they can sell. They no longer need to print 5,000 copies unless they actually have 5,000 bookstore orders. Would you be surprised to know that the major publishers have still not embraced this technology? Really? The same industry that wants you to destroy their product and return it to them for a refund?

In the midst of all this chaos, confusion, and stupidity, there's Leisure books. Leisure was, at one time, a powerhouse in the world of horror fiction. They published more horror than any other U.S. publisher. Their advances to their authors were woefully low, but they had pretty good distribution so there was the trade off. You took the small advance in the hopes that you'd see the money in royalties once the book hit the shelves. Well, that didn't happen to me. I kept getting emails telling me that they couldn't get the books into the stores, they were having problems with distribution and, as a result, the books weren't selling. I did my part. I did radio interviews to promote the book, I did the convention circuit, I did readings and signings at bookstores. I blogged about the book, sent emails, posted on message boards, told everyone within earshot to go to their local bookstores and demand that they stock my book. Leisure? Well, I was a new author and they followed that age-old business model in publishing, promote your top-sellers and fuck the rest. But why was Leisure, who had one of the better distribution networks, having such a hard time getting my books on the shelves?

Some of it was, undoubtedly due to the extreme content of the novel. Some of it was that I was a new and unknown author. And some of it was the "love-it-or-hate-it" reviews. But there was something else going on.

The Resurrectionist came out in 2009 and the problems got worse. No one would stock it. As a result, fans couldn't find it and new readers, new would-be-fans, never saw it and never knew it existed. Wrath was sad. I assumed the failing was mine. Then, through the grapevine, I discovered that Leisure was having a hard time getting distributors to take any books from any new authors and even some established authors. Why? Well, this is purely speculation, but the rumor was that Leisure hadn't been paying its bills. I ignored the rumors. I had seen other new Leisure books on the shelves so that couldn't have been the reason. Could it? But the rumors persisted. Then came the rumors that Leisure was in serious trouble and facing bankruptcy. Then they let go of Don D'Auria, one of the most trusted and respected editors in the genre, and all hell broke loose. Authors began coming forward, announcing that they hadn't received royalties in months. Some, were still waiting on advances for novels that were already in print. The rumors were true. Leisure was in trouble.

"Uh oh. What about my books?"

It seems a lot of authors were asking that same question and many began writing to Leisure to demand their rights back. The responses from Leisure were all over the place. Some, like Brian Keene, were given their rights back in exchange for absolving Leisure of past debt. Others, like me, were completely ignored. Now, apparently, many of the authors who supposedly received their rights back have seen their books pop up in e-book format from Leisure. Essentially, they are selling books they no longer have the rights to. What gives? Leisure's Facebook page has been flooded with messages from angry fans. Many (most) of these messages have been deleted. This goes beyond the unfortunate implosion of one of the most popular publishers in the genre. Leisure Books/ Dorchester Publishing is taking its authors down with it. Brian Keene is calling for a Leisure boycott:

"*If you follow them on Twitter, please unfollow them.
*If you like them on Facebook, please unlike them.
*If you receive their marketing emails, please remove yourself from their list.
*If you belong to one of their book clubs, please consider canceling your membership.
*If you are considering publishing with them, please reconsider.
*Most importantly, please don’t buy their books, regardless of whether it’s on their website, in the $1.99 dump bin at Wal-Mart, or available on the Kindle. If you aren’t sure how to identify a Dorchester book, check the spine. It should say Leisure Fiction or Dorchester Publishing."


I am in agreement. I am recently without a day job which means I now rely solely on my writing to pay the bills. Being able to republish The Resurrectionist and Succulent Prey as ebooks would go a long way toward putting food on the family table and keeping a roof over our heads. So, if you love me then leave 'em alone until they pay us starving authors what we are owed and return our rights. FIGHT THE POWER!