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bear by san

March 2017



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rengeek kit icarus

Yours towards a greater transparency in publishing...

As all y'all know, one of the things--perhaps the primary thing--I try to do with this blog is demystify the sausage publishing industry.

Well, Michael Cisco is talking openly now about some problems he's been having with Prime Books. And I'm here to publicly back him up: I have now heard from four or five friends and at least three acquaintances that Prime doesn't pay, doesn't pay on time, or doesn't pay without regular dunning letters.

Ben Peek shares his own stories of deals with Prime here.

Leah Bobet comments on the issue.

Now, what I'm saying here is not "Don't buy Prime Books." They publish any number of amazing authors--Ben Peek, and Michael Cisco, obviously. Sarah Monette. Ekaterina Sedia. The list goes on.

What I'm saying is, it might behoove Prime Books to conduct their business in a professional manner. And until they do--it's damned courageous of Cisco to publicly identify the problem, for the benefit of other authors who may be entertaining an offer from this company.


One word: Mike, who is a friend of mine, bases his supposition about his sales based on a review by me in Fearzone (a fairly small website) and Jeff Vandermeer's list of the ten best fantasy novels of last year. Neither is quite the the sort of exposure Mike thinks it is, sadly.

A call to Ingram's stock number, which is easy enough for anyone to find and for anyone with the ISBN number of the book to use, suggests that The Traitor did not come close to selling the 500 copies Cisco guessed. Sixty-four copies last year, sixty-four copies this year. As the book is a POD title, a plurality of sales can be expected to be recorded via Ingram. My much-better-educated guess would be that The Traitor sold around 300 copies.

None of this means that he shouldn't be paid and paid on time, of course. I do wonder how much of the frustration he feels is based on expecting n sales and actually making closer to n/2 though. It's the sad and annoying part of writing densely packed fantasy horror whose antecedents are nineteenth century continental fiction and philosophy as opposed to, you know, Stephen King.
*nod* It is, alas, the curse of literary SFF to not hit best-seller lists.

On the other hand, when you say "Prime books," in a room full of authors and 75% of them roll their eyes in sympathy... somebody is doing something wrong.
I can speak only as a consumer, but every time I've preordered a Prime book on Amazon, it's been delayed at least a month beyond its given publication date. These days I wait until I hear that someone has a physical copy before I bother ordering.
Equally, I tried ordering direct from Prime, and although the PayPal payment went through I heard nothing more. Eventually the book turned up on Amazon UK, and I bought it there.
Hello! I just thought you'd like to know that our local Barnes and Noble has your books on special display right now. :) That was so cool to see! (I'm an idiot and should have snapped a picture!)
well, yay! Which books?
I tried finding _The Bone Key_ on their website around its announced publication date. No joy. Nor did they ever bother answering the emails I sent them. Ignoring people who are begging to be allowed to give you money? Not a recommended business practice. I eventually got it from a chain's website.
I eventually gave up and picked it up at Penguicon.
I feel better and better about self publishing. And my suspicions are getting stronger.. The only difference between the music industry and the publishing industry is that the music industry gets you high while ripping you off.

There was a great rant by jazz educator Billy Taylor about how stupid the record industry is, something about flooding the gold mine as soon as it is dug.

And we see where the record industry is now.

I realize i am the most minor (pun) of authors, but iUniverse treats me notably better than my real publisher.
I have to say, I'm quite happy with all five of my recent book publishers.

And I personally wouldn't publish through iUniverse for any reason, other than a book intended entirely for private distribution (friends and family.)
I question the sales figure Michael Cisco cites, but I think, based on my own conversations with friends and acquaintances with Prime experience, the problems Cisco complains about — such as authors discovering on their own that they'll have to do all their own book promotion — are nothing new. But I also know an author who has had wonderful experiences with Prime, so the problems aren't unilateral.
Prime did my first collection, and overall it was a good experience. I've had to do some nudging now and then to get royalty money out of them, etc., but to be honest I've had to do that with many publishers (book and magazine) that I've worked with --more so with Prime, but they're a small shop with a lot of projects, which may explain (though it doesn't excuse) the difficulty.

That said, I know people who've had absolutely atrocious experiences with them in the past few years, which is why now, when people ask me if I think they should publish books with Prime, I say, "Well, they did all right by me, but you should have the right expectations, and maybe you should talk to x and y..."
You might try Peregrination Press.

Yeah, I know I'm being a publicity slut, but Peregrination just published my husband's first book ("Riding the Hellbound Train") and I have to say that Barnstead rocks.
I'm full up on publishers, thanks.
Vera Nazarian has also had problems with Prime & has talked about them sometimes on lj.
What I would have included on Michael's blog if it allowed non-Blogger comments:

"Michael, I'd like to add to this. I had two books contracted through Prime in 2005, both collections of previous essays and articles, and I finally took them back at the beginning of 2007 because I got tired of being lied to about release dates. After Sean Wallace sat on the manuscripts for over a year, he finally announced a release date of June 2006. It comes and goes. He couldn't be bothered to respond to my requests for purchases of copies or requests from others for pre-orders, but he then wrote me to ask if I was going to be at Readercon to see the books' release. No show, and no response when I asked what happened. Then he announced that they would be out at WorldCon. Well, you know the story already, and he only sent me the first manuscript proof of Greasing the Pan at the beginning of 2007.

The biggest problem, and he admitted it in a roundabout way, was that Wallace is stretched too thin, and it's his own damn fault. As other folks here noted, Jeff VanderMeer was furious to find out about all of this, but his complaints and threats did nothing, as Wallace was already too distracted with launching Fantasy and Clarkesworld magazines to care about his previous contractual obligations. More importantly, he was so busy preening for World Fantasy photos and showing off his grand concept for a new featurette on SF authors that I referred to as "Hot Genre Editors I'd Like To Pork", that I'm amazed that he gets anything done.

Then again, I've heard this from others. He apparently caused so much damage to Australian writers that Jonathan Strahan allegedly told bystanders "Friends don't let friends do Prime." He's pretty much making the same overcommitment and undercapitalization mistakes that Kristine Kathryn Rusch was making two decades ago; I'm just incredibly glad that we aren't seeing pictures of Wallace with a teddy bear or a softball uniform in every issue of Locus.

- Paul Riddell"
A quick statement: publishing experience is never static. We are constantly improving, and constantly making new mistakes. The trick is to learn. Sometimes I don't learn fast enough. But I have, and have done, promised to do better. That's the best anyone can do.
And I'm sure that your passive-aggressive non-apology is a great comfort to the folks waiting for you to quit fucking around and fulfil your contractual obligations. Jonathan Strahan was right: "Friends don't let friends do Prime."


The truth in all of this is pretty much where Nick Mamatas put it. At the same time, there's a bit of hypocrisy here because other indie press publishers act in much less professional ways but get away with murder for whatever reason. The fact that Sean is not good at managing perceptions is unfortunate, because then he too could be getting away with things. (Note: sarcasm.)

The flip side of this is unprofessionalism and hubris on the part of several Prime authors, including Cisco, who is singularly ungifted with PR.

But here's the deal, ultimately: If people really want to turn this situation into a positive, THEY NEED TO PUBLICIZE CISCO'S WORK. This guy is a fucking prose genius and neglected beyond belief. People who should have sponsored his work and haven't have been too blind or too obsessed with personalities to help him. The current climate of relatively conservative approaches to publishing don't help either. But, basically--the genre community has a choice: it can figure out that here's this guy who deserves a ton of attention, or they can drive him out by inattention. I can't even imagine how Cisco goes on sometimes in the face of those sales. And that's a goddamn tragedy.

"At the same time, there's a bit of hypocrisy here because other indie press publishers act in much less professional ways but get away with murder for whatever reason."

Who is getting away with things, Jeff? And how does that invalidate any of the specific complaints made about Prime?


P.S. Meant to say also Riddell had every right to be upset. And I think people would be surprised at how many books contracted don't make it to print from various indie presses. Shocked, even. To my mind, even one is too many.
My experiences with Night Shade and Subterranean are nothing but positive, FWIW.

However, I do know an awful lot of people who have had to nag Sean for money, or who haven't gotten contracts until after a story was published, or so forth.