Ginger Nuts of Horror
Unfortunately, all of this has left hundreds of authors scrambling to pick up the pieces in the final month of Booktrope's life,
At the end of May, the paperbacks of my books, Gristle & Bone and Salvage, may be unpublished for a brief period of time, due to my publisher (Forsaken) closing its doors.
This seems to be an ongoing trend with small press, unfortunately. Companies overextend themselves to produce a ginormous back catalogue (everyone knows the back catalogue is where the money lies), which leads to a lack of quality control, often involving a lack of any viable business plan, etc. etc.
To paraphrase South Park's Underpants Gnomes:
Step 1 - Open the floodgates and let the writers pour in.
Step 2 -
Step 3 - Profit.......
Booktrope (Forsaken's parent company) was something new, and in principle it could have worked: a collective of writers working individually with teams of their choosing. Write the book, have it edited by a professional Editor, proofed, managed by (ostensibly) a professional Book Manager, and a cover design provided by a professional Designer. These team members worked for a share of the royalties, what's called in the indie film business, "deferred payment." This should have been a sign of bad things to come, but I, like many, had stars in my eyes.
Twenty-five author copies! For free! With self-publishing, I was shelling out fifteen bucks to get one proof copy delivered!
In its final few months, Booktrope did a lot to help push its books. They created a mailing service, Runaway Goodness, that promotes daily deals. They added features like BookBub promotions and Netgalley listings at a reduced cost, they featured books in a Humble Bundle package, which ended up grossing approximately $60,000 for charity, HB, and Booktrope authors. They created audiobooks (something I'm unable to do via Amazon ACX because I happen to live in Canada). They had something called the Amazon Inclusion Program (which I never fully understood, but was ostensibly a partnership with Amazon for promotion purposes with specific books). I was approached by their Film and TV development head to write a television pilot treatment (I still think it would make for a brilliant horror anthology series—PM me for details, Hollywood wink wink).
They were hiring new staff to take care of Art Production, Logistics, etc. They brought in some new heavy-hitter marketing guy or CEO or whatever.
But in the background, things were developing that didn't look so bright.
The leader of Forsaken, Maddie Von Stark, either departed or was let go very soon after my self-published horror collection, Gristle & Bone, was republished under the Booktrope imprint. A month after the release of my debut novel, Salvage, the book imprints, Forsaken, Edge, etc., were dissolved and their individual Managing Directors let go. Jesse James Freeman later stepped down as VP of Community Management. Meetings were missed. Emails unanswered.
Inevitably, Booktrope made the announcement on April 31st that effective June 1st, Booktrope would be no more, and all books published by Booktrope would be off the market. It was said that they were not going bankrupt, that this decision was made when they were still in a financial position to pay off royalties owed to team members. I have no ill-will toward the people at Booktrope. I believe their intentions were in the right place. Maybe like me, they had stars in their eyes a little. It seemed like the perfect time for a hybrid publisher to thrive.
Unfortunately, all of this has left hundreds of authors scrambling to pick up the pieces in the final month of Booktrope's life, to make sure their books and reviews and rankings on Amazon don't disappear forever. To make sure they can secure the rights to their cover artwork (I've heard horror stories of some designers demanded upfront payment of upwards of $200, far beyond the going rate, as opposed to the royalty percentage agreed upon in their contracts). To make sure all of their hard work isn't thrown out with the bathwater.
Many of these people have no idea how to self-publish, have very little knowledge of the business outside of their own writing. These people will be hit the hardest, I believe.
As far as my own books are concerned, I have decided to republish the under the Shadow Work Publishing banner, along with a handful of other Booktrope refugees. I love small press. I love the work that they do. I will continue to work with small press to release my books (if they'll have me). But I will also be publishing my own stuff, and that of a few other writers, through SWP.
At the moment, it's the collective Booktrope wanted to be.
The first new books under the Shadow Work Publishing banner will be Thomas S. Flowers's The Incredible Zilch Von Whitstein, a darkly comedic horror novelette about a straight-laced man facing a life-threatening diagnosis, and a malevolent clown from his past who turns everything upside down. This is up for preorder now, to be released on Friday, May 13th.
The second is also up for preorder (release date June 10th): my crime novella, Every Part of the Animal. The idyllic life of a hunter and her son in Alaska is disrupted when a pop megastar visits the area to protest the wolf cull… she'll discover just how far a mother will go to protect her child.
The third is something I read back in December, and it was one of the best books I read last year: Hunting Witches by Jeffery X. Martin. It's the first book in a series, and to say any more about it at this point, aside from the fact that it's fantastic, would be criminal.
I have no pretensions this will be a huge thing. We're just a bunch of writers doing what we do, hoping some people will read our stuff. In this world where just about everything is given away for free, that's all we can ask for.
More news will follow in the coming days and weeks.
In regard to the situation I'm leaving with my soon-to-be former publisher, a word of advice: if something seems too good to be true, it usually is.
When tragedy strikes, you'll know who your friends are by looking around to see who's still standing in the rubble, ready to help you to your feet.
And keep chasing that dream, even when it seems impossible.