You were one of the good guys. Samhain was the gold standard of epubs.
Somehow, in six months, that's all gone down the drain. And last night, with that email you sent out ostensibly for clarification, you've got a whole lot of authors feeling not just worried and disillusioned, but gaslit. As if we're expected to believe that we imagined the whole thing and Samhain never intended to close, or as if we're stupid for being surprised or upset that Samhain didn't close and isn't closing.
In case you've forgotten, this was what you told us in Feburary:
Saying goodbye is always hard. I will miss working with all of you. Samhain has been my greatest adventure and I’m bereft at having to give it up. Please accept my thanks for all the trust you've invested in Samhain and I hope you understand that this choice to begin the wind-down to close is made to honor that trust.Those are your words, copied directly from the email which you titled The Long Goodbye. Your intentions were clear -- Samhain was closing, which meant authors needed to think about what happens next. And suddenly what happens next is that Samhain is back and never intended to leave? I'd expect this of a furniture store in the 1980s that is always having a Going Out of Business Sale, but not from the gold standard of romance epubs.
You were one of the good guys, but that's changed now. Authors who, by and large, were happy and even proud to be published by Samhain are angry, scared, and exhausted. For nearly six months, many of us have been sitting back and watching our books on at best a sinking ship, at worst a roller coaster. We've alternated between cringing that it's going to derail at any second and raging because the damn thing is still going when people really just want to get off.
I for one want to get off.
At first, I was okay with the plan to wind down slowly. Avoiding bankruptcy is good for all of us. But then things changed. Suddenly there was a possible Hail Mary. Then that was gone, and the winding down continued. Then suddenly Samhain was staying open after all. In fact, you were just voicing frustrations, not voicing any intention to close.
Saying goodbye is always hard. I will miss working with all of you. Samhain has been my greatest adventure and I’m bereft at having to give it up. Please accept my thanks for all the trust you've invested in Samhain and I hope you understand that this choice to begin the wind-down to close is made to honor that trust.Your words. Not mine.
But somehow, here we are, with Samhain remaining open. I can see how you would think this was a good thing for authors. It isn't. Because the damage is done. I don't trust that the company is stable. Sure, there's better cash flow and lower overhead. Sure, things are looking better. But how do we know this isn't just a dead cat bounce? And what happens when you have to start paying editors and cover artists again? How much of the change in Samhain's financial status has to do with not producing new books for the last few months?
And for that matter, the end result is that my trust in Samhain is gone. I'm angry because this has affected me on numerous levels. My production schedule for 2016-2017 went out the window because those books weren't going to be published anymore. 28 of my books -- fully 1/3 of my backlist -- have been in this roller-coaster-shaped-limbo, and at times, partially unavailable, with paperbacks vanishing from Amazon.
Through it all, my subrights were still being sold, and I was expected to be thrilled to find out one of my books had been signed to a ten-year audio contract. While I understood the need to bring cash into Samhain to pay down creditors, this angered me. It infuriated me. Mostly because it sent extremely mixed messages. You're closing, but you're selling off my subrights? What?
But it doesn't end there. This long game winding down process hasn't just been a source of stress and frustration. I can't speak for other authors, but it has actually cost me money.
For one, you bailed on us for the RT book signing. As you well know, for that signing, we have to sign up months ahead of time and tell the bookseller which books to order for us. In previous years, Samhain titles have been ordered, and when we arrive at the signing, they're waiting for us on our tables. At the end of the signing, we can leave them there, and the bookseller deals with returns.
About two months ahead of RT2016, an email came out that suddenly Samhain wouldn't be providing those books after all. Of course this is long after the deadline to tell RT which books we're bringing, but fortunately, the organizers graciously worked with us. Still, authors were left scrambling to get books for the signing. Suddenly the already expensive RT is costing us all an additional chunk of change for books, not to mention getting those books *to* RT.
This wasn't a small inconvenience. I live in Spain, so you can imagine the cost associated with not just acquiring ~40-50 books, but either shipping or transporting them to the convention. Between ordering them, shipping them, eating the hotel's handling fees, and shipping the remaining copies home, I can conservatively estimate that just to have books for the signing cost me -- on top of all the other costs associated with RT -- around $500.
EDIT: These are the actual costs, not counting purchased copies I pulled from my stock at home:
$181.93 (shipping books to RT)
$244.78 (books purchased from Riptide for the signing)
$84.00 (overweight baggage for carrying books on an international flight)
$114.38 (shipping books home from RT)
That was just RT. In the weeks and months following the announcement of Samhain's closure, I realized that with almost 30 books published by Samhain, it behooved me to be proactive and start preparing to re-release them on my own. This meant cover art, re-editing some older books, formatting, etc. Again...not cheap.
It was more than a little unnerving to go forward with that process without a set end date, but during one of our email conversations, you told me that you hoped to wrap things up by the end of 2016. You weren't 100% sure if it would work out that way, but that was the goal, and it was the closest thing I had to tangible information about the future of my books. So I had to assume I would need to find homes for or re-release 28 titles at or around the end of the year. I couldn't contract them to other companies without a finite statement of rights reversion, so self-publishing was my best bet. Really my only bet at that point.
With that many books, it would have been stupid for me to sit back and wait before starting the process. Better to get them formatted and ready to roll so that when Samhain closed, I could re-publish them. I sent some of my older books to editors for a facelift. I started making new covers. I spent hours formatting ebooks and paperbacks. I poured time and money into making sure that when you closed your doors, my books would be ready.
What choice did I have, Christina? I can't have 28 books disappear from circulation overnight and not get them back out there in a hurry, and I can't edit/cover/format them overnight. I had to start right away so I could spread out the expense rather than coughing up the money to have them all done at once. Plus editing takes time, so sending them out sooner than later meant I'd get them back sooner than later.
Bottom line, I had to be proactive. I would have been stupid not to.
Then, with time and money sunk into that process, I find out Samhain is staying open.
And then, when I wasn't already exhausted and frustrated, last night's email comes out. Like many authors who have spoken up on social media, I've been left feeling gaslit, as if I'm expected to believe that I just misunderstood Samhain's intentions to close.
No, Christina. We didn't misunderstand. None of us did. We were told, explicitly, that Samhain was winding down and intended to close. You told me that your goal was to finish that process by the end of this year. I spent time and money preparing for that closure because I had no reason to believe it wasn't going to happen.
You were one of the good guys, but now I can't trust you. Not when a significant portion of my livelihood has been tangled up in a mess that I'm suddenly supposed to believe was my misinterpretation of your badly-communicated intentions.
No, I didn't misinterpret.
One more time for the people in the back:
Saying goodbye is always hard. I will miss working with all of you. Samhain has been my greatest adventure and I’m bereft at having to give it up. Please accept my thanks for all the trust you've invested in Samhain and I hope you understand that this choice to begin the wind-down to close is made to honor that trust.
You were one of the good guys. Now, I can't speak for other authors, but I want my livelihood off this roller coaster.
L.A. Witt/Lauren Gallagher