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
Well said. For years I've been praising Samhain to any writer who'd listen, and now I feel like I should go apologize to anyone who actually followed my recommendation.ReplyDelete
I felt that way about Silver, it was one of the worst parts of what happened. And also TB. :(Delete
I'm so sorry you're going through this. It's definitely made me look at Samhain in a different light. I'm not sure they realize how badly all of this has affected their brand. As I reader, I'll be spending my money elsewhere. As an author, they're not on my potential publisher list (which they were before the original announcement of closure), and I'm sure I'm not the only one feeling this way.ReplyDelete
Best of luck to you, Lori.
I want to say that I feel desperately sorry for what you are going through.ReplyDelete
I've had emails from publishers, lies, half truths, glorious promises, and I've been where you are, paying out for new covers, editing, content, feeling like I am losing control of my own brand, my own work...
Maybe it doesn't help when other authors say they know what you are going through, but I will say it anyway and hope you accept the virtual hugs with the understanding that they are sent with, from me and from every other author out there who reads your post.
I truly hope they just up and give you your rights back, because that is what any sane, responsible company would do.
What a nigtmare for you. I had a publisher close as well and the stress is immense. Trust is the most important thing a publisher can give you. I'm sorry they failed you.ReplyDelete
This whole thing is going to kill off Samhain eventually. Publishers rely heavily on the trust and goodwill of their authors, and Samhain have lost both. Unless they can find some way to earn back both, Samhain have condemned themselves to a long, slow decline as both bread-and-butter and newbie authors will now pitch books to their competitors first. Short of sacrificing their senior staff, I can't see any way they can regain their authors' trust and goodwill.ReplyDelete
Samhain was my fave. Absolutely my fave. Top notch editing, beautiful covers, reasonable prices. And your books were among those I enjoyed immensely.ReplyDelete
It is so sickening to see Samhain treat their authors (and I imagine staff, too) poorly like this.
I'm sorry you have to go through this bullshit. I hope they wisen up and give you your rights back soon xxxReplyDelete
That is horrifying. Hope this resolves soon though it doesn't sound hopeful at all. :-(ReplyDelete
I'm so sorry. Sa!mhain was somewhere I aspired to be published, but after losing my !main publisher last year and seeing all this I'm glad I took the plunge to go fully self published. My publisher at least made a clean, quick break and we had none of this uncertainty that you've suffered.ReplyDelete
Wow, I'm so confused by what Samhain is doing. Bad, bad business. I hope you get your rights back and all that effort (and money) you spent getting your books ready for a relaunch isn't wasted.ReplyDelete
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WOW... I had no idea this was happening to some of my favorite authors. I hate it when this type of thing occurs to good people. I'm disappointed for you and in the publishing people.ReplyDelete
so confusing for you and I'm sorry this is happening. As if trying to "be an author" isn't hard enough! I hope everything works out for you and your fellow authors with this publisher.ReplyDelete
Yeah, there was no misunderstanding of her "casual tone" or however she phrased it. Samhain was closing. Now it isn't, and she's lying about her earlier emails. I feel bad for everyone caught in this web of deceit, but especially for you with your backlist :(ReplyDelete
You've always been one of my fave authors and the fact you dealt with all of that at RT and *still* found the time/resources to bring rainbow flags for other LGBT authors is amazing. I'm so sorry this is happening. You and your fellow Samhain authors deserve so much better.ReplyDelete
When I wrote a *strongly worded* reversion request to Samhain last month that touched on many of these same points, I got back a smarmy, "Thank you for your kind offer to terminate the contracts for the afore mentioned titles. However, at this time we must decline," response, as if I'd been making a joke instead of highlighting all the ways her incompetence and instability had seriously damaged authors' and editors' ability to manage their careers and livelihoods. Last night's letter, however, just simply takes the cake.ReplyDelete
L.A., you've summed it up better than I could. Thank you for refusing to be gaslit. I'm with you on this. Samhain was once author-friendly; no amount of repeating that now-incorrect sentiment in emails now can obscure or make up for the extreme damage she's done.
Samhain was one of my favorites, and it was basically only a coin toss that I went with another publisher. Then I watched the last six months in horror, wondering what was happening. Last night's letter clinched it: I can no longer trust Samhain or any company associated with Christina. I'd self-publish before I queried her again.ReplyDelete
I *could* say, "You can take the girl out of Ellora's Cave, but you can't take Ellora's Cave out of the girl." However, why state the obvious? I admire you immensely, Lori, for speaking out.ReplyDelete
thats some bullllllshit!!! I don't envy any author dealing with this.ReplyDelete
I just gotta say, for a "clarification" email it sure seems to have caused more confusion than anything else. Yow. Wishing you the best in all this.ReplyDelete
I commend you, L.A. for speaking out about this. I'm not an author with Samhain but I have a friend there who has been confiding in me about the mess she's had to go through during this rollercoaster. It's bad enough when a publisher closes. I've been with many pubs and I've had to deal with shoddy pubs and pubs closing so I know how it feels. It can make an author feel lost and scared to suddenly be out of print without warning then having to scramble to find ways to get your work back out there. You did the right thing. No one would expect you to be less than proactive. This is your career. You can't just sit there with no books waiting for someone else to make a move.ReplyDelete
I just wanna say to the Samhain authors that you guys will be okay. You're some of the best romance writers in the business. Self-publish! After getting burned by many pubs I now self-publish and it's the best thing I've done. I am loving it and it has restored my love for writing. The day is over when authors work hard and give their money and rights away. We now have the power so it's on us!
I hope everyone from Samhain keeps the faith and don't let this steal your joy for the written word. Continue to write and publish because you have readers who love you and authors who support you guys in what you're going through.
My main worry is that because of Samhain's name the company will still be able to hoodwink naive, starry-eyed newbies into signing that's why it's good for authors to speak out so everyone knows what's going on behind closed doors.
Blessings to all!
I'm purely a reader, not an author. I used to buy most of my e-books from Samhain - great selection of genres/subgenres that fit my tastes, great covers, great editing, plus a generous percentage off the price of new releases on their site each week. I haunted the "bargain bin" page. I cut back when they started having technical problems (everything I bought had Calibre telling me that it had DRM on it, so then I had to talk to customer service, which emailed me working versions of the books - went on for a few months at least).ReplyDelete
As a reader, I absolutely interpreted their original announcement as "we are shutting down in the near future." Since no timeline was given, I filled in all the series gaps in my e-book collection that I could and considered that the end. As a reader, I've basically left Samhain behind...and now it's supposedly not closing down and was never going to? How am I supposed to trust that any of their new releases from here on out will be any good when so many of their editors are no longer working for them?
Good luck to you and all of Samhain's remaining authors. This is such a mess. :(
So, so sorry that you and the other Samhain authors are going through this. Well done for speaking out. Your courage and tenacity will win out, but it must feel like an uphill battle. Best of luck!ReplyDelete
To you, I'm sorry you've been through this wringer. But to someone who's never going to see the rest of her work or be paid for it, look to the TokyoPop fiasco. They simply moved operations to Germany, and left US writers in a quagmire of not owning their own work. This is why self-publishing is taking off, and all publishers need to watch their backs.ReplyDelete
I am a reader and to me Samhain is one of the best out there: editing wise, price wise, and some of my favorite authors came from here. Like you said, it was one of the gold standards in publishing.ReplyDelete
This however, make me feel that I need to change my tone with them. I always think of Samhain as being a professional example. No more.
I am sorry for the things that you and other authors have been through.
I recall reading some advice on The Passive Voice a few months(?) ago about getting rights back from a publisher. While straight-up suing is probably not going to accomplish anything (laws/rights are stacked extremely against the author if you signed something, no matter how unfair), there's another option. Have your lawyer invoke the auditing clause, which hopefully you have in contract. It's a hassle for the publisher, and if they have *anything* to hide, you will be more likely to get your rights back. Although they won't actually admit there's something to hide, just change their mind suddenly an be easier to work with...ReplyDelete
Now, this might not work. Every case surely varies! It's just something to consider. Getting the word out is a good thing, IMO. You need to keep at it.
Also, please consider contacting the guy who runs The Passive Voice. He is a lawyer who has sometimes given people helpful advice on where to start looking into things, what to consider, etc.
Rooting for you. Publishers need to play fair!
Anon, please don't take this personally, but every time I hear the "call your lawyer" bit, I wonder how many of the authors ensnared on this situation with Samhain can afford a lawyer? Particularly a reliable IP lawyer.Delete
That's the problem -- a lawyer would likely cost more than anything I'd ever be able to recoup from Samhain. I'm consulting with Navy Legal, but JAG lawyers can't actually get involved in civil cases, so it's mostly just to figure out what my options are. Beyond that, by the time I've hired a lawyer and gone through the motions, I'll be out thousands, particularly if I have to appear in person for anything (I don't know if I'd have to or not, but it's something I have to consider because I'm in Spain and Samhain is in Ohio).Delete
So a lawyer probably isn't practical at this point. :-/
I swear it's things like this and my experiences at a horrible epub who is still going strong that make me wish that all epubs would go out of business and just go back to trad publishing. The epublishers just don't have any respect for anyone besides themself.ReplyDelete
Samhain didn't just email their authors. I remember seeing the blog post about it. It said they were closing. How many definitions of closing do they need?
The only way to save Samhain, in my opinion, would be for someone to buy them out. Once you have lost respect for the head of your publishing company, that respect cannot be regained.
One word on those 'respectable' trad publishers: Dorchester.Delete
No, wait, a few more words: Harlequin suit over underpaying royalties.
(sorry, not all trad publishers are good, not all epublishers are asshats--there are all people, decent or asshatish)
Thanks for posting this and letting readers know the scoop. I hope all your hard work finding new homes for your books wasn't for nothing. I will gladly buy any new editions and enjoy the new art, revisions and re-reads of your fantastic characters and their stories.ReplyDelete
Cheers to you and other authors affected!
Well said. Our books are not only our livelihood but our babies. We put so much of ourselves in each manuscript. We want those babies to have a safe home, a place we can trust. The rollercoaster Samhain authors have been on, only to be told you can't have the rights back to books you'd been planning to get back is bad business on their part. If their authors want to leave, they should let them. The whole fiasco is their fault, not the authors.ReplyDelete
As an author whose titles are being held while I receive no royalties, from a house that used to be the leader of the pack, I understand your frustration in not being able to get those 28 books back. As as author who is getting back the majority of her backlist because a house is slowing closing down (due to the publisher's health not bankruptcy) I understand the need to ensure your books are left in limbo, but are back out there available for your readers and making you money. I hope this all works out for you and the other authors who want to sever their relationship with Samhain. I know that I won't ever give them anything after what's happened to all of you. I don't see their current or future as being stable at all which takes them right off my list of houses I will submit to.
Good luck with getting your books back and then back out again.
Get an attorney. It's worth the one hour fee to see what options you have.ReplyDelete
I'm consulting with Navy Legal and a couple of civilian attorneys, so we'll see what happens.Delete
It's entirely disingenuous of them to say the original announcement didn't mean they were definitely closing. If that wasn't what it meant to say they would have clarified it then, when everyone was saying "Samhain is closing."ReplyDelete
The position they've put authors in is horrible and I feel so sorry for you and the others. As others have said, Samhain probably will close eventually, but it will be much less of a civilised affair than it looked as if it was going to be.
So sorry you all have to go through this. I too have had to find out the hard way that all small press publishers are not created equal. For what it's worth, I'm a big fan and will keep buying L A Witt books wherever I can find them. Hang in there and just keep writing.ReplyDelete
Thank you to everyone who's visited and commented. I have no idea how things will move forward, but I'll update as I can.ReplyDelete
After reading all this, I feel extremely lucky I came out of the Samhain mess as unscathed as I did. I remember selling my first book to them and feel so excited. My SFR had been turned down by all the traditional publishers, but, hey, I sold to Samhain. Samhain! It's been a fantastic experience--until February. I had signed the contract on the sequel and gotten my first edits, then BAM! in comes Christina's e-mail. It took me months to get the rights back on a manuscript they knew they weren't going to publish. I'm self-pubbing now, thinking that by the end of the year I'll be able to re-release the first book as a self-pub. How that's gone out the airlock. Still worked to get the second one published, though. I'm kind of bummed, but compared to what some of you went through, I'm golden. My dream had always been to eventually sign with a big traditional publisher, but now I'm rethinking even that.ReplyDelete
Wow, I missed all of this mess while I was concentrating on school and my paralegal certificate. I'm sorry it's been such a roller coaster for the authors and readers. I had been hoping to sub to Samhain when I heard things were changing, so I decided not to take a chance, and I'm glad I did.ReplyDelete
On the legal issues, if you made any changes or incurred expenses (like new cover art, etc.) based on the expectation that Samhain was closing, you should ask the attorney about whether you have a case for promissory estoppel/detrimental reliance. Also, it varies by state, but I know that in California once a company starts its official winding down stage it is not allowed to make new deals or do new business. You may have to get access to directors' meeting minutes to prove that they violated this. It would also help with the estoppel issue. The attorney can probably subpoena the records.
I've now got time to get back to my writing, but I'll definitely be staying away from Samhain. It's sad that they've ended up misleading authors the way several other publishers did when they closed up. I've been through one of those, but nowhere near as badly as some other authors.
Take care and keep us posted.