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What’s Appropriate for Public Consumption

GalleyCat had an interesting article regarding a contretemps involving author Michael Cisco and his publisher Prime Books. Prime Books is a small print publisher of science fiction,fantasy and horror fiction. Cisco complained that he hadn’t received any royalties from his last book. He determined from watching the traffic on Amazon that he must have sold at least 500 books through Amazon. He also spoke with other Prime authors and they, too, had received delays in payments and at least one author was waiting for money she was owed on original cover art. He asserted that Prime wasn’t following through on marketing commitments and promotion.

Prime executive editor, when contacted by GalleyCat, acknowledged that they need to improve communications with their authors but that his non payment of royalties was accurate. Galley Cat noted that Cisco’s estimate of books sold was “grossly inflated.”

GalleyCat noted that Cisco’s comments sounded “bitter rather than older-but-wiser.”

Given the debacles of epress and small print publishing that we have seen in the romance community, the failure to pay royalties, the lack of communication by a publisher, the failure to follow through on promises to promote and/or market a book are often warning signs. The article notes that Prime isn’t suffering anything different than any other small print publisher and that may very well be true, but it doesn’t mean that is how it should be or that authors should keep their mouths shut about it.

Warnings from authors like Cisco might lead another author to work harder at his or her craft than simply settle for a publisher who isn’t transparent, fails to communicate with its authors, and doesn’t fulfill its promises.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Ron Hogan
    Aug 12, 2008 @ 00:39:25

    “Prime executive editor, when contacted by GalleyCat, acknowledged that they need to improve communications with their authors but that his non payment of royalties was accurate.”

    Actually, to clarify, what Prime’s executive editor told me was this: “Our royalty statements are accurate and truthful and easily verified. [Michael Cisco] has now seen his statement and knows that his royalty payment is accurate.” Cisco didn’t get paid what he was expecting because what he was expecting was simply, as Nielsen Bookscan can verify, unrealistic. As the editor noted, it’s one thing to suggest that Prime could have published Cisco a lot better, quite another to accuse them of cheating him out of his royalties.

    Authors can and should demand reliability from the companies they choose to publish their books, and transparency can be an effective way to secure that reliability. And, yes, “every other publisher drops the ball on these issues” (Poppy Z. Brite, in the comments to Cisco’s post, made similar complaints about a division of Random House, so it’s not just an indie press problem) is a lousy defense. All that said, the point of my post was that authors might not find venting on their blogs to be the best strategy for resolving problems with their publishers, especially if they don’t have their facts straight before they start kicking up dust.

  2. Emmy
    Aug 12, 2008 @ 08:08:07

    As a reader, I would like to know when an author whose books I would generally buy is legitimately not getting paid. I wouldn’t want to give money to a publisher who is pocketing it and not paying their authors and artists (a la Iris Print).

  3. veinglory
    Aug 12, 2008 @ 11:45:57

    It seemed to me the author’s sales estimates were far too high. Leaving whether or not the statements were accurate entirely up in the air. I certainly don’t think it is impossible. Smaller press authors are often allowed to develop expectation rather beyond what the press could realistically deliver.

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