Night Shade has struggled financially for some time, and there’ve been a few blemishes on its financial record and record of dealing fairly and transparently with authors in the past, but for the most part, they’ve been an inspiration. They publish fantastic books, and they have really high production values. You see Night Shade books in most indie bookshops, and that’s quite a feat for a publisher without corporate backing.
Nonetheless…they fell prey to some insidious forces. Basically, they grew too big, too fast. That’s what caused the author-dealings problems some years back – they grew faster than they refined their accounting system, or so it appeared. And now, they’ve grown faster than they were able to finance safely.
If the sale goes through, authors can migrate over to an imprint of Skyhorse, and the guys running Night Shade will still have some acquisitions input – which is great, because they have really good taste in sf/f.
For authors, the sale is sort of a grey area – different contracts specify different things for transfer of assets and obligations, and licensing rights are a part of that. Part of the terms of sale apparently hinge on authors agreeing to contract modifications, which makes me a little twitchy, but is that preferable to having the press go completely belly-up? That’s for writers to decide, based on their own best interests.
All I can say is – I’m really sad to see such a quality press end up in such a predicament, but at the same time, it vindicates some of the choices we’ve made at Candlemark & Gleam. We’re growing, and we’re making a name for ourselves in the fantastika field, but we’re doing so relatively slowly. Sure, there are ways we could grow a lot faster – a huge marketing campaign, vastly expanded print runs and traditional third-party distribution, etc. – but all of those cost a lot of money. Money that involves taking on debt. If even one thing goes wrong, or gets bumpy, it could jeopardize the entire press.
I don’t want that.
I would rather have C&G grow slowly, selecting only the best books and producing only the best packages, than to explode and then…well, explode. Controlled, sustainable growth and expansion, smart choices, and careful budgeting are how we’ll succeed here. It might not be overnight, but then, the same thing is true of an author’s career and of building a publishing house: it takes years of hard work to become an overnight success.
There are a lot of things we’d dearly love to do to help C&G grow, but we’re always carefully evaluating each of them for what’s doable right now, with the resources we actually have – taking on crazy amounts of debt might let us do awesome things in terms of advertising, neat tech tools and toys, and distribution, but it also puts us at serious risk if something goes kerflooey.
I’ll say it here and now: I want Candlemark & Gleam to grow, to flourish, and to become a star of the publishing world, both in and out of the fantastika field. But I will not ever pursue that at the expense of our authors, of our quality, or of the experience and delight we give our readers. I will not ever pursue that at the cost of the business’s stability – and a small press is just that, a business, and one that must be very, very carefully managed, as the Night Shade situation shows. It’s a business with razor-thin margins, in a field where it’s rare to make even a slight profit, and it’s tough to navigate all of this and keep up with the intense change of pace…particularly when struggling for market share and attention against vast corporate pocketbooks.
But I have faith that we can navigate all this. Because you know what? We’re small, we’re scrappy, and we’re smart. Each and every person at C&G, from lil’ ol’ me the Mastermind to Commanatrix Sarah to Art Demigod Chris to all the freelancers and contractors and assorted other creative geniuses (hi, Anna Linden, Rio, Brooke, Brigid, Courtney, Katie, Patti…the list goes on…) who have signed on to this crazy venture, is smart. And dedicated. We’ve all drunk the Kool-Aid. We’re all in this for the love of the book, of the story, of the experience.
And we’re not going to let our eagerness to succeed stop us from succeeding.
So we’re gonna keep on doing it smart, making careful choices, and planning ahead.
And we’re gonna rock this world.
Thank you for coming along for the ride.