As some of you with an interest in publishing news already have heard, NightShade Books is in the process of a potential acquisition. NightShade published my short fiction collection Moon Flights. The acquisition hangs on the percentage of Night Shade authors who agree to substantial contractual changes in existing contracts; the terms are beneficial to writers only in that they may prevent works being dragged into the endless whirlpool of NightShade’s predicted declaration of bankruptcy.
Before I start getting questions about this, I have only one answer to give at this time. My agent has presented a counter-offer that preserves to me rights not granted in the original contract. We do not know if negotiation is possible and do not know when an answer might be given. Many NightShade authors (on various closed listservs and other online venues) are discussing what they will, individually, decide, and it is the sum of those decisions that will determine whether the acquisition goes through.
So: for anyone interested in owning a copy of MoonFlights (including the lovely foreword by Anne McCaffrey) I suggest ordering it now. Depending on the outcome of negotiations, and other authors’ decisions, it may be unavailable very soon. Unfortunately, I don’t own enough copies to offer to sell it to anyone who wants one (I’m not even sure where my remaining copies are.) Completists will probably want it (they did a nice job on the hardcover.) However, if you’re not interested, the stories in it will not disappear forever, because I can recycle them in a different arrangement with new material in another collection later.
This is a very sad occasion, the demise of a small publisher who had, at one time, a very good reputation. I feel badly for friends whose outstanding newer books are caught in the trap–they must agree to unfavorable contract revisions or see their books disappear into bankruptcy courts as an asset of the failed company. I’ve seen this happen to others with other small publishers: publishing is a very tough business, with very small margin for error. Meisha Merlin’s collapse nearly undid Lee & Miller’s careers, entangling their Liaden books (which I thoroughly enjoy) as well as several others. Enthusiasm and love of books are necessary, but not sufficient, as foundation stones for a publishing house. In part because of bankruptcy laws, writers are particularly vulnerable to career-ending financial hardship, inability to get new contracts, and creativity-destroying stress when publishers go down.
Nobody wins. But I haven’t lost nearly as much as others. I am grateful to my canny agent. I am grateful to have, for my other books, publishers who have survived multiple hard times and are still solvent and showing no signs of trouble.