I had contracted with small new press Trestle Press to publish SPEAKING OF MURDER. The deal came up in a hurry in early November. In fact, they contacted me on Twitter and asked me to submit my traditional mystery. I checked here and on Preditors and Editors and found no warnings.
The contact person, the oddly named Giovanni Gelati, accepted the ms without reading more than the first chapter, and frankly I don't think he had time to read even that. Okay, first warning flag. But I thought, well, it's an avenue to publication, and the book had been in search of a publishing home for over a year. He said the ms. would be edited, but when I asked who else was on staff, he said no one else wanted to be identified, that he was the public face. Second flag.
The contract he sent was a very simple paragraph, to which I added a number of clauses clarifying the arrangement and protecting myself. He then said we didn't need to physically sign the contract, that the email agreement would suffice. Third flag, and possibly my naivte at agreeing to it.
The deal was that it would come out in eformats first, followed by print publication 60 days later. The financial was 70% of net to the author, which sounded great. He told me they would turn it around in 10 days, so it would hit Kindle and other markets in early December. Great! We then tried to come to agreement about the cover, with Gelati apparently being their graphic designer. He proposed so many awful fonts and ignored my suggestions and examples so many times I finally hired someone else to do it for me, and she produced a lovely cover in hours.
As it transpired, Gelati lied to me several times over the month about delays, telling me it was in editing when it wasn't. When pushed, he finally gave me a release date of 21 December. I was excited, and started to do some marketing and hype building as best I could. The week before the 21st I still hadn't gotten edits back. He said I'd have them by Sunday night, the 18th.
When Monday dawned with no edits, I decided to cut my losses. I had no trust that they would ever publish it, or that I would ever have a date I could rely on, or that they in fact even have these mysterious editors. I told him I needed to cancel the contract, and he replied "Ok, fine. Have a good week."
They have published other authors, and Gelati seems to do pretty good publicity through his blogtalk radio interviews. I know of one other potential Trestle author who canceled her contract for the same reasons I did.