View Full Version : [Publisher] Fitzhenry & Whiteside Ltd.

10-17-2011, 12:53 AM
Not sure if this is quite the right place for this (feel free to move it...)

This company are apparently already on the Writer's Beware radar. I am posting this to see what info or opinions I can garner from the wise old sages here (as well as some of the wise young sages and the sexily hot and youthful sages too :) )


10-17-2011, 02:18 AM
Adding link: http://www.fitzhenry.ca/

Ari Meermans
10-17-2011, 02:29 AM
Adding link: http://www.fitzhenry.ca/

Hi, Cao

What am I missing here? This link takes me to the publisher's site where six books are shown to be available for direct order.

Ari, apparently confused again

10-17-2011, 02:41 AM
Huh? The publisher's site is the publisher's site. What were you expecting?

Ari Meermans
10-17-2011, 02:48 AM
I guess I was expecting something on the site showing that the book was indeed available through normal trade channels via catalog or something. Sorry, I'm more than a bit thick today with this cold.

10-17-2011, 02:56 AM
Well, my original post was about a writer who is in dispute with then over rights reversion and I guess Cao was adding the publisher's link for extra information for those who may be interested in learning more about the publisher, perhaps by way of allowing their version of events to be shared through examination of thier public T&Cs? [Thanks for doing that BTW, Cao].

I was mainly wanting to see if anyone on here may be able to shed some more light on this. Clearly the blog post by the writer is likely to be biased (how much is a matter of debate, I am currently willing to believe that they are more or less telling the truth here) and I am interested in seeing what opinions others have on this matter...

Ari Meermans
10-17-2011, 03:08 AM
This was the first I'd heard of it, areteus. I wouldn't expect the SFWA Grievance Committee to take it on if there wasn't something to it. Fact is, if the contract does indeed state that the publisher will make the book available through normal trade channels, but they're warehousing and only making it available for direct purchase the request for reversion of rights (per the stated contract language) is legitimate and the publisher is being recalcitrant. Big ifs, I know, since we aren't conversant with the actual contract.

10-17-2011, 01:43 PM
Indeed, this was my thought. As far as the article is written the writer is right and the rights belong to them now. However, I am aware that there are always issues like these where the party reporting is not telling the whole story :)

As you say, there is an investigation so that implies something...

10-18-2011, 04:40 AM
This company are apparently already on the Writer's Beware radar. I am posting this to see what info or opinions I can garner from the wise old sages here (as well as some of the wise young sages and the sexily hot and youthful sages too :) )



I don't know where I fit in on the scale of sages, but I do know more about this situation than...well, anyone else. GriefCom is a close second, though!

The BoingBoing post is based on my blog post--Cory did a wonderful job with it, and his comments early in the discussion are invaluable for their clarity.

My original blog is here:


There's a follow-up post, addressing the nature of the contract clause.

I'll append the original in a separate post, and it'll also be featured on Writer Beware tomorrow (Tuesday).

As someone suggested, there are always two sides to a story. However, the blog is based entirely on saved emails, screenshots, and a quote from the contract in dispute. There's a link to a timeline that details those emails more completely. Of course, at this point you'd have to take my word for that, but it would be pretty darned stupid to say it if it wasn't true.

It's also pretty straightforward--not a whole lot of "he said/she said" going on there. GriefCom has not only vetted the situation, but the GriefCom chair has done his best to resolve it.The publisher has persistently demurred, ignored, and rebuffed attempts to resolve the situation, whether approached via agent, GriefCom, or directly. (By "rebuff," I mean an unidentified caller made a threatening phone call.)

And yes, the publisher's first response to me was that if I would buy all the remaining stock now sitting idly in their warehouse, they would revert. Yes, I have that email.

Fitz & Witz is a respected Canadian press, known for their lovely production (my book was quite lovely, indeed!) and quality releases. I was stunned by their first response, and find the course of events to be darned near inexplicable. But it boils down to the fact that they're failing to honor the contract reversion clause, and they've handled the situation in a fashion I would wish on no writer--especially when the fallout has to be managed over international borders.

That's worth a Writer Beware or two--especially to those who are interested in young adult work. Dun Lady's Jess was originally a Baen fantasy, but it's always been a cross-over work, and F&W is a YA-oriented publisher.

There are going to be plenty of people who think I should have handled the contract differently, who think I should have handled the conflict differently, and who think I should now proceed differently than I am. My goal now is to blow the whistle on a publisher after 18 months of inexplicable behavior in spite of contractual obligations. This is behavior to keep in mind before submitting or signing with them.

I want my book back, too, but I'm not sanguine about that...

10-18-2011, 04:44 AM
Writer Beware: Fitzhenry & Whiteside

http://www.doranna.net/wordplay/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/c.dlj_.fw_.nav_.jpgDun Lady’s Jess
When hikers Dayna and Eric find a young woman naked, terrified, and speechless, they’re sure she’s the victim of foul play. But the truth is much more shocking: she isn’t human at all. She’s Dun Lady’s Jess, a horse transformed into this new shape by the spell that brought her and her rider, to whom she is utterly devoted, into this world.
Possessed now of human intelligence but still a horse deep inside, Jess desperately searches this world for her master and rider, using her fiery equine spirit to take on human idiosyncracies–and human threats.
Dun Lady’s Jess is my heart book—my first book. A fantasy, it was first published by Baen in 1994, and in 1995 it won the prestigious Stephen Tall/Compton Crook Award for Best First SF/F/H of the year. It grew two sequels, and it stayed in print for a good long run—but eventually, some years later, it fell off the shelves and the rights reverted to me.

Halfway through the next decade, I was invited by a delightful editor to reprint the book through the new Star Ink imprint of the Canadian publisher Fitzhenry & Whiteside. We had a wonderful time with the new edition, giving painstaking attention to the details large and small. It became stalled in production, however, and by the time it was released, the editor had chosen to part ways with the publisher. Eventually the book was released under Fitzhenry & Whiteside’s Red Deer Press line (http://www.reddeerpress.com/).

The reversion clause for Dun Lady’s Jess reads:
“16.(a) If the Publisher fails to keep the Work in print *through regular trade channels* and for sale and written demand from the Author declines or neglects to reprint it within six (6) months thereafter and to offer it for sale, or after two (2) years from the date of the first publication the Publisher wishes to discontinue publication of the Work and gives three (3) months’ notice to this effect to the Author in writing.”
The part between asterisks? My agent and I added that to the boilerplate, because the clause as it stood was far too open-ended. The new phrase was approved and initialed by both myself and Richard Dionne, for Fitzhenry & Whiteside.

(The part right after the asterisks? Yes, it seems to be missing a word—probably “upon.” But that’s part of the boilerplate.)

The book was published in November 2007, although the U.S. distribution didn’t take place until April 2008. By spring of 2010, it was evident, through royalty reports, that the book wasn’t being placed on the shelves anywhere (that is, “regular trade channels”). For a couple of years now, it’s sold only a handful of copies per year, and has slowly slid off availability via online sources. (see the screenshot at the bottom of the page)

But when we asked for reversion of rights, the response shocked us: if I would buy the considerable copies the publisher has sitting in their warehouse, they would revert the book. I have to tell you…it felt like coercion.

We responded that this wasn’t possible, and reminded them that they naturally had the ability to sell their remaining stock should the rights to the book be reverted. In other words, for them, nothing would change.

But they didn’t respond to that email, nor to the one after that, or the one after that, or to the phone call by the book’s original editor with that line, or—after we’d let the situation sit for a year—to the query after that.
http://www.doranna.net/wordplay/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/DLJ.warehouse.screenshot.SM_.jpgDun Lady's Jess: The warehouse listing. Unlike books that are available through regular trade channels, this title is stocked only in the Fitzhenry & Whiteside warehouse

We sent screenshots of the book’s lack of availability and its failure to appear in any distributor warehouse. It’s in the publisher warehouse alone—which does not equal being available through regular trade channels. We also sent a PDF of the relevant contract page with the initialed changes to their boilerplate. This material went out return receipt—and finally, we received a promise to review the situation and get back to us in a week.

This did not happen.

After another nudge—which included the reminder that the publisher could continue to sell warehoused copies in their usual fashion, as well as a reminder of the boilerplate changes–we were finally told: “This book is in stock, on sale on our website, it continues to sell albeit in lesser quantities. [my note: yes, a handful of copies a year] We have some 1,600 in stock with no reason to revert rights.”

How about because it’s a contractual obligation?

Finally, I went to SFWA GriefCom. You may not have heard much about this committee; when GriefCom mediates a dispute, the parties involved maintain a strict nondisclosure; no one’s dirty laundry is aired. And because they see a high level of success, that means you see very little dirty laundry and very little about GriefCom.

In this case, the request from GriefCom to Fitzhenry & Whiteside was simple: Revert the book per the contract obligations, or provide proof that the book is available via regular trade channels.

It took a week of trying for GriefCom to connect with Mr. Dionne, at which point we were given a promise that Red Deer would provide proof of distribution within a week.

This did not happen.

After three weeks of silence and unreturned phone calls, GriefCom sent a different kind of request, giving Red Deer forty-eight hours to either revert the book or provide proof that it was being sold via regular trade channels, and asserting that after that, I would be forced to take additional steps.

Early the next day, I heard from the GriefCom chair that he had received a phone call, and that the unidentified caller took him to task in no uncertain terms–claiming harassment, declaring there would be no reversion on the title, and warning that she would “report” us to [prominent Canadian SF writer #1] and [prominent Canadian SF writer #2]—all before hanging up on him.

We took this as an indication that the publisher no longer wishes to interact with GriefCom.

Finally—knowing that truly, no one wants a big dramafest, I emailed Richard Dionne and made the same request: Please send either the reversion or the proof that Dun Lady’s Jess is being sold via regular trade channels, and please do so within the next three business days.

This did not happen.

I don’t have a lot of options left, but I do have some. For one thing, I have this: I can break the silence that protects Fitzhenry & Whiteside from the consequences of their actions—a silence I’ve kept for a year and a half. And I can do it to warn everyone possible, via the big wide Internets: This is my documented experience (http://www.doranna.net/wordplay/index.php/fitzhenry-whiteside-contract-dispute-timeline/) with this publisher. We have a contract clause that was approved and initialed, but is not being honored. A critical contract clause—one that protects my interests in my book per the agreed-upon terms. A contract clause that is of utmost importance these days, when publishers and writers are scrambling to negotiate shifting terms and a shifting industry.

A contract clause no writer should take lightly.

Meanwhile, I still want my book back. I still want Fitzhenry & Whiteside to honor the contract they signed. Contracts are not a thing of convenience, to be ignored when a publisher pleases. “Make me,” isn’t in a professional lexicon…or shouldn’t be. If you feel the same, I hope you’ll pass this warning along.

10-18-2011, 01:37 PM
Thank you for posting all that. And definitely (to my eye) well within your rights to complain here!

10-18-2011, 07:47 PM
Thanks, I'm glad for a kind reception! Though this is about more than complaining...this is about spreading the word. 8) YA authors, especially, need to be warned about this experience with Fitzhenry & Whiteside.

(never did find the settings for a siggie...)