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Samhain Publishing

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StoryofWoe

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Damn. I take a brief internet hiatus and come back to find the landscape changed. :( My heart goes out to all of the Samhain authors here at AW and beyond. I'm still in the querying trenches, but Samhain has been on my radar for a while now. It was comforting to know there were viable options outside of the Big 5 and self-publishing. That pool seems to be getting smaller and smaller every year.
 

ARoyce

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This is such a sad loss all around. My heart goes out to all the Samhain authors and everyone who works for Samhain. I know so many wonderful writers who've worked with them, and it's painful to see this happening.

(As a sidenote, if there's anything I can do to boost the signal for editors and authors who will be left adrift, just let me know. Connect with me on Twitter, if you aren't already. I know a few people on Twitter who are gathering lists and resources and such.)

I'm hoping, perhaps unrealistically, that this is one of those "when a door closes, a window opens" situations for everyone.
 

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I'm hoping, perhaps unrealistically, that this is one of those "when a door closes, a window opens" situations for everyone.

Everyone seems to be saying this on Facebook, but in my experience, life always kicks you when you're down, so I don't bother to be optimistic. I'm a bottle of sunshine that way.
 

Shadowflame

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I have seen a few people mention that they will be stepping up their plans to open up new horror presses. Is this a good or bad thing? I don't know and probably won't at least for a few years. :(
 

ShaunHorton

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Lisa Morton posted on the HWA's Facebook page, the letter that they sent to Mrs. Brashear. I don't know how to link to a specific facebook post, and I don't know it'd be okay to copy and past in it's entirety, but I wanted to share a specific bit that just rubbed me the wrong way. I think at the very least it could have been written more eloquently.

Many of the authors will of course be anxious to move on with their properties, so we are especially interested in making sure that rights are returned to authors as quickly as possible.
 

veinglory

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The current plan seems to be to revert books as they come to the end of their contracts. I am sure they are swamped with requests for early reversion but given the size of their backlist I can't imagine that will happen too quickly.
 

andiwrite

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Wow. I saw the thread in the romance section first and had to do a search to find out what was going on. I'm extremely shocked to hear this.

I'm returning my focus onto writing for my own enjoyment, personally. I'll still do everything I can to publish/self-publish and sell my books, of course. But this industry is a nightmare and trying to do it as a career is way too stressful. If well-known publishers like Samhain are going down, it doesn't give me a ton of hope for the future. :(
 
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gingerwoman

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The scary thing is, if these things made Samhain's fall likely, they also make all small publishers' falls likely, right? I mean, those factors are affecting almost all small publishers...

But... if Samhain can fall, what can other houses do to prevent their own fall?
Well looks like even Harlequin had to be bought by one of the Big Five to stay alive.
 

amergina

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Well looks like even Harlequin had to be bought by one of the Big Five to stay alive.

Eh, not exactly. Torstar sold of Harlequin for the cash to pay off its debts and so it could pour money into other bits of its news industry. Harlequin, though down in revenue and yes, struggling with the new face of publishing, was and is still making money.
 

gingerwoman

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Everyone seems to be saying this on Facebook, but in my experience, life always kicks you when you're down, so I don't bother to be optimistic. I'm a bottle of sunshine that way.

At least you made me laugh out loud. That's something. And you don't even want me to go into what this comes on the heels of for me.
 

triceretops

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There is some very intelligent analysis going on in this thread and I think everyone has picked up the scent. I've been wrestling with the poor sales topic on my blog for five years now. I do mean, primarily, small press and brand name independents. I've been in total denial and shock about this subject, even after suffering from a slump in sales during this time that was shocking and unexpected. It began to occur to me that nearly half a million self-published books (check my figures--I've heard different numbers) a year was going to have a devastating effect on the small and big presses.

Yes, absolutely, the $.99 books are much more financially attractive than the 2.99 to $5.99 small trade pub prices. That is a no brainer, and I'm talking about the general consumer view. They can load their reading devices up for next to nothing. And how ironic it is when I hear someone, like a dinosaur industry insider, say that people are buying more books than ever. They sure are--the $.99 books. All day long. Let's not even count the freebies or the celebrity authors who have jumped the trade-published ship. These are stunningly low book prices and incentives when compared to the climate over seven years ago.

Lets also face the fact that writers or published authors can't keep the editor out of our/their heads when reading books. C' mon now. We wonder how in the heck can thousands of self-published books be any good when we run across some or many that do not measure up to (our) professional standards. Caveat: I've read and critiqued some excellently written SP books that are clean, gripping and exceptionally entertaining. I wonder how in hell these books were passed up by the trade. I've also seen the stinkers--I mean everything is screwed up--format, cover design, blurbs, grammar, plot--they fail on all counts. And there's the thing--they fail on MY accounts.

IMO, non-writers (readers) are much more forgiving when they start that $.99 book. They care about story--a thrilling, new read in a genre that interests them. Hasn't that always been the mantra of even the most critical, published authors--story first? Those bargain-hunting readers are not overly concerned about POV shifts, placement of semi-colons and colons, type font and size, grammar blunders and other technical snafus. Many can see them, but it's easier to gloss over them.

Conclusion: trade publishing has and is suffering from a huge shift in readership and fan base. I'm talking a major shift involving tens, if not hundreds of thousands of readers and purchases over a relatively short time frame. These slots were once the "golden ticket" of small trade publishers. Look at how fast this vice is tightening.

Self-published authors have a fanatical support for each other (check out their largest group site). They buy their fellow's books. They are tight knit, and many of them are critical of the stanch gate-keeping practices of the industry--they were looked over, forgotten or ignored. Can't say that I blame them at all. The Big Five has shot me down for 14 straight years--those elitist pigs!

Conclusion: there goes another huge chunk of the readership and purchases.

Declining sales slumps due to other factors?

Conclusion: Kids and adults are reading fewer and fewer books every year, in spite of the digital ease by which to obtain them. Every year is a small downhill slide. All age spectrums are glued to their smart phones, I-pods and other reading devices, but primarily for social media, research, bargain shopping and games. Saving grace: writers and authors load up on books and shorts in this area, and this has helped to keep our noses above water.

Amazon and other online retailers have made it incredibly easy to self-publish. Although some assistance is necessary to prep these books for online retail. And that might cost some bucks.

Conclusion: It's been said that everyone has a book in them. Population Earth; seven billion. Hah! I'm not even going to touch that one. We don't even have to mention how many self-published authors/readers and trade authors have spread the news about how anybody can get published today. Not to mention the terrific book prices found all over. It's true.

Whose responsible for this deteriorating slide? Self-pubbed authors? Big Five greed? Amazon? Borders going under? Cut backs on major newspaper and magazine book reviews? Employee cuts? Too many books?

Conclusion: If technology had an ass, I'd kick it. There's where it started--everything else slid into it, catching the draft.

Who is going to be the first to go?

Small press, I believe, will get hit the hardest first. Those little guys could all disappear, given enough downward trending and time. You can't downsize an already small publisher. They have no wiggle room. Ellora's Cave and Samhain has proven this, and they really aren't that small. Self-publishing will survive and grow. The Big corps and their imprints better hold on to and increase their leverage of precise target-marketing and book store placement--that is the only card up their sleeve. They'll need to spend more money to snag market share away from the SP industry. Unless they keep ambulance chasing those best-selling SP authors so they can gain control. Oh, agents are going to suffer a bit. Who needs them if nearly everyone decides to self-publish? Publishing house employees will suffer cutbacks because of lost revenue.

I have a lot of doom and gloom prophesies. I know. I wish I had the answer in a bottle. I think the Big Five imprints could chop their book prices down as far as they dare without losing buckets of money. And they'll have to adapt much faster with each new opportunity and trend. For increased therapy and readership, we need a huge best-selling series akin to the Harry Potter books, and we need these blockbuster tomes about every seven to ten years or so. I think the small trade presses need to regulate their finances much better. Misappropriation of funds have been a small press killer; IMO, more than any other downfall.

Females account for roughly 65% of all book purchases. Men and boys are sorely lacking in this area. Guys, click some books into your shopping cart or patronize your nearest independent or chain bookstore.

Sorry for the rant. But I believe that many of these factors are relevant to what happened to Samhain.

Conclusion: :flag:
 
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andiwrite

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So, is this a good or bad thing for self-publishing? All I ever hear about is how most self-pubbed books don't sell more than one or two copies. Yet they are apparently taking a great deal of business away from indie pubs. I'm confused.
 

amergina

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So, is this a good or bad thing for self-publishing? All I ever hear about is how most self-pubbed books don't sell more than one or two copies. Yet they are apparently taking a great deal of business away from indie pubs. I'm confused.

It really depends on the book and the author. Some folks sell 100-ish. Some folks sell 10,000-ish.
 

A.P.M.

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This is incredibly discouraging to hear about. I wish the best for all the authors involved.
 

gingerwoman

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I guess Samhain didn't feel they could scale down. I thought they had a terrific reputation for M/M and maybe they could scale down to being another M/M publisher since a few of those as niche publishers don't seem to be going down the gurgler.
 

KiwiChick

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This is terrible news, and ominous for the future of the trade publishing industry. My heart goes out to everyone affected: the staff, authors, and readers.
 

triceretops

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So, is this a good or bad thing for self-publishing? All I ever hear about is how most self-pubbed books don't sell more than one or two copies. Yet they are apparently taking a great deal of business away from indie pubs. I'm confused.

I think the climate has drastically improved for self publishing as a favorable option. One or two copies sold for those authors is very pessimistic, and I've never heard of such low numbers. I would guess that the bare butt minimum or no frills average would be similar to small press numbers, with perhaps 75 to 150 copies. But as amergina points out, it certainly depends on the book and many other factors. We've all seen/heard of those breakout, block-busting books that began life in the self-published arena.

I don't think self-publishing is taking away anything from the small, boutique or indie houses. Those little trades are losing sales and readers because their promotion and marketing tactics aren't adapting effectively or fast enough to hold on to their shares. To be honest with you, I think it's simple: we have less interest in reading and have a massive glut of books. No one is really to blame.
 
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triceretops

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I guess Samhain didn't feel they could scale down. I thought they had a terrific reputation for M/M and maybe they could scale down to being another M/M publisher since a few of those as niche publishers don't seem to be going down the gurgler.

That's a good point. Heh, I can't see them throwing in the towel when they could get by as a washrag. They're reputation is huge!
 

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I think the climate has drastically improved for self publishing as a favorable option. One or two copies sold for those authors is very pessimistic, and I've never heard of such low numbers. I would guess that the bare butt minimum or no frills average would be similar to small press numbers, with perhaps 75 to 150 copies. But as amergina points out, it certainly depends on the book and many other factors. We've all seen/heard of those breakout, block-busting books that began life in the self-published arena.

I don't think self-publishing is taking away anything from the small, boutique or indie houses. Those little trades are losing sales and readers because their promotion and marketing tactics aren't adapting effectively or fast enough to hold on to their shares. To be honest with you, I think it's simple: we have less interest in reading and have a massive glut of books. No one is really to blame.

But if you're only selling 75-100 copies, you're losing money, assuming you paid for editing/cover/formatting/whatever else.

Maybe we're just moving toward more of a hobbyist approach to reading - lots of fanfic writers put out some pretty good stuff for absolutely free, right? Maybe we're going down that path for original fic, too. And, just like with fanfic, discerning readers will have to spend a lot of their time sorting through all the crap in order to find the good stuff, while non-discerning readers will be rolling around in a swamp of free stories.

I don't know - I HOPE that isn't what's happening, because - well, because as a reader I'm willing to pay for a professional product, and as a writer I want to GET paid for a professional product. But maybe that's not the way things are going to go.
 
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gingerwoman

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But if you're only selling 75-100 copies, you're losing money, assuming you paid for editing/cover/formatting/whatever else.

Maybe we're just moving toward more of a hobbyist approach to reading - lots of fanfic writers put out some pretty good stuff for absolutely free, right? Maybe we're going down that path for original fic, too. And, just like with fanfic, discerning readers will have to spend a lot of their time sorting through all the crap in order to find the good stuff, while non-discerning readers will be rolling around in a free stories.

I don't know - I HOPE that isn't what's happening, because - well, because as a reader I'm willing to pay for a professional product, and as a writer I want to GET paid for a professional product. But maybe that's not the way things are going to go.

Old Hack's always reminding us that mass market print is still a large share of the market. Samhain and Ellora's Cave were forerunners using the new technology everyone is using for self publishing now, to sell romance, back when no one else was doing it very well, they did it amazingly well, they had the market cornered, they had the market in their pocket. The new easy self publishing absolutely destroyed that. So there are some unique circumstances that don't apply to all trade publishers, although no doubt many are hurting.
 

veinglory

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Its not uncommon for self-publisher to use free of cheap editing and cover options that are adequate for their purposes. And the 75-100 is probably for the first year or two. Sales will them continue to trickle in over extended periods. That said, most self-publishers I interact with online are more on the hobby end. A smaller proportion are making a living out of it. An even smaller proportion are making a very good living out of it ad they are often prolific and highly skilled. Like many large press authors they often have streams of income related to writing rather than relying entirely on their book sales incomes.

I personally am torn between the idea that market in general is down or under pressure, and thinking this cohort of small publishers just did not adapt to the fragmentation of the market. The romance/erotic romance/erotica readership for ebooks has change a lot over the last five years.
 

Cobalt Jade

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Maybe we're just moving toward more of a hobbyist approach to reading - lots of fanfic writers put out some pretty good stuff for absolutely free, right? Maybe we're going down that path for original fic, too. And, just like with fanfic, discerning readers will have to spend a lot of their time sorting through all the crap in order to find the good stuff, while non-discerning readers will be rolling around in a free stories.

Oh yeah. For years I rarely bought any fiction, because I could find stuff for my particular tastes on the fanfic and erotica sites.

However, when a reader wants to branch out and join the mainstream, reading what's hot to see what the fuss is about, or to edify themselves, or expand their horizons, they will pay the retail price, whether it's an ebook or a paperback from the drugstore. It's because those books have buzz, good marketing/blurbs, or are well recommended -- in my case, from a trusted review source. Believe or not, I also rely on multiple reviews from Goodreads for the same book, just to see if it is to my taste.

It may be that online, self-published reviewers and review sources will have to fill in the gap for self-published fiction books.
 

Lillith1991

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I guess Samhain didn't feel they could scale down. I thought they had a terrific reputation for M/M and maybe they could scale down to being another M/M publisher since a few of those as niche publishers don't seem to be going down the gurgler.

Good point. Though I would've preferred if they just scaled down to being an LGBT+ publisher instead of purely M/M or closing their doors like they have. Scaling down in that way would have allowed them more diversity while keeping them in a niche that is still doing really well compared to other segments of the e-publishers market and there's plenty of writers who would jump at the chance for another LGBT market being out there with such a good rep as Samhain.
 

popgun62

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Everyone seems to be forgetting than Samhain also had a horror line with some of the best authors in the business: Hunter Shea, Frazier Lee, Brian Moreland, Jonathan Janz, Kristopher Rufty, Glenn Rolfe, Matt Manochio, Christine Hayton, J.G. Faherty and many others will be looking for new homes. I just had the first book of a new series accepted by former editor Don D'Auria, a well-respected editor in the horror genre, before he was let go. Luckily, I have an agent and will likely find a new home for my book, but some won't be so lucky. I feel for the editors and staff at Samhain. I was so looking forward to working with my new editor, Tera Cuskaden, a really cool lady. A sad time in the publishing world. I hope everyone there finds a new home.