On Friday, June 20, Angry Robot Books announced that they were shuttering their Strange Chemistry (YA) and Exhibit A (crime/mystery) imprints due to "market saturation." They go on to say that, effective immediately, neither imprint will publish any further titles. It's a sad affair, of course, for the writer's with those imprints, such as Scott Lynch and Richard Parker, who have enjoyed a lot of critical and creative success under Exhibit A. One writer I've been following, thanks to his work with LitReactor, is Rob W Hart, who got hit hard today with the news that his two book deal dissolved entirely. Hopefully NEW YORKED finds a new home, and I'd encourage you all to check out Rob's novella, THE LAST SAFE PLACE.
As a whole, Angry Robot has a pretty strong output, and some of my current favorites (like Chuck Wendig and Chris F. Holm) are with that publisher. Although Angry Robot says their core imprint is "robust" and that they are increasing their monthly output to three titles, I have to echo Scalzi's sentiments about why reversion clauses are so damn important.
There's a lot of heated back and forth between indies and traditional publishers, and which path is safest. Really, though, no path is "safe." There is a no "guarantee." If you sign with a traditional publishing house or imprint, you risk them closing down operations entirely and putting your work out of print, particularly if you have a crappy contract that lacks reversion clauses. What do you do when your publisher owns the rights to your work, but fails to exist?
With self-publishing, you retain control of your work forever. You produced it, you own it. But it's not a safer path, business-wise. Yeah, you own it forever and nobody can really take that away from you, and you never risk it going out of print. The risk, instead, is that you never get noticed. That you sink time and money into this particular avenue and fail to ever make a return. Either way, you're gambling with your work. Although, one could certainly argue that with going indie, you still have the chance of eventually being discovered, especially if you stick with it long enough to grow a significant body of work. That would be harder to do with your volumes of work tied up at a publishing house that has gone out of business, a publishing house that you've given all of your rights away to, and which will now be forever out of print.
Don't think of publishing in any form as a safer path. Think of it as a lesser of two evils.
Those of you who have read some previous posts may have seen me talk about Angry Robot Books recently. I love their output. I have no idea what their contracts are like, but based on the quality of their authors, if I were to ever pursue a traditional path, I'd seriously consider signing with them. Which is why I put CONVERGENCE into their open door submission period back in October 2013.
Earlier this month, a representative of Angry Robot Books asked to see the full manuscript but by then it was too late. For them, at least. In the intervening time, I'd self-published CONVERGENCE, which took it out of the loop for consideration by Angry Robot.
Maybe that wasn't such a bad choice. I don't know. But, I do know that I have not, for even a single second, regretted my choice to self-publish. Now, if I had sent them CONVERGENCE in full earlier this month, I'd suddenly be looking a lot more worried about signing with them were they to have made me an offer. While Angry Robot claims to still be "robust," would we really expect them to announce otherwise? Add to that, recent news that the Osprey Group is considering selling Angry Robot Books....
As some other writer's have opined, don't put all your eggs in one basket. Self-publishing is not the be-all, end-all to getting your work out there, and there are other options to consider, should you feel them worthwhile in your own particular scenario. Be sure to do your due diligence, and research accordingly. But know that publishing, in any way, shape, or form, is not for the risk averse. There's all kinds of risks regardless of which path you take. What varies is the amount and degree of risk involved.
My heart goes out to the authors affected by the closure of these imprints. It's a sad day for them, and I am sorry to hear of the loss of both Exhibit A and Strange Chemistry; I know I have several works from those writers in my TBR pile. Hopefully the writer's there had solid, fair contracts and will be able to keep control of their work and do as they see fit. Time will tell, I suppose. In the meantime, I wish them the best and hope that they continue to produce terrific work.
[Update Saturday, 6/21: Check out A Fantastical Librarian for a round-up of the story with more worthwhile links.]