I'm doing very little blog-hopping these days, so I didn't see the latest piece of erotic romance industry news until a couple of days after the faecal matter impacted the air circulatory device. New epublisher Quartet Press has closed, before it even opened
This is significant news, because this wasn't your typical "it would be fun and easy and profitable to be an epublisher" epub start-up. Quartet Press was set up by people who had some relevant experience, and who had the nous to headhunt a highly respected chief editor from an established epublisher. I wasn't paying much attention to it, because I haven't been paying much attention to the market at all for the last year other than what my own publisher is up to, but I did sit up and pay attention when I heard about them recruiting Angela James.
My own uninformed reaction to their progress was that they appeared to have the background that indicated a fairly low likelihood of the management going batshit insane (an unhappily common occurrence in this publishing sector), that it appeared to be a serious business venture by people who understood what they were getting into, and thus I thought they had a better chance than most start-ups of making it through the first year, that nevertheless I didn't understand why all the love for them from some of the blogs before they'd even opened, particularly as their background was skewed print rather than ebook, and that I really didn't like what I eventually heard about their royalty payment structure and their rationale for it.
I wouldn't have submitted a novel to them, even if I'd had something available at the time. Established publishers crash and burn, yes, and established publishers screw over their authors, sometimes in very bad ways. But the odds of something bad happening are a lot worse at a start-up, and I would not risk a novel at a start-up if I had a chance of selling it somewhere else. Yes, I sold several manuscripts to Loose Id before they opened for business, but I understood the risk I was taking, and back at the start of 2004 publishers willing to look at m/m romance were nearly as rare as hen's teeth.
What I might have been willing to risk at Quartet was a short story, or even a novella that wasn't suitable for Loose Id. And one of the reasons I might have been prepared to gamble at least that much of my material is what I referred to above -- that the people involved appeared to be treating it as a serious business venture. I thought that there was a high risk that the publisher wouldn't make it -- but that there was a fairly low risk that the management would simply disappear, or hold books hostage, or publicly post the real names of any authors who dared to criticise them during the final tailspin, or any of the other idiocies authors and readers in this genre can tell you about.
And indeed, it appears that they have closed the operation down cleanly, accepting responsibility for their actions, and reverting rights to authors immediately so that they can get on with trying to sell the manuscripts to another publishers. It's not a good situation for an author to be in, but it's a *much* better situation than simply being left in limbo, or being stalked and smeared and even physically threatened. It's early days yet, but for now this is looking a lot less messy for the authors than some past failed publishers.
This is why it's important to think hard about submitting to a start-up. It's not just the high probability of the publisher closing down within the year -- it's how well they'll handle it if it happens. Even if you're willing to take the risk with a new publisher, you need to be choosy as to which ones.