Saturday, August 25, 2007

Smoke, Meet Fire

It appears that Mardi Gras may not be with us very much longer with talk of complete loss of communication and perhaps bankruptcy. PLEASE NOTE: authors are requesting that nobody should buy their Mardi Gras books in the interim as they are not receiving payment for these sales.

This inevitably brings up sweeping statements about the nature of e-publishing in general. My first reaction is that one or even a dozen failing companies should not reflect on the format. After all there is absolutely no shortage of amateur and exploitative print publishers and this doesn't make people turn up their noses at everyone trying to sell paperbacks.

However, I must admit that e-books are new and many people do not really distinguish between presses. One bad book quickly leads readers to make sweeping statements about the quality of ebooks per se. One bad company leads to similar statement about the worth of submitting to epresses at all. At this early stage of e-publishing many commentators tend to lump everyone together, when almost nobody would mention PublishAmerica in the same breath as Harlequin or Baen.

But what can be done about it? Nothing. E-publishers are easy to start and hard to make viable, and harder to make truly profitable for the owners let alone their authors. Readers who read e-books quickly find which presses make a good product. And readers who don't use e-books--well what relevance do their opinions have? Many will eventually convert to the e-book product but developing a sense of discrimination is part and parcel of that process just like consuming any product produced on the open market. The world is full of bad books, bad publishers, bad coffee, slow racehorses, ugly dresses and every other kind of disappointment. But all you need to do to separate good from bad, is know the difference between the two--there is simply no substitute for good judgement and good taste.

Perhaps this is all a little laissez faire but in the end little can be done to stop people writing terrible books or publishers not paying their writers. Both the reader and the writer must exercise judgement. Smoke has been hovering over Mardi Gras for some time and now it seems the party is over. They are not the first and will not be the last. But other presses were there before them and will be there after them. Other presses not only write checks on time but put larger numbers on them.

Let the writer beware... and if you make a mistake move on and learn from it. There are some great, honest e-publishers and print publishers out there actively looking for new authors. Nor is honesty in business practices necessarily enough of a reason to submit. If you want a book to be read and to earn money there choices in epublishing are in fact very limited--I wouldn't think more than ten will reliably hit $1000 on a single title within two years. Time to start aiming higher?

Edited to add: apparently release of contracts and declaration of bankruptcy is imminent.

4 comments:

Anne Douglas said...

Another? Cripes!

I don't understand why people have to be so deceitful about it all. If you have to close up shop, just do it, and do it right. Don't fuck with the buyers/authors/bankers by bad trading practices.

Emily Veinglory said...

If it is over it would be good to pull the books and terminate the contracts rather then leave it up in the air. Currently it is hearsay but very widespread and detail hearsay--so good enough for me.

Emily Veinglory said...

It seem to be getting firmed up as a soon-to-be bankruptcy

Anonymous said...

Warning to all (and I pray authors will actually stop before instantly jumping on this "new bandwagon"): I saw this earlier tonight on one of my Yahoo groups......

(I have been informed that Teresa Jacobs, owner of MGP, has parked
another publishing concern called Satin Rouge Publishing over at
GoDaddy and that she owes MGP authors/staff quite a bit of money, is ignoring emails and phone calls and continuing to sell books of authors who have pulled their books from her company. You might want to investigate this further if you've been considering putting a book with her.)

So if this is true, that this woman is dumping MGP and slinking off to secretly start yet another company, everyone should be warned.