Itâ€™s happened to many of us or to a colleague in the business. If youâ€™re a writer, you know someone whose career took a stutter step when their publisher went out of business. Perhaps it was a magazine that owed them money for articles or even a small publisher failing in that highly competitive field.
Many young publishers or books and magazines live on the edge of financial security for many years. Even some older magazine publishers can fail. But what happens to the authors who have invested hours of hard work in their submissions when a publisher goes belly up? Nothing good.
In the magazine article market, it means no payment for work completed. Thereâ€™s likely not even someone to contact.
In the book market, things can be worse than monetary earning lost. Did you know that the clause commonly found in book contracts that promises return of rights in event of bankruptcy is invalid? I recently found out the old fashioned way. A publisher that held contracts on two of my novels declared bankruptcy only days before my first book was to be released. I had the cover and had done the edits when the shocking email arrived. All my promotion was for nothing. My disappointment was huge but as nothing when I learned the full ramifications of the bankruptcy.
All assets of the company were frozen. That included all the authorsâ€™ rights to their books. Some authors were worse off than me with royalties owed to them as well as their book rights. Two months later weâ€™re all still waiting for the court to decide if our rights should be returned to us or if they could possibly be sold as assets of the company. Weâ€™re completely helpless despite the contracts we signed. My book wasnâ€™t even released yet, but I canâ€™t submit it elsewhere until a judge decides if I have that right. I hold the copyright, but it doesnâ€™t help me in this case.
I was inspired to write this article when I heard rumor of another small publisher closing its doors. But this one, instead of declaring bankruptcy, apparently did a disappearing act. Where does that leave their authors? Who knows.
So what is an author to do? Keep writing. Keep submitting. Though I have those two books tied up in legal wrangling, I have another book released by a different well-established publisher and another due out later this year. Two other publishers have a fantasy manuscript in hand, both of them interested enough to request a reading of the full novel.
Authors must keep going despite the stumbles and interruptions along the way. Each book we write, each article we publish, could be the one that lifts our career to the next level. Never give up.
Â Tell us if this has happened to you. We can learn best from others' experiences.