As anyone involved in romance writing knows, there have been a number of small publishers, epublishers and otherwise, who have closed their doors lately. This has caused panic, upset, and general insanity of course. Not that I’m blaming anyone but the publishers. It’s upsetting when you spend months and years looking for a publisher and finally find one you think is reputable, because you have done your research, only to learn that they are completely irresponsible. It’s even more upsetting when you discover that your book might very well be held up in their bankruptcy hearings for quite some time.
Since I’m not part of authors’ loops or groups I don’t often hear the scuttlebutt that goes on behind closed doors, but one kind reader alerted me to some of the panic and asked that I make some attempt to try to calm people and quell their nerves. This silly reader thinks people actually listen to me. While I’m flattered, I’m not sure I can do any good.
What I have been told is that some writers are urging those who have books or proposals with these houses to rush out and register a poor man’s copyright (by the way, there’s no need to do this in any instance ever, but I suppose it can’t hurt); they are being told to retitle the book or change the characters so they can sell it elsewhere. Folks. None of this is going to work. The first thing you need to do is, if you are under contract, officially terminate the agreement. Demand that rights be reverted in a letter sent by you, your lawyer, or your agent via certified mail. Then you need to wait. Yes, I’m afraid you’ll need to wait and see how things play out a little. No publisher is going to want to touch a book that might get them into legal entanglements, so changing a title or a few character names is risky business for you, for the publisher, and for your career. Do you really want to go down that road?
My best suggestion is to place your focus, at least for the moment, on your next book. Make that something that another publisher would really want and, in the meantime, work at getting those rights legally back from the defunct publisher.
As for whether or not you are owed money by these publishers, you need to talk to a lawyer about that. You need to follow your contract’s accounting clause and demand an accounting of the books. And you need to decide if the cost of said lawyer or CPA is going to be worth what you really might be owed for those books. In any bankruptcy situation people lose. Those that are likely to see some money are those that are owed the most. My guess is authors are not on the top of this list.
I wish I had better news for you. I truly feel horrible for all the authors caught up in this mess and wish all of them well. For now, though, keep looking forward.