Fond Farewells and Wary Wonderings

2:16 PM Nina S. Gooden 0 Comments

Just a few minutes ago, I was pulled out of a wonderful nap filled with dancing cakes and singing cookies (I’ve been faithfully gluten-free for about a week, so this is a standard theme in my sleeping hours) and thrust into one of those shapeless, colorless nightmares where anxiety and uncertainty reign.

The news that Samhain is closing its doors hit me like a sucker punch, right to the temple. And I’m neither published as an author, nor contracted as an editor with them.

This news hits me as someone who is completely and utterly devoted to the publishing industry, especially when it comes to Romance. It breaks my heart in a way that makes reminds me of the crushing disappointment I felt when I heard that Borders was closing.

As a reader, Samhain has always provided top-notch material that fit right into what I was looking for. The one and only time I had to contact customer service over a file that wouldn’t download, they handled my problem within the hours. They have a beautiful, responsive website that makes it easy for me to find what I need, while also offering me suggestions on what I didn’t even know existed. Every interaction I have had with this company has been exactly what I expected as someone who wanted a product, and wished to exchange money for that product.

·         They were responsive
·         They fixed my issue without passing the buck
·         They made me feel as if they valued my business and my criticism
·         They had the best products
·         They were always, always customer-focused

As a freelance editor, I was delighted by the opportunity to work with Samhain’s team. While I was concerned that business politics would get in my way, they never even seemed to blink when it came to my work history. I was pleased right down to my toes to test with Tera Cuskaden, one of their freelance editing team. Even though I was ultimately not offered a position within their ranks, I thoroughly enjoyed the process and feedback that proved to make me an even stronger editor. Even from that short encounter, I could tell that the individuals I had the chance to speak with really cared about their work and valued the impact they had with authors.

·         They had high standards
·         They were always focused on author-reader issues
·         They gave their editors flexibility when working
·         They were genuinely helpful and earnest

As an author, I did not have the pleasure of even subbing to Samhain. They always had a lovely round of calls and I was delighted when they began taking Horror, but as is the case with too many of my “author goals,” life got in the way of an active submission. This is one of those things that I believe I will regret for years. By all accounts, Samhain was a delight to work with. Their editors were given the flexibility to let author’s voice shine and they were responsive with payments and growth. It’s a damn shame that I didn’t prioritize working with this company. It’s a shining example of what publishers should strive to be.

·         Author-focused
·         Strong payment history
·         Willing to branch out into new subgenres
·         Responsive
·         Top-notch freelancers

All of that being said, I think that Samhain’s closing is a very, very dire omen for what is to come with the publishing industry. This isn’t a case of poor decisions or not managing resources well. This is a company that, for all intents and purposes, has done everything right. Hell, even the way they are closing their doors has been done with the utmost respect and grace. They’ve consistently put out stellar content and still, they are being forced to close their doors.

What does it mean when you can do everything right in a thriving environment and still end up closing your doors?

Something is wrong.

And I suspect we all know what that “something” is. One name keeps coming up in these announcements. I don’t have to repeat it, we all know what’s happening, but what can we do? We see all the signs here. I imagine they are similar to what newspapers looked like way back when Walmart was expanding like crazy and mom and pops were closing left and right. Not because they did anything wrong, but because there was an elephant in the room that no one could figure out how to fight.

I’m afraid.

I’m afraid for the publishing industry.

I’m afraid for what this could mean for authors who aren’t ready to take the plunge into self-publishing—and how their options are dwindling.

I’m afraid for freelance artists and editors (myself included), who rely on this thriving market to keep themselves and their families fed.

I’m afraid for the publishers who may find that the hard-won skills they’ve spent decades honing aren’t “transferable” in the job market.

I’m afraid because I don’t know what will happen when our modern-day Walmart has gobbled up all of the power and readers.

Right now, the “traditional” relationship between authors and this modern-day Walmart (who is primarily a distributor) looks like this:

Authors create product (manuscripts)


Publishing House package product


Distributors sell product


Reader buys product

But it is slowly morphing into a secondary method:

Authors create product (manuscripts)


Authors also package product


Distributors sell product


Reader buys product

Please note, this is nothing against self-publishing authors, who enjoy and prefer this secondary method. I have nothing against self-publishing, just the opportunity for abuse if all options are whittled down to one—one controlled by a single entity that can do whatever it wants.

What I worry about is that the authors are next. When the vendors are all gone and it’s just the authors and the distributor, who is to know what kind of power that distributor will have? The secondary method has the author taking on a lot more risk. The editing, packaging, and marketing all fall on the author’s head. And who is to say that the payout will be better without the established market a publishing house could provide?

People who know economics much better than I do, say that the market always balances itself. If one entity has too much power and—for example—uses that power to control prices in a way that even further hedges out the industry, what then? What will we do then? Publishing houses are already being pushed out of the equation. If they all go the way of the dinosaur, that would make the authors the new publishing houses.

And we’ve already gone over what happens to the publishers in these situations.