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Bad news for independent publishers and authors

January 10th, 2007

Dr Petra

Author and educator Tristan Taormino has reported on an upsetting situation facing herself and other independent publishers and authors. Tristan has published a number of books through the company Cleis Press which publishes a range of excellent books on sex and related issues.

Here is her account of the current crisis in the publishing world, which contains information on how you can help independent publishers and authors.

How Corporate Bankruptcy Affects Independent Publishers and Authors
Several people have written and asked me about the recent bankruptcy filing in the publishing world and how it affects authors who are published by small, independent presses, which includes me and many writers who write on sex, GLBT issues, gender, and other alternative or taboo subjects.
Here’s my shot at an answer:

Advanced Marketing Services (AMS) is the parent company of Publishers Group West (PGW), and PGW is the distributor of my publisher, Cleis Press. AMS filed for Chapter 11 on December 29, 2006. PGW will not be paying Cleis Press any of the money it is owed for the previous four months of sales.

That means that Cleis Press will not be paying any of its authors, including me, any of the money we are owed for four months of sales of our books. Eventually, once all court battles have been exhausted, someone may see some fraction of the money, but we’ve all basically been told not to hold our breath.

This means that sales of all my Cleis books from the busiest time of year (fall and winter) have basically vanished. If you bought one of my books from a store or from amazon.com during that time, that money went to AMS and is frozen by the courts and will eventually probably help pay off AMS’ $43 million debt to Random House (you can guess where independent publishers are in the pecking order).

This especially impacts sales of Best Lesbian Erotica (BLE) 2007, since, based on past performance, more than half of the copies that are sold of a BLE title until it goes out of print are sold in the month of December (because that is the release date and because of holiday sales). A good chunk of my income comes from the royalties I receive from Cleis, since all of my books except two are published by them. Like many small press authors, I receive a small advance for each book and count on the royalty payments. In the case of BLE, I use the advance to pay contributors and I do not see any money until after the book sells enough to earn back the advance.

What does this all mean?
Well, if you support my work and want to to buy any of my books, I am asking you to buy them from my website, puckerup.com or directly from the publisher, cleispress.com. And do the same for other authors who are published by incredible independent presses like Avalon, Goofy Foot Press, Grove Press, RE/Search, Seal Press, Soft Skull, Thunder’s Mouth, and many others. This will increase cash flow at a time when it’s really needed since, while the situation has been temporarily fixed going forward, those four months are gone.

If you’d like to read more about this situation, which I obviously only
briefly summarized, check out:

Indepedent publishers affected by this crisis
AMS Bankruptcy Roils Book World: Big & Small Publishers Affected
Media Bistro Coverage

This is a concerning situation, not least because many of the publishers and authors affected are amongst the minority who produce accurate, useful, sexy cutting edge sex books covering a range of topics and catering to a wide audience. As Tristan advises, if you intend on buying a sex book from now on please do so via the author’s website or email the author for best advice on where to purchase their book to ensure they don’t miss out.

We must support those who are amongst the few bringing us reliable, sex positive information.

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