The financial troubles at gay and lesbian house Alyson Books have been quietly bubbling up over the past few months as stories of unpaid advances and never published books circulated on blogs and in publishing circles. That quiet was officially broken Wednesday when Michael Musto published a piece in the Village Voice about his book being taken "hostage," as he put it in his headline, by the publisher. Musto, whose scheduled February 2010 book has yet to be released, described how Alyson has been caught in a downward spiral, in part due to the woes of its struggling parent company, Here Media (formerly known as Regent Media), which owns other gay media properties like Out magazine and the Advocate. So what's happening with Alyson Books? It looks as though the house's current publisher, Don Weise, is trying to buy it.
PW spoke with a number of authors and agents who aired frustrations similar to Musto's. But while Musto was ultimately paid the advance for his book, Fork on the Left, Knife in the Back--he wrote in the Voice that he e-mailed Here Media's CEO--all other sources who spoke to PW have not been paid. Some have canceled contracts with the publisher; others are waiting to see what happens.
While Weise, who's been at Alyson since 2008 after a four-year stint at Carroll & Graf as a senior editor, was almost unanimously praised by sources for being a strong editor--and someone essentially caught in the crosshairs of unfortunate corporate goings-on--questions remain about what will happen to Alyson if he manages to purchase it.
The gay blog Queerty.com, which has been covering what's happening at Here Media (the company's magazines have also been delinquent in paying freelancers), reported in late July that the owner of Here was "short on cash" and trying to unload the book division. In that item, Queerty said Weise was looking to buy Alyson for no money and, in turn, assume the company's debt.
While Weise could not comment on details about any potential deal, he said: "There are some exciting developments with Alyson and Here, and I hope to be able to comment on them witihin the next couple of weeks."
Although questions about how Weise would deal with Alyson's debt loom large--especially given all the unpaid bills that have piled up--for many with books at Alyson a sale to Weise may be the best thing. Musto said he's simply been watching Amazon to see his constantly changing pub date: "Right now it says October. I sincerely doubt that will happen, but there's always hope."