After several years of financial struggles, the science fiction and fantasy publisher Night Shade Books is preparing to sell its assets to Skyhorse Publishing and Start Publishing. That is, if its authors will sign off on the deal.
The indie house sent a letter to agents and authors—excerpts of which have subsequently been posted online—in which it notes that, as an alternative to bankruptcy, a sale of assets to Skyhorse and Start would allow authors to "get paid everything they are due, as well as find a future home for their books.” The asset sale though, as the letter points out, hinges on a “sufficient number” of approvals from Night Shade's authors, who would also need to agree to “certain changes to their contracts.”
When asked about the potential acquisition, a spokesperson from Skyhorse said that the "deal has not been consummated yet, therefore we have no comment at this time." Additionally, an e-mail to one of Night Shade's founders, inquiring about the deal, had not been answered, at press time.
Night Shade has been facing financial difficulties for some time, and recently laid off editor Ross Lockhart. It's also been losing authors; a number of sf and fantasy writers once published by the press have taken to blogs and online writers’ forums announcing that they have severed ties with the press. The Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America is also involved now and came out in favor of the possible assets sale. In an advisory sent to its members, SFWA revealed it has been working with Night Shade for years and feels "it was in our members’ best interests to encourage the deal to go through.”
Details in the SFWA letter lay out a possible road map for authors who sign off on the deal, explaining that their work will likely transfer to a new imprint at Skyhorse called Night Shade. That imprint will, SFWA explained, be overseen by Skyhorse editors, although Night Shade owners Jeremy Lassen and Jason Williams will be working as “consultants in the role of acquiring editors.”
The SFWA also notes, as Night Shade did in its letter, that allowing the indie publisher to go bankrupt could be the worst result for authors. As SFWA lays it out: “If [Night Shade files for Chapter 7], you may be unable to have your rights reverted. Your contracts could be purchased during the bankruptcy process by another publisher as an asset. That can mean purchase for pennies on the dollar. Bankruptcy could also mean that the contracts would remain in limbo during the bankruptcy proceedings.”
Despite SFWA’s support for the assets sale, some authors are still balking. Jeff VanderMeer, editor of the anthology Fast Ship/Black Sails (which Night Shade published in 2008), is one. "We will not be taking the deal," he said, referring to himself and his co-editor/wife, Ann VanderMeer. "Night Shade has been on probation with SFWA before and we don't think it's in our best interests to do so. For those with novels with Night Shade, it's a much more difficult decision. We do wish SFWA had provided more options for NS authors, and been more [circumspect] about whether this is a good thing for writers."