After nearly four years of disruptive financial problems, San Francisco independent publishing house MacAdam/Cage has paid off the bulk of its debt and looks ready to resume normal publishing operations. The house has hired Sonny Brewer as its new editor-in-chief and will launch its first list in two seasons in March.

MacAdam/Cage publisher David Poindexter said the house—which once had 14 employees and published 36 books a year—has paid off “80% of our debt and we’ll take care of the balance this year. Financing is in place to take care of the debt and to fund our publishing.” It’s been a long and mostly unpleasant ride for the publishing house, which was battered by complaints of nonpayment from its authors, a troublesome distribution switch, and on and off investors as well as the departure of its former editor-in-chief, Pat Walsh. The house previously reached payment or rights reversion agreements with several authors, including several very vocal complainants like Ed Cline (Sparrowhawk series), Susan Vreeland (Girl in Hyacinth Blue), and Linda Robertson (What Rhymes with Bastard?).

“I took two seasons off to get the debt taken care of and to get organized,” Poindexter said. Brewer, the new MacAdam/Cage editor-in-chief, is both an author and a former bookseller, and will be based in Alabama. MacAdam/Cage will launch a spring 2012 list that features seven titles: six novels and one nonfiction work. Poindexter said that the big book on the list is the novel All for Now by Joseph Di Prisco, the story of an administrator at a Roman Catholic religious order who dies and ends up solving a pedophile mystery and a murder or two from the afterlife. The nonfiction book is the Silence of Mockingbirds: The Memoir of a Murder by Karen Spears Zacharias, the story of a child abuse and murder case that Poindexter said will be published to coincide with Child Abuse Prevention Month in March. MacAdam/Cage will release e-book editions simultaneously with hardcover versions and will also release selected titles from the backlist as e-books.

The new MacAdam/Cage is a lean business, Poindexter said, essentially a virtual company modeled after an indie film production house. Poindexter and a San Francisco assistant, plus Brewer, are the only employees. “We put together freelance teams of designers, editors, copyeditors, marketing or promotion people as we need them,” Poindexter said. “We had too much overhead before. This makes more sense and you also know just what you’re spending on each book.” MacAdam/Cage handles its own distribution and fulfillment out of a warehouse in Michigan. “We handle all the major accounts,” Poindexter said, “and independent sales reps handle everyone else.”

“We’re trying to build a business model where we don’t have to have big hit books, but that can still happen,” Poindexter said, reflecting on the house’s troubled financial history. “It was a rough period, and I’m just glad I was able to get everyone squared away.”