Financial problems continue to mount for Context Books, a small New York City indie house that has been in Chapter 11 bankruptcy since November of 2002. Since that time, Context's authors and vendors have complained that they have not received royalties or payments. PW has now learned that after failing to file a formal reorganization plan, the house will be shifted to involuntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy and its assets liquidated.
According to Margo Baldwin, publisher and cofounder of Chelsea Green Publishers and Context's largest secured creditor ($135,000), Context will now lose the rights to the backlist of Derrick Jensen—Context's most popular and bestselling author. Jensen's backlist titles include A Language Older Than Words, The Culture of Make Believe and Listening to the Land. In October Chelsea Green published Jensen's latest book, Strangely Like War: The Global Assault on Forests. Baldwin said Chelsea Green will also publish Jensen's next book, Walking On Water: Reading, Writing and Revolution co-written with George Draffan, in the spring of 2004.
Baldwin told PW that she provided a $135,000 loan to Context founder Beau Friedlander during the spring of 2002, after discussing the possibility of copublishing ventures with him or the outright acquisition of Context Books by Chelsea Green. Baldwin said she wanted to publish "visionary" authors like Jensen, and Friedlander was looking for help. "Beau said he was in financial trouble after 9/11 and needed investors," said Baldwin.
However, despite filing for bankruptcy protection later that year, Baldwin complained that Friedlander never filed a formal reorganization plan. Her loan was never repaid, said Baldwin, and Context authors continued to go unpaid while the house continued to sign and sell new frontlist titles. It was generally not known that Context Books was in bankruptcy until Friedlander sold his own first novel to Viking in September.
Contacted by PW, Friedlander confirmed that involuntary Chapter 7 bankruptcy was likely. He also confirmed the loss of the Jensen titles. Friedlander declined to discuss the situation further or to discuss the status of other Context authors.
Baldwin said she will lose the $135,000 loan. According to documents filed last year, Context Books had assets of about $496,000 and liabilities of about $486,000. Listed among unsecured creditors are authors Jensen, Elissa Wald and Daniel Quinn. However, a full accounting of Context Books' finances is still to be determined by the bankruptcy court.