Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cause For Concern

Recently Vera Nazarian announced that several Norilana anthologies would be postponed due to the worsening economy. In addition, another anthology would be published under a different arrangement.

Shortly thereafter, she announced that another anthology editor had decided to take her lineup to be published elsewhere, albeit under a new title, since the old title had belonged to a series.

Now another editor who had previously announced a one-year sabbatical in his annual anthology for purely personal reasons is looking at the possibility that he may go to another publisher for future volumes.

This is worrisome to me because it is looking very similar to what happens when there is a run on a bank. That is, concern about the future of the institution leads to an increasing number of people to decide to get out while it's still possible, resulting in an escalation of the institution's erosion.

Of course a publisher isn't quite like a bank -- editors deciding to pull their anthologies and seek other publishers isn't going to directly deprive other titles of their existence the way a large number of people withdrawing deposits can make it impossible for the bank to make good on the remaining depositors' money. The biggest question will be how book buyers behave -- if they keep buying existing Norilana titles, the situation can still be turned around.


Michael M. Jones said...

Leigh -
You forgot to mention that yet another of the affected anthologies, Scheherazade's Facade, is also looking for a potential new home.

The major wrinkle in this particular scenario is that the first delay hit just as I'd finalized my lineup, but before payment and contracts could be sent out, thus placing me and my contributors in a very awkward state of affairs.

I'd certainly hate to leave Norilana, because Vera's been very nice to me, and was generous in giving me the chance to pitch my anthology in the first place, but multiple delays and no solid backing at this point make it hard to sit around for the next couple of years and not look for alternatives.

After being hit with not one, but two year-long delays,

Tattercoats said...

Michael, I didn't mention that Sheherazade's Facade was looking for a potential new home because I hadn't heard it until you mentioned it. I can certainly understand why you would be making this decision -- I'm also rethinking my plans to submit to some of the anthologies that are or will be open. At least authors deciding not to submit probably doesn't have as much of a negative effect as editors deciding to pull anthologies, since the submission process is pretty much invisible to the buyers upon whom a publisher's future depends.

And that's the big thing -- will buyers remain confident that their orders for existing titles will be fulfilled? If plenty of people buy existing Norilana titles this Christmas season, the situation could turn around, or at least stabilize.

I'm a bookseller, and our sales figures are giving me cause for grave concern about this Christmas season. I'm hoping that things will turn around, but sometimes it seems we live on hope.

zara elis said...

Oh Michael, I hadn't heard that you were seeking another home either.


Authors deciding not to submit may not have much of an effect on whether readers will purchase existing titles. However, it does have a negative effect on the anthologies that are still open and looking to fill. If authors do not submit, for whatever reason, the anthologies do not fill, and one more potential market vanishes.

Anthologies may not be the money makers that publishers would like them to be, but they are a way of growing and spotlighting new authors. How many of us sold our first stories to Sword & Sorceress or other similar anthologies? I know I did.

Clothesline World will continue to be with Norilana. Not just because it is a joint creation between Vera and myself, but because I feel that is where it belongs. CW is currently in its open period, and I hope will fill. But it hasn't a chance of filling if no established authors are willing to submit. We need both the tried and true along with the new. Ok, that was a really bad messed up cliche, but I think you know what I mean. One of my intentions in agreeing to edit this anthology was to provide a market that encouraged the growth of new authors.

From the beginning I have promoted all Norilana anthologies in the invitations that I send out for CW and to all potential authors I find. I will continue to do so, whether they remain with Norilana or not. Whenever I know of an open or soon to be open market, I try to pass on the news.

I understand the reasons that several of the editors are withdrawing their anthologies from Norilana, just as I would understand if the authors who have submitted to CW decided to withdraw (though I hope they will not).


Tattercoats said...

Rochelle, you're definitely right that if enough authors, and especially enough established authors with name recognition, decide not to submit, there won't be an anthology.

OTOH, because author decisions whether to submit to any given anthology (or other market) are generally not a public matter the way the decision of an editor to take an anthology elsewhere is, the public is less likely to lose confidence in the entire publisher as a result of any given author's decision to give an anthology the go-by. Unless that author makes it a public matter (perhaps at a con, or in their blog), nobody but the author and maybe the editor will know the author decided to give it a pass because of concerns about having a story stuck in limbo if the publisher completely tanks, rather than giving it the go-by because of lack of time due to other professional commitments, or just not being interested in the theme, or whatever.

Even my own rethinking of my submission strategy isn't a complete abandonment, so much as a decision to shift my priorities. In the past I've put significant time and effort into writing stories specifically for the Norilana anthologies, including time spent forcing my way through problems coming up with ideas and wrestling with difficult story elements, to the point that other projects were put on hold. This year I've decided that if I have a story on hand that seems suitable, or if a story comes to me demanding to be written, I'll go for it. But if a story gets stuck, I'm not sinking hours and days into trying to force my way past the sticking point just to make a deadline. The story goes on the back burner, and if it doesn't work out in time, so be it.

But I'm not exactly anybody with great name recognition, so my decision to make the Norilana anthologies a lower priority and A-list other projects probably just means a slight reduction in the pool of possibilities the editors have to choose from. As in they might get to decide whether to accept or reject one story instead of five or six.