The Gordian Knot of the Night Shade Books Deal

This is a hard post to write. I'm a big fan of the novels published by Night Shade Books, which has published such groundbreaking works as the Hugo and Nebula Award winning The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi. However, NSB has a history of not paying their authors on time, a trend which has intensified in recent months as the publishing company came under financial pressure.

A few days ago came word that NSB would be selling their assets — ie, books under contract — to Skyhorse Publishing and Start Publishing LLC. The deal will only go through if a majority of NSB authors agree to the new contract terms for their works.

Unfortunately, it appears the contract is a bad deal for authors, as Michael Stackpole details. You can also view a leaked copy of the contract on Scribd (assuming it isn't deleted in short order).

Night Shade Editor in Chief Jeremy Lassen claims "This is the last chance to make sure all of my authors get paid" and that otherwise these author's contracts will get tied up in bankruptcy for months and years to come. But I wonder about that, and about other aspects of the deal which are now emerging.

Know this — I don't have a dog in this fight, aside from the fact that I'm an author and support the rights of my fellow authors. But the more I learn about the proposed NSB deal the more this seems like a Gordian Knot which simply can't be untied without cutting everything apart.

There are so many unanswered questions. For example, as was posted on the blog Brillig,  Jarred Weisfeld is evidently tied in with this deal through the companies trying to purchase NSB assets. However, Jarred also is tied in with a literary agency called Objective Entertainment, which was mentioned in a SFWA Writers' Beware post. That immediately sets off warning bells, as does Michael Stackpole's previously mentioned analysis of the contract.

In my opinion, this asset deal is a way to cherry-pick the NSB's lineup, a view Stackpole shares. And as Stackpole adds, "Skyhorse and Smart are not buying books here, they’re buying Intellectual Properties, and at a bargain price."

The contract terms, and the fact that Objective Entertainment is, if not directly involved at least possibly tied in with the deal, leads me to suspect that the intent is not to publish NSB authors but to have their secondary rights to those books, which could then be sold to anyone and everyone.

Perhaps I'm wrong. But when a deal is so convoluted and non-transparent as this one, who can say. It appears NSB authors are screwed if they agree to this deal, and, since many of them are owed large amounts of money, also screwed if they don't.

Which is a damn shame.