For those of you who follow my blog, you know that I’ve been working on the Up From the Depths series. You may also know that in March of 2014, I was accepted and signed by Permuted Press, a publisher known for apocalyptic horror fiction.
Permuted Press had recently changed hands before I signed the contract and the new owners wasted no time in introducing a series of ‘upgrades’ and services. They seemed optimistic and appeared knowledgeable of the publishing industry.
Red flags were raised when it was announced that they were going to limit physical copies and focus on ebooks with the option to POD (Print on Demand) those titles that sold really well. This caused all kinds of turmoil but made sense from a business perspective. Several authors who were lucky to have sold 5-10 hard copies in a year but sold over 25 a month in e-format, wanted out of their contracts because of this change. When news of this change in Permuted’s publications reached writers’ websites, it brought out other authors, authors not signed on with Permuted, who took this opportunity to chime in on the subject as if they were privy to some kind of super secret inside information.
What that did was make these non-Permuted authors look like uneducated assholes with a big mouth. Kind of like someone who lives in California that hears about a major accident in New York City and they suddenly become an ‘expert’ on the subject. Yeah, that really happened. Authors who were not even part of Permuted felt they just had to get involved and toss out their opinions on the change in publication method.
Permuted is a small press, to compete with larger publishing houses, they have to look at what makes them the most profit. For the most part ebooks outsell physical copies and take less time to format. That is pure dollars and sense right there. Who isn’t interested in the bottom line?
And that brings us to the present day. Permuted Press is still a publisher of apocalyptic horror, zombies, bigfoot, and whatever – a serious niche genre. They consider work that not a lot of large publishing houses will take on due to the subject matter and also because the manuscripts are submitted by literal unknowns with no publishing or sales history. That’s a generalized statement so no one should go and get their panties in a wad about that.
Then on February 24, 2015, I received an email from Permuted Press.
” We’ve been taking a close look at the books we’ve published over the last year and doing a lot of analysis on sales. Based on the information we’ve gathered, we’ve made some determinations regarding our publishing strategy. We have re-examined our entire publishing schedule and are making some adjustments. Moving forward, Permuted Press is going to be focusing primarily on more established authors, and is becoming very selective about the projects that we publish from newcomers, or from existing authors who have not sold very well. Given this reexamination, we’re going to be returning the book rights to a number of upcoming titles to the authors. Your works are among those. You’ll be receiving a letter in the coming days that will release the rights to your titles back to you. After receiving this, you may then self publish the works, or submit your books to other publishers. We will be making a public announcement on this in a day or two, so we’d appreciate discretion in discussing this with others. We’re a small company, so we have the ability to be somewhat nimble and adjust our strategies as sales trends dictate. This allows us to remain strong, but it doesn’t make it easy. Trimming books from our lineup is a very difficult thing to do and we’ve closely examined on an individual basis every decision we’ve made. We truly do wish you great success.”
(bold added for emphasis)
In a nutshell, what this email means is that Permuted signed on a large amount of new authors who they were taking a chance with and then realized, in a literal holy shit moment, that there was no way for them to make any kind of profit with an untested pool of, total newcomers with no proven sales history (as stated in their letter). They will also be cutting some of their existing authors who have not reached some sort of sales goal (Permuted Platinum?). The issue I have, not just with the whole vague reference to this alleged sales goal, is that they waited to send me this email at just under a month before the sixth and final book in my series was due.
Rumors are floating around that Permuted knew of this decision back in January, but sat on it until they had made a firm decision about who was being cut. I asked for clarification as to why I, and many others, were being cut and if this decision was made based on the content or quality of the work.
This is the reply:
” There were a number of factors that we took in to account when making our decisions. Admittedly, I did not read the books in full. That is usually done by our editors when the editing process begins. We stopped short prior to that happening. The cuts we’re making are not a reflection of the perceived quality of anyone’s work. In nearly every case we went back to the original messages and pitches that were submitted and reevaluated what it was about that author or book that initially sparked our interest. Then, we looked into other factors like author platform, sales histories if those exist, and a few other things. None of the decisions we made were done without a great deal of thought. Our decision to return your rights had nothing to do with our perception of the quality of your work. We’re finding that reception to zombie books is overall soft right now. The market is flooded with zombie books and it’s really hard to break out a new author in that genre. That’s really all it came down to. It’s unfortunate that things didn’t work out with Permuted, but we wish you nothing but success. I’m sure you’ll find another avenue for your work.”
Does anyone think the above statement is just a little vague? The section “I did not read the books in full” and “In nearly every case we went back to the original messages and pitches that were submitted and reevaluated what it was about that author or book that initially sparked our interest.”
Let’s look at that for just a minute. If that was truly the case and they didn’t just skim the one sentence pitch (rumor is, that’s exactly what they did) then why wasn’t the submission rejected the first time through? Anyone but me see that as a problem? Don’t sign on someone just because they submitted a query. Read the damn thing all the way through and make a solid business decision. Don’t jerk off about it. Get in your face serious and provide a no bullshit assessment to the board of directors, shareholders or who is in charge of the accept or reject button. Don’t string people along. That’s not good business practice and makes you, and your company, look like total douchebags. I was perfectly willing to submit to a publisher and get rejected. It’s part of the industry.
Now, let’s focus on this part:
“We’re finding that reception to zombie books is overall soft right now. The market is flooded with zombie books and it’s really hard to break a new author in that genre.”
I can name several authors who have broken into that genre lately (within the last 6-12 months) and one of them, a Permuted author who signed on a few months before me, has been riding the Amazon best seller list for the last 14 weeks. That means that somehow this trend of the zombie novel market going soft must be happening right fucking now. Right this instantaneous milisecond, the whole zombie apocalypse genre is literally tanking, according to Permuted Press.
Anyone else notice that happening?
Yeah, I’d buy that for a dollar.
How can that be when the above mentioned author is still on the best seller list and moving up? Prior to signing on with Permuted, he was a literal unknown. He had no sales history, no publication history and had only written a short story for himself, merely to get that idea out of his head. Why doesn’t Permuted just admit they bit off more than they could handle? That they signed on a large number of unknown, first time authors and now they’re having second thoughts on publishing their work because they don’t see any profit in it for themselves? That would make more sense than dodging around the problem and sending out vague emails. If they didn’t like my submission and pitch the first time through, all they had to do was reject it. That’s not uncommon. Shit happens. Life goes on.
Am I a little pissed off? I am. But, there are other options out there for publication and as it’s been said, there are more fish in the sea.
Is this a rant? No. I don’t rant. I might get a little ‘exercised’ over a subject but this is not a rant.
Am I ragging on Permuted Press? Maybe a little. To what benefit does it do me to sit on this information? They’re not my publisher anymore and some people who submitted to them this year or late last year might want to know what their chances are for being accepted by Permuted.
I will say this. While I was with Permuted Press for just under a year,(11 months, 2 days) they took a chance with my work even though I was an unknown quantiy. While I’ll never see the Permuted logo on my books, something that I would have looked forward to, they were and still are (hopefully) the premiere press for apocalyptic fiction.
Have no fear. I will get my books in print one way or another. If that means doing it myself, starting a Kickstarter or GoFundme campaign, to finance editing, cover art, and formatting, fans will see my books in print. The Up From the Depths books will be set up for POD so fans can hold a real world, physical copy in their hands. Something that they wouldn’t have if I had stayed with Permuted…unless I had somehow reached the considerably vague sales goal.
Now, without any time frame or due dates, I can finish the series as I see fit and maybe develop another book or two based on the series. Hear that Permuted? You’re going to be missing out on a series that you will be kicking yourselves for letting go.
Ok, maybe that was a little bitterness seeping through but, it did feel good to get that off my chest. That also means serious revising on all the books like changing all the character names to Steve, Steve, and Steve. (That’s a joke in case you missed it).
Sure, this is a disappointment, but, life goes on. I now face the decision to self publish or seek out an agent. Both options are viable and both have their positive and negative connotations.
Only time will tell.
Here’s the official posting made by Permuted Press regarding their decision to cut authors:
Opening a thread here as a place to chat about what will certainly generate a lot of discussion. I’m here and I’ll answer as I can. No radio silence this time. I’ll try to answer every question as transparently and honestly as I can.
Permuted mailed letters to most of our authors this week announcing some changes that we’re making.
Looking ahead, we’re going to place a bigger emphasis on a wider set of genres outside of zombie and post-apocalyptic, while simultaneously streamlining our publishing schedule. Moving forward, we are going to refocus our efforts on more established and top selling authors, and a select list of newcomers that we plan on partnering with to establish their brand.
To further reflect Permuted’s new vision and direction, we’re developing a new logo. The new logo will lose the exploding globe and will more easily identify with our expansion into sci-fi, fantasy and other genres.
This refocusing effort prompted us to re-examine the books that are part of our forthcoming lineup. Book by book, author by author, we evaluated how these projects fit within our new publishing strategy. The letters that arrive in the mail will contain more information on each author’s specific case.
Some forthcoming books will be unaffected while other future releases will have their rights returned to the author.
If we’re returning the rights to an author’s future books and artwork has already been done, we are allowing the author to keep the artwork and use it if they want.
If edits have been done and we’re returning the book, we’re allowing authors to have the edits as well.
And if Permuted Press paid any signing or manuscript advance on any book that is not yet published that we are returning rights to, we will not ask the author to repay that advance. We are waiving the section of the contract that requires the author to repay advances if books aren’t published. Some authors are keeping thousands of dollars worth of artwork and advances.
These changes will not affect any books that are already in release. Ebooks on sale will remain on sale. Print on demand books that are on sale will remain on sale. If your book is already out and there are no more books forthcoming with us, you will be unaffected by these moves.
We also did our best to ease in to the adjustments over time so that any author affected will have time to adjust accordingly.
From the President’s chair, I’m optimistic about where we’re headed. Permuted is nimble enough to adjust to opportunities and trends that we observe. We ramped up a lot last year and now that we have some sales history to study, it showed us that we were overly optimistic about a number of things. Our pivot in strategy moving forward is a reflection of the realities we’ve observed in the past 6 to 9 months of publishing as they relate to the books we released last year.
The letters we mailed list Hannah@permutedpress.com as your email contact for questions, so questions about your specific case should be addressed to her, but if there are any wider reaching questions, I’ll do my best to answer here as time allows.
-Michael Wilson, Permuted Press