A Better Deal for Night Shade Books' Authors

Over the past week, authors and literary agents have been worried about what will happen to the 160 authors whose books were published by the struggling Night Shade Books. Now the prospective buyers, Skyhorse and Start, have agreed to offer a better deal than the one they originally planned.

Top image: Kurt Huggins and Zelda Devon/Night Shade Books.

You may have noticed the controversy over the contract that Skyhorse and Start were offering to Night Shade's authors, since we covered it quite a bit last week. In a nutshell, the two entities offered a deal whereby Night Shade authors would receive everything they were owed under their existing contracts, including all back royalties and unpaid advances — but going forward, the authors' royalty rates would be lower. Unless enough Night Shade authors agree to a revised contract, the deal can't go through.

Now Skyhorse and Start have announced a more generous royalty rate for Night Shade authors. In a statement, Skyhorse's Tony Lyons said:

Jarred and I have been listening to and thinking through what the Night Shade authors and agents have said on blogs, on facebook, over email, and during several very long phone conversations. Skyhorse and Start now have a much more complete picture of what the Night Shade authors been through and it’s helped us to understand the reaction that many of them have had to the deal as offered. Both Jarred and I have decided to make a strong attempt to see this deal through. We’ve decided to take the long view, the view that what we want to do is build a publishing company, build on the Night Shade backlist, and we’re willing to offer a deal that we feel is very favorable to the Night Shade authors and will trade short run profits for long-term relationship. Here are the revised terms:

7 1/2 % of retail for all printing books.

25% of net receipts on all ebooks up to 15,000 copies sold and 30% thereafter

50/50 on audio, with a reversion if we don’t sell the rights in six months. Audio rights money to flow through within 30 days of receipt of payment, provided that the advance has earned out.

The assignment clause, clause 7, would only apply if the assignment is part of a sale of “all or substantially all of the assets of the company” purchased by either Start Publishing or Skyhorse Publishing.

In response, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America issued this statement:

Speaking for the board of SFWA, President John Scalzi said, "After continuing talks with Skyhorse/Start, SFWA is pleased that the companies have decided to adjust the royalty terms in their author agreement to be more in line with industry standards for Science Fiction and Fantasy. We see this as a positive sign that they are listening to authors and are responsive to their concerns, and we hope that continues. SFWA has remained in close communication with our members who are directly affected by the sale of Night Shade Books assets and will continue to provide them with information and support."
Lyons tells io9 that he believes the new rate of 7 1/2 percent of retail is higher than a lot of agents ask for, and is in fact higher than some of the existing Night Shade contracts — although it's slightly lower than in most of them. He's offering this rate, in part, because he doesn't want to have to negotiate with 160 people separately, and he wants this deal to go through. Even if some agents might have accepted a lower rate, Lyons says he wants to "take the long view" and work towards a future where Night Shade is profitable.