“Acclaimed horror author, indie songwriter and artist Gabrielle Faust” – and no I am not being the remotest bit snarky by quoting that – has just posted a pretty remarkable, and quite disconcerting, account of a recent alert that she and other authors had from publisher Permuted Press, the self-proclaimed “leading publisher of zombie and horror fiction,” who, according to her, has declined to print their books in future. On paper, that is. Unless they’re bestsellers.

Bear in mind when reading the following that some have dismissed all this as sour grapes. Others, however, equally authoritative, have not. Some are even calling for boycotts. So weigh up the words below and see what you feel.

I can’t do much better in summarizing the arguments and issues here than Gabrielle Faust has done herself. So here she is:

Nearly ten years and several publishers later I had truly hoped that this one, Permuted Press, would prove my jaded perception of the publishing industry to be false, that the horrific abuse of the Creative Class I had witnessed perpetrated by so many other entities calling themselves publishers would be laid to rest and rectified. Before Permuted Press I was, honestly, done with traditional publishing. I was simply going to self-publish (oh, the horror!) my work since it seemed having complete control over the process and end product was worth the time, money, and energy it required simply for the fact that it saved me the heartache and headache of battling for what I spent years of my life creating. I was done. Then someone championed how this publisher was different. They were going to change things. They were going to take care of the authors. They were going to do right by them and make sure each and every one of them was successful in their own right. Because they cared. Because they were honest

That’s a true cry from the heart. And it’s a real shame to see it directed at an independent publisher in a genre I love. But to continue:

Apparently, over the last weekend of September, while some of the writers and the managers of Permuted Press gathered in Nashville at Wizard World, the announcement was made that it was now too expensive to create POD (print on demand) books so anyone who wasn’t a “best seller” would no longer have their book available in print format. Ebooks only from here on out. They kept this secret from the rest of us until two weeks later when they released a form email to the authors alerting us to this change in our contracts. We were all given the proverbial “pink slip”. This wasn’t what we agreed to. This wasn’t what we signed on for

Putting aside the author’s right to choose what format their work appears in, I can even imagine cases – poetry, for instance, or graphic novels – where changing the format would screw up the content. But Gabrielle Faust has more immediate concerns than that. “There’s also the looming question mark of what exactly the great expense is for creating POD books?” she points out. “No up front costs as far as printing. No storage. It’s all ON DEMAND. The only costs that go into the creation of a print version of a book is the formatting of the file. Which takes a few hours … But apparently, this is too expensive for a company that claims to be in publishing. So instead of finding a way to cover these expenses, they’re making the authors pay for it by denying them half of their original contracts.”

For those who don’t want to get all this from just one source, there is extensive further confirmation from writers’ discussion groups such as this one, which follows Permuted all the way back to 2004. Other authors there do take issue with Gabrielle Faust’s interpretation – but not necessarily in terms favorable to Permuted. “The contract gives the publisher the print rights; however, nowhere in the contract are they *obligated* to produce print copies of any of their books (just as they’re not obligated to produce audiobooks either, but they’ll take those rights also),” writes one. “Instead, it gives them the *option* which, until recently, they’d exercised until they saw that there was a disproportionate amount of time spent on paperbacks versus its investment return.”

That same author dismisses Gabrielle Faust’s comments as “borderline hysterical emotional rhetoric.” Maybe. But Victoria Strauss, she of Writer Beware, also writes on the same thread: “I’ve also been told that Permuted is offering to let authors out of their contracts – as long as they pay a hefty fee (four figures, in one case) to cover production expenses.” Other authors respond that this applies only to books already in production, and that writers otherwise are free to terminate the contract without payment, and there’s plenty more about Permuted’s own business issues.

But with these mixed messages going on, Permuted at the very least is doing an abysmal job of message management and author relations. And with even writers less critical of Permuted acknowledging that they have a right not to publish printed paper if they choose, the whole sorry exercise serves as rude reminder of how much creative control authors abdicate to their imprints – and how publishing economics may make publishers the assassins, rather than the defenders, of the printed word.

Now, anyone want to remind me again what those arguments against self-publishing are … ?


  1. Yes, Dorch did, but it still died. (And good riddance!)

    A number of epublishers with POD print options have done the same thing for years. But authors know this going in. It’s spelled out in the contract.

    And POD does cost money to set up if you pick a POD company with distribution to bookstores, etc. Formatting for print also costs a pretty penny whether the POD company or the publisher does it.

  2. “And POD does cost money to set up if you pick a POD company with distribution to bookstores, etc. Formatting for print also costs a pretty penny whether the POD company or the publisher does it.”

    Precisely, and what we’ve been told is that they’re switching all POD services to Lightning Source (LSI), which is partly the reason why they’re being more selective of what books enter into POD formatting. LSI is more expensive than CreateSpace, but it also will give the authors a chance to at least get their books into bookstores to some limited degree. At least if we want to do a booksigning at, say, Barnes & Noble, they’ll be able to order the books now (a major roadblock most of us authors have been running into).

  3. I do not understand why the new owners of Permuted are saying they’re switching all POD services to LSI, when the previous owner was already using LSI for POD before they sold it? This was publicly discussed in the forum years ago. The old owner was just as much of a regular forum user as many of the original authors and fans. This was discussed amongst several of the regs, who were mostly either authors under contract with PP or soon-to-be’s. What Ms. Meigs has posted above was already in place prior to the new owner’s takeover. Just wanted to bring that up.

  4. The old owner was using Createspace with expanded distribution. All of my paperbacks that Permuted did prior to the buy out were through Createspace. They stopped using expanded distribution because it negated any profits if they tried to keep the price reasonable. Because bookstores won’t order from Amazon, they’re switching to LSI for paperbacks now so bookstores can order the ones they DO produce.

  5. Hmmm, I find this interesting in light of a conversation I recall around 2008-ish. LSI was mentioned, including another concerning the price of ISBNs, how cheap they can be when bought in blocks, etc.. I’m not sure why one would discuss LSI, and then switch to Createspace. Jessica, you came in just before the buy out and I do not dispute what you’re saying, but wonder what is up with the discrepancy? Plus, there’s another conversation I distinctly remember pertaining to a competitor using Createspace with expanded distro, but I’ll leave it alone. All you did was make me question things even more, and none of it reflects well on Permuted.

    Good luck and I hope you do well through the rest of this, as it’s only the authors who suffer in the end when things go south.

  6. I came in in April 2011. Maybe Jacob was using LSI and then switched to Createspace because of costs (there are set up fees and yearly fees for LSI). I just know that my first book came out on November 2011; that summer, he did a preorder for the paperback on Amazon, and it was through Createspace.

  7. Permuted Press picked up my debut novel for a re-issue. They are doing a printed and eBook version, and have been very quick to respond to all questions I have had. I went to them on the advice of Wayne Simmons. He’s now an author with several books by various companies, but he started with Permuted Press, and he says it got much better with the new owner. All that aside, I noticed when pitching my new novel, many publishers told me they would issue a print edition, but that was an exception to the rule. Standard practice is that an eBook is released, and based off sales, an hard copy might be the next step. I know that’s not what many authors want to hear, but it’s hard enough to get anyone to take a chance on your first work, and publishers go out of business all the time. I would rather a publisher spend it’s limited resources on trying new work they think might have potential, than blowing the whole load, and maybe the company, on a few limited works. I don’t think my first publisher could have afforded to take a chance on new authors if he had to put out a printed version of every book.

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