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Hi all,

Some of you may remember my saga with Golden Fleece Press from over the summer and I'm back with another question since I so appreciated the advice of all those who replied.

Long story short: after some hesitation, I decided to accept an offer to publish my picture book with Golden Fleece Press last year. After a few bumps in the road early on (i.e. negotiating edits I wasn't happy with), I thought things were going okay.

However, communication has become more and more sparse ever since signing the contract. I reached out in August to see how things were going, and heard nothing.  I waited a few weeks and reached out again, and finally got a reply in September saying that there wasn't much news other than that the illustrations were in progress. I thought that sounded good, but then I was told I would receive a beginning marketing packet in October with information for me to fill out.  I was also told I would receive a few snippets of what the artist had sent them so far.

October came and went and I didn't receive either of these things. No change in November, either. Now it's January and I've reached out several times and heard nothing from them for almost three months.

The other curious thing is that the last time we spoke, they said they were hoping to release the book for the 2021 holiday buying season, which also came and went with no word from them (I sent another email asking about that at the beginning of December and...yep. You guessed it. Crickets). I mean, I get that goals and deadlines shift, but to not communicate that to the author of the work at all -- and to ignore them when they inquire about it -- just seems totally unprofessional.

And maybe this is petty, but I've seen that my main contact from the company has still been posting regularly on her personal Twitter account through all this. So...I mean...I know she's alive and has a computer with internet....yet she somehow can't email me back with an update on the status of my book? What gives?

Anyway, the whole thing is really stressing me out and I'm sort of at a loss for what to do next. I looked back at the contract and wondered if maybe I could appeal to this part, because their lack of communication and professionalism definitely comes across as failure to me:

"Between the signing of contract and release of ARC copies Author reserves to the right to request void of
the contract with written notice of perceived failure on the part of the Publisher. Notice must be
delivered by registered mail or applicable format."


Does anyone have any advice? Do I possibly need a lawyer?

Thanks so much...the saga continues...ugh  :green
#1 - January 05, 2022, 07:30 PM

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Rachel, I'm so sorry you are going through this. I would call and try to figure out with your editor what stage the book is at. If you're happy with it, a delay might not be such a terrible thing. I've been frustrated too, at the long wait times with a couple of publishers--it seems that the pandemic has slowed everybody and everything down. Lots of people are juggling all kinds of things and we never know what burdens they are carrying. I'm all for giving grace but also insist on timely communication. Good luck!
#2 - January 05, 2022, 07:57 PM
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Rachel, I'm sorry about this. So many things about publishing are frustrating--for everyone involved. If the only issue is things taking awhile, including emails, I wouldn't sweat it. They've let you know that everything's in order and there's not much to say and you've already reached out "several times." I'd let it rest. The publisher will let you know the next time they need something from you, and in the meantime you can work on other projects.

This strikes me as pretty normal.
#3 - January 06, 2022, 08:42 AM
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Just to add--a little information about publishing timelines. From what you say, you were being told this fall that they planned to publish for the 2021 holiday season, and also that the illustrations were "in progress." Those two statements could not both have been true.

I'm an editor, and I can tell you that from the point where illustrations are "in progress" to the point when there is a finished book out on the market is typically at least several months. I'd assume a few months for the artist to complete their work, and then a few more for the book to be made ready for the printer, sent to the printer, printed, and shipped from the printer to the publisher's warehouse. And they would not then immediately release them. They'd need to send out advance copies, send out information about the book, etc.

Nowadays, many publishers, including the one I work for, allow for a year from the time the art is final to the pub date.

So if the art was in progress this fall, the holiday buying season they would be able to be ready for would be 2022.
#4 - January 06, 2022, 11:53 AM
Harold Underdown

The Purple Crayon, a children's book editor's site: http://www.underdown.org/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/HUnderdown

Thanks everyone for the replies so far  8)

I checked back just now to make sure, and they were definitely talking about the 2021 holiday buying season.  I signed the contract in June, and when I signed, they said their goal was to have ARC copies by Halloween, and physical copies printed by the holiday buying season.  They did mention that all of this would depend heavily on the illustration timeline, but even in October, they mentioned they were still hoping to have to book out for Christmas, even though in that same email they mentioned they were waiting on the artist for updates and weren't sure if we had a cover image yet.

According to what you said, Harold, this all does sound a bit out of the ordinary.

What bothers me is not so much the changes or delays -- I totally understand that. I also don't mind not hearing from them for a while if there's no news since we're just waiting on illustrations. The part the does bother me, though, is them telling me they're going to send me things (marketing packets, illustration samples, updates, etc) by a certain date, and that date flying by with absolutely no word from them. It also bothers me that our goal release date flew by without them mentioning anything either, like, "Hey, illustrations are taking longer than expected. Looks like we might not reach the Christmas buying season after all."

That would have been totally fine, but to completely keep your author in the dark -- and to ignore them for three months when they email you to ask for an update that you said you would provide -- feels really unprofessional.

I agree with Vijaya that I would like to show grace, but it is really hard for me to believe that they couldn't do a little better just by sending a few simple emails here and there to answer my questions about the state of the book.

Sorry, by the way, if this post is a bit of rant. I guess I'm just really frustrated having someone own something I worked very hard on, yet having zero idea what's happening with it because of poor communication :green
#5 - January 06, 2022, 02:54 PM
« Last Edit: January 06, 2022, 02:56 PM by rachel-berkowitz »

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Thanks for the additional details... To me, it sounds like they were hoping to rush the book through, and then didn't manage to do it. Judging by what you've said and what I see on their website, this is a newish company, probably with inexperienced staff, who may be doing the best they can. Poor communication, unfortunately, looks like only one of your problems.
#6 - January 06, 2022, 03:35 PM
Harold Underdown

The Purple Crayon, a children's book editor's site: http://www.underdown.org/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/HUnderdown

Very true, unfortunately  :green This is why I was hesitant to sign with them in the first place, but I somehow convinced myself it would be a good opportunity. I'm not so sure of that now...sigh.
#7 - January 06, 2022, 06:23 PM

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Golden Fleece Press dates back to 2014, so not super new as Harold thought. They used to run journals for kids, but closed those projects. It looks to have been started by two authors. It's possible the illustrator was delayed. It's also possible the founders are over their heads because of COVID or that the illustrator is. They published one book in 2020. Prior to that, their last book was in 2018. (This was found by searching Amazon by the publisher and sorting the results by date.)

Unfortunately, I'm not sure what "perceived failure" means in the law. Is it really just a matter of your feeling or is there some metric to measure by? You may need to consult a lawyer from the jurisdiction mentioned in the contract to find out. The Author's Guild offers free services for members. In any case, good luck with however this goes. I hope you hear something back from them soon and it's good news.

Another thought is that you may want to tell them you realize they may have no actual news but that you'd appreciate a quick note with just a timeline in it. People are very busy these days and you don't want to nag, but rather to know. It's such a fine line as it is in their perception an not yours. Again, good luck.
#8 - January 06, 2022, 06:38 PM
« Last Edit: January 06, 2022, 06:42 PM by Debbie Vilardi »
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Golden Fleece Press dates back to 2014, so not super new as Harold thought. They used to run journals for kids, but closed those projects. It looks to have been started by two authors. It's possible the illustrator was delayed. It's also possible the founders are over their heads because of COVID or that the illustrator is. They published one book in 2020. Prior to that, their last book was in 2018. (This was found by searching Amazon by the publisher and sorting the results by date.)
Thanks, Debbie--so not "new" in years, but really, they haven't published many books--if I remember correctly, they had 4 children's books in total in their catalog on their website.

It certainly is possible that the illustrator was delayed, or that covid caused problems. But if you don't have final art in October, you just aren't going to have books for the "holiday season" (and it's January now, so we are past that.)

It only takes a few minutes to type up an email and say what's happening.  Publishers need to communicate. Let's not excuse that failure.
#9 - January 06, 2022, 07:07 PM
Harold Underdown

The Purple Crayon, a children's book editor's site: http://www.underdown.org/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/HUnderdown

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Publishers need to communicate. Let's not excuse that failure.
I agree with Harold. It sounds like Rachel, you are perhaps their only, or almost only Author this past yr. They shouldn't of even mentioned a holiday release date, without knowing the art as nearly completed. But since they did, it takes moments to let the Author know they spoke too soon and the release has been moved to Spring (for example).
The only advantage to working with a micro publisher, is they are able to give their full attention to the Author and the book. When you aren't getting even that...?  I'd continue to phone/email til you get a  reply. 
#10 - January 07, 2022, 04:16 AM
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Rachel, I'm so sorry this is turning out to be a frustrating experience for you. I don't have any advice different from what others here have given you. I just hope things get better and turn out okay in the end.
#11 - January 07, 2022, 11:53 AM

Thanks so much again, everybody, for your thoughts! I so appreciate it.

Christripp -- you echoed my sentiments exactly. My initial excitement in signing with them was that working with someone small would make the experience really personal, lots of ability to communicate with them directly, etc. But yeah, if that's not even happening, it kind of feels like...what's the point?

I'm trying to think about what to write in my next email to them, and I'm a little afraid I'm going to write something passive aggressive because I'm irritated. Heh. Any suggestions for how to phrase things while staying professional are definitely welcome... :help2

My last email at the beginning of December was simply: Just checking in again since it's been a little while. I know you had mentioned your hopes to have the book out for the holiday buying season, but I'm guessing we may not reach that goal at this point? Just curious how things are going and would appreciate an update.
#12 - January 07, 2022, 01:42 PM

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My initial excitement in signing with them was that working with someone small would make the experience really personal, lots of ability to communicate with them directly, etc. But yeah, if that's not even happening, it kind of feels like...what's the point?
Unfortunately, in my experience that supposed personal attention from small publishers is theoretical. It *seems* it would work that way but it doesn’t materialize. So often they are short-staffed by part-timers, inexperienced, have cash-flow problems, and often all of the above. I’d be more inclined to let go and trust the process if you were dealing with an established publisher, but you’re not. If you get no satisfactory, detailed update this month with all your questions answered, I’d consider that “perceived failure” has occurred and pursue voiding  the contract.
#13 - January 07, 2022, 02:47 PM
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Thanks, Marcia. I've been thinking a lot about wanting to void the contract because I just don't see how I can realistically continue with them the way things have been going. Do you think it would be unwise to mention that in my next email? I don't want to be a jerk and present them with an ultimatum in a confrontational way, but I did wonder if saying something like "If communication continues be as sparse as it has been for the past few months, I plan to work with a lawyer to pursue voiding the contract given what section X says about..." etc.

Is that weird...?
#14 - January 07, 2022, 06:38 PM

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This is what I was trying to suggest wording above, but I've made it more clear below. Since they closed the magazines, I have the impression they aren't earning their livings at this solely. It might be worth Googling the authors whose works they've published as I believe two are also the publishers. I would consult a lawyer about breaking the contract now also. This way you'll know next steps if you need them, but you don't need to say you're doing so. Also, be sure to save copies of every attempt at communication you have made. This will show that the issue is fully on their side.

I'd phrase something like this: While I realize these are difficult times for everyone and you may have no real news at this time, I would very much appreciate a simple status update with clear indications of where my book is in your process right now and what your expectations are going forward. Please get this to me by the end of this month (or however long you are willing to wait) as this will help me manage my expectations." Then thank them for their support of your book and for understanding your need for an update.

If the deadline occurs with no response, immediately follow up with whatever the lawyer says to do. Again, good luck.
#15 - January 07, 2022, 09:27 PM
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I've been following this and I think along the same lines as Debbie. Send a friendly, professional email with a deadline. If they still don't respond, I would think it's time to split ways. It's disappointing, but I feel you need to at least have some kind of response to keep going.
#16 - January 08, 2022, 06:16 AM
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I'd phrase something like this: While I realize these are difficult times for everyone and you may have no real news at this time, I would very much appreciate a simple status update with clear indications of where my book is in your process right now and what your expectations are going forward. Please get this to me by the end of this month (or however long you are willing to wait) as this will help me manage my expectations." Then thank them for their support of your book and for understanding your need for an update.

If the deadline occurs with no response, immediately follow up with whatever the lawyer says to do. Again, good luck.

Nicely said!

#17 - January 08, 2022, 07:44 AM
Harold Underdown

The Purple Crayon, a children's book editor's site: http://www.underdown.org/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/HUnderdown

Debbie -- thanks so much for the suggested wording. That helps a ton! I wanted something a little stronger than the emails I've been sending, but also something that doesn't sound peeved, so this feels like a perfect in between.

Again, I really appreciate everyone jumping in with support and advice about this whole saga! First it was the initial signing of the contract...then the manuscript edits...and now this! I wish things had gone smoother for my first publishing experience, but I guess it's a learning experience.

I'll work on contacting a lawyer first and then sending the email. Thank you, all!

 :yourock
#18 - January 09, 2022, 01:53 PM

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I's suggest investing in a membership with Author's Guild. It isn't terribly expensive and one of the advantages is they will review contracts as well as work with you on legal issues. It's amazing how fast folks will respond when the lawyer for AG is cc's into the e-mail. Best of luck.
#19 - January 10, 2022, 06:35 PM
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Well, Debbie's suggested wording seemed to do the trick -- I heard from them the next day with a detailed schedule and updates about where we are in the process.

And while it's not exactly ideal having to do so much prodding just for them to get back to me,  I'm still happy to have heard something. They did also apologize for the lack of communication.

So, thanks again, Debbie for writing out that excellent response for me. Normally I wouldn't be so needy and would try to come up with something on my own, haha, but I had never been in this situation before and was really at a loss for the appropriate thing to say. Also, I was annoyed, so I was dangerously close to saying something unnecessarily sassy... :eek5

I'm hoping things will be better going forward, but we'll see...

And thanks, Stephanie -- I did look into the Author's Guild just the other day as per Debbie's recommendation as well. It's a little pricey for me at the moment (you know, the whole starving artist thing and all that), but it's a great resource to know about as I may need to use it in the future.
#20 - January 11, 2022, 01:22 PM

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I'm so glad to read this, Rachel. And Debbie's wording was perfect. I hope it'll be smooth sailing from here on out.
#21 - January 11, 2022, 01:50 PM
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Thanks for the support, Vijaya! I hope so, too :-)
#22 - January 11, 2022, 01:53 PM

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That's great news! So glad they responded.
#23 - January 11, 2022, 02:13 PM
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I'm so glad my wording worked. Keep it as a template in case you have issues in the future, which I hope will no longer be the case.
#24 - January 11, 2022, 06:35 PM
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So happy to hear this Rachel, well done Debbie!

#25 - January 12, 2022, 01:36 AM
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Yay! I know that's a relief for you to finally hear from them, Rachel. I'm glad Debbie's wording worked out well for you. (She's always so generous with her help to others.)
#26 - January 12, 2022, 04:39 PM

Absolutely! And, like Debbie said, it's great to have it as a template as well, in case I need to use similar wording in the future. Which, hopefully, I won't...  8)
#27 - January 12, 2022, 07:53 PM

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