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February 27, 2015

Crescent Moon Press, Musa Publishing Close Their Doors

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware 

Crescent Moon Press has announced that it is closing. From a mass email sent out to authors late last month:

On March 31st  at 11:59 pm, Crescent Moon Press will release all author [sic] from contracts.  All rights will revert back to authors for their manuscripts. If your contract expires prior to March 31st, it will not be renewed. Final royalty payments will be issued as well as any necessary documents as soon as they become available. Please be patient as we work to close out our business affairs.

Artwork will remain property of the company. If you would like to purchase the rights to your artwork, please let us know.

This is not done lightly, nor is it done with a heavy heart. We have enjoyed our experience as publishers immensely, but the time has come to move on with alternate endeavors.
While I don't imagine that Crescent Moon authors will much appreciate the "have a nice life" tone of the last paragraph, many of them will probably not be surprised. Though the letter makes no mention of financial or other problems, reports by authors who've contacted me over the past year suggest that Crescent Moon has been troubled for some time.

The litany of complaints is familiar: poor communication, missing or non-timely payments, poor editing, finished books with lots of typographical errors. The publisher's response (made to me in email) is also familiar: The authors complaining were on a "witch hunt" because they couldn't deal with their poor sales.

Some authors have expressed concern about whether the general release in the mass email is sufficient to return their rights. In my (non-legal) opinion, it probably is--but it would be much better if authors received individual reversion letters, and if I were a Crescent Moon author, I would definitely request one. Final royalty payments (and statements) are still an open question.

Crescent Moon's website doesn't say anything about the closure; in fact, as of this writing, it is still "open to general submissions."


Musa Publishing is also going out of business. From the email received by authors last week:

On January 21, we held a quarterly budget and planning meeting to address some of the many challenges 2015 will present. We came away with some proposals and tasks which we hoped would resolve some critical budget and staffing concerns. Since February 6, we have been in daily discussions as a team. We met again on Friday February 13 to formally agree on a plan going forward for Musa Publishing.

As you all know, the publishing market changes rapidly. Most markets have suffered and eBook publishers are no exception. The rising costs of doing business and reduced sales have hit us extremely hard in spite of fantastic books and enthusiastic efforts of staff and authors alike....

Because we are absolutely determined to pay our authors and staff; to remain debt-free and empowered to live out our founding values, this week Celina, Kelly, Kerry, Jeanne, and Dominique together made the painful decision that Musa can no longer remain open.
Musa authors may be experiencing whiplash from the abruptness of the closure: as of February 28, Musa will cease to exist. (Though in retrospect, the November closing of Musa's ezine, Penumbra, seems like a warning sign.)

Musa claims in the letter that "we are not in financial trouble." However, authors have been reporting issues with Musa for a long time (see the long, long, long discussion thread at Absolute Write). Complaints include rapid editor changeover, a lack of marketing support, brusque responses to author concerns, and overextended staff. (It should be noted that, although many authors have expressed disappointment with sales, Musa does not seem to have had a problem with missed or late payments). Some authors felt that Musa, which expanded very rapidly after its September 2011 opening and quickly built up a huge catalog, ultimately became little more than an author mill.

Apart from the abrupt notice, Musa does seem to be going about the closure responsibly. It has pledged to provide individual reversion letters and to send royalty payments and statements due, and has announced the closure on its website.

This is a very sad situation. Musa arose in the wake of a small press horror story (Aspen Mountain Press, where some of its founders worked), and began with the best of intentions. In the end, I think it simply tried to do too much too fast, and stretched itself too thin to survive.


widdershins said...

Sad but not surprising ... and there'll probably be more and more small presses succumbing. It's the nature of any rapid growth to sooner-or-later level off and/or decline.

Anonymous said...

Is this the Crescent Moon Press in Middletown, N.J. and the Musa Publishing also in Middletown, N.J.? Who are owners, Stephanie Murray and Judy Musa, respectively, by chance?

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