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July 8, 2016

"Cutting Lists Isn't New": Q&A With Month9Books Founder Georgia McBride

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware


Last week, as I was researching my blog post on the troubles at YA publisher Month9Books (which recently reverted rights to 40-50 authors amid allegations of non-payment and other problems), I reached out to owner Georgia McBride with some questions. Her responses are below. (You can also read McBride's interview with YA Interrobang, which published a long article on author and staff allegations.)

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VICTORIA STRAUSS: Your email to authors [about the rights reversions] mentions that you fired an accountant who created problems for Month9, including missing and incorrect payments. Can you tell me more about what happened, and what steps you're taking to address the problems and ensure that staff and authors receive payments due them?

GEORGIA MCBRIDE: I can't say more than I have already said about the accountant, and really, I prefer not to focus on him. What I can tell you is that I am working to get everyone caught up and paid in full who is owed a payment. From the many books ​we've published, there are only about 7 or so outstanding payments actually due at this time. We've managed to get mostly everyone paid since the author email was sent.

VS: Communications I've received from both authors and staff indicate that payment problems go back at least to 2013. I've heard from staff who say they were never paid at all. Can you comment?

​GM: I can't comment on what you've heard, since I am not privy to it. ​I'm also not aware of any freelancers who have never received payment for satisfactory work. There are however, several freelancers who delivered work extremely late or work that was not up to the standard and had to be redone by someone else in order to meet that standard who have not and will not be paid.

When we first started, I paid on a "commission" type basis where the freelancers income was tied to the book's performance. It was a good idea to motivate and encourage people, but I later realized that sometimes a book simply does not sell. And, even if it does, after distribution, printing, marketing, etc., there is little left to pay the editor. So, for those people, who may have worked on projects for little to no payments through 2014, I paid them all--even though I did not have to. Even though they signed contracts stating they would get paid only after the author is paid. In some cases it took almost 2 years to pay them all--but it was important to me to do it, even though I did not have to. Of course, no one is talking about that.

VS: Initially Month9 planned a small publishing list--8-12 books a year is what I've been told--but both acquisitions and the release schedule seems to have very quickly increased far beyond that, and in your Q&A with YA Interrobang you acknowledge that an overcrowded publishing schedule was the source of some of the problems authors are reporting. Why did Month9 ramp up its publishing schedule so quickly, and in hindsight, would you do anything differently?

​GM: A publisher needs content to grow. It baffles my mind how anyone who understands the business and what it takes to launch a publishing company could question this. ​I have said many times that a good publisher not only has awesome books. But a good publisher must have reliable and qualified staff and a solid business foundation that includes accounting and legal counsel. At various points in our short life, Month9Books struggled in all those areas.

Acquiring books and publishing them is not just about the cover. If the compliance isn't there, or there is a lot of turnover in staffing, and or the accounting is lacking; you are going to have a BIG problem. This is where we faulted. And, because I have a habit of not wanting to micromanage, I got into a situation where we simply had too many titles to manage with the resources we had. The right thing to do was to put the brakes on, make some hard decisions regarding which books to release and take steps to solidify the business foundation before moving forward.

Cutting lists isn't new. I didn't invent it. In fact, we do it annually in October. Anyone who has been through it with us can tell you. That said, when my blood clot happened (I had been having bouts of Vertigo earlier in the year), I knew it was way past time to bite the bullet and do what had to be done. Not only were we understaffed in the areas that mattered the most, but now, I was not going to be able to work as much as I had. It would have been unfair and very selfish of me to try to keep all the books. Believe me, I wanted to. I wanted to because I hated disappointing the authors. I was sick to my stomach for weeks because of what I was about to do. But the thing that got me through it was knowing it was ultimately the best for everyone involved, even if it hurt like hell while going through it.

VS: I know this is a tough question, but...many of the authors who've contacted me describe an atmosphere of intimidation at Month9, and have told me they fear reprisals for going public. Does this concern you, and do you have plans for addressing this perception going forward?

​GM: Not at all, but then again, I can't comment on what you have heard since I have no idea what you were told. That said, I am not at all concerned about these comments since many authors naturally feel scared about saying anything derogatory about their publishers or future publishers or agents, etc. This isn't anything new. But here's the thing, I have rights too. It's my right to protect myself, my family, my staff, my authors and my partners from anything that could potentially negatively impact my business. I have every right to defend myself and my company against libel and defamation. I will continue to assert that right, no matter who it upsets.

VS: What's next for Month9Books?

​GM: You know what? We've been busy working! I have announced 4 audiobook deals in the last couple of weeks, a new reading club license with Scholastic, and we have our first China release coming in a few months! China! In the immediate future, we have an amazing slate of Fall books and are looking to publish our very first young reader series in early 2017. Thanks so much!

20 comments :

Hanna said...

Not paying freelancers because you weren't happy with their work is NOT something to be proud of. You hired them, you pay them, regardless. Shame on you for admitting that you expect people to PAY to work for you—because this is what freelancers, especially in design, wind up doing when reckless clients refuse to pay. They're paying for software, hardware, and photo/font licenses regardless of what you think of the end product. In the least you owe those people a kill fee.

Anonymous said...

Georgia said: "It would have been unfair and very selfish of me to try to keep all the books. Believe me, I wanted to. I wanted to because I hated disappointing the authors."

I'm not disappointed to be one getting my rights back, so don't worry even one more nanosecond about me. (Although I'm posting anonymously for a reason alluded to in the original post so you couldn't worry about me even if you were sincere.) I have my own plans. So, that said, what is the timetable for actually reverting rights back to the authors and most importantly, unpublishing them from sites like Amazon, especially Ebook formats where there are NO remainders? Many of us who were notified in May and much earlier that our rights were reverting, who have signed and sent in reversion contracts, are still waiting in July.

Anonymous said...

She's not going to answer you. She didn't even answer Victoria's questions. All she did was spout bs. Believe me. I know. I was there. Oh, and, Georgia, it's not libel if it's true.

Anonymous said...

Georgia is a textbook narcissist. Notice how she never actually addresses any questions? Diversion tactics: Well I don't know what you've heard (despite you spelling out very clearly what you've heard)...let me tell you about my blood clot, instead.

I've said before, and I'll say again: she is a paper tiger. All bluster. And if you're not sick of metaphors, yet, she's built a house of cards, not a publishing company.

Anonymous said...

"A publisher needs content to grow." Certainly. But 8 to 12 titles a year is content. It's a manageable list of books for a new, small publisher. "Acquiring books isn't just about the cover." And yet, what have you offered your authors beyond that? You're right, it is about much more. Which is why you should have kept you list small, as you said you would, so that you could manage it. So that you could invest in those titles instead of just constantly grabbing up more, only to put so little behind them.

Sue Bursztynski said...

I see she is still managing to get deals organised. Like the Scholastic one - book club, eh? I know about that. Publishers need it because it pays towards publication costs, but the author gets peanuts out of it. One of my books sold out, but I never received a cent in royalties on it because two thirds were sold through Scholasic book club. That was a large publisher, though, and you can still get it POD or ebook. I wonder what the authors of this publisher will get out if the deal?

Anonymous said...

Don't trust this company! They are bad news and always will be. So many authors wasted years of their lives in this mess. Save yourselves and submit elsewhere!

Anonymous said...

GM: "A publisher needs content to grow. It baffles my mind how anyone who understands the business and what it takes to launch a publishing company could question this."

Why is it ok for publishers to acquire unchecked yet in March 2016, you wrote the following in a post at IBPA online called: "Crafting an equitable and secure publishing contract":

"An author needs to understand what having too many new books in the market at one time — competing books -– can do to their sales. With very few exceptions, the author ends up creating a situation where they are, in essence, competing against themselves for the same reader, in addition to competing against all the other like-content out there. Why ask your readers to choose between your books?" https://www.ibpa-online.org/10-tips-for-crafting-an-equitable-and-secure-publishing-contract/

Why indeed? If anything it's a double standard that's most likely backwards if it's true.

And frequent threats of legal action against authors in light of Ellora's Cave suing Dear Author (even if it's not libel or defamation if it's true, it's going to be costly to prove it) are frightening to authors, especially newer ones who aren't earning much from their books and/or aren't getting paid by their publisher timely or at all.

GM: "And, because I have a habit of not wanting to micromanage..."

You keep using that word, I do not think it means what you think it means. (Princess Bride)

Anonymous said...

I wonder if people not familiar with the publishing industry will recognize all the red flags in those answers.

Anonymous said...

Georgia most certainly created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation among her authors. If anyone even questioned her about something, she cut them out of the group email chains to 'her Wonders' so other authors wouldn't see someone questioning the Month9 course. There could be NO DISSENSION among the ranks! Only those who fawned and praised could remain in the email and Month9 FB group so it could appear one, big happy, content family. If someone questioned her, they were accused of being unprofessional, unknowledgeable and disrespectful of her. That was quickly followed by threats of legal action should you speak to anyone about your concerns, even if you hadn't made any threat to go public!

One of the other authors commenting here was absolutely correct in suggested she's a classic narcissist. Standing in line at a large book conference, overhearing agents discussing their hair-raising encounters with her made me realize how wide-spread this experience was. No one could suggest changes, not authors, agents, or other industry professionals. Any publisher unwilling to listen to more experienced colleagues and professionals in order to avoid problems and pitfalls is destined to experience those problems. It's too bad it was the authors who paid, and will continue to pay for this.

What happened at Month9 was entirely preventable if Georgia had been willing to listen to seasoned professionals who were making suggestions all along, but she was convinced that she was born knowing it all, Month9 was her baby, and she was going to do it her way, even if it meant setting everyone around her on fire and watching them all go down in flames.

I hope the authors with the new audio deals she mentioned get paid their money, though considering she doesn't render a royalty statement for more than a year after a book is published, and then, it's just for the first royalty period, it would take a while. Some folks never saw a statement at all from Month9. Writers - know your rights.

The Month9 ranks will ultimately show many, many more writers gone than 40-50. That was probably the initial number she had decided she would voluntarily revert rights to. More writers are demanding their rights back in droves. There will be very few writers left there who aren't newbies because she's burned too many who have any real experience with her. I doubt you'll see many 'new deals' posted at PM for returning writers.

Anonymous said...

I also call BS on the fact that there are only 7 authors left unpaid. I personally know more than 7.

This publisher is one that needs to go under. Do not sign with Month9 or any of the imprints. You will not be the special snowflake. You just won't be. Save yourself the headache.

If in fact, you decide maybe the leopard has changed her spots, seek out the authors that are still there and the authors that are not. Check AbsoluteWrite. Google for Month9 authors. As much as the publisher would like (or has demanded) that all authors released must erase any mention of her company from their social media, etc. the internet is forever.

Anonymous said...

What? Seriously, what?
1. I was never paid for my work. Perhaps a thorough audit of each and every title, and the people who worked on each, and their capacity and contribution, is in order. Start at the beginning and be amazed.
2. In what world was this company NOT micromanaged? I have stories, but I don't have days to write them out.
3. +1 on the weird and manipulative behavior. If Georgia is talking about how grateful she is, or naming people she values, you can be certain someone just pushed back--or quit.

Victoria Strauss said...

I appreciate all the comments here (and I understand why most of them are anonymous). Thank you.

I'm still collecting information on the situation at Month9Books, and this is a story I'll be following closely in the coming weeks and months. I welcome contact from authors and staff: beware [at] sfwa.org. All information and documentation shared with Writer Beware is held in complete confidence, and I don't share names or identifying information without express permission.

Anonymous said...

ONLY 7, as if that's not many. In my opinion, 7 is too many unpaid and I'm hearing there are many more than that.
As far as the artists contracted... not paying them because she's unhappy with their work is a terribly unprofessional stance. You pay people you contract, even if you don't like what they've done. Instead, she's burning bridge after bridge after bridge. It won't be long until she's an island.
She's fortunate more of her authors aren't speaking out... because I'm guessing there is way more to this story, ie binding reversion contracts, threatening legal action, cutting authors out and plain refusing to give their rights back even after documentation of contract breaches.
It is sickening that authors, who she swears she loves, are the ones suffering because of her near sighted, unprofessional, demeaning actions. If she really loved her business & the people in it, PAY them all ON TIME.
So sad it has come to this when Month9 appeared so promising. I really hope these authors can move on to bigger & better things.

Sheryl Nantus said...

NO author should ever go unpaid from a publisher. Simple as that.

The AUTHOR should always get paid. Doesn't matter if the publisher has a bad day, week, month or year. If the books are sold then the priority is to pay the author their agreed royalty as per the contract.

I'd steer clear of this publisher since she seems to not really understand the concept of what a publisher does.

Anonymous said...

Georgia makes sure she gets paid, and the authors who spent months/years writing these books get little or nothing at all. The editors who spend time helping authors with their manuscripts get little or nothing at all.

Georgia screwed over a LOT of people and yet she has the nerve to portray herself as the victim. Yes, she has a blood clot and I feel for her, but thriving publishing companies do not fall apart when one person experiences health problems. Good publishers do not breed an atmosphere where authors are afraid to ask questions for fear of hostile responses, which I can personality attest to. She maintains an aggressive and defensive attitude so that people don't feel like they can come to her with problems and everyone stays shut up and isolated. When I tried to have a candid conversation with her about this, her response was rude and overly defensive. Communication with Georgia is horrible, and she designed it to be that way. Month9 is fragile and on its way to collapse, and any assertion to the contrary is denial.

When I was querying Month9Books, this negative information didn't exist. All research ended with glowing praise because she engineered a situation where you only say good things about her or she'll send you a vicious email threatening to sue. I'm glad I got out when I did, and I'm glad this side of the coin will be visible for querying authors in the future. Do NOT sign with this publisher!! You will not be the exception to the norm. No publisher is better than a bad one.

Georgia's attitude in this interview absolutely slays me. "I don't know what you've heard." YOU LITERALLY TOLD HER WHAT YOU HEARD. Her actions since this fallout have blown my mind. First, she closed down the Google group so that confused authors couldn't even communicate with each other. She didn't explain herself to us. All she did was make this about herself. She crushed the dreams of 50 authors but poor Georgia, she can't go jogging anymore. Her behavior is disgustingly self-absorbed. And you know what? Her authors sent her well-wishes. They were polite and concerned, even the ones she'd screwed over. That's how good Georgia is. She can get you to gush gratefully for this opportunity she generously bestowed on you even as she takes that opportunity away from you. She ignores emails and leaves you in the dark - unless your email concerns missing money or issues you're having, in which case she responds at lightning speed with an acidic tone designed to make you afraid to bring it up again.

No one feels sorry for you, Georgia. You can blame everyone but yourself and you can claim these complaints are all just personal vendettas against you, but with this many complaints I think it's obvious that everyone else is not the problem.

Anonymous said...

Another red flag: You know those books that are listed as coming out soon on Amazon, B&N, and elsewhere? Well, there are several that are not going to be released by this publisher. Yet there they are, listed on their own website and elsewhere. Also, several of the deals listed previously on Publishers Marketplace are now defunct. So who knows what is really releasing and what is not? Another shell game.

Anonymous said...

Adding to what the poster above me said: I've asked for my rights back, and received them, but my book is still up on the website pretending to debut this fall. Deceptive. I wonder how many other books on there shouldn't be there, either.

I was talking to another Month9er recently and she had her book's rights reverted about a month after it published. A MONTH. All that waiting, all that hard work, finally getting it published, and it only lasts a month. Shameful. It's disturbing that Month9 did this to so many people, yet they're still acquiring new titles.

Victoria Strauss said...

I'd like to compile a list of books/deals that are listed as coming soon but are now defunct. Please contact me (beware [at] sfwa.org) or leave a comment here. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

This interview is so Georgia. In my communications as an author with her, at one point I honestly began to suspect metal illness - like, delusions of grandeur or something. I'm sure she believes everything she says. It's just that most of it isn't true.

There would be times when I'd been waiting and waiting for a response on a simple question, and then a looong group e-mail would come from Georgia to "Wonders" listing everything she claimed to have been working on all week. Instead of taking the time to craft those lengthy brag e-mails, I wish she would've responded to simple questions from freelancers & authors.

 
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