This post has been updated.
A roundup of publishers about which I've recently received serious complaints (all of them documented).
Before the change in leadership, Torquere had been trouble-free (or at least, not generating author complaints). It didn't take long for that to change. In early 2016, a little more than a year after the new owners took over, reports began surfacing of royalty payment problems. More reports showed up over the summer, even as Torquere participated in Twitter pitch contests to find new manuscripts. Also during the summer, Kristi Boulware was arrested on a hot check charge, allegedly after payment to one author bounced. (UPDATE: the charge was dismissed on December 13 after Boulware posted a cash bond of $10,150.50.)
In an early September email to authors, Boulware admitted that Torquere was suffering "financial setbacks since losing several of our top-selling authors." Funds were "the lowest they've ever been" and the company was "trying to obtain some business funding to assist with meeting all of TP’s financial obligations." As of late September, things hadn't gotten better...but, per an update posted in the Torquere authors' Yahoo group, "We are staying positive and will be sending out at least partial payments as we are able to."
Those payments never showed up, according to multiple complaints received by Writer Beware (allegedly, Torquere owes one author more than $18,000). In November, communication stopped completely, with neither Boulware nor Talbot answering emails or responding to Facebook messages from authors asking about money owed or seeking rights reversions (Torquere apparently has responded to some reversion requests, but ignoring others). Both co-owners also have removed "Torquere" from their Twitter handles and bios. No matter how you look at it, that's not a good sign.
Meanwhile, Torquere remains open for submissions, with active anthology submission calls. Given the serious and apparently escalating problems at Torquere, I'd advise authors to stay away.
UPDATE 12/13/16: Torquere is closing. They promise rights reversions but are vague on when (or if) writers and staff will be paid. Details in my followup blog post.
Caliburn Press consists of seven imprints. Only three appear to have actually published any books--including Damnation Books and Eternal Press, which Alan Leddon, then of Spero Publishing, acquired from former owner Kim Richards Gilchrist in 2015. Leddon then consolidated Damnation and Eternal with his other imprints under the Caliburn name.
Damnation/Eternal was a problem company. Writer Beware received many complaints about its lack of professionalism, with authors citing poor editing, minimal marketing, uncompetitive pricing, and, late in Gilchrist's ownership of the company, missing royalty statements and payments. Damnation's contract paid royalties on net profit, and imposed huge early termination fees--both red flags that I've warned about repeatedly on this blog.
I posted a warning about Damnation in 2013 after one author sued the company for inserting hundreds of errors into her published book and refusing to publish a corrected version. Here's another author who had to take legal action. And the Damnation Books thread at Absolute Write is loaded with complaints.
(Gilchrist couldn't be faulted for ambition. In 2010, with much fanfare, she and her husband took over long-running speculative fiction magazine Realms of Fantasy. In less than a year, they drove it into the ground,)
When Gilchrist unloaded Damnation/Eternal in September 2015, authors were hopeful that Alan Leddon would make a good-faith effort to fix the problems. Unfortunately, the situation only seem to have gotten worse. In early 2016, Writer Beware started getting familiar-sounding complaints of non-payment--not just from authors this time, but from staff. Other complaints included repeatedly-delayed publication dates, bad editing, high staff turnover, poor financial management (in an April email to authors, Leddon denied embezzling funds, but admitted that "some money is missing from business accounts"). To authors' fury, Leddon also attempted to expand the net profit royalty calculation in Damnation/Eternal contracts to enable him to deduct not just printing costs, but also cover art, ISBNs, copyright registration, and a raft of other expenses.
In April (the same month Leddon felt he had to deny embezzling company money), gobsmacked Caliburn authors got a solicitation to contribute a GoFundMe campaign set up by Leddon, through which he hoped to establish a brick-and-mortar "spiritual bookstore" where, among other items, their books would be sold. In a maybe-too-candid description of the campaign, Leddon revealed that he was "living on government benefits and an occasional few dollars from the publishing company that I started five years ago" and admitted to "years of my publishing company making less per quarter than the cost of a tank of gas". Not very reassuring for all the authors who had hoped their new boss had the resources and expertise to turn things around.
As of this writing, complaints continue to come in. Caliburn Press is still open to submissions. Writer beware.
Last July, I wrote a long post on the troubles at Month9Books, which had just scaled back its author list amid multiple complaints of lack of payment (for staff as well as authors), delayed publication dates, broken marketing promises, overcrowded publication schedules, communications breakdowns, problems with royalty accounting, and alleged harsh treatment and/or bullying by Month9 owner Georgia McBride.
McBride pledged to work on the problems and make Month9 great again (sorry, couldn't resist). Unfortunately, Writer Beware is still hearing from authors who say they haven't been paid, haven't received royalty statements (or have received strange or incorrect ones), and have been on the receiving end of angry responses from McBride.
Two Month9 authors have filed suit against the company, alleging nonpayment and seeking return of the rights to their books.
Despite these issues, and the fact that overstuffing its publication list was a major source of its troubles, Month9 continues to acquire titles. Writer beware, again.