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February 27, 2020

Mass Contract Cancellations at Mystery Publisher Henery Press


Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware®

Beginning on Friday, February 8, dozens of authors with mystery publisher Henery Press received some version of this email.
Dear ________,

Before entering 2020, we felt it prudent to review future projections for _______ series, taking into consideration recent releases and overall performance. To provide an unbiased professional opinion and guidance in our 3-year strategic plan, we hired a consulting firm with experience in the industry. This allowed us to analyze not only your specific series, but also the competitive landscape and industry as a whole.

Unfortunately the sales of _______ series do not justify the publication of future titles beyond 2020. We know this is disappointing. The market has become beyond saturated (especially in mystery fiction), with all leading indicators pointing to even more intense competition for consumer dollars in the next cycle and beyond....

Although we don’t have a pathway forward with your new titles, we will continue to sell and support your backlist titles as usual under the terms of our original publishing agreement. To be clear, we will not be reverting the rights on any of your already published title(s), only future titles specifically outlined in the addendum to follow in the next week.
A number of the cancellations affected books that had been completed, turned in, and scheduled for publication, with some authors having already made promotional plans. Others interrupted series whose first installment hadn't yet been published--with Henery holding on to the yet-to-be-published book and reverting rights to the rest. Cancellation of a series before it's completed can be tough--another publisher may not want to buy into a series mid-stream, and while followup titles can be self-published, it's difficult to promote a series when it's split up like this.

The cancellations came out of the blue (nothing had been said about any strategic plan or consulting firm). But while some writers were blindsided, others weren't hugely surprised. Although they have praise for the company's early days, Henery authors say that problems have been increasing for some time, with staff departures (interns are reportedly used to do a lot of the editing, with sometimes substandard results), late royalty checks and reports (several authors told me that they feel there are discrepancies in their sales figures), diminishing marketing (according to multiple writers, virtually no promotional support is provided), ordering problems (writers cite non-returnability and nonstandard discounts), and difficulty with communications.

"Over time," one author told me, "Henery Press’s business model started to look more like a company that assists with self-publishing and less like a real publisher." (In fact, Henery uses CreateSpace for printing, and Barnes & Noble lists Henery ebooks as "indie".)

I've gotten a variety of additional complaints, which I'm not able to share here because they could compromise confidentiality. There seems to be considerable fear among Henery authors that they will be penalized for speaking out--which may be why almost no word of the cancellations has escaped. There's also the gag clause in the rights reversion addendum that authors are receiving:


One writer told me, "HP payback tactics (they're so vindictive) are hell. [Authors are] afraid if HP even suspects they've contributed, the books they have will go down." I truly wish this weren't such a common component of publisher implosions.

So is Henery imploding? Mass cancellations are never a good sign, and often indicate financial distress. Some Henery authors don't feel that's the issue, though, or not the only issue: they speculate that the owners intend to retire, and are keeping the company alive in order to retain the income stream from existing titles.

I emailed Henery's owner, Art Molinares, for comment. As of this writing, he hasn't responded.

Mystery Writers of America (where Henery is listed as an Approved Publisher) is aware of the situation, and is monitoring it. If you've been affected, you can contact MWA here. Be sure to put "Henery Press" in the subject line. All communications are confidential.

I will post updates as I receive them.

5 comments :

Judy Penz Sheluk said...

This is sad news. I know many Henery Press authors and have only heard wonderful things about them. One correction. CreateSpace is long dead. I assume you mean KDP (which is also owned by Amazon, and took over CS). Suggest making this correction to your copy.

Hope Clark said...

I am friends with a couple of Henery Press authors, and the last edits I saw on one of their books just broke my heart. Horrible. The author was crushed and was told that was all she was entitled too. Definitely high school-ish work, with some changes made to the manuscript that were just wrong. I've been watching the cracks in their facade for about a year now.

Ellen Byron said...

I've signed contracts with pretty much every studio and network in Hollywood, as well as two different NY publishers, and never have I seen a gag order. That is appalling.

It's heartbreaking because Henery started out so well and has a stable of wonderful writers. I hope they all get picked up by other publishers.

SandyG265 said...

I feel sorry for the authors who’s books are being published in substandard condition. Readers blame the author not the publisher. I know that my library has denied my last two purchase requests for books from Henery Press because none of their distributors carry the books.

Ashley Montgomery said...

This is such a sad event. I know a few years ago a lot of the cozy authors had the same experience. I really hope all of the authors can find a way to continue.

 
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