Weirdmage recently made a very interesting post about some of the hidden victims in the whole Night Shade debacle, who are starting to come forward and say, “Hey guys, what about all the stuff that we’ve done that we’re not getting paid for?” The editors, the artists, and all the other people who belong on the team that makes up a good novel.
And it’s true. The focus has been entirely on the authors who are getting a raw deal (and they are), but for the most part, few people have mentioned the others. The people who are also owed back pay, commission, large sums of money that Night Shade has admitted that they can’t pay.
Is Skyhorse going to be paying it? Well, apparently, sort of. At least according to the post that I linked to, non-authors who are owed money can expect to be paid a whopping 30-50% of what they’re owed.
Wow. And now a positive wow, either.
This situation reminds me of one found myself in a few years ago. The company I worked for when bankrupt. Closed their doors. Didn’t give us notice, so we were legally owed 2 weeks pay-in-lieu. But oh goodness, they were so broke they couldn’t pay that. Or the money we’d earned by working the past week. Or our banked vacation pay. And because none of us could afford a lawyer, none of us got paid. The local labour board pretty much informed us that since the company was incorporated, once it was ‘dead’ and the bank accounts cleared out, there was technically nothing they could do to get us our money.
If the company had filed for bankrupcy officially, we would have all been paid what we were owed, right down to the last penny. But they didn’t. Why? Because that would have meant the owners of the company taking a big hit to their credit rating, which would have prevented them from getting loans to start up future business.
Which is exactly what they did. We never got out money.
Now, I’m not saying that the owners of Night Shade have this on the brain, but I can’t help but draw a few parallels here. The emphasis has been on the authors, and the biggest reason given for why NSB isn’t filing for bankrupcy is so that the book rights don’t get lost in the legal system for a long time, and they care about the authors and so don’t want that to happen. Say it in a nice way and everyone’s convinced you’re properly concerned.
But there are more than just the authors and book rights at stake here. NSB selling everything to Skyhorse allows them to wash their hands of the situation. Any money owed is no longer their concern. Someone else has to deal with it, and that someone else seems to think that paying the authors what they’re due but paying editors and artists half at most is perfectly okay.
I can’t say how long book rights might stay in legal limbo if they just filed for bankrupcy. It might be long enough that some of the authors do suffer. It seems like no matter what, they’re going to suffer, and from that perspective, it’s a matter of figuring out which is the lesser of two evils. But for the others? It seems now like more problems for more people could be solved if NSB filed for bankrupcy.
And with this info coming to light (and editor Marty Halpern’s comment that some of them are owed tens of thousands of dollars in back pay), I can’t help but wonder if NSB doesn’t see the same sort of motivation to avoid bankrupcy that the old company I worked for did. It would solve many problems, possibly create a few problems, but would cause the largest problem for them if they want to do anything in their lives related to credit. Want a loan to start up a new business? Banks aren’t so willing to give money to people who have lower credit scores of they find out you ran your last company into the ground. But make it just look like an acquisition, a sale, and it doesn’t have to come back on them later.
I’m not making baseless accusations. I’m offering a scenario, based on something I experienced that trips the same triggers in my brain when I look at more pieces of the puzzle. I can’t say that this is their motivation. But it makes me wonder.
I do feel bad for people who are forced to at best take half of what they worked their butts off for. Yes, even 30% is better than nothing, but you know what’s even better than that? The full amount they earned. Note the word I’m using. Earned. They’re not just asking for it because they feel like trying to get more cash. They worked for that money. They worked for it and deserve it just as much as any of the authors do.
Really really disappointed in Night Shade right now.