Tate Publishing, a well-known subsidy press, announced on January 17 that it was suspending operations. Its website told authors that it was trying to negotiate with other publishers to “find a new home” for them. Meanwhile the company posted an online form that authors could fill out to terminate their contracts and get their files back.
Soon we heard from four Tate authors who had all paid serious money to have their books published. They wanted to terminate their contracts without waiting to see the new home Tate had found for them, but didn’t want to sign an online form because it required promising never to sue. They also feared that Tate would file for bankruptcy. (As of this writing, it hasn’t.)
We reviewed two of the contracts to make sure the authors weren’t leaving money on the table, and found that the agreements could be terminated for the asking. The challenge was to get this done cleanly, so they could self-publish or look for another publisher. That meant convincing Amazon, which usually only accepts status updates from publishers, that they were no longer with Tate.
We contemplated a group grievance, until the first author told us that she’d managed to terminate her contract and had arranged to self-publish her book. She generously offered to advise the other former Tate authors of how to do the same.
One of them consulted with her at length and terminated her contract easily. We passed on the information gathered from both to the other two, who were then able to make their own plans. (If you’re a Tate author and would like to share in what we’ve learned, contact email@example.com.)
The GCD didn’t directly intervene. But we’re proud of our role in bringing members together and helping them share information that solves their contract and/or grievance concerns. And we’re especially proud of the authors who banded together. As one of them said, “We all need each other to survive in this world.”
Barbara Mende is the coordinator of the Grievance and Contract Division.