Thursday, October 16, 2014

Permuted... Enjoy the Writers Apocalypse

Remember when we used to be so fun? We used to talk about wearing ugly pants and funding work out tapes for serial killers... good times.

I'm sorry time has prevented us from posting more of that life changing insight. Hopefully, we will return to answering tough questions like "who would you rather eat? Gary Busey or Charlie Sheen?" very soon.

Until then, this post is to help me clear my head about all the delightful things I have heard about Permuted Press.

First things first: I am NOT a writer.  Yes, I have this blog I occasionally write stuff at and I also contribute my lack of talent to other places on the web, but I am not a writer.  Everyone has a blog and anyone can type on a keyboard.  It doesn't give you talent.  With that, I have no dreams of ever publishing my prized novel so these opinions I am expressing are those of a reader. Not only am I a reader but I am also a huge supporter of the indie author, the indie crafter, the indie musician and the indie business.  One reason I've been neglecting this blog is because I spend a great deal of time encouraging the community to support those little guys. Of course it is also important to note that my husband IS a writer and he does have contracts with Permuted. I do see both sides of the coin.  Even with that being said, I buy books weekly. I am a consumer and a heavy reader and these are my opinions.

The plight of the indie author is much harder than many of the others. Why? Because independent bookstores mostly refuse to help them (especially if they are associated with Amazon/CreateSpace in any way) and indie publishers often want to be big publishers and can easily forget the labor of love that is writing.

About 8 years ago I was pregnant with my first minion and the Man-Meat was working at a large chain bookstore stocking shelves part -time. One morning, he came home with a copy of WORLD WAR Z and said he saw it and thought I would love it. I devoured it! Then he did. Even though we knew our own world was ending with the birth of our son (I mean he's great but kids change things), we still wanted more apocalyptic suffering.  He scoured the internet looking for more apocalyptic fiction and found Permuted Press. We bought everything. EVERYTHING!  Of course their catalog was much smaller then but we still read almost every book they had.  Only a few were duds that we will never speak of again but most have become my favorite books.  I will still defend that the MORNINGSTAR SAGA is one of the absolute best zombie series and can not be compared to DAY BY DAY ARMAGEDDON due to the character vantage point. And I stick to the "baby scene" in EX-HEROES as being the most traumatizing and memorable of any book. Don't even get me started on JOHN DIES AT THE END... that book changed my life! Even as the catalog expanded and they published titles I was less interested in, I still bought. Only now I started to buy ebooks of the ones I wasn't sure of and paperbacks for the ones I was waiting on.  Every week I received a Google+ notification (yup, you read that right) that "Permuted Press has shared a link with you" showcasing that months new release.  I bought it because they cared enough to put the work into it. I know it was shared with a massive list of people but they took the time to add me. They wanted ME to see it. I told everyone about them and bought copies of my favorites for friends. When ever an author responded to me, I squueed... and honestly, I still do. They were MY publisher!
A snippet of one our bookshelves. There are many more with that familiar logo, the new logo and even with the Permuted Platinum 

When the Man-Meat was given the opportunity to re-release his novel with them, I almost fainted.  I now had my very own Permuted author! Mine! It goes without saying that he was also excited... but this isn't his story, it's mine and my opinions.  Anyway, a dream come true and one day I would meet the rest of the authors and complete my autographed book collection.  Until... the sale.

It was one man putting in all that love and attention to every book release. Understandably, that's exhausting and the company was growing. He sold. My immediate reaction was terror but I also realize my own flaw with adapting to change. Everything was going to be fine, all my favorites were still there, the Man-Meats book was still being released. There would just be more people to give love to the precious pages of joy.  It's okay.

Next, this favorite publisher that carefully selected titles in the past, was now aggressively acquiring as many titles as possible.  It's like courting a girl for months, taking her to prom, getting a good-night kiss on the cheek and then she sleeps with the entire football team. In one night.  How could I trust what they printed if they printed everything and anything? And how would I even be able to afford all those titles? *puff-puff from inhaler* I'm sure it will be fine still, just need to be more selective. It's still okay.

Lucky for me, I didn't have to choose! Why? Because I had no idea they were released. Countless titles were published without a single mention on social media. This included my Man-meats. We knew because we saw it available on Amazon. Really a coincidence. All promotion was done by us. Now I felt like my initial fears were warranted. These guys bit off more than they could chew. I may not be a writer but I do have a decent business sense. They were flooding the market and nobody even knew it. Or maybe they did... but I didn't. My attempts at optimism are struggling at this point. I'm not saying it's gonna be okay and since I don't have anything nice to say, I'm just not saying anything.
I feel like I'm watching the world burn...

A couple months later, the Man-Meat goes on this conference call with other writers and comes off in a great mood. They've got a great plan, they've got it together, there is an organized team. He felt great and shortly after I saw the difference. They were promoting books and events, pushing their newsletter to make sure everyone knew what was being released and it seemed like things were going up hill. Of course, I'm an outsider. I only have the perspective of the consumer. But things are okay.

So what's the big deal? Why is there even a need to vent? Why did Brian Keene say he would not be buying any of their books for a while? And why have many authors gone to their own sites with gripes?  Well, I'll tell you. Last week authors were alerted via email that there will be some changes.  Going forward, only best sellers will be available in paperback.  That's right! That swarm of new writers just signed away their creative output to a predominately ebook-only company. Not a big deal for many authors but when your novel is released amongst a flood of others and nobody knows it's out... it's kind of hard to be a best seller. Not only that but EVERY one of those writers expected to hold a copy of their hard work in their hands. This also means NEW books will only be ebooks until they are a best seller. I just want to clarify that. I know there are many people who don't use an e-reader. You will have to wait. I buy ebooks but I prefer paperbacks. Especially for favorite authors. I ALWAYS buy the paperback for those books.  Since Permuted is small press and using a print-on-demand option, I'm a little disgruntled that they've made this decision for me. I could understand if they paid in advance, a book didn't sell and now they had thousands of copies sitting in a warehouse collecting dust. But they don't. If they did, getting a bookseller to stock their titles would be a lot easier. So now I can get a paperback from a self-published writer but not from my favorite publisher?

All over a paperback? Nope. There is more. There will be no new releases till 2015 (only a couple months...) and then when they resume it will be a lot slower. That means delays for many upcoming titles. Here I side with the publisher. It was just too much.  Yes, your heart is set on that glorious release date but what are you releasing to? The 10 other books that come out that day are fighting for the same buyer. Your odds are slim. Why not wait so it can get some attention? Maybe your publisher will even help you line up some early reviews, start a little buzz before it drops. Isn't that what you envisioned? Maybe the final copy will have your name and your title on the tops of all the pages and the ad in the back will have the proper info with them. Am I pointing out a flaw I noticed on some newer books? Maybe. I say give them more time and have it done right. But I'm personally tired of being overwhelmed with mediocre.

Don't worry there is a little bit more. This last reason I scoff. Writers will no longer have the final say on cover art. Maybe this isn't a big deal to them but it is to me. You know I'm vain and I do judge books by a cover.  I read a "now a major motion picture" edition of I Am Legend and repeatedly looked at the cover picture of Will Smith and wondered why they cast him as a tall blue eyed irish man. I do look at covers and try to find hints to the story in the images.  I want a cover that reflects the story I hold in my hands.  I saw earlier versions of the Man-Meats cover and I told him I would never buy his book based on what I saw. Fine, Permuted. If you aren't going to give authors the final say, at least make the artist read the book. And please stop using generic stock apocalyptic covers. They bore me.
Seriously? What are you thinking P.P?

Maybe these sound rather petty. In truth business is business but that isn't where my problem really lies.  Nothing Permuted has done is illegal. They did the same thing teenagers do everyday; they found a loop hole. They never said they wouldn't print your books... but they never actually said they would either. My problem is the ethics behind it. If I receive a review copy of a book there is a certain expectation that I will read it and then review it, even if I never actually say I will. Likewise, when you go to a book publisher, there is an expectation that they will publish your book. Perhaps my understanding of what you get from a publisher is off. I would think unless clearly stated, that your book would be printed, promoted and handled with care. If the writer can't print it(as the publisher holds the rights) and they must do all promotion themselves, why do they need a publisher? When I see a contract promising 10 author copies of the book upon release, I don't think to question whether or not there is a stipulation with format. I assume, that is what the contract is for especially when your percentages are separated by print and ebook.

Now my favorite writers are disgruntled and don't want to write. That impacts me. What's the point of going through a publisher if they take a larger percentage to do what you could do on your own? I also don't want to give my money to a company that I don't believe operates in an ethical manner.  The genre isn't as narrow as it was 8 years ago. We have options. Not only that, horror is no longer an obscure genre limited to indie press. Many larger publishers are carefully selecting QUALITY titles and delivering them to the masses. As for the authors with Permuted, many of them already have and may continue to self publish to the same viewers they reach now. All this experience has done is taint their image of the publishing world and hinder some desires to keep writing.

I don't plan to buy any books from Permuted while this issue is unresolved. Unfortunately, I don't know that I could go back after it is either. I want to but I'm upset. I will no longer be able to discover their authors at conventions with a stack of books or email them requesting an autographed copy. I don't like having that decision made for me.  Writers are my favorite celebrities and I want to interact with them knowing they are proud of their work and proud of the finished product. I understand that every business is run by people and people make mistakes. Hopefully, they will realize they are not only hurting the authors but the readers that support them and come to a better decision.
Ok, I'm the tiger and that man represents everyone. I love you. I believe it will work out. 

Annnnnnnnnnnnnnnd end scene. Thanks for the opportunity to vent. I wish all the writers involved the best of luck. As for us, I promise to return to mindless post apocalyptic vanity... or perhaps a book review. Yet for now it won't be a book from Permuted Press.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks for taking the time to read. I am really sorry for what you and many of the other authors under contract are dealing with. I know my frustrations are nothing compared to yours. No matter what, Pretty & Putrid will do what we can to support you. Keep writing and we will keep reading!