Start Media Responds to Questions on Purchase of Whiskey Creek Press

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Shortly after I posted my article about Whiskey Creek Press's purchase by Start Media, and the new contract terms being offered by Start, I received a response from Jarred Weisfeld, President of Start Publishing.

I think it clarifies some of the concerns expressed by WCP authors--including what, for me, was a major question: what will happen to writers with current WCP contracts who don't choose to sign Start's letter of agreement. That, by the way, is information that should have been provided by Whiskey Creek Press in its letter announcing the sale. In my opinion, WCP was seriously remiss in not addressing that issue.

The cut in royalty rates is still going to be hard for authors to swallow (it was a major sticking point when Start took over Night Shade Books). While 25% of net is--regrettably--"standard" for larger houses, it's not typical for small presses.

I also question why, if Start is saying here that rights reversion is automatic for books that fall below the minimum sales threshold, they don't simply include that language in the new contract.
UPDATE, 7/16/14: I incorrectly assumed that Jarred's assurance (below) that "there will be no termination fees in the new Whiskey Creek Agreements" meant that termination fees would be waived for existing Whiskey Creek authors who requested early termination. I provided this interpretation in email to at least one Whiskey Creek author. In fact, I've learned, termination fees will not be waived for existing Whiskey Creek contracts. It's only new contracts, going forward, that won't include them.

My question: who is getting the money, Start or the Womacks? Either way, it seems awfully petty for Start to keep imposing this crappy contract requirement (termination fees suck, and their appearance in a publishing contract is always a red flag).
With permission, I'm reproducing Jarred's email in its entirety below.
We're very excited by the opportunity to develop lasting relationships with Whiskey Creek Press's many talented writers. We have received an overwhelmingly positive response from the authors with whom we've spoken and as we have gotten to know many of these authors, we're impressed with the body of work they've cultivated and their knowledge of their audience. We're looking forward to learning from them and working with them to reach even greater milestones than they have done thus far.

We wanted to address the questions regarding the new terms we have offered WCP's authors to help avoid any confusion.
  • Both the royalty rate and the length of copyright terms we are offering are very common, typically considered "standard" in publishing. Our view toward licensing a work for the term of copyright is that we have an opportunity to continue supporting title sales well beyond what might otherwise happen if the terms were to end after only a few years. As our marketing capabilities continue to grow in scope and complexity, we'll look forward to extending the active life of titles many years beyond their initial release. We're excited to be able to do this with such engaging titles and looking forward to finding innovative ways to market them.
  • For those authors who prefer not to sign on under the new terms, that's absolutely fine and we'll continue to honor the terms of their contract as they already stand. When their license has expired they are free to go elsewhere if they wish. They're also free to exercise their termination clause if they'd like to get out before the end of the license period. (Please be advised there will be no termination fees in the new Whiskey Creek Agreements)
  • Any titles with licenses that expired previously whose authors don't want them to remain with Whiskey Creek Press will likewise be released as per the contract stipulations.
  • If you do not sell the number of copies in our reversion clause you will get your rights back immediately.
  • Please note, we have given authors non-recoupable advances as part of this process. The amount of the advances has varied per author and sales and was a significant amount in aggregate.
We've had great phone calls and emails with some of the authors who had questions about the arrangement going forward. We will continue to engage in this type of dialogue and welcome any concerns any authors may want to bring up to us. We want to make sure all of our authors are happy to be in a partnership that we're excited to begin. We're looking forward to creating a lasting brand and connecting new, engaged audiences with Whiskey Creek Press's authors' dynamic content.

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