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Permuted Press Drops Print Production & Delays Release Schedule, Demands Authors Pay to Get Out of Contracts

Long considered by some to be a shifty operation, Permuted Press has survived and even thrived in the self-pub boom by being able to offer at least one thing that is still difficult for self-published authors: getting books into physical book stores (in the US, at least).

Alas, that is no longer true. Over the past few days multiple authors have reports that Permuted Press has abruptly changed the contract they signed with authors. Permuted is dropping the print edition for most of the books they have in the pipeline, and they’re also pushing publication dates back by 5 months or more.

Jack Hanson was one of the authors who has been affected; Permuted has had his novel since June 2013 and was supposed to be publishing it today. He just found out that it’s been bumped to February:

My novel, Cry Havoc, was due to be published on October 14th, today. On Thursday, October 9th, all authors from my publisher, Permuted Press received an email from the editor in chief. It stated that they had their "best year ever", but there were going to be four major changes taking place.

The first was that all print on demand (POD) services were going to be discontinued except for specific novels. What this means is that there was no way you would be able to buy a print edition of my novel – it would be ebook only. Second, all novels were delayed immediately. Third, publishing would resume sometime in "early 2015." Fourth, all covers would be an internal decision.

The reasons given were the usual boilerplate about the difficulty of the publishing industry, changing formats, and the usual excuses offered. They claimed there was no breach of contract and that if we wanted to dissolve our contracts, to contact them about it. This email was sent at around 8PM, which makes it around 10PM in the publisher’s time zone. Anyone familiar with how the FedGov works knows what bad news sent over a holiday weekend means.

Naturally he’s not all that interested in working with a publisher who isn’t even going to bother with a print edition (it is the majority a significant part of the market, after all), so Hanson asked for the rights to both of his novels back. He says in his FB post that Permuted is willing to cancel the contracts – right after he pays them $1,100 to cover the investment in editorial costs and cover design.

If that doesn’t set off your skeeze radar, this next bit might. Hanson’s tale has been confirmed to various degrees by Gabrielle FaustR. Thomas Riley, William Meikle, and others. Many are reporting that Permuted broke the news to some authors at a get together back in September, but didn’t tell the rest of its authors until blindsiding them last week.

And to make matters worse, those print editions which Permuted can no longer afford are actually POD, so aside from the initial design and setup costs there is no upfront cost to production.

And yet Permuted can’t afford the cost of setting up a POD edition? Really? If Permuted is really in such a dire financial state then authors would be advised to flee immediately.

Alas, many might not be able to, because the contract they signed was (according to a couple different sources) absolutely terrible. Brian Keene says he got a look at Permuted’s contracts a decade ago and decided to stay away – far, far, away.

Graeme Reynolds went one step further and detailed the terms of the contract.  I truly hope he made this up, because this is wrong on so many levels:

I started hearing grumbles about the terms of the contracts. There were no reversion clauses in some contracts, and in others little more than a meaningless “out of print” clause that would never be fulfilled. If an author didn’t like working with them, then they were basically screwed because there was no way to EVER get the book back because they signed away their book for the length of copyright. That means its theirs for 70 years after the author dies.  Royalty rates were good, and some authors got advances, but increasingly it seemed that the risk was being pushed directly onto the author. Advances got smaller and then vanished all together. Release dates were nebulous and, in some instances, were YEARS in the future. However, the two worst problems were the “exclusivity” clause which stated that authors were not even allowed to TALK to anyone else about other projects outside of the ones they were contracted for. The authors had to give this press first refusal on EVERY project that they were even considering going forward. And worst of all, they did a massive, and I mean MASSIVE rights grab. All of them, in fact. Every single right associated with the book in any format was licensed to this press for the length of copyright. Foreign translation, multimedia and even dramatic rights. Yeah, they paid a royalty on the “profits” but anyone who has ever had anything to do with book to movie deals will tell you that you should never agree to deals like that because companies have all sorts of ways of showing something never makes a profit on paper. The old $1000 per paperclip scenario.

To be fair, Permuted is no Dorchester (which sold pirated ebooks after the rights had reverted) nor is it even Ellora’s Cave (which has many authors and editors saying that they have not been paid).

But this is still pretty damn bad.

In this day and age Permuted had better be doing something damned amazing to justify their contract terms. If not, authors could easily do better by self-publishing.

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Rob Siders October 16, 2014 um 8:20 am

A good friend is a Permuted author. I’ll see if he’ll give me his take. He’s been pretty happy with them.

Andrew October 16, 2014 um 11:54 am

It sounds like paying $1100 to get out of the contract (no more first refusal lock-in) is smart move. It sucks to have to make it, but damn, a promise to give a sketchy company the option to buy any future work??

Nate Hoffelder October 16, 2014 um 12:58 pm

It is an expensive life lesson, but worth it.

Paul October 16, 2014 um 4:31 pm

So much bullshit in one article?

First the headline:
,b>Permuted Press Drops Print Production [False]
Some books will remain POD. This includes Permuted Platinum books that are stocked by the likes of Barnes and Noble. Also some other non-bestsellers are still being POD.

Delays Release Schedule [True]
Permuted was releasing 5+ books a week. A week!
That tsunami of titles meant no one was getting any promotion. It’s not a feasible business model.

Demands Authors Pay to Get Out of Contracts [False]
Authors who had books in production were told they would need to pay back the costs ($1100 is one figure given). This is only for books in production.
Others are leaving with no costs.
And guess what? This is in the contract that we all signed!

Over the past few days multiple authors have reports that Permuted Press has abruptly changed the contract they signed with authors.

Again, not true. Permuted is simply acting with in the clauses of their contract.
Nowhere in the contracts does it state that they need to produce a print version of your book, or in any particular format. They own the book and have an obligation to publish it within 48 months of the date on the contract. No stipulation is given on what format it is published in.

(it is the majority of the market, after all)
Ebooks have been outselling print for a long time.
The reason Permuted gave for cancelling the majority of print editions is that they are spending 47% of their resources on it for 7% of their income.
That’s not outselling ebooks.

Many are reporting that Permuted broke the news to some authors at a get together back in September, but didn’t tell the rest of its authors until blindsiding them last week.

The Nashville event was open to all Permuted Press authors. Not every could afford to go. I live on the other side of the world – so I didnt go. They were told they could share the news. So it wasn’t a secret.

And to make matters worse, those print editions which Permuted can no longer afford are actually POD, so aside from the initial design and setup costs there is no upfront cost to production.

100+ authors a year – x$1100+ that’s a bit steep for an indie publisher. And yeah, artists of the caliber used by Permuted – they want to be paid.

The one thing I do agree with is that the contracts are shit. But I read mine. Then I had other people read them. They agreed the contract was shit. But I signed it – with my eyes open and knowing that I’m not expecting my writing to be my main source of income. If anyone is now bitching about the contract they signed – they shouldn’t have signed the damned thing in the first place.

Permuted includes authors who have literary agents and some even signed after having their lawyers look at the contracts – I know who I’d be bitching about and it isn’t Permuted.

Nate Hoffelder October 16, 2014 um 8:19 pm

It took me a while to decide whether I was going to respond to being yelled at. After due consideration, I have considered your complaints. I have decided my post might have issues with interpretation, but I don’t see it as being as terribly wrong as you describe.

One, it is more than a little ridiculous that you would yell at me for my title, when Permuted’s own email said:

We will be ceasing the production of print-on-demand books. Exceptions may be made for top sellers or for works we subjectively choose.


Two, your complaints about the delayed schedule is pointless. I’m not wrong.

Three, I have an author who said that he has to pay to get out of his contract. Still not wrong, and just because you don’t like my description doesn’t make it false.

"Ebooks have been outselling print for a long time."

I wouldn’t be so sure about that. At the very least the point is up for interpretation.

Ebook sales in the USA made up 23% of unit sales for the first six months of this year, while hardcover’s accounted for 25% and paperbacks 42% of sales.


And as for the POD costs, when we add that to the point you made about the delay in schedule what we end up with is a solid argument for the business being mismanaged. i wish i had thought to focus on that in the post.

fjtorres October 16, 2014 um 9:43 pm

Nate, check this (and the reply):

Nate Hoffelder October 16, 2014 um 10:20 pm

So I could have just left his comment alone? TBH, I’m not sure everyone can read the anger in his words.

Peter Clines October 16, 2014 um 5:04 pm

Great article except for all the things that are completely wrong in it.

"Some people" (wonderfully vague, that) may think Permuted is shifty. That clearly doesn’t include Borders, Barnes & Noble, or Simon & Shuster, who have all made large deals with the press over its ten year history. This is also the publisher who launched David Wong, J.L.Bourne, Craig DiLouie and numerous others.

Permuted has not made any changes to any contracts. They’ve exercised existing clauses that authors agreed to when they signed said contracts.

William Meikle is a nice guy, but he can’t confirm anything because he’s not a Permuted author and has no involvement. Your link is to a small statement of his opinion based on what little he knows, not any sort of confirmation.

The "get together" was called Wizard World Nashville Comic Con. Every Permuted author was invited to attend. Every author who did heard the news. They were asked not to widely publicize it because nothing had been finalized. That’s all.

"So aside from the inital design and setup costs, there are no upfront costs." Ummmm… so aside from the cost, it doesn’t cost anything? The issue was always the setup vs the return.

Brian Keene got a look at a fledgling small press’s contract ten years ago, which he feels justifies his views ten years later when it’s under different ownership.

Yeah, but other than all that and the statements made based off of it… great article. Looking forward to the airborne Ebola piece tomorrow.

Jake Bible October 16, 2014 um 6:01 pm

As a current Permuted author that is not jumping ship I agree with everything Paul and Peter have said. This blog post is reporting rumor and not really doing any investigation into the truth of the matter.

J.R. Jackson October 16, 2014 um 6:33 pm

As a Permuted Author, the title of this topic is misleading. What Permuted is doing makes business sense. Why expend 41% for something that only brings in 7% profit? This was all explained in the Permuted email that was sent to all authors.

The only way to make a 7% profit work is if you’re a government contractor. This is all dollars and sense and well within the contract.

This entire article reeks of a lack of due diligence research and is total rumor, hype and bullshit.

How about reporting the facts and not posting garbage when you don’t have a clue about what you’re posting about?

Paul October 16, 2014 um 6:36 pm

Here’s an alternative source of information. More facts, less outrage bullshit

Rob Siders October 16, 2014 um 7:24 pm

When I read that 40-some percent of resources were spent on paper production, my first thought was that Permuted has a work flow problem. I’m convinced of this after reading the actual email. I don’t think they can improve to the point of profitability against just 7 percent of income, but it should be a lot lower than 41 percent of their production cost.

Timothy W. Long October 16, 2014 um 10:32 pm

I’m a Permuted author. I’ve been with the press for a number of years and have had nothing but excellent dealing with them. The fact that a few sour grapes are making a stink, is disconcerting. What’s worse is that legitimate authors with huge followings are picking up on these half truths and running with them when they don’t have their facts straight.

I’ve signed 4 contracts with Permuted over the last few years. I signed 3 of them when the old owner had the press. I’ve signed 1 contract since the new owners took over. The contracts are the SAME. There are some very minor differences concerning movie rights and life of contract, but Permuted were classy and worked with me on any points I wanted changed.

Again, the contract, which is a boilerplate Simon and Schuster contract, is the same as the one I signed back in 2011. Oh, AND I signed that contract with agent representation. It was gone over by their legal department. That agent works for Foundry Literary. These are facts, not half truths.

Where are your facts behind statements like "Long considered by some to be a shifty operation…"? To quote a friend of mine, you’re like the Perez Hilton of e-publishing.

Permuted Press used to have books in book stores because a buyer was a huge fan of Permuted. Guess what, Borders is no longer in business. Until this year, Permuted hasn’t had books in book stores since Borders folded.

The authors that feel they got burned by contracts should have hired a lawyer or gotten an agent. If you don’t like a clause in a contract, ask that it be changed, or don’t sign it.

-Timothy W. Long

Jack Hanson October 17, 2014 um 6:37 pm

Nate, I wouldn’t worry too hard.

My engagement with Permuted was characterized by a lack of communication, constant lack of planning, and a sensation that the Press was always in free fall. The fact that any of these authors are trying to claim that Permuted is a responsible press is laughable.

There was no excuse for the lack of communication from the night of OCT 9 until OCT 13 (that Monday), especially with a planned release that Tuesday. The fact that these authors are trying to make mountains out of molehills only goes to show how weak any counter arguments are. The argument that "they’re only exercising their clauses" would be acceptable IF the authors here weren’t trying, in the same breath, to demand that the poor actions of Permuted don’t deserve public censure.

Some authors have stayed with Permuted but have to pay pesky things like bills and a mortgage. I have no beef with that – as someone who doesn’t make his living writing, I don’t feel like I can demand them to be moral paragons. The bone of contention lies with these authors who feel a need to defend Permuted’s actions and ignore the poor decisions that led up to this point were not the fault of the authors, but the poor management of Permuted. But hey, defending Permuted in public might get some Z grade pulp authors another leg up, so they’re out trying to defend their dying press.

No one told Permuted to sign multiple authors every week, many without manuscripts and with a production schedule out to 2019. No one told Permuted to try and start a film branch when it could barely manage its core industry.

Don’t worry though – after publicly humiliating yourself trying to defend the indefensible, no one is going to confuse any of you with men anytime soon. I’m sure the extra twitter exposure was totes worth it.

CR December 24, 2014 um 1:20 am

I was actually one of the authors that had a contract with Permuted and got out of it. My first book wasn’t scheduled for release until March, and to their credit they didn’t hassle me about dropping out of the contract. It didn’t cost me anything to cancel the contract, and it was over and done within two days.

On the other hand, I did experience the lack of communication first hand. I was contacted by my "assigned editor" to begin working on finalizing the manuscript through a Facebook message. No email, no phone call, literally a one line Facebook message. I thought that was an extremely unprofessional way to conduct business and I was really nervous about the future of my books.

It all worked out in the end, I got all my rights back without a fuss and I’ll be self-publishing this summer. All I lost was a little bit of time. Still though, I’d recommend that all new authors try to get a literary agent and sell only to one of the big publishers, or self-publish. Little publishers like this are mostly just trying to cash in on you and your hard work.

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