Angry Robot Closes Strange Chemistry and Exhibit A Imprints

The news is here.

If you’re an author with either of these two imprints, I would check your contracts for reversion clauses.

Likewise, if I were the folks at Angry Robot, and were putting the books in these imprints into “out of print” status, as it seems likely they are from the announcement, I’d be thinking of immediately reverting the books back to the authors, so they can either find them new homes or self-publish them. Because that seems the decent thing to do after cutting the legs out from the income potential of those books for those authors.

There’s the possibility that the latter of these might be complicated by Angry Robot’s parent company having problems of its own. In which case: This is why you have writers’ organizations, folks.

28 Comments on “Angry Robot Closes Strange Chemistry and Exhibit A Imprints”

  1. It’s too damned bad SFWA can no longer function as that writer’s organization, having alienated many of the biggest names in the field.

  2. That’s a shame. I really dug Angry Robot’s output, and have a few Exhibit A titles in my TBR pile. Good luck to those authors, and yeah, hopefully they’ve got reversion rights to fall back on.

  3. authors have to sign contracts that say a publisher still has rights on a book that is out of print? I thought they would immediately revert back to the author? What happens if an author ignores the contract and self publishes? I would probably do that.

  4. @john: new business line for you the ‘scalzi report’. I have trouble understanding how you find all this stuff you post. you will be the liberal counterpart to the drudge report.

  5. Trimegistus:

    Speaking as one of the biggest names in the field (and SFWA’s former president), you literally have no idea what you’re talking about. You’re also, apparently, unaware of the hallowed SFWA tradition of resigning the organization in a huff. It’s been going on roughly as long as SFWA’s existed.

    With that said, a discussion of SFWA’s recent flounces is not germane to the thread, so let’s cap it here.


    What “out of print” means — and what happens next from it — is generally a contract point, yes. You don’t actually want to leave something like that open to interpretation.

    Re: “Scalzi Report”: Back in the very very early days of the Web, I did a weekly newsletter with that name, mostly focused on tech stuff. It was fun. I think it would be less fun doing a political thing all the time. I don’t want to have to think about politics 24/7.

  6. Haven’t read a lot of the Exhibit A books but I enjoyed the ones by Dan O’Shea. I hope he can get a new publisher.

  7. Biggest names? Hah! “John Scalzi” has a meager 9 letters. Your name is barely bigger than Ben Bova’s! (There’s a fun phrase to say out loud.) Now Jacqueline Lichtenberg? *There’s* a big name for you.

    Ahem. More seriously, an idea what (if anything) this means for the Angry Robot imprint itself?

  8. Well, hell. My friend Bryon (@bryonq) was an editor at Exhibit A. Anyone needs any free-lance editing done, he’s very good and a total mensch as well.

  9. This is a bummer. So many great small presses and imprints are going out of business. I really hope they all get their rights back quickly and find a new way to market.

  10. I hope Lauren Beukes has a good agent — if I were her, I’d be nailing things down tight with Angry Robot before the next storm hits.

  11. Yet another legacy publisher swirling the drain…. Hope all the young folks are paying attention. You can beg and plead to join a shinking ship or invest in building your own raft….
    Me, I’m still shocked everytime I get a royalty check from these bozos… Glad my lifestyle does not depend on any of them.

  12. As one of said authors, I am not too happy. But, my book hadn’t yet been released, so I believe I’m in a better boat than others. At least I can start again. I was really happy with SC too.
    This is why I have an agent, to deal with this stuff.

  13. So what we know: Osprey is looking to get out of the book business, which is not a surprise. That does not necessarily mean the end of Angry Robot. Angry Robot was an imprint of a very large house and was sold once before, so it can be sold again. Its books are not being cancelled as yet. And books in the Strange Chemistry and Exhibit A imprints may not all go out of print; some of them may be moved to Angry Robot and other imprints still functioning. Launches that were coming up may go forward. But authors will probably be able to negotiate with Angry Robot over those titles.

    Books that haven’t been published — the imprints have a set amount of time contractually to publish them. If the publisher cannot publish them within that time along the contractual terms, the publisher has failed its part of the contract and the rights revert back to the author.

    On books that have been published, the publisher holds the license for the publishing rights for the term of copyright. A book going out of print does not necessarily mean that a publisher is giving up the rights — publishers can reissue a new edition of a book after it has gone out of print and this is often done, sometimes years later, as sales seem to warrant.

    However, if the book is out of print, the author is contractually able to request the rights be returned, since the publisher is not putting out an edition for sale. At that request, the publisher must either republish the book within a set period of time or revert the rights to the author. “Out of print” is, however, a legal status which has gotten considerably more complicated, especially with e-books. So agents, lawyers, and writers organizations are often needed to work out terms and establish claims.

    In this particular case, imprints are being shut down, but Angry Robot/Osprey still owns the pub rights to the books whether the imprints exist or not. Because the imprints are being shut down for cost, they are likely to negotiate to revert the rights to the titles to the authors, or work out a publishing schedule under a different imprint. Even if the books are still technically in print and for sale, Angry Robot may arrange to revert the rights to titles to the authors since they don’t plan to continue to publish the books or sub-license the rights.

    If the company were going into bankruptcy or close to it, that would involve other contractual terms and it gets a lot more complicated. However, it doesn’t necessarily seem to be the case with Angry Robot at this point. SFWA successfully negotiated arrangements with Night Shade Books when that company got into serious financial trouble and then was sold as an imprint for two independent publishers, to get royalties repaid, rights reverted on some titles, etc. Angry Robot’s situation is not yet as dire, so hopefully arrangements will be simpler. Still very difficult for the authors, but that’s what happens when your business partner gets into financial problems. Hopefully, Angry Robot can be bought by another publisher more invested in book and fiction publishing.

  14. @Rick, considering Lauren Beukes jumped from small press Angry Robot to one of the “big six” and got a large six-figure advance for he two most recent books (the first of which was an NYT bestseller), I’d say her agent is doing just fine.

  15. Just looking over my contract and it says I can seek reversion of rights if there are less than 100 copies of the title in stock and no reprint is planned, Also in the event of the insolvency or liquidation of the Publisher or if a receiver or manager of the Publishers’s business is appointed other than for purposes of reconstruction of voluntary arrangement, all rights granted in this Agreement shall revert to the Author who for 90 days after reversion shall have to option to buy any remaining copies of the work at the fair market value, etc etc etc.

    So, I don’t think I can do much right now and it looks to me like those rights aren’t going to be going back to the authors which is unfortunate. Fun fun fun…..

  16. [Deleted for silly attempt to troll, regarding an unrelated topic. Run along, SkyFisher – JS]

  17. @Sean Cummings ….. As a lay person I would read those contract terms and conclude 90 days after the imprint is turned off you could get your rights back. If there is not imprint then their is not stock.

    Unless Angry Robot is the publisher and Strange Chemistry and Exhibit A are to Angry Robot like Chevrolet and Cadillac are to GM.

  18. Wow, sorry for the horrible grammar and spelling!? *If there is no imprint, then there is not stock*

  19. @Ozzie– looking at that, I agree. In fact, I think the 90 days in this case refers to the opportunity to buy books, not when the rights revert… though that would probably be worth a letter to whoever at Angry Robot is being inundated with requests from frantic authors.

  20. If the contract says that Sean can seek reversion of rights in certain conditions, that suggests a process Sean must follow. It may be a pro forma process, but the “seek reversion” implies that rights don’t revert automatically.

  21. @BW– I took that first sentence as being specific to the book having low stock.

    The sentence that follows states that rights will revert to the author if the publisher is insolvent or liquidates, etc. No indication that additional steps need to be taken in that instance.

    That said, if Sean is still watching this thread, he should probably not be listening to people debating legalese online, but rather following up with his agent and/or Angry Robot.

  22. We (my agent and I) were told earlier this week that their email was an immediate reversion of rights. I was two months from release, so they’ve cut everyone loose effective immediately. Good thing for me, though, b/c agent is already seeking new venues with a completely edited manuscript.

  23. @Ozzie: “100 Copies in stock” would have to legally be defined. Is that 100 copies in all of the Barnes and Nobles in America? 100 in Amazon’s warehouses? Or 100 in Strange Chemistry’s warehouse. There’s probably boilerplate somewhere that does define it (I’m guessing it’s in stock for purchase by retailers at Osprey’s warehouse). Which means, theoretically if they are bad people, they could keep 100 books in the warehouse, shut down the ordering process so those 100 books can’t be ordered by retailers and thereby hold the copyright for as long as they want.

    Also, they sell ebooks. How do you define “100 ebooks in stock”?

    When I was a legal assistant I once went looking for the copyright holder of a film. Films, of course, don’t have reversions as they belong to corporations, but still, it is somewhat enlightening. It was a pretty well-known film, not available on video or DVD, that had been made in the 50s. I spent a couple weeks on it and was able to track the sales of various companies to other companies. It was hard to know what exactly had been sold in each case, it was always possible that the copyrights had been sold separately or held onto by a CEO, but since the companies vanished after that it was impossible to know. Eventually, I figured that all of the copyrights were being held by a company licensed in the Caribbean. I found a phone number. We had a client who wanted to option (or even buy outright) the copyright. The phone had been disconnected. Orphan works are a real thing.

    Hopefully Osprey will sell out their stock, cancel their ebooks, and revert the copyrights as soon as possible.

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