Night Shade Attempts to Avoid Bankruptcy with a Sale to Skyhorse Publishing

Night Shade Attempts to Avoid Bankruptcy with a Sale to Skyhorse Publishing

Night Shade BooksWord has begun to spread this morning that Night Shade Books is in negotiations with Skyhorse Publishing and Start Publishing in an attempt to avoid bankruptcy.

Night Shade has contacted authors to explain the situation, and excerpts from those letters have been posted online:

As you probably know, Night Shade Books has had a difficult time after the demise of Borders. We have reached a point where our current liabilities exceed our assets, and it is clear that, with our current contracts, sales, and financial position, we cannot continue to operate as an independent publisher. If we filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, or liquidation, the rights to your books could be entangled in the courts for years as could past or current unpaid royalties or advances. However, we have found an alternative, which will result in authors getting paid everything they are due as well as finding a future home for their books, subject to the terms and conditions stated in this letter.

The deal is not yet finalized and, in fact, hinges on how many authors approve changes to their existing contracts.

Some, including Jeff VanderMeer, have asked the publisher to revert rights back to authors prior to declaring bankruptcy. That’s not likely to be an option however, as its existing publishing contracts are Night Shade’s most valuable asset. As Harry Connolly points out on his blog, bankruptcy courts generally frown on publishers who do that, and such revisions are routinely overruled in court during bankruptcy proceedings.

The loss of Night Shade would be a real blow to the field. Known for taking risks on new writers, they’ve also published some of the most celebrated authors in the genre, including Paolo Bacigalupi, Iain M. Banks, Martha Wells, Manly Wade Wellman, Greg Egan, Glen Cook, Kage Baker, Jay Lake, Elizabeth Bear, Lucius Shepard, and many others. But there have been omnibus signs for the past several years, including a deep sale last April, authors leaving their stable, and others. Publishers Weekly has more detail on the potential sale here; io9‘s report is here.

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Scott Taylor

I can still remember WFC 2011 when we were trying to wrangle Jeremy Lassen for a shot at Tales of the Emerald Serpent. He was riding high on The Windup Girl. How quickly things can devolve… Sad for the industry, and you have to wonder if anyone will survive this.

Joe H.

It’s a shame — they put out some great editions back in the day (Karl Edward Wagner, e.g., and William Hope Hodgson, Clark Ashton Smith, Manly Wade Wellman and Lord Dunsany sets) and introduced me to some fine authors. My biggest concern right now, though, is for those authors — partially for selfish reasons (I really want the third volume in Mazarkis Williams’ series, amongst other things) and partially because I just hate the idea of the authors’ rights to their own work getting tangled up in something like this.


I’m with you Joe! I’m currently waiting on my backordered copy of Laird Barron’s new book from Amazon. Something tells me that Night Shade’s problems are connected to Amazon not delivering on time (which I’ve never seen them not do). Dang it!

Joe H.

More details from someone who had been in contact with both Jason & Jeremy before it all went pear-shaped:

Long story short: Not through malice, but mistakes were made and now things are dire.


Interesting that you say that mcglothlin. I’ve always found Amazon to be very efficient and when I have had problems, their customer service has been helpful and professional. Night Shade made some great books and I own many of them but I stopped buying from them because their customer service sucks and they don’t market their books very well. No business with mediocre customer service, high prices, and thin margins is going to survive in this economy.

I look at Subterranean as a much better run business with just as high quality an offering of books.

[…] been a great deal of debate among authors and editors over this week’s announcement from Night Shade Books regarding a sale to avoid […]


Hi John,

I agree that the Subterranean business model is more lucrative and, unlike much of the publishing industry, has a bright future. The point I was trying to make is that Night Shade’s business model, in order to be successful, has little room for error and on the customer side (and apparently the author side, as well) Night Shade made a lot of mistakes. Subterranean not only has the better business model but makes fewer mistakes.

I do agree that we need publishers willing to develop new talent but I’m not sure the trade paperback is the best vehicle to do so. Although I think fantasy has long been sterile, science fiction has a rich pool of talent – perhaps the finest since the Golden Age – and the genre will easily survive the loss of Night Shade.

Theodric the Obscure

I wish Paizo would buy them: that would make up for the shelving of Planet Stories.

[…] on Monday that he has terminal gall bladder cancer, both Eclipse Online and Night Shade Books packed it in on Thursday, and Roger Ebert died on Friday. And prolific English dark fantasy writer Basil Copper, […]



Very few dead tree publishers will survive in the upcoming years. High quality collectibles is one of the few hardcopy markets that e-books won’t devastate. SF will do more that survive. It is flourishing today and will continue to flourish in e-book format because it continues to be creative, challenging, and, most importantly, fun!

Why do I think fantasy is sterile? Because the overwhelming majority of today’s fantasies merely project 21st Century Western culture (perhaps re-skinned into a different body)and its sensibilities into an imagined world with magic and, unsurprisingly, are dull. At least in the early era of fantasy it was a modern person magically transferred into a new world. Today, however, the genre has become a Ren Fair. Its not a dearth of risk taking publishers, its a dearth of risk taking authors in the genre.

A longer answer than perhaps you wanted but since you asked… 🙂

[…] we first reported on April 4th, Skyhorse Publishing and Start Publishing have been in negotiations to acquire the assets of Night […]

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