Kate Wilhelm’s mystery, Death of an Artist, which came out in March, is her last traditionally published book. From now on, all her work will be published as e-books by her newly established publishing house, InfinityBox Press.
Not only will InfinityBox bring out two new works — a new Barbara Holloway mystery, By Stone, By Blade, By Fire, in September and The Fullness Of Time, a novella, in December — but it will also publish her considerable backlist as e-books. The InfinityBox bookstore launched May 1 and already includes 11 Charlie Meiklejohn and Constance Leidl mysteries, two collections, and a piece of short fiction. (The book pictured is one of the collections.)
After InfinityBox finishes putting up a complete collection of Kate’s work, it will publish the backlist of her late husband, Damon Knight. And then it will turn to publishing other people as well. And since writers have to write, I’m willing to bet we can count on a few new works from Kate as well.
This is very big news.
Kate Wilhelm is an outstanding and established writer, with over 50 published novels to her credit along with about 100 pieces of short fiction. She’s won three Nebulas and two Hugos and a number of other awards, and is in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. Her first work was published in 1956 and she’s been going strong ever since.
Publishers are still interested in her work. They’re just not willing to do business on her terms. As she explains in an open letter on the website:
In the fall of 2011 I was offered a contract that was so egregious that the publishing house that sent it should have been ashamed, and if I had signed it I would have been shamed. I proposed additional changes to those my agent had already managed to have incorporated and each suggested change was refused. I rejected the contract and withdrew the novel. At that point, I could have tried a different publisher but I knew it would have been a repeat performance, because the major publishers are tightening ranks and the contract I had rejected was more or less the new standard.
She goes on to explain that the major issue was rights, not the advance. What this means is that even an established writer, one guaranteed to make money for the publisher, finds she can’t get a reasonable deal these days.
In addition, despite her strong fan base, her out-of-print work is not likely to be reprinted by anyone else “because that rarely is done with a writer’s backlist unless that writer magically gets on the New York Times bestseller list.”
So yet another writer who can get a publishing deal is choosing to walk away from established publishers. That’s what makes this such big news.
Obviously, we here at Book View Cafe applaud her actions. While most of us are doing business with other publishers as well — both large and small presses — one of the reasons we launched BVC was to provide ourselves with options. There are many ways to do business these days and no one has to take a bad deal anymore.
Plus Kate Wilhelm is more than just a good and well-known writer, she’s a leader who’s spent her career giving back to other writers. I personally never had the opportunity to study with Kate and Damon at Clarion — it was before my time — but I know they gave many writers their start. And some of the writers they helped turned around and helped me.
When someone like Kate Wilhelm makes a change like this, other people will listen. And follow.
Things keep changing in publishing. Stay tuned. And go buy a book.