There’s a warning making the rounds among up-and-coming writers and artists, especially those writing or illustrating in the Bizarro genre, concerning a small press called Spectacular Productions, which is operated by Christian Hanner (who sometimes uses the alias ‘Lee Spectacular’).
Spectacular’s stable of authors report that novels accepted for publication as far back as 2010 have still not seen publication, despite assurances from Hanner that they were “at the printer” or would “be on Amazon next week”. More disturbing are reports that when authors inquired publicly on Facebook about the status of their books (after Hanner failed to respond to private emails) he blocked them from his page, and in some cases, those authors found their Facebook accounts suspended. Hanner is also reportedly not responding to customer requests. There are also reports that Hanner accepted stories for anthologies and a magazine but no contracts were ever sent. Another author reports acceptance for an anthology in August of 2012, but has still not received a contract or an advance, despite having been promised both “within 30 days”.
For more such testimonies from Spectacular Productions authors, I’ll refer you to this. There are too many to recount in detail here. There are many cases of creators having work accepted but without a contract, promised payments that never arrive, etc. There are also, more personal allegations regarding personal behavior at conventions, which I’m choosing not to run here at this time.
A quick perusal of the Spectacular Productions website shows a lengthy list of upcoming projects, some of which have apparently already been assigned ISBNs and cover art. (In at least one case, the cover artist never received promised payment). Their catalog confirms a few more titles. However, it does not appear (as of this writing) that any of the books are actually available for purchase. The Spectacular Productions Facebook page shows that they had funds to travel to conventions and produce t-shirts to give away to the public, but not, apparently, to actually produce the books they were contracted for.
Sadly, this is an all-too-common occurrence within the small press. A start-up publisher emerges, announces a bold list of titles, issues contracts, and then crumbles after publishing a few or none of the books, leaving authors to sort out their rights reversion and customers frustrated with the small press in general. This isn’t always done maliciously. Sometimes, the publisher is just woefully inept or ignorant of the business or finds they ran out of start-up cash quicker than they thought. Other times, there is clear malfeasance on the part of the publisher. In this case, I’m not sure which applies (as Hanner had not responded to my requests for comment by press time) but I suspect that it started out the former and has now segued into the latter. And that is unfortunate.
The common denominator in ALL such cases, be it Imaginary Worlds, Medium Rare Books, Open Casket Press, Full Moon Press, Endeavor Press, or the multitude of others that have popped up and imploded over the years, is LACK OF COMMUNICATION. Shit happens. Problems occur. A press may have been impacted by financial reasons, medical problems, divorce, distribution issues, printing errors, etc. But if a publisher doesn’t communicate clearly, quickly, and truthfully to their authors and customers, then they really shouldn’t be surprised when there is a public outcry.
And thus, this is a good time to bring up Brian’s rules for submitting to a small press (because just like you, I signed with several of these fly-by-nighters early in my career, and have similar stories to tell. Indeed, I think such things are almost a perverse right of passage in this business).
1. Always get a contract. Always, always, always. No contract, no sale. Even if you are only getting “paid in copies” or “paid in exposure”, you should still get a contract.
2. Make sure that contract explicitly states what rights the publisher is acquiring and how long they hold those rights.
3. Insist on a clause that clearly states when your rights will revert back to you, including a sub-clause that clearly states if the publisher has not produced the book by X time, all rights revert back to you.
4. A publisher who is willing to pay you an advance (even a pittance) is more likely to not do things like this to you later because they have already made a financial investment.
In this particular case, my advice to authors currently under contract with Spectacular Productions is to send a registered letter informing Mr. Hanner that you are pulling your story from publication and demanding an immediate reversion of your rights. Why? Because this is 2013, and your generation of writers have options available to you that my generation didn’t. In the age of Kindle and do-it-yourself publishing, you don’t have to put up with this sort of nonsense.
*Christian Hanner and Spectacular Press did not respond to requests for comment.
UPDATE: A post on the Spectacular Productions Facebook page states, “There will be an official response posted and emailed via blog on the afternoon of Tuesday, the 3rd of September 2013 addressing the recent allegations against Spectacular Productions and their founder. Thank you for your time and patience in this matter.”