Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Goodbye, Musa

This weekend, I was among a number of authors to be shocked by the news that Musa Publishing is closing down. I have two books out with them, The Treason of Memory and The Lone and Level Sands, the latter only published just before Christmas, and they'd recently accepted a short collection of stories.

Before I go any further, I'd just like to say that, as far as I can see, Musa have acted correctly. Their explanation was that, although still solvent, they couldn't see a way of continuing and still maintaining commitments to their authors and staff, a matter they weren't willing to compromise on.

You hear a lot of horror stories about small presses imploding in far more damaging ways. Although the closure is heartbreaking, it would have been far worse to have had it anyway, perhaps a year down the line, amid a financial mire that could have seen all our books held hostage while the mess was sorted out. As it is, within a day of the announcement I had a full and clearly worded letter of rights reversion that will allow me to do what I want with my work the moment the doors shut on the 28th February.

Which brings me to the question: what am I going to do with these stories? As I see it, there are two options. I can find another publisher that considers reprints, or I can self-publish.

Before I even decide that, though, I have to make a decision on how I want to present them. These are all short pieces, either longer short stories or novelettes, and most have been published before — of the four pieces in the collection, two would have been reprints (something Musa were always willing to consider).

The six stories are loosely connected. They have no characters in common, but all take place in a later era of the world featured in At An Uncertain Hour. ranging from an early modern period to that world's computer age. Besides this, all involve something ancient, something magical — whether good, evil or in between — intruding on this modern, rational world, a theme common in real-world settings, but less so in secondary worlds.

This was the rationale behind the collection, so perhaps the simplest thing would be just to expand it to include the two stand-alone publications. That would give me a collection of around 50,000 words.

First stop, of course, will be to find out whether any publishers are happy to take submissions of fantasy collections that are partial reprints. I'm not expecting to find many — Musa were quite special in that regard — but I'm hoping there'll be one or two.

If not, I'm looking at self-publishing them. Four of the six stories have already been published, so the editorial process wouldn't be too difficult, and I have the comfort of validation that all have been considered good enough for publication. That essentially leave a cover, the book design and a lot of hard work, before the real fun starts — the promotion.

Quite apart from losing my publications, I'll miss Musa. It was always a company with good ethical values, and staff and authors were very much a family, everyone helping one another out. I wish luck to all the staff and fellow-authors, and I hope I'll be running into them a lot, whether it's seeing their books coming out or working with them at other houses.

And I'd like to single out for particular good luck Daniel Ausema, whose wonderful Spire City serial story has been cancelled in the middle of its second season. I can't believe that someone won't have the taste and common sense to pick this up, but whatever happens, good luck, Dan.

And good luck and goodbye to Musa.
P.S. The one slight upside of this is that Musa is having a closing-down sale. Until the 28th, both The Treason of Memory and The Lone and Level Sands are available for a mere 40c, and other books are going similarly cheaply. At least you can grab some great books for very little before they're gone.

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