Home » Big Publishing, Contracts, Fantasy/SciFi » Fate of Girl Genius omnibus at Tor causes friction between the Foglios and Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Fate of Girl Genius omnibus at Tor causes friction between the Foglios and Patrick Nielsen Hayden

31 January 2014

From TeleRead:

Last night, Phil Foglio posted to his LJFacebook, and blog a story of frustration with Tor, who had opted to try launching a line of graphic novels starting with the first Girl Genius omnibus edition. They came out with a low-priced hardcover, but when the Foglios wondered when the paperback would come out they started getting the runaround. As they were trying to get the matter resolved, friends pointed them in the direction of Patrick Nielsen Hayden, ostensibly Tor’s editor-in-chief. (He actually isn’t, but I’ll get to that in a bit.)

So after a year of this (yes, an entire year. We are Slow to Take Offense, here at Studio Foglio), I write to Mr. Hayden, asking him if our editor is dead, or just fired? This question surprises him, as he saw her in the office that morning. He seems sympathetic. We even have a face-to-face meeting at worldcon the next week where he explains that TOR just really doesn’t know how to sell graphic novels, and when someone takes on a job they don’t know how to do, they tend to just stick their fingers in their ears and hope that eventually, it goes away. Fair enough, I am occasionally like this with The Experiments.

I mention that we’ve been selling graphic novels fairly well for quite awhile, and that we’d cheerfully give them pointers. However, if they just can’t wrap their heads around it, which seems obvious since after three years they have yet to sell through the initial print run (We’d have done it in 16 months- and that’s with no advertising, which is a fair comparison, as they did no advertising either), then we’ll just sing a chorus of “So Long, It’s Been Good To Know You”, and then we’ll publish them ourselves, because if there’s one thing we know how to do, it’s publish and sell Girl Genius graphic novels.

But we can’t. Because our contract with TOR says we can’t publish “a competing product” for five years. Okay, what can we do about this? But now, Mr. Patrick Nielsen Hayden has apparently decided that we’re too much trouble.

They closed by calling upon their readers to pester Mr. Nielsen Hayden [it’s not “Mr. Hayden,” it’s a hyphenated married name sans the hyphen] since they and their agent haven’t been able to get through to Tor themselves. However, it comes out that’s not the whole story.

On his blog “Making Light” this morning, PNH responded explaining his side of the situation. He is not in fact Tor’s editor-in-chief because Tor doesn’t have one.

. . . .

But then Phil made this public post ascribing all his problems with Tor directly to him, which he feels is more than a little unfair.

Bottom line: As far as I can see, Phil’s problems with Tor are being dealt with now. Sending me dozens of angry emails isn’t going to get them dealt with any faster or better. If you want to send me email telling me I’m a craphead for not having answered Phil Foglio’s emails from late November to mid-January, okay, guilty as charged. But I’m not the guy on a golden throne proposing and disposing the actions of all the other senior editors at Tor. I’m someone who had the bad judgement to offer to try to help with a problem, and then got sufficiently overwhelmed by other urgent matters that I wasn’t actually able to help in the timely fashion I said I would. This was reprehensible of me. My other mistake: Not clearly extricating myself the moment it became clear that Phil’s agent was going to persist in the impression that I’m Phil’s editor’s boss.

If you think these errors are a good enough reason for the stream of crap Phil is now directing in my direction—and exclusively in my direction—then I suggest you might want to reconsider.

. . . .

[T]here’s a lot of institutional inertia in big publishing houses. Authors going for months without hearing anything is a pretty common story.

Link to the rest at TeleRead

 

Big Publishing, Contracts, Fantasy/SciFi

86 Comments to “Fate of Girl Genius omnibus at Tor causes friction between the Foglios and Patrick Nielsen Hayden”

  1. Correct me if I’m wrong, but if the corporate chain of authority at your publisher is so convoluted that you don’t know who your editor reports to, isn’t that a sign that something is amiss?

  2. Situations like this is why I’d be reluctant to sign with any publisher. And that’s after I’d give my entire seven-figure advance to PG to go over the contract with an electronic microscope.

    I have to agree with a commentor on the OP: Why did PNH stick his nose in the middle of the mess instead of referring Phil Foglio to Tor’s publisher if PNH is not the editor-in-chief?

  3. Suzan: Something I think PNH was asking himself after the fact. He said (in his blog post) it was because he was trying to do a favor for a friend (the other editor) and friends of friends (the Foglios). And he thought he did tell them at the time that he wasn’t the right person, but I think that’s one of the things they remembered differently from the conversation.

  4. I’ve known Patrick, by dint of the web and the Well, for more than a decade now, and I’ve known him to be generous, enthusiastic, and professional. Back when querying agents and landing a corporate contract was the only way things could really be done in the writing and publishing worlds, the Nielsen Hayden’s Making Light was one of the most valuable resources available for information. It’s still a great resource of general information. It’s the only place I know of online you’re equally likely to encounter Sherlock spoilers and a recipe for Civil War-era ale or pie. Which is pretty awesome.

    Knowing of Patrick and having had some contact with him, it doesn’t surprise me that he would be met at Comic Con, and that he would offer to help. Generous, enthusiastic, and professional–though I wonder here if perhaps his generosity and enthusiasm here got the better of him and ultimately got in the way of his professionalism. He notes his growing annoyance with the Foglio’s agent and the agent’s pestering, but a) that’s what agents are supposed to do, isn’t it? and b) I wonder if that was ever clearly communicated.

    The problem is, it doesn’t surprise me that TOR was not all those things. My experience with TOR and TOR.com has been less positive. I submitted a story to them one May several years ago. Two Octobers later, I got a response–a polite and personal rejection apologizing for the delay and explaining the situation. Which was understandable, but, let’s be honest, at least a year later than it should have come at the outside. I didn’t mind, as I’d already put the story up on Kindle months beforehand. Looking back, I probably should have sent them a note to that effect when I did so, so I guess neither party was exactly as professional as could be in that situation. This was my major experience with them, and of course one shouldn’t base a reputation on one isolated incident, but the problem is I don’t know how isolated it is; I’ve heard a lot about slow response times and, well, situations like the Foglios are now discussing.

    I think this is all unfortunate, and I think it’s also unfortunate that the friction has been caused with Patrick. I’ve seen mention of the fact that Patrick is a senior editor at TOR and not the senior editor at TOR (or its editor in chief or its executive editor or whatever), but I also think Patrick has become more synonymous with the company than pretty much everyone else. He’s been there so long, dedicated so much, and really helped shape it in a way that I’ve never heard of anyone else doing–there or otherwise. Patrick and Teresa are both, at this point, legendary in both publishing and science fiction; the latter’s Making Book was a terrific one about how books got made.

    Which is why it sucks Patrick feels (and arguably rightly) that the stream of crap is coming exclusively in his direction. Really it’s a stream of crap that needs to be directed at corporate publishing in general; as the Teleread article notes, there’s a lot of institutional inertia in the big publishing houses, and likely the problem here is that TOR is part of one of those, an imprint or arm or subsidiary or whatever you want to call it of Macmillan, which was the last corporate publisher to settle in the DOJ collusion/price-fixing case and whose CEO John Sargent was the one so thoroughly admonished by Cote et al. during those proceedings.

    tl;dr – It’s not Patrick; it’s corporate publishing.

    • ” It’s not Patrick; it’s corporate publishing.”

      There’s no doubt that corporate publishing works in such a way that even the most professional of individuals are hard pressed to perform in a professional manner within that environment. It’s just “not how things are done”.

  5. I’m reposting here my comment on PNH’s defense blogpost. I can’t tell who’s right or wrong, but I have a very firm opinion about what PNH should be doing instead of whining…

    ———

    Nonsense. When I ran several companies of various sizes, the customer or supplier might not always be right, but they always deserved an answer.

    When I or any other senior exec got some version of “your company is broken, here’s why I think so” it was an OPPORTUNITY to find out what was wrong and GET IT FIXED, even if the problem was just a misunderstanding. Even if the complaint was just wrong, still there was action to be taken, to either make the relationship going forward better or to severe the relationship.

    What it was not was an option to assign blame to someone else and walk away from the problem. That’s why senior people in a company have their roles — they understand how to assume responsibility and fix problems, or keep them from arising in the first place. That’s just part of their jobs.

    Even if they personally aren’t the cause of the problem in the first place, they are responsible for helping their company get it fixed.

    End of story.

    • Um, no?

      You don’t step in to take charge and fix a colleagues problem. You might step in to fix a SUBORDINATES problem, but a colleague? If I tried to “take charge” of a colleagues problem in my job, the end result is I would get my a** fired. End of story.

      Since you apparently have a lot of experience being on top of the heap, I guess you’ve forgotten what it’s like to be on salary.

      • If it came up that I had a vendor complaining to me about a colleague’s conduct, and I had personally taken the responsibility of saying I would help, and then failed to either get the colleague to work on that problem or kick it up the chain to our boss, so he could look into it, then I’d be fired whether or not the colleague’s conduct was at fault.

        Because once I say “I can help, this is my contact info”, then I own the responsibility of getting the problem to the person who can solve it (not the responsibility for the original problem.)

        And seriously, why does it take months to do anything about it? What’s so hard about pulling out your work phone, and firing off an email right then and there to your coworker, saying “Dude, Vendor A is saying they haven’t gotten any communications from you for X months. Their preferred email info is blah@blah. Can you send them a status report, or call ’em at (number) and tell ’em to check their spam filters? Thanks, -Me” Then turn, hand ’em your business card, and tell ’em to contact you in a week if they haven’t gotten any reply, and you’ll kick it up to their boss. Takes five minutes, makes the vendor happy, and it’s off your back.

        I guess you can tell I don’t work in publishing.

    • You hit the bull’s eye, Karen. That someone in senior management at TOR doesn’t comprehend the need to take action when encountering a real issue with an established client… I shake my head at the stupidity. That no one higher up in TOR or Macmillan doesn’t come down on Mr. Nielson Hayden for such public whining, shows it is a problem deeply embedded in the company’s culture.

      • Um, what?

        Foglio asked the internet to lambaste PNH with complaints because he was INCORRECTLY IDENTIFIED AS EDITOR IN CHIEF OF ALL OF TOR BOOKS.

        Read that sentence again.

        PNH works science fiction. Girl Genius was *not* part of the sci-fi line (which is a little odd). He had no direct interaction with it at all. So all of a sudden people start tweeting him and accusing him of being the guy who was preventing Girl Genius from ever being published again due to a non-compete clause (which is what Phil seemed to say in his post, though his agent or business manager clarified that the non-compete was specifically of omnibus editions).

        Yeah, he’s perfectly justified in posting his explanation — an explanation where he admits some blame, but also clarifies that he is not directly involved in the chain of command that deals with the title.

        All of this is perfectly reasonable. I don’t understand Karen’s reaction and I don’t understand yours.

        • He knew of the problem that summer and admitted to still not addressing it months later. He ain’t the boss, so it wasn’t his issue to resolve, but what prevented him from emailing someone the very day it came up and telling them about an upset client and then sending an email to the author and his agent to let them know so-and-so has been told of their problem, giving that person’s contact information?

          This is what Mr. Neilsen Hayden wrote: “Here’s the other place I’m at fault. Once I got back into the office regularly in late November, I didn’t instantly jump on the Foglio problem, and I didn’t respond to two or three emails from Phil wanting to know what’s going on. I fully acknowledge that this was rude and probably baffling to Phil. Some of it was probably residual annoyance about feeling like I’d been jumped by Phil’s agent in September.”

          He further admits failing to respond to the client’s emails for another two months! Maybe the wrath was focused on the wrong editor but its certainly went toward the right company.

          • He told Phil at the con that he couldn’t start doing anything until November. Phil’s agent apparently IGNORED this and started making demands in September, during the time PNH already stated he wouldn’t be available.

            Once again, that action alone would cause me to drop the matter entirely. PNH is being rather gracious here.

            If I told you, Eric Lorenzen, “I’d love to help you but it’s going to have to wait till April because I’m in the middle of moving into a house” and you (or a duly appointed representative) sent me an email in February that read “HEY YOU PROMISED TO HELP WHY AREN’T YOU HELPING ME YET” the best you would get from me is a two word reply. The second word will be “off.”

            • I guess you are right, Christopher. He gave them fair warning. 🙂
              Personally, I would never have accepted a “I’ll get back to you in two months” answer in the first place. That is an example of blowing someone off, not helping them. Phil and his agent should have realized they needed to find someone else to provide them with answers.

              • Gah, I don’t know. I get why Phil is angry. I can even see how he might have thought PNH was somewhat involved, assuming his agent/representative dropped the ball. I just don’t see how he targets PNH as the source of it all, or why people are looking at PNH’s reply as inappropriate, given that he suddenly got angry tweets and emails and facebook messages about it.

                Unless they think PNH is lying. I tend *not* to think that, but if people do I guess there’s no way I can convince them otherwise.

                • Probably because he (or the friends who referred him) misidentified PNH as the Guy In Charge. When you don’t get results from talking to the right person, you try to go a step up the ladder. And somehow, apparently it didn’t get made clear to him through their conversation that PNH wasn’t actually the Guy In Charge.

      • In my experience, dysfunctional organizations frequently make intelligent employees look stupid.

        • Truer words were never spoken, or, er, committed to magnetic media and redistributed via electrons.

    • I’m going to agree Karen. In business it is completely not uncommon for people to reach out to the wrong person – for whatever reason. Even if someone brought down an email campaign on the wrong person. The bottom line is that when a customer/supplier contacts you as the representative of that company, they should be responded to promptly and professionally.

      I have a common name, and it’s happened to me over and over. I’ve even had people reach out to me with issues at companies where I had been a contractor and wasn’t even an employee. I would still consider it my responsibility to get them in touch with the right person and do so immediately.

      • I have to ask, have you read PNH’s full comment on his blog? When he was approached he identified the actual editor, noted that it wasn’t his area, and then offered help with the understanding that it would be a while before he could actually approach the problem due to other commitments.

        Phil’s agent proceeded to email him a full two months (September) before the time he stated he would be free (November) demanding to know why he wasn’t getting anything done.

        Mr. Nielsen Hayden handled that better than I would have. At that point I would have called Phil up and told him to… well. I would have withdrawn my offer to help.

        • You’re right. He correctly points out that his primary issue was to offer help, beyond getting the matter into the proper hands.

          And that is an important distinction.

  6. Lesson for indies: Just because a publisher says they’ll increase your sales, get you into stores, etc, doesn’t mean they will. They might decide you’re too much trouble and stop talking to you.

    I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be to under a non-compete clause when you KNOW you can sell better on your own.

    • IMHO, most non-compete contract clauses are nothing more than part of a publisher’s overall strategy of trying to get something for nothing from the writer, and for a “life plus 70” time frame.

  7. Another lesson is that, when the big publishing house comes to you, it’s okay to tell them “No, thanks.” And as a number of self-publishing authors are finding, it can often be the better choice.

  8. It’s a shame… I always considered Tom Doherty the cream of the publishing crop. Now it looks like he doesn’t have control of his business.

    I’ve always heard good things about Tor and not so good things about Mr. Nielsen Hayden’s behavior when dealing with people he doesn’t care for. Looks like at least the latter is true. At this point, if Tor’s standard operating procedure is to ignore a problem when it pops up, and they continue to employ someone like Mr. Nielsen Hayden (an individual who is happy to point this out while pretending to offer help making a bad situation worse) I don’t understand why anyone would want to publish with them. I’d sure think long and hard about it when last year, I would have jumped at the chance.

  9. A tangential note:

    The fact that tor.com is covered with references to Tor books, staffed by Tor employees, and in all ways appears to be the website for Tor Books, but is not, is utterly incomprehensible to me. More than one person *ahem* pointed out that tor.com contains information which makes it seem perfectly plausible that PNH occupied the position in the chain of command that the Foglios and their agent believed he did, and the response was, “That’s Tor.com, it doesn’t have anything to do with Tor Books.”

    Mindblowing.

    • I thought the same thing after a glance at their website, but I would hope an agent who has actual business dealings with the company would have a better understanding of their hierarchy. Just because the website’s “about us” page is a scrambled mess, doesn’t mean its that way inside the corporate offices. Either the agent doesn’t know his business or TOR needs a new management flow chart.

      • Twice now I have been told (paraphrasing:) “Anybody who can read a book should be able to tell that Tor.com is not the website of Tor Books, it says so right on it.” The implication is that I am not very bright.

        To which I respond: Well, no, it doesn’t say that. It has a link that says “Looking for Tor Books? Go here.” As I said in my response to the response, for all I know that’s a shopping link. The About Us page talks about “publisher agnosticism,” but nowhere says flat out, “We ain’t Tor Books.” Maybe I’m stupider than I think I am. Granted this is a possibility. But I humbly submit that if you have to be smarter than me to realize without benefit of hindsight that tor.com isn’t Tor Books’ website, they’ve set the bar kinda high.

        I hasten to add, however, that regardless of the possibility of confusion, or lack thereof, as soon as PNH told Foglio and his agent what the real deal was, that should have been the end of the matter. That it wasn’t is entirely on them.

        • Marc, you misunderstood if you thought I was saying anything like that about you. I apologize for not being clear. I, myself, still don’t understand their structure. Frankly, I have no reason to bother, for I don’t do any business with them.

          However, a literary agent whose job is to interact with publishers on behalf of an author should know who is who, even if he/she hasn’t personally met all of the key people. Now, if you are Foglio’s agent, then I take back the apology. 🙂

          • Your apology is accepted and I in turn apologize that it wasn’t clearer I wasn’t talking about you. The responses to which I refer were on PNH’s blog.

            • Yikes. I went over to PNH’s blog. You did receive some rather snide replies.

            • I really appreciated your replies, Marc. And I cannot believe how snidely you were treated.

              It’s clear to everyone *but* them that their organizational chart is an opaque mess. You’d think they’d take the hint instead of lashing out.

              • I have to point out, it’s ironic that Patrick says something like he’s not sure how it could be any more clear that TOR.com is not the website of TOR books than if it were skywritten or something–

                When to your point, Marc, the only real implication (it’s not stated) is that little tiny tan-ish block midway down the page.

                You’d think, I don’t know, something in the banner or header or something? It’s not even on the “About Us” page, though it is the first answered among Frequently Asked Questions; the fact that it is the most frequently asked question might imply something about the success they’ve had in making the separation between Tor.com and TOR clear (i.e., not so much).

                I think it’s blinders. It’s really, really clear to them, because they run it. And it’s obviously clear to people who already know, as everyone who reads Making Light likely does. But to a general audience? I mean, I still don’t even get what it’s supposed to be.

    • Oddly enough, Tor.com isn’t averse to stickying publicity announcements from John Sargent (that are addressed to other professionals in the publishing industry, rather than the consumers who by and large make up the readership of a pop culture blog) so they stay at the top of the page for a whole week. (I mean, yes, I can see posting it, because it could still be of interest to such readers, but stickying it for a whole week?)

      So it seems like Tor.com isn’t an official arm of Tor, except when it is.

  10. I think if I was in this position – where the house refused all communication, refused to sell the books, refused to live up to their end of the contract and ignored pleas for reversal of rights for months or years, I think I’d ignore the contract too and sell the book on my own.

    The house seems to be in breach of contract. And if TOR’s blinders are that thick, the chances of them even realizing the book is being published via other means seems nil. And if the house pursued legal action, which seems like a big if since they’ve written off the book and have likely made no money on it– then at least the author has their attention and would also have valid footing to win that law suit. I mean this editor told him they have no idea how to sell a graphic novel. And the author clearly does.

    So grateful I never signed with a NY House.

  11. Tor is notorious (heh) for sitting on books in-house forever. Accepted manuscripts sitting on an editor’s desk with no word to the author for over a *year* is not uncommon.

    This story doesn’t surprise me, though I’m not convinced the fallout and ‘call to action’ regarding PNH are the way to go.

  12. I think there are two takeaways to this.

    1. NEVER SIGN A CONTRACT WITH A NON-COMPETE CLAUSE.

    2. Don’t use the internet to settle your internal business problems.

  13. I have had a manuscript on submission to Tor for five years. I queried about it twice, and asked Patrick about it once in person, but have never received a reply. And Patrick knows me, or at least did back then.

    Tor works on timescales that glaciers find tedious. Phil Foglio is at fault for expecting any problem with Tor to be resolved in only a year’s time, and he’s at fault for choosing to do business with them in the first place. Tor is at fault for having a byzantine corporate structure that is designed to stall all outside interactions for as long as possible.

    • I think Phil’s only real fault here is to target the guy who offered to try to help him. I can’t fault him for his frustration, and since he’s been publishing his own work for as long as he has I can’t fault him for not being savvy about the speed at which Tor works.

      But I don’t understand targeting PNH. I don’t see how it sends any kind of good message to anyone else who might consider stepping in to help him in any way.

    • “Tor works on timescales that glaciers find tedious.”

      I love this line!

    • Perhaps you should pull the manuscript and publish it yourself. Who knows how much money you could have made in the last few years?

  14. When I rail against non-compete clauses, some people rush to the defense of major publishers by saying that either these clauses don’t exist or if they do that they don’t prevent authors from having their life back.

    I find them indefensible.

    • “…some people rush to the defense of major publishers by saying that either these clauses don’t exist…”

      I don’t understand how can people argue that contract clauses people have read and signed don’t exist.

      • They say they’re rare, or if they do exist, they’re almost never used. “Yes, and that clause in the contract? Oh, it’s just there for show, we won’t ENFORCE it on you.” Said no one ever.

        • Dean Wesley Smith said these words to me 28 years ago: “First rule of contracts: If it isn’t written, it isn’t so.”

          Conversely, if it IS written, they can and very likely WILL enforce it. And contracts, as the late Ralph Vicinanza’a clients will tell you with tears in their eyes, survive the people who sign them. Even if good ole Publisher X would never enforce that clause (and do NOT bet the family farm on that hope), someone else with the power to do so very well might some day.

        • I’ve had it said twice to me, for two separate publishing contracts. I didn’t believe it either time, but it was said. I’m sure it’s been said many times 🙂

  15. These major delays in responses to e-mails I see every day at my own job. From management. It baffles me is how so many companies seem to (mis)handle business correspondence.

    When I’m at work and I receive an e-mail I can’t get to right away, I fire off a reply saying, “Hi, I got your e-mail. It may take me some time to get back to you, though.” If I were really busy, I’d set up an auto responder saying that it may take days or weeks for me to respond.

    Is it really so hard for others to be courteous? I send an e-mail to someone at our parent company and I don’t hear back. I send a follow-up a week later and still don’t hear back, then finally after 2-3 weeks from the first query, I get a response asking for information that was clearly in the first e-mail.

    Are they so busy that they can’t send a simple 2 sentence e-mail that says, “Got it, but it may take a week or two to get back to you”? And too busy to properly read the original query?

    • I’m noticing this more and more in business settings. If someone doesn’t have time, or they don’t want to tell you “no”, or they don’t want to deal with a problem, the default behavior is to just not communicate. Which irritates the heck out of me, because I can’t act and plan without information. If the answer is “no”, or otherwise something I might not want to hear, JUST TELL ME for heaven’s sake.

  16. I just read the comments over at PNH’s blog. I counted at least three Tor execs over their commenting and complaining, yet not one of them offered a public apology for the problem that started this whole drama: their company had ignored the calls and emails of a client/author for a year. This wasn’t some want-a-be from the slush pile; it was an active client.

    Foglio’s actions were a desperate attempt to complain that were unfortunately targeted at the wrong exec, but that doesn’t negate the original error: some execs over at Tor thought it acceptable to ignore a client for such a long time.

  17. I don’t see how you can fail to sell through Girl Genius. It’s solid gold.

    Link to the beginning of the story:
    http://www.girlgeniusonline.com/comic.php?date=20021104

    • Yeah, Girl Genius is amazing. Phil came to a party we threw for a game launch a couple of years ago and staged a live dramatic reading using volunteer actors from among the party guests. It was tremendous fun–quite the highlight of the entire affair.

  18. Sorry, but if you step in to address a problem—for whatever reason—then you had better damn well address the problem or stay the hell out of it in the first place. Once you take responsibility, it IS your problem.

  19. I released three books with Tor Books. For reasons similar to what Phil Foglio describes (but much more varied and often more bizarre), the stress of dealing with Tor on those books made me physically ill. I normally enjoy very good health, but by the time second book was released, I had been a physical wreck for nearly two years, suffering from increasingly severe chronic migraines, chronic insomnia, facial ticks, muscle spasms, recurring skin rashes, chronic heartburn and intestinal trouble, depression, and a weird psychosomatic pain so severe that I couldn’t use my left arm for several weeks.

    I’ve been a full-time writer for about 25 years, and I’ve worked with multiple publishers. In my copious spare time, I’ve also crossed all of Africa overland and worked in the Middle East. But I never experienced any of those conditions prior to doing three books with Tor; and since those days, I have never again experienced any of those problems.

    So that’s what working with Tor was like for me.

  20. Wow. I just came to the comment by “Teresa Nielsen Hayden:”

    “I invented disemvowelling as a moderation technique on Making Light some years back. You got the point of it at near-lightspeed: it deprecates the text, makes it clear which portions were objectionable, and makes it difficult but not laborious to read. It has some less obvious properties as well.”

    No wonder all of a sudden JayBlanc’s posts looked like gibberish. Guess they didn’t like some hard questions. Or dissenting opinions from writers. But heck, writers are disposable, along with all content creators, right?

    Just for that, I’m scrolling back up to those posts and figuring them out. Jeez.

    Looks like Tor needs to be crossed off any writer’s submit list. YEARS for replies? Uh, no. Just no.

    • Completely agree. I figured out Jay Blanc’s remarks and there was nothing whatsoever objectionable about them.

      For me, aside from the entire Girl Genius fracas (which I put down to a disturbing understanding of professional behaviour from people associated with publishing…hey ho, nothing new), TNH’s treatment of both Jay Blanc and Marc Cabot highlighted why I will never respect either Tor or Tor.com .

      Together with Laura Resnick’s comments (and they are always valuable), this is one publisher I’m well steering clear of. (Not that they’d want me but, hey, I can have my dreams too.)

  21. My sole dealing with Tor came during a Dragoncon a few years back, where the “senior editor” (I never caught their name) they sent to run their (rather poor) clone of Baen’s Traveling Road Show claimed that Baen was “basically” an imprint of Tor’s (there is a bit of a silent partnership between Tom Doherty Associates and Baen, but that’s the extent of the affiliatation, as far as I’m aware), and couldn’t answer any questions at all about the material they were presenting (and didn’t always know the name of the book on the slide), always answering questions with “Uh, I don’t know the answer to that. Check the website.”

    At the time (which was 2008? 2009? I can’t remember, exactly), I was considering submitting a manuscript to Tor. I left that panel deciding that Tor wasn’t exactly a company I wanted to get involved with, after all.

  22. Okay, the vowel stripping really ticked me off. So, Jay, hope you don’t mind. Hopefully I figured out the words correctly (some I really struggled with. I have a feeling some were a typo in the original post, which made it more difficult):

    ***

    #105 ::: JayBlanc ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2014, 03:55 AM:

    I’m going to have to say again that the difference between Tor.com and Tor-Forge.com is non-obvious to most people who do not already know the difference.

    I’ve just checked again, and no, you don’t exactly explicitly say “Tor.com is not the website for Tor the publishing body, Tor.com is an online magazine published by Macmillan. For information on the Tor publishing imprint and Tor books, please refer to Tor-Forge.com.” Which is something that could do with being right at the top of the About page.

    The FAQ almost gives information clearly, almost. The problem being that in common English “Tor Books” means “Books published by Tor”. I know its actually trading name, and when you say “Tor Books” you’re referring to that, not to books published by Tor. But other people may not. “We’re our own special corner of Macmillan, the publishing company that also encompasses Tor Books. We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of the dream.” is wonderfully florid lngg(?) that explains exactly nothing, and may not lead people to understand the difference.

    It would be possible incorrect interpretation of that to understand that Tor-Forge are the book wholesalers, of Tor the publisher. Some people may well get the impression that Tor-Forge is where you go to buy books online from Tor, the “Looking for Tor Books” banner block looks like an ad for a place to buy books, not redirection to the publishing imprint.

    People get confused when two things have the same name, involve the same people, and are part of the same company. Branding anyone who does not immediately get the difference between Tor.com and Tor-Forge an idiot is not helpful.

    ***

    Really, what purpose was it to make this comment gibberish? Because they refuse to listen or believe all the people (i.e. the users) that the Tor.com domain name and link to the Tor publishing company is confusing?

    By the way, I always thought Tor.com was a part of Tor. Who wouldn’t? There is NO link under the top banner of “If you are looking for Tor Publishing’s official website, go here (link)” (or something similar) like I’ve seen on other sites where confusion is possible. So, what is this about? Is Tor.com wanting to actively deceive browsing readers? Or is it that the people who run the website are just clueless?

    Any REASONABLE person with active brain cells WOULD think Tor.com belonged to Tor publishing. Good grief. But then, we are accustomed to subterfuge and hiding things in bad places (like the Warranty) of things that should be right in the open, right?

    • Tor.com isn’t Tor’s official website? Seriously?

      I thought it was really clever for Tor to copy Baen, and have their publicity site and magazine-sucking-in-eyes site combined (and close to the shopping site), but just with more magazine-ishness. What I couldn’t figure was why there wasn’t as much publisher-publicity as I would have expected, but I figured they were copying Waldenbooks’ approach with Xignals from back in the day.

      But they weren’t doing that? They deliberately were _not_ doing that?

      Boy, that’s stupid. It’d be stupider, except that the concept is so stupid that most readers haven’t figured it out.

      So basically, Tor is ashamed of tor.com, then? It’s too successful, so they want to maintain distance in their own minds from that dirty, dirty magazine-ness?

    • …is wonderfully florid language that explains exactly nothing, and may not lead people to understand the difference.

      (I don’t want to think about how many typos I’ve dealt with, that I got that one. Hmmm. I’m now envisioning a crossword puzzle where the clues are all the “disemvowled” words and phrases. Would that be an adequate response to the group think-enforcing of symbolically hanging the mangled corpse of a dissenting opinion out in the comment stream as a warning not to speak out? )

  23. More decoding. Teresa is having a field-day with disemvowelling. Maybe Teresa should listen a little more? Chris and Jay, apparently these people don’t want to learn of a huge issue on their website. Thanks for trying to bring it to their attention. I guess they ARE calling most of us idiots and clueless (and probably a bunch of other names under their breath that we thankfully don’t have to hear).:

    #106 ::: Chris Meadows ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2014, 05:14 AM:

    @105 Also, I’ve noticed that while Tor.com can disclaim an official connection to Tor-Forge/Macmillan all it wants, it doesn’t always seem to work the other way around.

    (Not that Macmillan exactly seems to be the best about public outreach anyway.)

    #110 ::: JayBlanc ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2014, 09:16 AM:

    I’m personally offended that, despite repeating myself multiple times that I wasn’t calling anyone out, was not intentionally being aggressive or confrontational, and was in the main agreeing with you… That you publicly label me as an aggressor for trying to suggests some simple changes to tor.com that would stop people assuming PNH is in charge of things he is not in charge of.

    It’s no skin off my nose if you don’t want to make any changes to tor.com, but please don’t shout at us and call us idiots or clueless for making these suggestions.

    #136 ::: Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2014, 12:39 PM:

    47: “Keep in mind, Foglio didn’t just write a blog about being annoyed that nobody was responding. He posted it to his personal blog, Facebook, and LiveJournal and then openly asked all of his fans to blast an individual’s Facebook page and email address until they paid attention to him.”

    This. I don’t know any of the folks on cntntn(?) here, so I have no dog in this hunt. But that is just classless, low behavior.

    (NOTE FROM ME: I’m surprised she stripped this one, as it seems to be supporting their POV. :shrug:)

    • I’m not shocked. She has a history of doing that to people who dissent from her. I’ve never posted, mind, but that’s the reputation she’s earned. At the time I found out, trad pub was the only game in town, and I was irritated that I had to exclude Tor from the list of publishers I could submit to. I can’t sign contracts with people who are proudly and brazenly dishonorable. Mama didn’t raise no fool 🙂

      Seeing all of this mess, and the comments from those who’ve dealt with Tor, reassures me I didn’t miss out. My sympathies to everyone who didn’t get to avoid the pain of working with Tor.

    • TNH is pretty consistent when it comes to her moderation practices. She wants moderation in tone and when the tone veers beyond a certain level she moderates. If you hang out there long enough you recognize it. People who don’t let things go, people who start in ad hominem, it usually doesn’t matter if your pro or con, you’ll get disemvowelled.

      Calling Phil’s actions “classless, low behavior” is what got that one tagged.

      For the record, I consider disemvowelling a particularly ingenious method of moderation, and I’d like to implement it on my own site (not that I need it at the moment). It is one of the least-censoring methods of moderation I’ve come across — it doesn’t remove what the person actually wrote, it simply requires you to put in a little more time to figure out what it is.

      • Ah, okay. Then that last one makes a little more sense.

        The first decoding comment I put up is still silly. JayBlanc was telling exactly why the site is confusing after all the snide remarks about anyone who couldn’t see the obvious (to them) was an idiot. Sorry, we’re not idiots. Most people would automatically think a domain name of Tor.com would belong to Tor, unless explicitly told/shown it was not. The website does not do that.

        But, hey, can’t have someone making that kind of detailed comment, can we? Whatever.

        • Exactly. If you can’t make an argument against what the other person said, just “disemvowel them” so they look crazy and you don’t have to do anything so icky as addressing their points.

          Edited to add: I used to moderate the comments for a large daily newspaper. We get a great deal of traffic. I’m skeptical she gets more than we do. We never had to resort to disemvoweling. We had other issues with our comments software, but we never resorted to trying to deface the other person’s comments — especially when they made a legitimate criticism. It’s not a feature I ever requested of the software company. There are far more honorable options out there:

          1)Downvoting — let the commentators downvote a comment they think doesn’t add to the discussion. The comment then gets folded shut, and anyone who wants to see it can click a little button that reveals the comment in its entirety.

          2) Transparency – Have the moderator directly post that this or that comment doesn’t meet her standards, so she’s making the comment invisible, but if people want to see it for themselves they can click a button to do so.

          3) Just go ahead and make the comment invisible. Put in a note where it once was saying “this has been deleted,” so that everyone knows that the folks responding to the now-deleted comment aren’t crazy.

          There’s software that does all of this simply and easily. No excuses for Tor.

    • Teresa also removed my two links from that message. One of them I posted above, in the “Tor.com isn’t an official arm of Tor except when it is” post.

      The other one had to do with Macmillan’s “Macmillan Speaks” web site, which might more accurately be called “Macmillan Speaks, Once, Then Falls Forever Silent.” It was a blog-type website started for hosting one of John Sargent’s announcements from on high (the same one that I complained about being stickied, in fact), and then never used again for anything. (Even subsequent Sargent announcements didn’t get reposted there for people to comment on. Maybe they were afraid people would comment on them.) It just has that one blog post sitting there forlornly.

      Let’s hear it for Macmillan’s idea of public communication, everyone. [Golf clap.]

  24. “I have squandered my resistance
    For a pocketful of mumbles, such are promises.
    All lies and jest.
    Still a man hears what he wants to hear
    And disregards the rest.” –Paul Simon, The Boxer

  25. I had a MS sitting on a Tor editor’s desk for 2 1/2 years. Best I can tell that editor thought it too much effort to send a rejection letter.

    Tor (like many other publishers) is one of those publishers where they can treat you very well if they want to, or they’ll just ignore you in an immensely unprofessional way (like, say, if your sales weren’t good enough and you now represent work instead of profit).

    TNH and PNH are both well-respected people and some of the most snide and dismissive people I’ve ever seen. The two and half years of non-response didn’t make me stop submitting to Tor. Snideness did. I remember one time TNH stopped by a comment thread and her attitude was completely “anything negative said about us comes from rejected authors with their feelings hurt”.

    This particular incident doesn’t make anyone look good – not Tor or the Foglios for playing ‘sic the internet on him’ – but the one thing that comes through loud and clear in PNH’s response is that “not bothering to respond to people who didn’t sell well is standard operating procedure”.

  26. What I learned from PNH’s comments – traditional authors, please correct me if I’m understanding something wrong, is the editorial structure at Tor, which PNH says is “industry standard”.

    So there are chief editors, who aren’t chiefs of anything, and then senior editors who may have more duties, but don’t oversee the lesser-dutied chief editors. And then there are executive editors, who are neither executives nor over any chief editors or senior editors. And there are consulting editors, who do… something.

    And there are managing editors, who don’t actually manage anybody, and don’t actually edit, but seem to be in production and merchandising, therefore indicating by virtue of their job existing that when a book goes to production, any editor an author is working with has washed their hands of it and isn’t following it through.

    And nobody’s in charge, nobody’s accountable to anybody else at the company. And this swirling mass of editors, at Tor and related imprints under MacMillan, swaps lines and projects, except when they don’t.

    And MacMillan McGraw Hill, who owns Tor and several other imprints, owns and runs the domain Tor.com, but Tor.com isn’t affiliated with Tor, even though MacMillan’s paid employees of Tor work on it.

    I’ve got to be missing something. This makes no sense!

    • Dorothy, it’s PUBLISHING. Of COURSE it makes no sense.

      (Actually, Tor’s structure is generally considered unusual. Well described by someone (I think it was Foglio?) as a bunch of editors operating their own separate fiefdoms. So if you have a problem with your editor at Tor (such as: the MS has been gathering dust on the editor’s desk for 16 months and will miss its release date if this inertia continues; or the MS has been sitting on the editor’s desk for 18 months and there isn’t -even- a release date yet; and your editor has been ignoring your emails and phone calls for months; etc.)… No one, even within Tor, let alone the writer (by now broke from awaiting a check for 10 months and exhausted from trying to get a response) or the agent (don’t get me started on agents), ever seems to know who to go to for a resolution to that.

      Whereas when I started out at Silhouette years ago and had a problem (much like the above) with my editor, I knew exactly whom to go to–my editor’s supervisor, senior editor of that imprint. The senior editor did indeed address the problem and get me reassigned to a responsible adult who behaved professionally, and things went well after that. I was brand new and knew no one, but the hierarchy of the house was quite clear. I’m currently at DAW, where the hierarchy is also clear (such as it is–DAW is very small)–the buck stops with Betsy Wollheim and Sheila Gilbert, who are the publishers–and who confer regularly with each other, so nothing major occurs at DAW that they don’t both know about.

      When I worked with Tekno Books, the hierarchy was clear (thugh the editors there were all so professional that I never needed to rely on it).

      But it’s not clear at all houses. Nor does it work as it should at all houses. It’s unusually murky-to-nonexistent at Tor, though.

    • I can believe that there could be an editor who doesn’t oversee lesser editors. Sometimes “editor” means manager, and does not mean they edit anything. Other times “editor” means someone who’s in charge of a particular function, and is neither editing anyone or managing anyone. He has autonomy, but perhaps no staff who reports to him. I think part of the designation is based around union rules; but I don’t know if unions are an issue in publishing houses.

      I work for a newspaper, and I remember there was an editor who was mainly responsible for software code and other techy stuff, but he didn’t have a team and I don’t think he ever “edited” anything intended for public consumption.

      I can also believe they don’t have an editor-in-chief. We did have one, but he took the buyout several years ago. So, the senior editors report to the publisher.

      I’m trying to guess Tor’s workflow given how disorganized they seem to be. It disturbs me that they don’t see their disorganization as a problem to be fixed. I may show this story to a coworker; subject line, Re: We’ve been out-crazied.

      Where I work, if a customer/partner/client has a problem, we don’t force them to endure it for months at a time. We had a situation once where a TV reporter we’re partnered with wrote columns for us. For some reason a few of the editors in my department were holding the columns (not publishing them), but hadn’t told her. Since our schedules coincided, I was always the one she ended up calling about why it wasn’t up on the website. I had no control or knowledge about the decision and the reasons behind it.

      But what did I have control over? Oh yeah, writing an email to the editors–my senior editors–and letting them know the following:

      1) They needed to talk to TV Lady,
      2) Their failure to talk to TV Lady was putting me in an awkward position.

      Problem solved.

      We have had terrible communication issues at work. People weren’t handing off assignments properly (i.e., at all); editors didn’t let the people responsible for executing a plan know that the plan existed and other insanities. And yet, over the years, I’ve seen the editors learn from this failing and strive to fix it. Maybe it’s because they’re closer to the consequences of failure. Or, maybe it’s just cuz they care. Or–scary thought–they’re just not as crazy as I thought they were.

      • “I’m trying to guess Tor’s workflow given how disorganized they seem to be. It disturbs me that they don’t see their disorganization as a problem to be fixed.”

        Yes, my own impression has always been that Tor doesn’t see this as a problem and, indeed, that it’s quite proud of the lack of internal structure, hierarchy, or supervision. While that attitude continues to be the company culture, change seems unlikely.

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