Thursday, June 21, 2007

Getting it on the shelves, part two

Sorry I've been away so long. No excuses.

When I went to the upstreet 2 reading in NYC on May 21, I talked about distribution with one of the featured poets, who used to run an independent press and publish a literary journal. One thing he said reverberated in my head for days afterward: "DeBoer has a rep for not paying its publishers."

After sending DeBoer one last email--consisting only of the subject line, "Are you still in business?"--and receiving no answer, I left a voicemail message, saying that the new issue of upstreet would be coming out soon. To my surprise, Faye called me back, opening the conversation with, "Yes, I'm still in business." I told her I didn't understand her affidavit, and couldn't figure out how many copies of upstreet 1 had been sold. She started spouting numbers of covers returned, and finally said, "Oh, I can't do this on the phone." Then, after a long litany of complaints about what a difficult business she's in and how she doesn't make any money on litmags, she gave me the bottom line: she can't pay me.

upstreet 1 was not a loser (some magazines are). It sold. DeBoer owes me money, but they're not going to pay me. I told her that upstreet 3 was going to come out at the beginning of July, and she said she'd do a recall on upstreet 2 to find out how many sold, but that she couldn't pay me for them. (That was just the whipped cream; the cherry on top was when she told me I could send her 150 copies of upstreet 3 to distribute, but she wouldn't pay me for those, either.) In the middle of her whining harangue, I asked her if she still distributed Fiction; she said they had sent her their last issue. I asked about Ploughshares; she said they had not sent her the last issue. So they've dumped her. I especially liked her remark about Poetry magazine: "I told them--You have millions of dollars. I don't see why I should have to pay you." I think I'll try that approach with the electric company or the phone company the next time they send me a bill. Before I hung up, she had agreed to send me the 25 undistributed copies of upstreet 2, and a statement of how much she owes me for upstreet 1. I got the books back, but not the accounting. (If I had to make a guess, I'd say DeBoer owes me between $700 and $800.)

I told all this to someone at an independent publishers' organization I belong to, and he said that Faye hardly ever pays, and that the editors who continue to use DeBoer consider it a "marketing tool" to get their journals into the indie bookstores, and just kiss those few hundred copies goodbye, expecting nothing in return but some visibility and readership. In other words, I give DeBoer 250 copies of upstreet (which I paid to have printed and shipped) and they send them out to the bookstores; then, when they do their recall and get paid for however many copies were sold, they just keep all of it.

This organization suggested how I could get some information and advice on distribution from others in the litmag business, and I've been talking with a number of them over the past couple of weeks. What I learned from them, and what I'm planning to do next, will be the subject of my next post.

4 comments:

Frank said...

I can't believe that...I always thought DeBoer was big and reputable. Have you joined the Council for Literary Magazines and Presses (http://clmp.org)?

Congratulations, though, on upstreet selling...That's a big deal considering all the sob stories out there...

angelle said...

Wait... and this is legal? Don't you have a contract or something with them that says they owe u however much? HOW IS THAT LEGAL???? That seems like bad business practice to me (hello, better business bureau). I'm baffled. And very sorry that you're going through that. That sucks. Good gosh.

Vivian said...

Yes, upstreet belongs to CLMP.

Of course what Faye is doing is not legal; it's a clear violation of our contract. I checked with the NJ Better Business Bureau (DeBoer is located in Nutley), and they don't handle complaints involving debt collection. I'd have to go through the legal system.

angelle said...

But what baffles me is how they're still in business if this is COMMON knowledge that they do this to other litmags. Clearly it's not legal, and yet they continue to get away with it, and editors even still use them for publicity, thus enabling them to STAY in business? That's insane.