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IWSG: Saying goodbye to Samhain

Ever have one of those weeks where everything goes wrong? Well, that has been the last two weeks for me.

It got so bad, I was seriously considering giving up writing–the first time I’ve hit a low that deep since my early twenties.

And then, just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I received an email from my publisher entitled The Long Goodbye.

It’s with the heaviest of hearts and a great sadness I bring you the news of Samhain beginning the process of winding down due to our market share’s continuing decline. We’re approaching the point where we cannot sustain our business.”

What? It felt like only yesterday we’d received an email assuring us that Samhain was not closing its doors any time soon (in truth, it was January 8th).

Suddenly Samhain was big news, and a flurry of blog posts followed, mostly a variation on the same theme:

  • This is business.
  • Everyone will find another job and another publishing house.
  • It’s no big deal when a small publisher closes.

Maybe the first two are true, but I’d argue the third one is not. I think it’s a bigger deal when a small-er publishing house closes.

know the guy who formatted my book. I know the two women who worked hard to promote it. Heck, I even know the woman who ships the author copies to me. It’s a huge deal to realize that at least a dozen people you really care about are now out of work.

And then there’s the authors.

Samhain Horror is like a sarcastic, super smart, dysfunctional family. We are an incredibly tight, supportive unit, and now the very thing that brought us together wouldn’t exist any longer. Some of us hadn’t gotten over the firing of our editor in November yet, and now the whole house is gone? The name of our private Facebook group was immediately changed to Samhain Horror Survivors.

I retreated from social media for a while, except for occasionally checking the Samhain group. The only people I wanted to talk to were my fellow horror authors. I wasn’t ready for people to entice me with new opportunities, however well meaning. Like a widow at her husband’s funeral, I wasn’t interested in dating. I also wasn’t interested in hearing about how I should be strong, or how it was “just business.”

Samhain gave me my start in this crazy industry. They took an unknown writer and treated her as well as those I’d consider celebrities in the horror field. They patiently answered my stupid questions, promoted everything I did, and got my little novella to heights I’d never dreamed. Somehow it even ended up on the Stoker reading list. They deserved a few minutes of my sadness, dammit!

Samhain may have been a business, but its closing was about people. Lots of talented, hardworking, kind, goodhearted people who received some devastating news last week. It was about a group of authors who’d become a family, bonded by the same kind of crazy. It was about the fault lines zigzagging across the publishing industry.

I’m insecure about what Samhain’s struggles mean for other publishers. I’m insecure about my future. I’m desperately sad for the good people I’ve come to know and love over the past year.

Most of all, I’m insecure about ever again finding a home for my work that truly feels like home the way Samhain did.

I’d like to thank Don D’Auria, Christina Brashear, Jacob Hammer, Lauren Moretto, Kaitlyn Osborn, Eric Red, Adam Cesare, JG Faherty, Cat Cavendish, John Palisano, Glenn Rolfe, Brian Moreland, Jonathan Moore, Ronald Malfi, Russell R. James, Aaron Dries, David Bernstein, Brian Kirk, Hunter Sheehan, Tambo Jones, Somer Canon, and many more for the opportunities, the support, the encouragement, the friendship, the laughs. I’ve felt damn lucky to have a seat at your table.

(And special thanks to Anita Siraki and Erik Smith for knowing exactly what to say in a time like this, which is a rare talent and most appreciated.)

The purpose of the Insecure Writers’ Support Group is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. To see a full list of IWSG authors, click here.

1 part newsletter, 1 part unnerving updates,
2 parts sneak peeks of new projects.

51 Comments

  1. Alex J. Cavanaugh

    I’m sorry that was your publisher!
    You do get to know those involved when it’s a smaller outfit. And you’re not just a number.
    Really, really sorry, JH.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Alex.

      Reply
  2. Susan Scott

    Also very very sorry J.H. I don’t really know what to say, but this is a huge loss and the feeling of grief comes through … Can all of you come together and set up your own house? Don’t ask me how and why I flashed on that and it probably is the LAST thing you want to hear and if so, I apologise in advance …

    Reply
    • JH

      Hi Susan,

      No worries…I appreciate the kind words and the suggestion. I’m at the point now where I can handle suggestions and take them in a good way, but I wasn’t there right when this was first announced.

      We’ve certainly talked about the idea, mostly in a joking way, but I’m not sure anything will come of it. We’ve seen how hard it is…I’m not sure any of us are eager to attempt to replicate Samhain’s success without tripping on the same pitfalls.

      Reply
  3. Somer Canon

    I feel so so so soooooo similarly to this. There was a definite sense of safety in being “A Samhain Writer” and I really don’t know if any of us (especially us new kids) will ever see that kind of community and family again.
    I also felt just awful for the Samhain staffers who lost their jobs with no notice. There were some classy, wonderful people there.

    Reply
    • JH

      Hugs, Somer. I feel the same way. I just hope we can keep the community and family going.

      Our senses of humour are certainly intact!

      Reply
  4. Heather M. Gardner

    THAT STILL SUCKS!
    I know we’ve sent a few messages back and forth. You’ve already heard me say that you will find a new path. It’s still true.
    It’s all good. Take some time. Do your thing.
    But, remember. It’s just another S turn. You can either hit the brakes and play it safe OR hit the gas and smoke’em all!
    I believe in you.
    Heather

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Heather. That means a lot.

      <3

      I don't even know what playing it safe in this business means. It all seems dangerous right now.

      Reply
  5. Tamara Narayan

    Oh no! I just read that letter a couple of days ago. I think it is scary and heartbreaking. Finding a publisher is such a big deal and I imagine finding a good one is even bigger.

    Reply
  6. Dianne Salerni

    You are so very right. It may be “only a business” that is closing. But no business exists without people, and those people’s lives are turned upside down. All the employees, all the authors, and ultimately all the readers who won’t be reading any more Samhain books. 🙁

    Reply
  7. Madeline Mora-Summonte

    I’m really sorry to hear this, JH. I wish I had better words to offer you. 🙁

    Let yourself feel what you feel, and please know that I believe you and your writing will make it through this and be even better, stronger.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thank you so much, Madeline. I appreciate that. xo

      Reply
  8. Stephanie Faris

    Big hugs. Don’t be insecure about placing your work elsewhere, though. That will happen. I’m not with a small publisher, but I do know that the editor-author agent can become a close one over time, especially if you have an editor who is really personable and friendly. It’s the loss of a family with a smaller publisher, though, because you have contact with the people who work there beyond the editor. You have talent, so you’ll find a new home, but that won’t replace the loss of friendship you’ve experienced. That’s the unspoken “hurt” part of losing a job or seeing your employer close, too…that sudden loss of people you’ve come to know and care about.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Stephanie. I’ll try to get my courage back, but I’m still in the grieving/healing stage. I know I can’t stay here forever, though.

      I appreciate your understanding.

      Reply
  9. Roland Yeomans

    Yes, what does it say about the publishing industry and our future in it? It does seem sometimes we try so hard, pushing in all the “right” directions, and life sucker-punches us like this.

    Use these feelings and devastation in your novels — in that manner they will serve some positive purpose. The future is an unwritten book — as much as it lays in your power, write meaningful things on each page. My prayers are with you. Always your friend, Roland

    Reply
    • JH

      That’s beautiful, Roland. Thank you. <3

      Reply
  10. Mary Aalgaard

    I got a little teary for you at the end. I know how that feels. Not with a publisher, but with my church. My sweet little church family had to disband due to lack of members and funds. Much like small publishers, small businesses, and bookstores. It is a time of grieving. You’re a great writer, and you will have your books and stories published elsewhere, but it will never be the same. Sorry for your loss and heartache.
    Mary at Play off the Page

    IWSG co-host

    Reply
    • JH

      Thank you so much, Mary. You’re such a kind soul. I’m very sorry to hear about your church. In a very small way, I understand what you’re going through.

      Reply
  11. Donna B. McNicol [@dbmcnicol]

    So very, very sad. I have to agree about it being worse when you know everyone. I hope you see a bright spot in your future soon!

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Donna!

      Reply
  12. L. Diane Wolfe

    Very sorry your publisher is closing shop. It’s not cheap to run one, but changes in the economy and the industry can have an impact. I hope you stay in touch with those people and all of the authors.

    Reply
  13. Crystal Collier

    *drops a bucket of cheese at your feet* I have a feeling you’re going to need this.

    I’m so, so sorry. What a sad day. I’m still hopeful that something good will come out of the change, but I can’t imagine losing that infrastructure. Stay strong, woman!

    Reply
    • JH

      Oh, thanks for the cheese, Crystal! You know me so well.

      It’s already gone. Otherwise I’d share.

      Reply
  14. Chrys Fey

    It’s no big deal when a small publisher closes?? Are they kidding! So many writers rely on those small publishers. I have a small publisher and pray they stay open. I don’t know what I’d do if they closed their doors. I’m so sorry they’re closing their doors and I sure hope you find a home soon.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Chrys. I guess a lot of writers have seen so many small presses fold that they’ve gotten jaded. Can’t say I blame them.

      Reply
  15. Anita

    Dear Holli,
    I am glad to see so many folks rallying around you in support at this difficult time. Everyone responds to losses differently and you are absolutely justified in feeling the sadness, disappointment, anger and other emotions you’re going through right now regardless of other people telling you to have a stiff upper lip and all that. People need a lot of compassion in this world both for themselves and for others, and hopefully you will build yourself up after this and make the great strides I know you will. 🙂

    Reply
    • JH

      You’ve been such a dear, dear friend to me, Anita. Thank you for everything.

      Reply
  16. Catherine Cavendish

    Thank you, Holli. It’s been a real pleasure to ‘meet’ you and work with you. Samhain has been a wonderfully supportive community – authors and staff. I too feel the richer for having been part of the Samhain Family. I loved ‘The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave’ and know that, whatever happens, you will find a good home for your future work.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Catherine. I feel the same way about you, and know it won’t be long before another publisher snaps you up – assuming they haven’t already.

      Reply
  17. Michelle Wallace

    I remember when you posted that November article about the firing of your editor….and the rollercoaster emotions.
    Now this.
    I’m so sorry.
    It’s more than just the company closing. It’s about losing a tight-knit family.
    Hang in there. 🙂

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Michelle. <3

      Reply
  18. tambo

    Exactly.

    It’s been delightful to ‘know’ you, Holli. All of the {{hugs}} for your continued success and writerly happiness.

    Reply
    • JH

      The same to you, Tambo. I hope we land at the same place again!

      Reply
  19. Lori L. MacLaughlin

    I’m so sorry for what this loss means to you. I’d heard about Samhain’s closing from a friend who had hoped to find a home there. I can’t tell you how disappointed she was. It’s scary to think about what small publishers have to contend with. I’m hoping this isn’t a trend.

    Reply
    • JH

      You and me both, Lori! Welcome to my blog and thanks for commenting.

      Reply
  20. Lexa Cain

    I know other Samhain authors who’re out in the cold too. But there are actually a lot of small horror presses out there. I’m sure you’ll find one to accept your book. Good luck!

    Reply
  21. Samantha Bryant (@mirymom1)

    My condolences on your loss. May you find another happy publishing home for your future projects!

    Reply
  22. Patricia Lynne

    I’d say this is a like a break up, but I guess it’s worse than that. More like a death in the family. Well, minus someone really dying. Change is always scary and this kind of change definitely. You just have to pick yourself back up, dust yourself off, and keep going. Of course, I’m not going to begrudge you mourning though. This is sad news. *hugs*

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Patricia. Your comment is really humbling for me, especially in light of the health difficulties in your family lately. That’s what is truly important.

      This too shall pass.

      Reply
  23. Margaret Ullrich

    Sorry to read this, JH.
    What terrible news for you and the staff and writers who worked there. Yes it’s harder when you know your co-workers – you’re hurting for yourself and for them.
    Hope that things will work out for the best for you all. All the best.

    Reply
  24. Sara C. Snider

    How very sad. They sound like a great bunch of people, and in publishing that’s a really special thing. I hope they’ll all find their feet, and that you’ll also find a new home–and a good fit–for your writing.

    Reply
  25. Christopher D. Votey

    I can see why a publisher might try to pass off closing their doors as a ‘not a big deal’, but you are right, it is a big deal. Especially one that you got close to. It’s good you took some time for yourself, as you need to figure out where to go from here, but also mourn the loss of a family.

    Reply
  26. Kellie

    I’m so sorry to hear about this. I know what it’s like to ‘hang’ with people who make a family and it is so tough when things like this happen.
    I’m not sure how you do it time and time again, but your writing is truly incredible. Even in the bad and ugly, like this situation. You invoke me to draw a sword and go to battle for all those people you’ve talked about who have lost their jobs.
    You are right, this is no small thing.
    I wishing you all the best.
    Kellie

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Kellie. It’s encouragement like yours that keeps me going through the tough times.

      Reply
  27. Frank

    I’m more concerned about your admission that you considered giving up writing before you heard the news about your publisher than the closing of your publisher.

    You absolutely should mourn the loss of a company that recognized your talent and promoted it. But I have no doubt you will go on to bigger things should you choose to do so. You’re an amazing talent and a very driven woman, you will do very well in whatever you decide to do.

    You can only write for you but as a fan of both you as a person and you as a writer, I’m hoping you smite whatever demons are creeping into your head so that all of us can continue to enjoy the wonder that is you.

    And if ya ever need a sympathetic ear you know how to reach me.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thank you so much for your kindness, Frank. I think you were the only one who caught that part. I was at a conference last year where a keynote speaker–a NYT bestselling author–said we can’t allow outside influences to affect how we feel about our writing. Her point was that if we get giddy and excited about getting on the NYT list, winning awards, good reviews, etc., we’ll also be crushed by rejections, books that fail, getting passed over for awards, etc.

      Good advice, but easier said than done. One of the reasons I’m an effective writer is that I’m extremely sensitive. Sometimes this industry makes me feel manic-depressive: high highs and low lows, and I ride them all. Right before Samhain closed, I’d had a series of professional setbacks that had me reeling. If I was that good a writer, I asked myself, wouldn’t I know by now? Wouldn’t I have the million-dollar book deal, the fancy award, film agents calling me night and day? Never mind that I haven’t done nearly enough to put my fiction out there where people can see it.

      I honestly considered quitting writing and finding another career so I won’t have to go through the rest of my life feeling like a loser or a failure if that level of success doesn’t come my way. But then I met a young woman who DID quit writing because of some nasty feedback. And she said it has made her even more miserable.

      To be a writer is to get kicked around a lot. I definitely need to find myself some stronger armour. Any suggestions that don’t involve changing my personality, which is difficult–if not impossible–to do?

      Reply
      • Frank

        I’m going to steal this topic for a post on my blog.

        The short answer is not that you need to change your personality. Have you ever defined success for your writing? I want to be a rich famous author with adoring fans, movies, merchandising! But that’s the dream.

        The reality is, I’d consider myself a success if I could write for a living and never have to punch a clock again. With where I live, it wouldn’t take that much commercial success to reach that goal. What it is going to take is me finishing things and putting them out there to be bought.

        Defining success is paramount to this armor you seek.

        Reply
        • JH

          That’s a good idea, Frank. The wise friend I mentioned on Facebook also suggested I need a “mid-list” goal–somewhere between me and Stephen King-level success. I’m going to give it some serious thought. Having one will probably help me stay focused when the going gets rough.

          Reply
  28. Misha

    I’m so sorry.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Misha. <3

      Reply

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