Oct 13, 2019 | update

An Apology

As some of you may know, at the beginning of the week I sent out notice to five authors letting them know that I had to cancel their contracts for novellas that we’d acquired late last year, but had yet to announce publicly. The way I went about doing this was not consistent with Fireside’s values. Over the past week I’ve been seeking advice, listening to feedback, and reflecting. It’s clear that I’ve made mistakes, let down the individual authors involved and our supporters in general, and failed to live up to the values that Fireside stands for. I’ve caused harm, and I deeply regret it. I’d like to offer some explanations and apologize.

The reason I made the decision to cancel these books was because of capacity. Apart from editorial, for which I work with freelance editors, Fireside is a one-person operation — things like budgeting, project management, production, design, coding, pre-press, publicity, and all the other non-editorial functions that go into publishing a magazine and books are all done by me.

I overestimated how much work I could take on. This is no one’s fault but my own: I suspect that this would have been the case even if I still had the same number of people at Fireside that I did last year. But it took me a long time to realize it — both because I was busy rebooting the workflow for the magazine, but also because, well, sometimes it takes a minute to internalize bad news. When one of the authors reached out to me in August to ask about the status of their book, I told them that the timeline on some of our projects had taken a hit, and I needed a little more time than I had anticipated to get their book moving. The message I gave them was basically ‘we’re still moving forward with your book, so don’t worry.’ At the time I thought I could make that happen. I was wrong, and I shouldn’t have offered those assurances.

The plan had always been to hire freelance editors to do the developmental editing and copyediting on these books, so I considered whether I could hire freelancers to do some of the other work as well. But the margins in publishing are thin, and Fireside’s budget just didn’t allow for it — Fireside’s balance sheet, while healthy, depends on me doing much of that work directly, and always has, even when others have been brought on to do specific work.

I considered pushing the publication dates on the books, but I couldn’t come up with a definite timeframe when I could engage with the projects. I’ve seen how frustrating it can be when an author’s work is tied up seemingly indefinitely with a publisher, and putting these authors in that kind of uncertainty seemed exceedingly unfair.

I ultimately realized that the responsible thing — the course of action that would cause the least harm in a bad situation — was to cancel these books, revert the rights back to their authors, and focus on the work that I was confident I can accomplish.

Once I’ve made a decision, I’m a pull-the-band-aid-off-quickly kind of person, so I sent an email to the authors in question, letting them know that we would not be able to move forward with their books. After a public discussion began about my decision and Jason Sanford reached out to me for comment, I decided to put out a statement to explain things.

Both my initial emails to the authors and that public statement are short, terse notes, scant on details, and I can see now how they read as callous, uncaring, and dismissive of the authors’ feelings. I’m very sorry for that. I know that authors put their heart and soul into their work, and that sending it out into the world is act of deep vulnerability. Rejection hurts under any circumstances, and a rejection after having gotten an official acceptance, doubly so. I know this, and I should have been more sensitive to it. I sincerely apologize to all of the authors involved for the offhanded way in which I’ve treated them. My behavior was not consistent with Fireside’s values, and I deeply regret it.

I know I’ve caused harm with my actions, to these authors, to Fireside’s reputation, and to all of the authors who put their trust in me and have held Fireside up as a good citizen in our industry. I’m committed to doing better, and I’m open to feedback about how to do so. Ultimately it comes down to my actions, over time. I hope people will be patient as I work to earn back trust.

Thank you for reading.

© 2019 Pablo Defendini

About the author

Pablo Defendini

Pablo Defendini is a designer and developer for hire, with a focus on editorial design for digital media. He helped launch Tor.com, before moving on to work for companies that sit in the overlap between publishing and technology, like Open Road Media and O’Reilly. Pablo was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico, lives in New York City, and works with people all over the world.