A Kerfuffle in Transylvania

Phil Foglio blogged how unhappy he is about the lack of communication from Tor concerning the future of the Girl Genius books.

Tor published a hardcover omnibus edition of Girl Genius collecting Phil and Kaja Foglio’s first three books in one volume. Afterwards the Foglios asked when the paperback would come out, and about doing a follow-up collection of the next several books in the series. They say a year went by with no response from their (unnamed) editor at Tor.  Even the Foglios’ agent couldn’t get an answer.

Phil ran into another Tor senior editor, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, at the 2013 Worldcon and enlisted his help, but by autumn became impatient for action and frustrated that Nielsen Hayden also wasn’t answering e-mails. So in the January 29 post Phil not only teed off on Nielsen Hayden but asked everyone on the internet to join in voicing their disapproval on Patrick’s Facebook page. (Curiously, to him alone, still no mention of the editor actually working on Girl Genius.)

Today Patrick explained his side of things on Making Light, including the caveats he’d given Phil about his schedule.

What happened next? Well, despite what I said to Phil about not being in a position to help him until late November, September wasn’t even over before I began getting emails from Phil’s agent demanding that I deal with this and/or instruct Phil’s editor to deal with this—emails in which it was clear that, in Phil’s agent’s eyes, I was now Part Of Phil’s Problem At Tor.

And Patrick emphasized that the people at Tor who are the source of Phil’s complaint don’t report to him. Senior editors report to the publisher; Tor doesn’t have an editor-in-chief; Patrick is not the other editor’s boss. It does Phil no practical good to bury him in complaints.

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.

The thing that struck me is how many writers I’ve heard agonize about how slowly the publishing process works – with every publisher. It takes forever to get a decision about a submission. When a book is accepted, it takes another year or three to grind through the editorial process and reach market. Writers fear that infinite patience is likely to be rewarded with maximum delay, but are also wary about doing much elbow-jogging and ending even worse off. Since Phil’s post goes well beyond elbow-jogging – a body slam is more like it, and on the wrong party — I wonder if Girl Genius still has a future at Tor or will the publisher cut the Foglios loose as Phil more or less seems to hope at this point:

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.

6 thoughts on “A Kerfuffle in Transylvania

  1. The reason Phil Foglio directed his ire against Patrick Nielsen Hayden was that he’d misunderstood and thought PNH was editor-in-chief, or at least a supervisory editor, at Tor Books. (That Tor Books and Tor.com are easily conflated doesn’t help much either.)

    On Facebook, at least, most of the actual pinging seems to have been directed at the Tor Books page.

  2. I publish regularly in the philatelic press. One-year delays are standard and three years are not uncommon. I know one author who is at year four.

  3. Update and apology from Phil Foglio:

    I was certainly surprised to read that Mr Hayden was not, in fact , the editor in chief at TOR. TOR’s own website lists him as Senior Editor, and I will admit that I was unaware of the difference. The embarrassing point remains that I made a factual error regarding Mr. Hayden’s title and job description, and for this I am genuinely sorry.

    There are similar posts on LF and FB.

  4. This is very gracious of Mr. Foglio. It’s just a little too bad that nobody told him Mr. Nielsen Hayden’s correct surname.

  5. What apology? When you said he’d made an apology, I supposed I was about to read something on the order of “I’m sorry I pissed all over Mr. Nielsen Hayden’s name everywhere on the internet my stream could reach.” Since he persists in identifying his target as “Mr. Hayden,” undoubtedly intentional, any regret he feels is obviously pretty minimal.

  6. On a possibly related issue, I discerned in reading Grumbles from the Grave that Robert Heinlein had to get the manuscripts for his boys’ novels to Scribner’s in February in order for the books to be ready for the Christmas trade later in the year.

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