Two authors formerly with PANK Books share their stories
“Working with PANK made me feel ashamed that I cared about my book and my writing, which was the absolute worst feeling to have.” this line breaks my heart! so sorry you both had to go through this, and for everyone else who’s had similar experiences.
One could exchange the name PANK with at least a half dozen well known publishers and tell the identical story to equal effect.
PANK accepted my short story manuscript in June 2022 & then didn't respond to me for 7 months. By the time I called them out on Twitter JF called me herself (after no apologies and claiming none of my emails to her ever went through) and made a lot of promises including that I would receive the contract from her for the book within a week. I never received it. Nevermind the money I spent submitting to them, the time I wasted, the money I spent submitting to other presses that I pulled the book from when they accepted it, I am so thankful to not have went through the full nightmare these writers experienced.
These so-called independent publishers are no better than the scams offered to authors ready to self-publish. The only difference is that the money lost by authors who sign contracts with these bogus "small presses" isn't usually equal to the large amounts lost by self-publishing. In the end, though, it's not the money but the scam that hurts more. A note to authors: next time, check out the list of these scam Independent presses provided by the Authors Guild before submitting.
I’m so sorry this happened to these authors, and I know that feeling of hope and dread. I had a small press publisher accept a poetry collection about 20 years ago and then string me along with promises that the proofs were at the printer and I’d receive them shortly, and interspersed with phone and email messages relating difficulties and something along the lines of telling me he needed to adjust his meds. I went to the New Orleans AWP only to find he wasn’t there after all. Later on that year, all ten of his prospective authors m, including the author who won a the only prize, for a story collection, received an email saying that the press was going on hiatus and we were free to take our books elsewhere. He had the audacity to say he needed to tend to his own career and told us of an upcoming reading. We had all signed contracts that said he’d pay us $250 if he failed to publish. The word hiatus shielded him from that outcome. Sometime later, I saw his name in the Publishers Lunch email for having sold a book on various familial mental illnesses. A few years after, one section of my book won a chapbook prize, and that publisher did every single thing he said he would -- in our signed contract -- in five months time. Currently I’m enjoying another good and trustworthy publishing experience at a small press. But it is hard to know sometimes where the sadists are; you can meet authors who have had good experiences, and still have a bad one. There should be more recourse for the vulnerable author.
I presume it is lit Mag's decision to keep the mysterious JF’s name out of this horrifying report. Besides my sorrow for the author, I am inspired to say that this kind of fly by night operation is why the book landscape is littered with trash publishers; all of that trash makes it really hard for authors to sort out where it makes sense to submit our work and for readers to know which books are worth their time and money. Even if you have specified dates for payment for proof review and four book launch written into your contract, what is the real chance that Authors can hold publishers to their promises? One can consider suing for breach of contract, of course, but most authors end up feeling so beaten down and disrespected, that the thought of taking on a legal action is simply too much. I’m not sure what the solution is to this sort of abuse, but abuse it is, and I am glad it is being written about. If you think that this happens a lot for writers in general, I suggest that these abuses are even more rife in the literary translation arena.
I’m having a similar experience with another publisher. While COVID was an original excuse, this past year hasn’t turned out like I had hoped where the publisher sub-contracts to a micro press for the actual printing. It was a fiasco when I wanted to get blurbs for the cover. This was not part of the timeline in a contract that I had never seen. So the April pub date has passed and I’m waiting. I totally get the embarrassment. I can’t plan book signings without knowing when the book will be released. I hope you won’t give up on your dream. For me, this has been a long time coming and I will find a way.
I’m so sorry that this was your experience. You were robbed of your pride in accomplishment and sharing your work and talent in a way that had meaning for you. I am just completing publication with a small press that has also been frustrating and difficult, although it doesn’t compare with your experience. I am not sure how to do due diligence because there is no “clearinghouse” for small and self publishers, a route more authors are taking. Maybe there should be, but in the meantime I am not jumping until I talk to other authors about their own experiences. Like other creatives. writers work hard and investing time and health into unprofessional relationships is disappointing. Thanks for your honest appraisal. It’s given me the courage to write about my experience when my book is in my hands. I wish you the best with the book. Don’t give up on getting your story out there. Donna Miller
Wow! Thanks for publishing this. As someone who is just re-entering the publishing world after a many years hiatus I am catching up on all the good/bad players currently on the board. This is so helpful, in general, but especially as someone who also skirts with genres and looks for presses who accept this type of work.
Really appreciate these authors talking publicly about this. So many presses get away with terrible behaviour because authors are too stressed/ashamed/exhausted/embarrassed to say how bad things are or fear destroying their writing career if other presses see them talking about it and decide the author is the problem.
See also: dancing girl press. Almost exactly the same story - terrible comms, one person over-committed and doing everything (badly), people ordering books that never appear... https://twitter.com/paulaoffkilter/status/1623104565867597826
So much of this small press publishing hell reminds me of my own dreadful experience in 2008-2010 with MacAdam/Cage and my novel Mixed Animal. Many other writers went through the same ordeal with M/C. It was a perfect storm of M/C living way beyond their means, gobs of hubris, and then the crushing recession of 2008, culminating with the literal death of the publisher and the bankruptcy of the house. On the other hand, I could not have had a more pleasurable publishing experience with another small press, Regal House Publishing, and another novel, Oranges for Magellan, this past winter. So, don't give up on small presses, and good luck. Although there were many blinking yellow and red lights at MacAdam/Cage early on, just as there were plenty of green lights at Regal House from the beginning. It's all a learning experience, but the problem is, the lesson learned is rarely applicable to the next dilemma. So much a mystery and a crapshoot. Whichever way it goes for you publishing-wise, please remember that the writing is the thing, and continue on with that as happily as you may, the one facet of all this that remains in our control.
I had a similar experience with Dark Edge Press in Wales, though thankfully no $25 submission fee. What started as a team there soon devolved to one woman (gender not being important, just that one person cannot manage 20 books and authors). Even though the books were printed by Amazon, I and a few other authors could not receive copies for consignment or bookstore events. Shipments were delayed for months then canceled. And we all know, the one thing Amazon is good at, is delivery. DEP suddenly pulled the plug in January 2023 and the shell-shocked authors formed a Facebook support group. I think it's important to form an author's collective (separate from the publisher) before everything goes south. That way authors can learn if others are getting screwed over too. To know if you are an anomaly or part of systemic incomptence and possibly corruption. Until then, avoid PANK, and be very suspicious of throwing $20-25 sub fees to C&R and Steel Toe Books.
Is there any way a complaint can be filed to Submittable, perhaps with the hope that they will stop an abusive entity from benefiting from their platform?
If everything that is claimed can be documented, I don't understand why Jessica Fischoff cannot be named (I couldn't find a CC on their masthead). Speaking of the masthead, has anyone tried to reach out to the others on the masthead list for a comment? https://pankmagazine.com/about-2/
They are still operating and requiring $25 submission fees to contests but seem to only be listed on Submittable as far as I can find. Perhaps a concerted effort to have them de-listed from there would be a start.
Wow, this is shocking. Thank you for these reports.
PANK isn't interested in selling book. https://litmagnews.substack.com/p/doing-a-lot-with-a-little-or-very