Publisher Policies

In here, I try to document how each listed publisher defines their sales policy with regards to purchase/first-refusal rights. To that end, a few things should be clarified:

Purchase/First-Refusal Subscription Rights
This is considered a Holy Grail, of sorts, amongst collectors and mainly refers to lettered editions. Because there are generally only 15, 26, or 52 units produced for any lettered run, they are frequently not offered for general sale, but to those who have secured purchase or first-refusal rights. It is extremely difficult to secure purchase slots from publishers who've been operating for many years, as they've cultivated a loyal base of lettered buyers who rarely waive their purchase option. And when they do, it is usually only for select titles, so they still retain their original first-refusal option for future titles.

You can often request to be put on a waiting list for titles tied to purchase rights. Occasionally, someone will choose not to exercise their purchase option (for whatever reason), which will free-up a book that can then be offered for general sale on a first-come, first-served basis.

This gets a little complicated with some publishers. For example, Subterranean Press grants purchase rights for select series, such as the Martin and Erikson books, NOT for SP's entire library. In contrast, once you've secured a purchase slot from Bloodletting Books, it applies to EVERY title they produce, whether it be chapbook, novella, or novel.

There's one other "gotcha" of which people should be aware. Some publishers vary their lettered run, depending on the popularity of the author and the perceived ability to sell a batch of very expensive lettered books. This number can be as little as 15 to as high as 52. Those that're lucky enough to've secured purchase rights in those first fifteen slots ("A" to "O") are "set for life". However, someone who has secured letter "P" will NOT be able to exercise a purchase option for a lettered book that only enjoys a 15-unit run. This is also true for those holding purchase positions beyond letter "Z" when a 26-unit run is produced. This is why it is HIGHLY desirable to obtain a slot within those first fifteen, as you never know how many lettered books a publisher will decide to commission for manufacture.

Another aspect of all this is the "instant sellout". Lettered editions from publishers such as Bloodletting Books, Delirium, and Necessary Evil Press are considered sold out upon announcement. This is because there is a (safe) assumption that every rights holder will execute his or her purchase option (assuming all lettered slots are already taken) and these publishers will put these books "on reserve" until the purchase option is resolved, either via an immediate sale, delayed sale (at the publisher's discretion), or no sale. However, it is still a good idea to contact the publisher to see if anyone has waived their option for any particular title, as these books do sometimes become available. Also, some of these rights holders are book dealers who resell them either on their own websites (if extant) or on eBay. So, just because a book is classified as being sold out from the publisher does not mean it is beyond reach; a little digging might turn up one.

Lifetime Prepaid Subscriptions
When someone decides to enter the publishing business, in order to generate sufficient startup capital, he (or she) will sometimes offer a handful of lifetime prepaid subscriptions to interested parties. These subscriptions are very costly, running into the thousands of dollars, but the buyer need no longer remit any additional money for books for the entire operating life of the press. A company can offer this subscription for their numbered editions, lettered, or both. They can also be sold just for certain series, such as Cemetery Dance's Signature line. Be aware that some presses offer only "PC" books under this plan rather than uniquely serialized editions, so caveat emptor!

As with any other investment, this is a risky proposition for the buyer of the subscription. Small presses are notoriously volatile and many promising operations have closed due to a variety of reasons. However, others have enjoyed great prosperity and their books have risen significantly on the secondary market. The practice of offering lifetime subscriptions is on the decline, however. Also, these subscriptions are frequently not solicited to the general public, but instead first offered to close friends and acquaintances.

Pay-As-You-Go Subscriptions
This is related to purchase/first-refusal rights and simply refers to buying books as they become available. Those with first-refusal rights are given sale priority over those on any waiting lists. The vast majority of people holding purchase rights pay as they go.

Matching
This refers to the practice of allowing customers to continue to receive the same numbers or letters as they have from previous purchases. For example, I've recently secured letter "Y" from Bloodletting Books, so any future lettered editions I purchase from BLB will be serialized as "Y". Some presses automatically do this (see below), while it must be specifically requested from others.


Now that that's outta the way, we can get to the meat of this section. Except where noted, all of the below publishers offer(ed) purchase slots and match letters and numbers. Further commentary is provided with each entry.

 

Never offered lifetime subscriptions.
Purchase slots apply to their entire line of publications.

 

It is unknown if BDP ever offered lifetime subscriptions.
Matches letters and numbers upon request.
Purchase rights granted to entire line of publications, which also extends to their sister imprint, Biting Dog Press.

 

Offered both numbered and lettered lifetime subscriptions.
Letter matches are automatic; numbered matches by request (note - will also match letters and numbers from other publishers).
First-refusal rights are applied to their entire line of books (chapbooks, novellas, and novels).

 

Lifetime subscriptions were briefly offered only for numbered books.
Matches letters and numbers only upon explicit request. Purchase slots must also be requested.
Because of the above, BP works off a quasi-purchase rights system. Non-subscribers can freely order, but will receive a letter or number of the publisher's choice.

 

CD is a complicated press. Lifetime subscriptions were offered for numbered and lettered books. 239 lifetime subscriptions were also offered for their Promotional Chapbook line. First-refusal rights awarded to their Signature series and Novella series, respectively, NOT for their entire title base, but this must be enforced by the customer. As such, those with purchase rights should contact CD immediately when a desired lettered book is announced. As with Borderlands Press, matches letters and numbers only by request pending availability, otherwise anyone may order their letters.

 

Will match numbers and letters only upon request.

 

 

Lifetime subscriptions were offered for numbered books.
Further information forthcoming.

 

 

Further information forthcoming.

 

 

Offered lifetime subscriptions.

 

 

Further information forthcoming.

 

 

Further information forthcoming.

 

 

Matches numbers and letters only upon request.

 

 

Further information forthcoming.

 

 

Further information forthcoming.

 

 

Offered lifetime subscriptions for their numbered productions.

 

 

Further information forthcoming.

 

 

Further information forthcoming.

 

 

Offered lifetime subscriptions.

 

 

Further information forthcoming.

 

 

Matches numbers and letters only upon request.

 

 

Further information forthcoming.

 

 

Further information forthcoming.

 

 

Further information forthcoming.

 

 

Further information forthcoming.

 

 

Further information forthcoming.