Jolly Fish Press Closes Its Doors In Surprise Move

by Emma Cueto

Some bad news in the world of book publishing today: Jolly Fish Press is apparently closing down, effective after the October 31. And, sadly, it seems that the Jolly Fish authors found out about this sad development when Jolly Fish posted the announcement online. Jolly Fish tells Bustle in an email that this was necessary for legal reasons.

Jolly Fish Press is an independent press based in Provo, Utah that launched in 2011. In a statement on their website, posted on Monday October 17, they explain that the decision to shut down was not an easy one.

For nearly five years, JFP has been a beacon of inspiration to many in the publishing industry; we’ve opened up doors to authors, editors, designers, publicists, and illustrators alike, providing them with a platform on which their dreams of establishing themselves in the industry could be realized. ...
But even with a collection of note-worthy and great books in our catalog and future lineup, we have not generated sufficient revenues to make the business viable. After a long process of seeking investors who believe in our company and what we aim to achieve, we have, unfortunately, failed to secure the funds necessary to grow and move the company forward.

They also explained that the rights to all their books would revert to authors before the press closes down for good on October 31.

Sadly, Jolly Fish isn't the first independent publishing house to fold due to financial trouble. Trying to operate a financially stable publishing house is an increasingly tricky thing in the modern market — even the big five publishing houses don't have it easy.

However, the way in which Jolly Fish Press closed down seems less than ideal — particularly given the fact that they don't seem to have informed any of their authors prior to the official announcement was posted online. Which left authors reeling.

In an email to Bustle, author Mia Siegert, whose novel Jerkbait was published by Jolly Fish earlier this year, wrote that she only found out the company was closing after a friend texted her, asking if she'd been to their website. "I believe the authors and agents should have been contacted prior to the website announcement with personal emails," she tells Bustle.

Prior to the announcement, she says, she very much enjoyed working with the editors and employees at Jolly Fish, particularly her editor McKelle George. "McKelle George was Jerkbait's largest champion and an immaculate editor," she says.

And Sigert isn't alone in this, either. Kristy Acevedo, who released the first in a YA sci-fi series with Jolly Fish Press earlier this year, tells Bustle, "Jolly Fish Press was a fantastic group of creative people to work with. They were dedicated professionals who always had the readers' best interest at heart."

Eric Smith, whose upcoming anthology Welcome Home was due to be published by Jolly Fish in 2017, told Bustle in an email, "[The] shuttering of the publisher should not reflect on the editors here. At all. They were as shocked as me, and I'm hoping they land on their feet someplace as extraordinary and generous as they are." However, he also says the announcement was a big surprise, and that he wishes the publishers had found a different way to "break the news."

"I felt bad for everyone who had to hear it like that," he says.

Adrienne Monson, who published her Blood Inheritance trilogy with Jolly Fish Press, told Bustle that she is grateful to the company for helping her get her start in the publishing world, and she wishes them the best. But she also adds, "I wish they would have given their authors a some warning instead of us discovering the news along with the general public."

It is, after all, an understandably surprising thing to find out online that your publisher is going out of business.

Jolly Fish Press posted on Twitter that they were legally not allowed to tell anyone about their closing prior to today.

They clarified in an email to Bustle:

While we legally could not communicate this news with our authors in advance of the official announcement, we did communicate separately with our authors and agents directly via email the morning of the announcement.

Jolly Fish did not elaborate what specific legal issues prohibited them from giving authors advance warning.

Even as authors were left reeling, however, many in the community were quick to voice their support.

Many were also critical of Jolly Fish and the way they handled the announcement.

Some also reached out with offers to help authors whose books are now left without a publishing house.

Mia Siegert tells Bustle that she hopes Jerkbait finds a new home, and that she's also continuing to work on another YA novel and an adult thriller. She's also excited about the upcoming release of Jerkbait's audiobook, produced by audible and read by Raviv Ullman of Disney's Phil of the Future.

Eric Smith says that once the rights to his anthology revert, he and his agent will start looking around for another publishing house to publish the book. Kristy Acevedo says she is also hoping to find another home for her book.

Hopefully they and other Jolly Fish authors are able to find new publishers who will take on their titles, and they will all move on from this unfortunate setback.

Images: Facebook/Jolly Fish Press