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  • Writer's picturePhoebe Walker

The Course of Book Publishing Rarely Runs Smooth: Updates on the Present and Future

Hello, out there! It has been a minute since we checked in with this blog and our readers, so first and foremost, it’s good to be back. We’ll try to keep these posts more regular in the future!


If you follow Phoebe, Jay, and/or Mary on social media—or if you’re seeing posts from various folks in publishing—you may have heard some things about City Owl Press, the publisher of Mirror Witch and the broker of our publishing deal with YONDER for Dead Weight. City Owl Press is an indie publisher “by authors for authors,” and while we were initially very excited to sign with them back in March 2022, we have since become first very concerned and then very unhappy with our association with the press.


A wealth of information about City Owl has been shared on author blogs and via social media, particularly Threads and TikTok. However, to put the situation into a nutshell here, City Owl has been rife with drama since January 2024 over various issues that have been building for years, including production delays, poor editing/proofreading, late/unavailable ARCs and lack of support for preorders, and payment irregularities, among other things.


These issues have been well-documented by several former and current City Owl authors and stretch back for years, but things did not come to a head until several authors became angry after the publisher sent out marketing and self-promotion advice that hinged on authors spending their own money on ads to build their visibility and career—which of course profits City Owl—while noticing that Facebook ads for books written by the publishers had been running continuously for months. In general, the marketing on social media had been favoring their books for some time.


When authors began asking questions about these issues, City Owl offered them their rights back—and several authors took them up on that offer. When more and more authors began asking for rights reversion, City Owl lawyered up and tightened down their communications, closing and deleting the Facebook author group. However, City Owl also apologized for the marketing issues (which were deemed accidental) and pledged to do better by its authors in the future.


A more full accounting of the situation is given in Erin Fulmer’s excellent three-part blog, which you can read here:


We decided not to leave back in January, hoping that with the new scrutiny, City Owl would indeed become better. We were also on the verge of signing the contract for our second Daughters of Hecate book, Torch and Key, so we were excited about getting that book out into the world.


Then, on February 14—Valentine’s Day—City Owl put out a press release concerning the delay in publication for the fourth book in Charissa Weaks’s hugely popular Witch Walker series. In that press release, City Owl publicly threw Weaks under the bus in one of the most unprofessional posts we’ve ever seen from a publisher, blaming Weaks in great detail for the delay when a simple statement that the book would be indefinitely delayed would have been far more appropriate. After immediate backlash, City Owl revised the press release multiple times. The original press release and the extremely truncated third revision of it are included below.

The original press release:  

The current revised version:

This incident, in conjunction with all those other concerns we still had lurking from the January revelations, became the moment we decided that we no longer wanted our books to be associated with City Owl Press. If they would do this kind of thing to one of their most beloved and profitable authors, how could we trust them with our partnership as Phoebe?


We have since requested rights reversions for Mirror Witch and for Dead Weight, and the situation is still in flux. However, we can say that Dead Weight will still be available on YONDER until October 31, 2024, and at that time, the rights to it will revert back to us. The Mirror Witch rights are still held by the publisher, but we still hopeful about getting them back sooner rather than later.


Victoria Strauss of Writer Beware has written about the City Owl concerns, and you can read that blog post, and our reply to the latest update, here:


While we appreciated Victoria’s work, we also worried that the blog post wasn’t as impactful as we’d hoped it would be. Jay has written about the situation on her personal blog, which you can read here:


Until we are able to determine Mirror Witch’s future, we do ask that anyone who wants a print copy of Mirror Witch request it directly from us via the website—and if you do, you’ll get it signed and with swag, including bookmarks and stickers!—or via social media. We’ll be happy to take payments and ship it directly to you!


In the meantime, we appreciate your support and your patience while we work to get things back on track with Jo, Booker, Kate, Claire, and the rest of the crew. We’ve got more (new) projects in the pipeline and are currently working on Dead Wrong, the sequel to Dead Weight! This book will focus on Frankie and Liam as they hit the road to investigate a call for help from Laurel Jennings—Cam’s long-thought-dead ex-girlfriend—at the sinister Mother’s Hands compound.


Stay tuned for more updates, and thank you for reading!

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