Cam’s Gardening Tips: Checking out CSAs and Presses

Cam Flaherty, here. I’m going co-post with my author today. I have something to say Is your garden an interesting mystery (1)about farm-share programs, CSAs. She has something to say about publishers. Ready?

Cam: I read an article today about a Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) program in Massachusetts that folded. This is bad news not only for the farmer, but for the customers. In a CSA, you pay up front, usually in the winter, for a season’s worth of produce, sometimes also including eggs and meat. You are ensured week after week of high-quality local food that you pick up at the farm. The farmer, like me, gets the money in advance when I need it for seeds, for soil amendments, for improvements. We also cut out the middle person. It’s a great deal all around.

johncrowfarmBut what happens when the farm folds? The customers have already paid, usually around $500 or more for a season. In the case I read, I don’t think the owner of John Crow Farm ran off to Brazil with the money, but he did leave his subscribers without either their beets or their bucks. (He also abandoned his animals, which is just wrong.) There are apparently no assets to disburse.

Of course, most farms are reputable. They fulfill their responsibilities. You might receive fewer tomatoes in your share if that field floods due to natural events. But the farmer will be honest with you about it.

Edith Maxwell here: And what happens when a publisher folds, or isn’t honest? That happens, too. I was in discussion with one small press for my first mystery novel, and in the middle of it all the publisher sent an email saying she was going out of business. Luckily, we hadn’t even signed a contract.

I then had an experience with a small press who sounded excited about my book, which had other authors it had published, and most important, about which I couldn’t find any negative press, any arrows pointing to it being a bum deal. So I agreed to the contract for my first novel – my first novel! – and kept waiting for the editor to follow through on getting edits back to me. When I’d received nothing one day before the ebook was supposed to come out, I backed out of the contract. The publisher didn’t give me any grief about it. It turns out Giovanni Gelati (yes, that should have been a sign) of Trestle Press was fraudulent in many respects, lying about the editorial staff Golden Gate Bridge Painterly Illustration(there was none), stealing art for covers off the internet without permission, and more. I was lucky to get out when I did. Chalk it up to inexperience and not listening to my inner red-flag waver. A few months later I was accepted by a reputable, hard-working small press, Barking Rain Press.

So what does an author do? What else? I wrote a short story of (fictionalized, mind you) revenge on a literary thief. “Just Desserts for Johnny” was first published in Kings River Life Magazine, and is now available on Smashwords and from all the major purveyors of ebooks.

Cam and Edith: What can you do to avoid being cheated, by anyone? If you’re signing up for a CSA, talk to some current customers. Find out how the farm deals with loss. Read the contract between you and the farmer carefully. Ask how long they’ve been in business, what their future plans are. And then make up your mind.

With publishers, check out Preditors and Editors. They maintain listings of publishers for which red flags have gone up. Writer Beware does the same. Ask other writers. Join national organizations like Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America and ask your peers. And, always, read that contract carefully. Get it checked out by an entertainment lawyer, or by the National Writers’ Union.

But don’t lose your faith in the good guys. That’s most of us!

Readers: Have you had an unfortunate experience with a farm, or a publisher? Any other tips for your fellow person on how to stay out of trouble?

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About Edith Maxwell

Agatha-nominated and national bestsetlling author Edith Maxwell writes the Local Foods Mystery series (Kensington Publishing) and the historical Quaker Midwife Mysteries (Midnight Ink). As Maddie Day she writes the Country Store Mysteries series and the new Cozy Capers Book Group Mysteries (both from Kensington Publishing). Edith has also published award-winning short crime fiction. She lives north of Boston in an antique house with her beau and three cats.
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9 Responses to Cam’s Gardening Tips: Checking out CSAs and Presses

  1. hankpryan says:

    Hank the reporter talking here: remember if you pay for anything with a credit card, you are protected if you don’t get what you paid for. Within 60 days. put the amount in dispute with the cc company, and they will fight the battle for you! And protect you if you are due a refund.

    (I know, that won’t help with an unreliable publisher!)

  2. Thanks for the interview, Cam and Edith. It’s a tough world out there, but thankfully there are many good people who are willing to help warn us against those who think we are prey.

    Cam, good luck with your CSA – I can’t wait for the third installment of your life, as told by Edith.

    Edith, keep on writing. I’ve loved all your stories and books.

  3. Reine says:

    Very nice dual blogging here today!

    Edith, the only unfortunate experience I’ve had with a publisher was really with a friend who went with what she described as a small press. It didn’t appear that she had checked it out. Because I had never heard of it before and was curious, I looked it up and learned from one of the sources you mention above, Writer Beware, that at that time, the only books they’d published had been written by the publisher. My friend wrote a great book, and I was concerned about her. I, trying to be helpful, passed along the information. As far as friendship goes, that was a mistake. I have to re-think how or if I talk about these things. I am glad you are, though.

    Cam, if you recall my disappearing oranges on my beautiful orange tree… wanted to quick-mention here that the tree with no oranges put out root shoots that sent up several trunks about 6 feet away. My son never got around to pulling them up, and we now have a ton of beautiful growing oranges that are currently about 2″ in diameter. Of course I don’t know what they will taste like come December 25th. Curious!

  4. Lil Gluckstern says:

    Thanks to Reine, I’ve just discovered your blog, although I have bought your books and loved them. I don’t know if we have a Collective here in California. But we have a farmers market that goes from May 30 to December. Delicious!

    • Oh, California farmers’ markets are the best, Lil. I grew up in the Pasadena area, but for the last 30 years my mom lived in Ventura. Twice weekly markets all year long. I’d go out in March and just swoon over the fresh produce. You’re so lucky. And I’m delighted you’ve liked my books! (Reine, tell her about the Wicked Cozy Authors blog, too…)

      • Reine says:

        I love the Wicked Cozy Authors blog! I’ll give Lil the link. I think she’ll love it, too!

        I forgot to mention the farmers’ markets! I was reminded when you mentioned growing up in the Pasadena area. My parents lived in Altadena, and my mother went to a farmers’ market nearby once or twice a week. And I think there was something that went on at the racetrack once a week. Not sure. I tried to get my stepmother interested with no luck. Shame… great area for food.

        Is the Farmers’ Market on Fairfax a real farmers’ market? I always wondered. I liked the food we got there especially the fresh fish. When I lived with my grandparents in Boston, my grandfather took me to the one at Haymarket on Saturday. And when I lived in Cambridge I liked the one just off the square by the Charles Hotel. They were fun to visit, and I loved finding things like fresh jams and homemade cookies at the one in the square.

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